Tanya poked at the mound of toasted stuffing sitting on her plate, contemplating the various chopped vegetables. Celery, onion, mushrooms…was that parsley? She could feel Victoria’s eyes boring into her, and she determinedly kept her gaze locked downwards. Couldn’t Victoria at least pretend not to hate her when everyone else was around? Not that it was such a secret… “Ready to have your eyes clawed out with fake nails?” Amy had asked earlier that day, eyes lit up as she imagined the scenario. Tanya began creating little piles on her plate – bits of mushroom, bits of celery…
On her left, Amy was telling Granny something in a low tone, with her usual sweet smile and calculating eyes. Granny nodded approvingly, and helped herself to more wine. To her right, John James was attacking his turkey with silent, ruthless energy. He looked up when Victor addressed him, eyes hard as he continued to swiftly slice his meat.
“How’s the market treating you, John?”
Victoria shifted her gaze to her husband, sweetly offering him a tureen of yams. As Victor accepted, Granny refilled his wineglass, and John James speared another piece of turkey onto his plate.
“Doing all right, Victor. I can’t complain.”
Victor laughed heartily and took a long gulp of wine. “You’re always doing all right, Johnny. Wish you could pass a little of that luck onto me.”
John James smiled coldly. “You might get lucky yet. You never know what the future will bring…but it’s not all about luck. You have to take control of your life, Victor. Eliminate uncertainty, and you won’t need luck.” He turned towards his wife and offered her the plate of turkey. When she shook her head, he forked a few pieces of white meat onto her plate anyways, then took more for himself.
Victoria ran her red nails through her long wavy hair. “That’s your problem, John. Not everyone likes to be controlled.” She glanced briefly at Sophia, who was quietly and dutifully eating her turkey. John James glared at his sister. “You never seemed to mind being taken care of.”
“Behave, children,” Granny spoke up dryly. She squeezed Amy’s arm. “Surely there are other topics of conversation. Amy was just telling me abou-”
A clatter of silverware interrupted her sentence; the family collectively turned to look as Victor, even redder in the face than usual, bent over to retrieve his knife. He loosened his collar and grinned weakly. “Sorry all, must have had a bit too much wine, I’m feeling kinda dizzy…”
Victoria pursed her lips and poured Victor a glass of water; John James narrowed his eyes. Granny smiled and gave a forgiving wave of her hand. “Don’t worry Victor, it’s a holiday after all! Would you like some potatoes?”
But Victor had begun to turn a dark purplish color. Clutching his throat, he moved to get up from the table, took a jerky step, and collapsed on the floor.
“VICTOR!” Victoria screamed and leapt out of her chair. John James bent down and took Victor’s pulse, paused, then looked up at the rest of the family and with an unidentifiable expression, pronounced “He’s dead.”
There was a long, horrified pause, broken by Victoria’s wail as she threw herself over her husband’s body. “You!” She shrieked, wild-eyed, pointing at a member of her family. “You did this, I know you did!”