Mother had made deviled eggs. I could picture her measuring out all of the ingredients precisely and mixing them together with twenty strokes of the wooden spoon. She had let me help her once, but when I used ½ cup of mayo instead of 1/3, she threw the mixture out.
The eggs were arranged in an oval shape on her favorite silver platter. Their yellow centers were piled high and sprinkled lightly with paprika. I imagined the slippery feeling of the egg white against my tongue, the smooth taste of mayo, mustard, and yolk that would build in the back of my throat until I couldn’t swallow any more, then surge back up so I could taste it all again. It’s like cheating to taste it twice. Though I hadn’t done it in months, home brought the desire back.
“Darling, I’m so glad you decided to join us.” I wondered how hard it was for her to say that, to pretend like it was all right that she hadn’t visited me at the center, like dad hadn’t been the one to call about me coming home for the holiday. It had been months since I’d seen her. Her hair was greyer than I remembered and swept back neatly, not a single hair was out of place.
In fact, the whole kitchen was immaculate. There were no measuring cups in the sink, no stray bits of egg shell on the floor. You wouldn’t know she’d been cooking, if not for the sweet, rich smell of honeyed ham leaking from the oven and, of course, the deviled eggs.
My therapist told me she was worried that home wouldn’t be good for me given all we had discussed. But I hadn’t seen my sister, Laura, in a month. She was the only one who didn’t pretend like it never happened. Laura was the one who had picked me up off the floor in ballet class when I collapsed, the one who drove me to the hospital, and who called our mother and told her the news. I had overheard Mother’s voice through the phone, “Well she isn’t. You have to weigh ninety pounds to be that.”
“When is Laura getting here?” I asked.
“Did she not tell you?” Mother said raising her eyebrow, “She can’t make it.”
I was acutely alone in the clinically clean kitchen and the panic began to rise in my chest. My head felt cloudy and light. Laura wasn’t coming.“Why not?” I asked. My therapist had told me that it’s all right to feel out of control. It’s what you do with those feelings that’s important. She was always saying things like that.
“It was a last minute thing. It’s too much for her with the baby now,” Mother said. I saw Laura retreating from us, from me, into her own life with her own daughter. I felt a hot discomfort, something like heartburn, in my chest. “The ham will be done soon. Will you put those eggs on the table?” Mother asked.
“No,” I said. The startled look on her face slowly turned into a glare.
“What has gotten into you?” she asked. I felt my feet solidly on the ground and the weight of my body settling into my heels. From the perfectly arranged tray, I picked up a deviled egg.