by Angela M. Campbell
Happy Hour was over but the bar was still crowded with hangers-on nursing half-priced drinks. I sat next to an over-dressed woman whose lipstick was a touch too bright. She had a martini with five olives. When she saw me looking, she said, “He makes these just for me.”
She looked at my ballet flats, so sensible next to her high heels. “I wish I could wear shoes like that, but I’m still ‘out there.’” She did air quotes with her fingers, then went back to her drink. “Married for a while?” she said. “I’ll bet you have a kid or two. This is a treat for you, being out. Not like it is for the rest of us.
“I’m waiting for my ‘date.’” She air-quoted again. “He’s late, as always. Never calls or texts; just…late. I put up with it. It’s someone, something to do. My sister says that I should settle down, but it’s not so easy. You don’t just wake up one day and give all this up.”
She held up an olive, displaying it, then popped it in her mouth. “My sister always wanted holidays to be perfect. The ‘Norman Rockwell’ Christmas, Thanksgiving with big turkeys. She would pretend it wasn’t just the three of us with a turkey breast and Styrofoam containers of mashed potatoes and gravy. At Christmas, sometimes she’d gift wrap empty boxes so it looked like we had more under the tree.
“We didn’t have Easter egg hunts. None of us liked hard-boiled eggs, and we couldn’t afford eggs no one would eat. We wanted to decorate eggs but Mom wouldn’t budge. My sister found an article about how you could blow out the insides of raw eggs and decorate those, and we promised to eat the scrambled eggs, so Mom let us do that. We made the holes too big, so they didn’t turn out as nice as the pictures. Then they were too delicate to hide, so we still didn’t get our Easter egg hunt. We didn’t get them completely cleaned out, and we had to throw them out when they started to stink.
“The next year, Mom bought us some plastic ones, so that my sister could have a proper Easter egg hunt. We couldn’t decorate them, but it was the best we could do. My sister wanted to put candy in them, but my mom only had two big, hollow chocolate bunnies, one for each of us. My sister insisted it wasn’t a real hunt with empty eggs. My mom grabbed olives from the refrigerator. ‘Put these in the eggs.’
“She thought my sister would get upset and abandon the whole idea, but my sister thought it was perfect. It was funny; she wanted this traditional Easter egg hunt, but she was thrilled with the olives. Then again, she loved olives. She’d eat them after school, one after the other, until my mom would stop her, telling her that she’d ruin her appetite.”
She popped another olive in her mouth. I wanted to leave, but she started again. She wasn’t telling me the story – she was just telling it.
“The olive juice ruined the plastic eggs, but my sister didn’t care. The next year we did it again, but we used sandwich bags to hold the olives. This became our tradition. My sister felt like she owned these olive hunts. When you’re the little sister, you don’t get a lot of things that are just yours.
“I don’t talk to her much these days. She’s in another state; she’s got her family, too busy to call.” She wiped at her eyes. “Doesn’t matter. I have places like this. I can get plenty of olives, whenever I want.”
I was about to make an excuse for her sister, maybe explain how she got busy, but before I did anything, she stood. “He’s here,” she said, with a nod toward the door. She adjusted herself, getting ready for battle. She was gone.
Angela M. Campbell is a full-time writer. She grew up in Ohio and lived in the Philadelphia area for several years before moving to Gaithersburg, Maryland. She has been named as a finalist in the essay category and a semi-finalist in the novel-in-progress category in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition (Faulkner House, New Orleans). This is her first published short story. http://higgypiggie.blogspot.com