Christmas was going to be a real drag this year, Felicity decided. Mother was coming, which meant that the house was actually going to have to be cleaned for once. Not so much for mother’s benefit as she was mostly deaf and completely blind, but because she would be bringing Grace, her daughter – Felicity’s sister.
To say that the two of them didn’t get on was like saying that gazelles weren’t that fond of lions, or that water did everything it could to repel oil. Or was that the other way round? Well, whatever, they didn’t mix well. Particularly not when Grace had sunk a few Christmas brandies. Her tongue, always unpleasant, gained a particularly barbed and bitter quality after that.
She never wanted to remember that she’d only moved back in with mother after her husband had left her, having finally had his fill of her cross ways. No, the way she told it she’d given up her marriage to go and care for their ailing parent, ignoring the fact that mother had been in full possession of her faculties at the time and very reluctant to have a child move back in just as she was enjoying herself. The stroke that had caused her deafness and blindness had come out of the blue for everyone, and Felicity suspected that no one had resented it more than Grace, having suddenly found herself catapulted from the status of freeloader to carer. Not that she had been a nice person before that, but it had certainly made things worse.
Grace never tired of accusing Felicity of neglecting her mother and making much of all that she did herself – completely ignoring the fact that Felicity lived three hundred miles away, across the channel, and had a job and family of her own to be there for. No, that bit was never mentioned. She wheeled across the kitchen to give the Christmas pudding mix a final stir before going back to finish greasing the pudding bowls. She looked at the small bottle of almond oil on the table top by the mixing bowl virtually overflowing with dried fruits, candied peel, apples and spices. It smelled heavenly and was completely nut free. They had been left out because of Grace.
Felicity didn’t know why she’d even got the almond oil out of the cupboard, but it was there now, tempting her to add just a few drops to the mix. After all, who would know? Except Grace, of course, when her face and throat swelled up until she could breathe no more. Yes, it was very tempting, and with mother here already there’d be no dash back home to care for her. Felicity filled two of the bowls then added some almond oil to the mix for the last two. Would she label them correctly? She didn’t know. She hadn’t made her mind up yet, it was a difficult decision to make. Oh well, she thought, all problems are relative.