“Sit down and shut up,” Christian yelled after he threw Josh down into a wooden chair. Josh’s shoe hovered in the air as he tried to balance himself and get back up again. Christian pointed him down until he relaxed.
“Look, I gotta catch a flight,” Josh pled.
“I said shut up!”
“Am I under arrest, officer,” Josh asked snidely.
Christian side eyed him. “Ha ha,” he answered dryly. “Just relax, all right,” he said with a reassuring hand. Anita entered the room with a knitted frown. “Where is she,” Christian asked her.
“She’s in the sun room,” Anita answered.
“I don’t need to be here,” Josh said, fixing his slightly burnt collared dress shirt.
“Josh, I’m not going to tell you again,” Christian said with his palm extended to silence him.
“I’m not the one who screwed up,” Josh said, smoothing his wet singed hair back.
“This wouldn’t be happening if you didn’t set fire to my kitchen,” Christian roared. “Now,” he said in a calmer tone. “I could press charges. I could call the police. But I’m not going to do that. I want one simple thing. I want you to tell me what happened.”
“Why don’t you ask her,” Josh said in a monotone voice, behind strands of wet hair.
“I’m not asking her. I’m asking you. It’s life according to you.”
“You wanna know my side,” Josh asked, raising his brow.
“All right,” Josh said, sitting up. Anita crossed her arms and braced herself for the answer. “You know me and Julia love each other. Honestly. I mean I do. But, she’s not the easiest person to be with.”
“Get to the point,” Anita said impatiently.
“Where do I start,” Josh shot back. “College?”
“Really,” Christian asked.
“Do you have to be a jerk,” Anita followed.
“Or should I mention how she left me,” Josh finished, staring at the floor.
“Left you how,” Christian asked, pushing for more answers. “At the altar?” Josh’s eyes traveled to another empty space. “Geez, Josh. I’m sorry. I know how you don’t like being stood up–”
“Why are you still with her,” Anita shot out.
“–because you were abandoned,” Christian finished. “Sweetheart,” he asked his wife.
“I’m sorry, but did you forget the kitchen,” Anita asked Christian with a glare.
“I’ll pay you back for that,” Josh said remorsefully.
“Josh,” Anita said, spinning around to him, “we don’t want your money. I want to know what happened. Just say it. What happened?”
“It was for Ashley,” Josh answered after a moment of lip biting.
“We told you how we felt about gifts for her,” Christian said as his hands slapped his thighs. “We don’t want her being spoiled.”
“What does this have to do with the kitchen,” Anita interrogated.
“Wait, I kinda want to hear this,” Christian said.
“You’re aggravating me,” Anita said, turning slowly to Christian.
“The party is already ruined. Might as well get some context out of it,” Christian reasoned.
“Ashley Skyped me,” Josh said finally.
“Go on,” Anita said with her eyes wide.
“I went into the back room when Julia came home. Julia thought I was talking to someone else,” Josh continued.
“Why would you do that, Josh? That looks suspicious.”
“Because when when Julia and I talk to Ashley, Julia turns it into a girl fest,” Josh explained.
“What’s wrong with that,” Anita asked with a shrug.
“Nothing,” Josh said with a shrug. “She just hogs the conversation until chat time is over. It doesn’t matter because that’s what ended up happening.”
“Did Ashley ask you for anything,” Christian asked with squinted eyes.
“No, but she told us some riddle. I thought she was speaking in code,” Josh explained.
“What riddle,” Anita asked.
“You can carry it everywhere you go, and it doesn’t get heavy,” Josh recited.
“Clearly it’s a phone,” Christian reasoned.
“She can’t get a phone, Christian,” Anita screamed. “She’s eight!” Christian frowned in shock and confusion. He wasn’t the one who she was mad at.
“I didn’t get her a phone,” Josh said rushing back into the conversation. “Besides it was too obvious. Ashley is smart.”
“So… what did you get?”
“Well,” Josh started and shook his head. “I wanted to get her a necklace. It was the most logical answer.”
Anita frowned after Josh’s answer. “No. No, you’re Joshua Olson. You just don’t get her a necklace…”
“Pardon me, if I have some style,” Josh said, rolling his eyes.
“What did you do,” Christian asked with his arms crossed.
Josh exhaled. “I got her limited edition Kore necklace.”
“Jesus Josh,” Christian said wide-eyed. “She’s eight! That is way too much money on an eight year old.”
“She’s my—” Josh started, defensively.
“What,” Christian challenged.
Josh slumped in his chair with a defeated sigh. “She’s my best friend’s daughter.”
Christian huffed under his breath. “Pending title.”
“Well it’s already paid for,” Josh said dismissively.
“Return it,” Christian bounced back.
“I still want to know how my kitchen got destroyed,” Anita said loudly.
“Well, Julia was racing me around the city for that necklace. Got into an accident,” Josh said with a chuckle.
“How? You don’t drive?”
“I don’t. I was rushing to the bathroom because someone decided to slip a laxative in my tea,”
Anita covered her eyes and shook her head. “Honestly,” she said to herself.
“Maybe it was an accident,” Christian said between his teeth.
“How do you accidentally slip a laxative in tea,” Christian asked.
“So, you saw her do it,” Anita pressed. “And you drank it anyway?”
“Of course not,” Josh exclaimed. “When I wasn’t looking, she poured it in. Anyway, I had to pay for a stranger’s pair of slacks because of my accident.”
“But we make it to the party,” Josh said.
“The one you weren’t invited to,” Anita quipped.
“And then Julia ridicules me for it,” Josh cried.
“You looked like you were about to hit her when I opened the door,” Anita said.
“Looked like,” Josh repeated loudly. “I know you heard her trying me before you opened the door, Anita!”
“So you two enter our house and you decided to destroy my kitchen in retaliation,” Christian asked flatly.
“Thank you, husband, for getting back on point,” Anita said with satisfaction.
“No, we didn’t decide that,” Josh said with his eyes closed. “Ashley greeted us and seeing her her calmed me down. But Brutus got naked to his boxer shorts and distracted me.”
“What,” Anita blurted out.
“I’m not kidding,” Josh said simply.
Anita couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Do you know anything about this,” she asked Christian.
Christian shrugged with shock, disbelief and uneasiness. “None.”
“You invited Brutus over me,” Josh asked silently.
“Brutus didn’t blow up my goddam kitchen,” Anita howled so loud the neighbors could hear. “Honestly Josh,” she said after taking a deep breath and collecting herself, “you think you’re so dignified with your expensive gifts and fancy clothes. But I can’t get through one night where the two of you don’t physically explode over each other!”
Josh sat there, looking down at the floor shaking his head.
“Say something,” Anita said forcefully.
“What’s the point,” Josh said calmly. “The economy is in the toilet and I moved myself to be in a place where I can take care of myself and others. Seeing Ashley gives me hope of what could be in my life. And despite my best efforts, Julia is convinced that I want her replaced or gone. Speaking frankly, I’m exhausted.
Christian and Anita turned to each other in silence and sighed. Anita shifted her weight and covered her mouth as she stared at Josh; his attention to the floor again.
“So… what happened to the kitchen,” Christian said, breaking the silence.
“Brutus started caroling in his boxers and that song reminded me, I didn’t know where I placed the gift,” Josh said. “So I had an idea of where it was, and I was right. It was with Julia. In the kitchen.”
“So, I grabbed my gift back and she started pushing my buttons again. One thing led to another and then… that’s when your soup got ruined.
“My grandma’s soup,” Anita said weakly.
“Spice rack went in. Taste went out,” Josh finished.
“Bad soup doesn’t equal exploding kitchen, Josh,” Christian said.
“I said we had to make it right,” Josh continued. “We found frozen fries.”
“Frozen fries doesn’t equal grandma’s soup,” Anita said nearly in tears.
“I never said replace,” Josh replied. “That’s all that was there that I could make. Then Julia had to do it her way, but faster. So she grabbed the pot and oil.”
“A grease fire,” Christian said quietly.
“I may have left the gas on,” Josh said with guilt. “I turned it off, but there must have been some left in the air. I tried to put the fire out and Julia just left. Again. I’m sorry about what I did. I’ll pay for the kitchen.
“Josh, stop offering to pay for the kitchen,” Christian said. “It’s replaceable. Christmas memories are not. We had to send everyone home.”
“And that’s my fault,” Josh said. “I’m sorry.”
Anita and Christian stood side by side in front of a defeated Josh. Silence hung as the couple soaked in everything that happened. Anita’s eyes met with Christian and she nodded. Josh caught this and tensed up.
“You’re not going to kick me into a hole, are you,” Josh asked nervously.
Christian shook his head. “We don’t accept your apology. Yet.”
“We gave you a chance to explain what happened,” Anita said. “Now we ask Julia.”