Family Happiness

A family of four sits at a table for dinner. Together, all four. A square table. The mother stood over her empty seat next to the father, scooping out potatoes onto his dish. The son, the daughter, waiting patiently for theirs. There was no television, no radio, no candle. A family of four and a table, and that was all they needed.

“Peas, please,” said the father.

The daughter, not young, reached in front of her for the bowl of freshly steamed peas. She handed it to her older brother, who sat adjacent to her father. He took it from her, offered her some, then piled a spoonful onto his father’s dish.

The mother sat down, looking around at her family’s full plates.

The serving bowls sat quietly on the trivets.

The brother picked up his fork, both elbows on the table. The sister did the same, her elbows to her side. The peas looked so green. Both children noticed. The sister spotted one on her plate that had popped, struggling to hold on to its round shape.

She examined it.

Her brother raised his eyebrows and sniffed, as if one couldn’t be done without the other.

It was a lovely display of food.

“I was thinking about taking a cooking class,” said the mother. She didn’t blink, the daughter noticed. She dragged a yellow finger across her lips to wipe off food that she hadn’t yet eaten.

“You should,” said the brother. The mother looked at him, wondering if he meant to be supportive or comment on her cooking.

The father’s fork cut through his potato and slammed against his plate. The conversation came to an end.

“Another potato?” the mother asked. She looked at his plate instead of him. He shook his head.

The daughter kicked the brother under the table. He nodded at her. They both saw it. The yellowed finger of their mother who…didn’t…smoke. Who covered her mouth when she spoke.

The brother looked at the father.

“Could you pass the butter,” the brother said. The mother and father reached for it, sitting in between them. The mother let go. The father watched her hand.

The brother saw it. His father knew.

He cut through the thick butter with his knife, then glanced at his sister. She watched his hand travel through the fat, and understood.

“Another affair?” the sister asked. She cut through the thick air with her voice, then glanced at her mother.

The yellowed fingers of the mother floated to her neck, though she didn’t speak. The father swallowed his peas.

The brother smiled at how easy it was. The lies our bodies won’t tell.

Across the street, a single mother looked out her window. She saw her children throw cereal in the reflection. She didn’t turn around.

She watched the family of four dining together, smiling together. Together.

The lies our bodies won’t tell.