A joyous family dinner turns into a free-for-all and ugly truths surface that threatens to tear siblings apart and destroy their lives.
Family dinners can be heaven or hell, just as sisters can be best friends or bitter enemies. Mixing family get-togethers with sibling rivalry served up a bitter stew of spite and vengeance for the Lindgren family Thanksgiving dinner.
At first glance, the Lindgrens seemed to be such a tight-knit happy clan, that no one could have imagined the rage that was bubbling under the surface. They smiled, they kissed and simpered, they called for cranberry sauce and turkey and ended up carving out each other’s hearts.
To first understand the whole terrible story, you must first meet the Lingrens. Mom and dad, jovial and comfortably middle-aged, looked happy together after 32 years of marriage, but smiled too brightly in company, and not at all when they were alone.
Their small deception was mainly for the benefit of their four children, Meg, 29, Alice, 28, Jenny, 24, and Jonathan, 22. The Lindgrens had raised their children in a liberal atmosphere, encouraging each to pursue their interests, and encouraging their talents.
Meg had presented her with the perfect opportunity to vent the anger and resentment that had been brewing for six years.
Meg, the beauty of the family, had early showed a passion for dancing, which quickly ripened into an obsession with becoming a cheerleader. Studious Alice was shy, did everything she could to stay out of the limelight, and then felt resentful for being ignored.
Jenny was happy-go-lucky, pretty, but not too pretty, bright without being brilliant, athletic, popular, and easily the happiest of the four siblings. The unhappiest was, of course, Jonathan.
The genetic bounty that made his three sisters either beautiful, brilliant, or well-adjusted failed him miserably. Jonathan was too thin and too tall. He had no particular talent and had to work hard to achieve mediocre grades.
Mr. Lindgren, who had prayed for a son through four pregnancies was understandably disappointed in him, and it showed. Mr. Lindgren has been the star quarterback and had married the town’s prettiest girl.
He had founded a prosperous business he had intended to pass on to his son and heir, but Jonathan had no grit and no grasp of finance or commerce. Jonathan was quite aware of his shortcomings, and it made him miserable
So when the table was set for Thanksgiving on that fateful day, it was also set for disaster as the four siblings brought their resentments along with their appetites. Meg also brought her husband, David, and Jenny her fiancée, Todd.
Meg started it all when she scoffed at Jonathan for having no less than five rescue cats. Picking up her glass of wine, and gulping eagerly, Meg cried:
“A toast to the cat lady… I mean lord!”
Jonathan turned an unfortunate purple and exclaimed: “I honestly think we should all do more to save animals from kill shelters! What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing…Except, darling, that you are starting to smell like cat urine! Seriously, you need to stop!”
Jonathan lowered his head. “I’m going to do what I can. And so should you! You have a huge garden, plenty of money…You could do more, make a difference.”
“Honey, the only animals I like are on my plate!” Meg snapped, sticking her fork viciously in a slice of turkey.
“It’s because of people like you that the world is in such a mess. You are selfish, Meg!”
“Oh put a sock in it! I’m not about to be lectured to by a 22-year-old virgin! If you got laid you’d stop obsessing about the damn cats!”
Meg’s outburst cast a pall of embarrassed silence over the table. Jonathan got up, mumbled an apology, and fled the table. If Alice had kept quiet, Meg would have gone after him, apologized, healed the breach.
But Alice didn’t. Meg had presented her with the perfect opportunity to vent the anger and resentment that had been brewing for six years. Alice turned, looked her sister in the eye, and spewed her venom:
“I think it’s quite inspiring that Jonathan is waiting for the right girl. How many men did you go through? A hundred? Or did you lose count?”
Meg gasped, blushed scarlet, and turned stricken eyes onto her husband. David lowered his knife and fork and used his serviette to mask his stunned expression. He forced a smile.
“Oh, Meg was popular, I’m sure, but not that popular!”
Alice leaned forward eagerly. “Meg was a legend! Her sorority sisters set up a board with all the names, it’s still there if you’d care to consult it!”
David turned to look at his wife. “Really, darling? I had no idea you were so adventurous. Or such a liar.”
It was Meg’s turn to flee the table, sobbing. Mrs. Lindgren cast Alice a reproving glance and rushed after her oldest daughter. David got up and left without a word, and the family heard the front door slam behind him.
Jenny turned on her sister. “How could you Alice! How could you be so cruel? You know David is a devout Christian, you knew he would be shocked!”
Alice raised her shoulder disdainfully. “How could I possibly know? I thought Meg would have confessed all her sins to her saintly David!”
Jenny stared at her sister in sudden understanding. “So that’s what all this is about?”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” cried Alice primly.
“You do! You had a crush on David in high school, and you still want him. You never forgave Meg for marrying him
Alice was enraged. “She never liked him back then, she laughed at him, called him holier-than-thou! She mocked him! I was the one who loved him…She was a slut, I was the one…”
“I see…You were the one who loved him? But Meg changed, Alice. She’s not perfect, and she can be cruel, but she loves David and would never hurt him — but you just did.”
“I opened his eyes! Now he knows, now he knows the woman married has been through more beds than she can remember. He married a slut! He has the right to know.”
Jenny looked coldly at her sister. “You are an ugly vengeful woman, Alice, and that’s why you are alone. And you are going to die alone.”
Jenny turned to her fiancée and her father. “I’m going after David, maybe I can repair some of the damage.”
Alice was left alone at the table with her father and the embarrassed Todd, who attempted to escape the whole situation by serving himself another plate of greens and yams.
Mr. Lindgren knocked his knuckles on the table. Alice raised her head to meet her father’s sad gaze.
“I thought we were family, I thought that despite all your little quarrels you loved your sisters.”
Alice blustered, “I was defending Jonathan…”
Mr. Lindgren shook his head sadly. “No, Alice, you were attacking your sister, and you struck out at the most vulnerable part of her life. Meg was going to make an announcement tonight, did you know?
“She’s pregnant, Alice, it was going to be her Thanksgiving gift to David. A surprise.” He rose to his feet. “I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done, daughter. I can’t be proud of who you are.”
It was a dark night for the family, but darkest for Alice. Meg and David worked through his anger at her for hiding her past, and Jonathan forgave his sister. But when the family gathered again six months later to celebrate the arrival of the first Lindgren grandchild, Alice wasn’t invited.
What really motivated Alice to disclose her sister’s unsavory past? Was she intent on defending her brother, or destroying her sister’s happiness out of jealousy?