Constance was the matriarch of the Johnson family; as such, she carried herself in the way of older women of wealth, even if there wasn’t much wealth to be found. But having her family over for the holidays was her duty, and she provided everyone with a delicious meal and presents less out of a sense of warmth, kindness, and love, than out of a sense of fond obligation.
She and her husband, Marshall, had four children: Susan, Eric, Linda, and Gayle, though Susan and her husband had not come this year, citing a need to “get away” this year, whatever the hell that means. Constance had never had the chance to feel like getting away, although she did often feel the need to get away from those around her. As a woman who enjoyed her alone time, being married and raising four children had been quite the challenge to her psyche and her system. And now she had grandchildren, too! The younger ones were sitting far down at the other end of the room at the kid’s table, all five of them, drinking hot chocolate and getting food all over the floor as they hurriedly ate their dinner. The sooner they ate, the sooner they could open presents, obviously. Constance smiled; she enjoyed having grandchildren much more than children, truth be told. It was all of the fun parts of parenting, and she didn’t have to be around them all day, every day. Plus, they enjoyed the eccentric habits she had cultivated as she got older. She would take them to thrift stores and let them pick out one item of their choosing, as she browsed for odd coffee mugs to add to her ever-expanding collection. She only drank out of mugs now, including her current alcoholic beverage of choice, absinthe.
It was during one of her thrift store trips that she’d first spotted an old absinthe fountain; of course, she snatched it immediately. $30 for the whole set was an absolute steal, and she loved the ritual of the dripping, the louche, the whole thing just set her heart and soul a-fire. Well, the absinthe helped with that, too. True, you were supposed to drink absinthe out of the sweet crystal glasses it came with, but her arthritic, shaky hands did better with mugs than any delicate bullshit glass.
She’d spent the last four days cleaning the house from top to bottom and cooking every bit of the Christmas dinner while Marshall shoveled, drank beer, and stayed out of her way. Smart man. She looked across the table at him, met his eye, and tipped her mug to him in salutation. He winked, tipped his glass of eggnog back at her, and kept chatting with her granddaughter’s new boyfriend, who looked like he was trying his hardest to have a good time but was clearly uncomfortable.
Constance surveyed the whole table with a general air of hospitable consternation; she did love her family, even if she had never understood them, and they clearly never understood her. She had not, and would never be, a warm, friendly person; she was the polar opposite of her husband, which is probably how they had managed to be married for over 40 years now. Her gaze fell finally on her daughter Linda, who was seated right next to her. She noticed Linda pushing her food around her plate, not eating, but drinking steadily. Uncertain how to say “I’m worried about you” to her daughter, she settled for passive-aggressive comments about how thin she looked, which didn’t improve Linda’s mood, but Constance hoped she would remember them later and understand the root cause of why she had said them in the first place. Her other children tittered and tried to change the conversation, only to have politics brought up, and a drunken Steve started going on tangents about immigrants and walls. The boyfriend looked very uncomfortable now, and opened another one of his “craft beers,” a phrase Constance had never heard of, but was apparently a very popular thing with the young people now. During dessert, Linda went upstairs with “a migraine,” (which Constance knew was code for “too much wine,” and Steve was gone a few minutes later without explanation.
Constance just sipped on her absinthe, and let her granddaughter and her boyfriend start clearing the table of all the dinner and dessert dishes. The younger grandchildren had put on a holiday movie and were alternating between paying attention and vanishing under the tree looking for their presents. She saw Steve come down and sit on the living room sofa, looking decidedly more drunk and disheveled than when she saw him last. Odd. She drained the last of her absinthe, got up and set up another louche to start pouring into her mug, and sent Gayle upstairs to check on her sister. “Bring ibuprofen and water with you; she’s going to need both,” Constance declared as her absinthe finished. Ah, that sweet licorice smell always cheered her up. She lifted the mug to her nose, inhaling that sweet, alcoholic aroma. Oh, the holidays. Thankfully they were almost over; once Linda came back downstairs, they could open gifts, and these people would get the hell out of her house
Scent notes: Absinthe, glowing red musk, bitter accord, myrrh, vetiver