Marianna eyes her guest carefully. Paul’s hair is curled and pulled into a ponytail and her lips, almost permanently pursed, are blood-red. Her face, as always, is flawless, and her bored, unblinking eyes are bordered by thick, tarantula lashes. Her expression is of indifference. It always is. Marianna knows Paula doesn’t like having Thanksgiving here, but because she is Adam’s wife, and Adam happens to be Marianna’s husband’s best friend, they must endure one another’s company.
The table is set beautifully. The turkey is stuffed with sage and covered in a minty dressing; the mashed potatoes are fluffy and glistening with yellow butter; small piles of red sauce sit inside white china bowls around the table; layered beneath the piles of steam on each plate is a piece of turkey, beef, gammon, sausages wrapped in brown and crispy, greasy streaks of bacon.
Paula, Adam and Marianna’s husband, James, all sit prompt and presentable at the table in their cashmere sweaters, cotton embroidered dresses, pinstripe shirts, bracelets, and silk ties, while Marianna remains humble in her brandless white cotton shirt and a black, knee-length skirt. James, her handsome husband, has black hair so immaculate, so dark, it looks it looks plastic with all that shine in it. While his head is cocked at the table, his thick eyebrows are raised; his lips, which are thin and almost the same colour as the rest of his face, are pulled into a small smile, like he is unsure of himself.
‘Shall we say grace?’ Marianna asks her guests.
Paula stares down at her plate of food, as if a little confused, like a maggot is wriggling in her gravy. Her hand, also flawlessly pale, is hooked around the base of a wine glass, unmoving.
Her guests say nothing. Marianna sighs deeply.
James tilts sideways until his shoulder knocks her. She smiles at him. At night she would rub her knuckles over his chin and play with his lips until she laughed. Although he hasn’t touched his food, she knows he is appreciative of it; he appreciates everything she does. She makes him happy.
Paula goes on with her blank face.
Marianna’s smile drops and she straightens up.
‘Paula, could you at least show some enthusiasm?’
Adam says nothing. He ought to though, Marianna thinks to herself. Paula thinks she can get away with being rude, but not here, not in this house.
James is still resting against her shoulder. Gently, she pushes him back in his seat, anger dissipating. She says grace and eats her food. Later, after she clears the plates and cutlery, she nuzzles her lips into James’s neck.
‘I’m glad you enjoyed it, darling,’ she says, while the guests look aimlessly at nothing, unmoving, lifeless. In this world they are hollow. In her head they are full of chitchat and jokes. In this world, at night, James lays beside her with a vacantness in him; in her head he kisses her and holds her tight in his plastic arms.