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‘What did she say when you told her?’ Caroline is standing by the door to his closet, watching Xavier do up his shirt. She knows he would rather she let it go, but she’ll be damned if her crazy mother-in-law will get away with this stunt. Not a chance.
‘She said she didn’t mean it that way and Bernadette must have taken it out of context-‘
Xavier turns to look at Caroline, she will not let this go. Of course he knows his mother set out to make trouble like she always does, but he would much rather not be caught in the middle of this new war between her and his wife. Caroline, on the other hand, is chomping at the bit to bite her head off. If he doesn’t stop her, lunch this afternoon will be a bust. Given the option he’d cancel, but that will be another thing for his mother to harp on about, considering it took them a month to finally set a date thanks to his and Caroline’s hectic schedules. Another thing his mother has a problem with because she believes they don’t spend enough time with their children, Caroline especially. But that’s just his mother, she finds fault with every woman she did not handpick for her “boys” like she refers to Xavier and his brothers. If Caroline were an angel she’d still have a problem with her. So he understands his wife’s annoyance; this lunch couldn’t be at a worse time especially with his mother’s attendance.
Hopefully with the others around them, the tension can be diffused somewhat. Hopefully.
‘What do you want me to do? Tell her off? She’s my mother.’
‘And I’m your wife.’ Caroline says deadpan.
‘I know that.’
‘Then you should know that I will not let this go.’ Caroline says before walking out of the bedroom to look in on the children.
Xavier did talk to his mother about the tea but she brushed him off and he made nothing of it. It often worked that way, but this time was one step too far. He is on Caroline’s side but taking sides so openly will only lead to more drama and today will be the most dramatic of all, he can just feel it.
‘Mommy can I wear my pink dress?’ Olive asks when her mother walks into her bedroom. She is having a tea party with her friends, the cabbage patch dolls.
Olive nods and Caroline sees no point in arguing with her five year old, she at that age where her wardrobe choices are fodder for battle, if refused. Said pink dress is becoming something of a legend and it only cost £4.99 down from £40 at the Gap. A bargain that keeps on giving, considering how many times Olive has worn it. With a wardrobe brimming with beautiful dresses, high fashion and high street alike, it remains Olive’s favourite dress and who is she to argue with what makes her happy? Its only a matter of time before rumours start swirling about how the Darlings are going broke because of their daughter’s choice in style. That would only give Madeleine more ammunition when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Caroline stops by Xander’s bedroom about to go in, but she hears Xavier’s voice; he is reading Peter Pan, by heart, she’s sure. Her children are creatures of habit, Xander loves the same book, Olive loves her pink dress. She leaves them to it.
The bedroom phone rings just as she is slipping on her Jimmy Choo heels. The ID shows her parents’ home phone number. Of course.
‘Calling to see if I’ve started World War three mom?’ Caroline says jocularly upon answering.
‘I take it you’re still mad.’ That is more a statement than a question.
‘Caroline. My darling rebellious child.’ Her mother says with such affection.
That makes her laugh. ‘I won’t cause trouble, if she doesn’t.’
‘And go easy on Xavier he is her son.’
‘And I’m his wife. The choice is his to make.’
‘Don’t force him to make one.’
Caroline starts to say something to the contrary but her mother won’t let her.
‘She had no right to do what she did and in your shoes, I would probably be as livid but choose your battles wisely my dear girl. Don’t make your husband the enemy. He is not.’ Wise words only a mother can convey but it’s up to her daughter to heed the wisdom.
Looking at herself in the mirror, Caroline no longer fancies her choice of outfit, lunch with the Darlings is always a formality especially with Madeleine in attendance. Dressing up is expected and Caroline always did so with Madeleine’s approval in mind. Today however, in this rebellious mood, screw the formality. She will be comfortable in her own home.
At 12.30pm the Darlings arrive, brothers, wives, children and grandparents. Greetings are exchanged but Caroline purposely avoids Madeleine which does not go unnoticed.
‘I saw that.’ Xavier says to her when they make their way to the dining room where lunch is being served.
Caroline gives him a steely look, ‘don’t push me.’
Xavier says a little prayer as they take their seats at the table.
‘Going for the relaxed look Caroline?’ Madeleine addresses Caroline’s choice of outfit; jeans, a polo neck tee-shirt and UGGs. At luncheon? In Madeleine’s books such a look is sacrilegious. And those ghastly UGG boots? A nastier shoe was never made.
‘I just didn’t see the need to bother.’ Caroline shrugs, failing to disguise her disregard for her mother-in-law.
‘I see.’ Madeleine purses her lips thinly. ‘Xavier informs me that you were a bit upset about having tea with Bernadette-‘
‘Mother, drop it.’ Xavier says.
Up until this moment Caroline, heeding her mother’s advice, meant to give peace a chance but her mother-in-law is skilled in bitchery. She wants a fight, she’ll get one.
‘Nonsense Xavier.’ Madeleine shushes her son but her eyes never leaves Caroline’s, ‘I just thought she could show you the ropes.’
‘How things are done within this society. It never hurts to know-‘
‘How to be scandalous is something I need to know?’ Caroline raises a brow. Beatrice, Alfred’s wife, snorts into her napkin. They have all, at one point or another, been subject to Madeleine’s disapproval until they towed her line, so her behaviour comes as no surprise to anyone. But Caroline won’t yield. Not this time.
Madeleine is taken aback by Caroline’s sass. ‘If it pleases you to know, Bernadette is from a fine family and-‘
‘It doesn’t please me to know Madeleine and from now on I will choose my own friends not that I ever sought your consult.’ Caroline’s face set in stubborn determination.
The atmosphere is rife with tension and Madeleine has the face of a slapped arse, not best pleased but she will not be silenced.
‘As idiotic as her husband might be, Bernadette is thoroughly bred-‘
‘I don’t care much for thorough breeds and as I said, I don’t need your help. Next time I may not be so politely.’
Madeleine looks scandalised. ‘How-‘
‘Mother don’t.’ Xavier is looking daggers at his mother.
‘Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say.’ Madeleine challenges.
‘Maddy, enough now.’ Her husband jumps in.
‘I see. You are all against me.’ She almost sounds childish.
‘No more than you are against me Mrs Darling.’ Caroline delivers heavily before living the room to check on dessert.
Needless to say lunch is not as palatable and the family don’t stick around much longer afterwards, which suits Caroline just fine. Herself and Xavier avoid each other for much of the evening, he shuts himself off in his study and she opts for cartoons with the children in the family room. At 8pm they put the children to bed.
‘You couldn’t help yourself could you?’ Xavier says to Caroline in the privacy of their bedroom.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘You had to keep going.’ He is angry.
‘Your mother started it.’
‘She threw down a gauntlet and you picked it up Caroline, its what she does. You know that.’
‘I told you I won’t let this go.’
Xavier shakes his head irritated. There is no point arguing with her in this state because nothing will be resolved. With their backs turned and lights out they try to sleep. Only, sleep won’t come.