The candles burnt, steadily, casting long shadows on the walls surrounding the dinner table. The wax had dripped down the candles, pooling together at the base of the steel holders. The dinner table was set beautifully, the candles merely the finishing touch to the masterpiece.
They sat around the table, food waiting to be dished. These congenial family dinners had become a tradition, ever since Simon’s first visit home from university. He missed home terribly, and he cherished the quality family time he was granted on his yearly trip back home.
He couldn’t know for sure, but it was fairly reasonable to assume his family missed him just as much. Not to mention, these family dinners were a lovely escape from the typical university diet, that consisted of; minute noodles and bulk bananas that turned brown the day they were bought.
He always made it a point to cook these lavish meals. Not just because he enjoyed cooking, but also to showcase his talents and as a treat to his family. He wanted to show them a few of the specialty dishes he had seen from one of the various cooking shows he indulged in, when he wasn’t studying.
Here they were now, tremendous roast beef with potatoes and Yorkshire pudding before them. Glasses of wine poured for each of them, even his underage brother. Seeing as this was a special occasion, he was allowed one glass of wine.
Dressed in their Sunday finest, they looked like one of those families having a meal in a movie. The two brothers, dressed in matching brown chinos with white shirts and blue blazers. Their father, sitting at the head of the table, was donned in a full black suit with a white shirt. Diana, the mother of the house, sat in a stunning blue summer dress with pearls around her neck.
“Let us pray.”
Yet another family tradition, this one undertaken before meals. Their heads were bowed as the prayed to the Heavens.
Food dished and the plates full, Simon talked about university. He told them of the assignments he had completed, the societies and clubs he participated in, and the many friends he had made.
Truthfully, he was failing nearly all his units, had been rejected from joining the clubs and societies he had applied for, and had two friends he saw on a regular basis. But, the food was good and the company better. So, what harm would a couple white lies do?
He filled up his wine glass more than a few times as the stories he told flowed. Liquid to lubricate the lies perhaps. The wax at the bottom of the candles had pooled up even more since the start of dinner. The shadows on the walls danced merrily, seemingly imitating the splendor of the family dinner being shared.
Simon looked at his brother Kyle, and his heart filled with love. He missed his brother more than anything when he was away, and being back with him meant the world to Simon.
Sitting at the table, his stories stopped, and his thoughts drifted away. Far, far away. He recalled a time when they were young. Much younger. They were typical young kids, and did not get along – as siblings so often don’t.
In the incident being recalled, Simon had broken a lamp in the living room and when asked by his mother about it, he blamed Kyle. Needless to say, Kyle was given a spanking by their extremely stern mother. Lamenting on the wrongful punishment he had caused to his younger brother, he felt the pang of regret and sadness.
Kyle had grown to be such an incredible brother to him, even after the mistreatment bestowed upon him. Simon wiped the tear building up in the corner of his eye quickly, pretending to scratch his eye.
Looking at his parents now. The love he felt for them overwhelmed him. He excused himself to the bathroom to quell the tears and to compose himself. His parents had been nothing but great to him all his life. Granting him every desire and wish, being there for him in every way imaginable. God, how he loved them. He wouldn’t trade them for the world.
He looked at himself in the harsh bathroom light and saw his eyes were red from crying. No matter, red eyes were also a symptom of fatigue. He would just say he was tired.
He sat on the edge of the bathtub and looked down at the checkered floor tiles, becoming almost hypnotized by the constant black and white design. Snapping out of the daze, he looked around the bathroom. It was the same as the last time he was home – nothing had changed.
The fuzzy blue toilet seat cover still sat atop the lid. The toothbrushes all grouped together in a cup on the sink, and the coloured towels for each family member hanging on the towel rail. His bedroom had remained equally untouched since his departure. The single bed still sat on one side of the room, with his desk occupying the opposite side. His karate trophies and medals still hanging on the shelf above his bed, and the incredible collection of comic books sprawled under the bed. It was his sanctum. He had moved from the bathroom and now lay on the bed. Taking in the tranquility and joy of being at home, Simon drifted to sleep.
The bright beams of sunlight woke him up, he realized he had left his family sitting waiting for him at the table. Silly him. He stood up and stretched, taking off the blue blazer that was now creased, having been slept in.
He walked down the stairs and made his way to the dining room. The shadows cast on the wall made it evident that his family now sat waiting for him to have breakfast. He greeted them warmly and apologized for his rude behaviour the night before, sitting down besides his brother. It wasn’t long before the terrible smell wafted in around him.
“I need to take better care of you guys if we’re to continue with these lovely dinners we have.”
He pushed his chair back and walked to the kitchen. Reaching under the sink he grabbed the formaldehyde. He would need to make a better mixture, but for now, the formaldehyde would be sufficient. He walked back to the dining room table and took his family, one by one, to the garage. He needed to fix them to stop the smell. They had grown stiff again and his mother’s skin had begun to peel from her face, again. He would have to try and stitch or staple it back on.
He couldn’t bear to lose them. He just loved them way too much. What better way is there to keep them around forever, than to keep them preserved? He took their dinner clothes off and lay them on his work table. He could not afford to be so forgetful.
He had to take better care of them or they would not make it the next time he came home. There was no way he was going to lose them after doing everything he could to keep them. They were going to be fresh forever. This world would not take them from him. He had taken the necessary steps to ensure that.
Living in an isolated house in a nobody town had its advantages. Nobody would find and take them from him. They would be here. Waiting for him. Waiting for his return so they can have their lovely family dinner.