Thomas polished off his dinner, along with a whole bottle of whisky. The second bottle of wine was empty by the time Martha brought out the Christmas pudding. As usual, she surpassed herself. The turkey was crisp and golden, the roast potatoes browned to perfection. The gravy extravagant. She barely ate her lunch, but Thomas ate every last morsel.
‘You haven’t eaten much,’ Thomas observed, watching her every move like a hawk.
‘I’m okay,’ Martha lied. ‘I’m glad you enjoyed the meal.’
‘You don’t eat enough,’ Thomas complained, ‘you’re far too thin.’
Martha tried to swallow, but each mouthful was getting stuck in her dry throat.
Another large gulp of wine, Thomas said. ‘You’re thinking of Laura, aren’t you?’
Not knowing what else to do, she decided on the truth. Either way she was in trouble. Her hands trembled underneath the table. ‘A little.’
‘She made her choice in marrying that man against my wishes.’ Thomas pushed his hands away from the cloth and his empty glass tipped over.
‘But they’re happy,’ Martha said. ‘Isn’t it time we made it up with her?’
‘Not in my lifetime!’ Thomas stormed over to the drinks cabinet.
With so many thoughts muddled it wasn’t easy to find the right action. If she stayed then he would accuse her of not listening. Without even thinking she blundered over to Thomas. ‘Please let’s not argue, I hate it when we argue.’
‘Well, you brought up Laura.’
The whisky bottle empty, he yanked out his brandy bottle and a large glass. The vein in his neck throbbed out of control.
Afraid to mention that it was Thomas who spoke of Laura first, Martha put her hands to her side. ‘I’m sorry Thomas, let’s just forget Laura for now. I know you’re upset, but.’
The lid of his brandy bottle twisted open he filled his glass to the top. Anymore and there would only be one outcome to her day.
She couldn’t help her next words. ‘Are you sure you should?’
‘You’re always on at me for my drinking. Is it any wonder I turn to the bottle when you are such a cold bitch?’
‘I don’t mean to be, it’s just I . . .’
‘Why did I marry you Martha? You never really loved me.’
‘I do love you, just not when you are . . .’
Martha stopped before the rest of her words betrayed her true feelings, but it was too late. An expected punch to the stomach brought her to her knees. She cried out in pain. Seconds later his open palm slapped across her tear lined face. The indignant sting of his new ring crashed against her eyes. Blood trickled down and mingled with her stuttering sobs.
‘Laura will always come first with you won’t she? It doesn’t matter what she did, I will never compare to your precious daughter.’