decades had taught nan that "just drop your coat anywhere" meant "it goes in a very specific location in the hall closet, unnamed, and which you are unqualified to properly find and use." nan had quit smoking fifteen years ago, but still sudie made a display of bringing out an ashtray, a test and a reminder of the offensive habit, and the day when nan had foolishly understood "please smoke if you'd like" to mean it was ok to smoke and not a declaration that a person who would bring such a filthy habit into her home was beneath contempt.
"come any time after two" meant, of course, that there was a secret time, say, three-seventeen before which sudie would still be dressing, and nan and alan would be expected to wait to be received properly, and after which sudie would state explicitly that everything was now spoiled because the intended scheduling of the kitchen tasks was now invalid.
some of sudie's games were more fun than others. sudie liked to test nan by moving small bits of furniture and nan didn't mind remarking on which thing was different each time. nan minded when this was done overnight, in the dark.
a game nan liked less was "let's reminisce about family events from the distant past." this game wasn't so bad when bill and mitchell were there, because when you're sitting around a table with a lot of people showing old photos it seems kind of fun, even if you are clearly an outsider, but when only sudie and alan were playing, nan had no buffer.
it was also unacceptable for nan to read a book, or to wander away from the endless stories that almost seemed designed to demarcate the line between "family" and "outsider".
sweet, gentle alan. if his quiet ways and left-leaning politics were a disappointment to sudie, she did not let on. she reserved her polite disapproval for nan, who was not conservative enough, not modest enough, and did not wear ladylike underthings.
this last thing she mentioned quietly to alan over lunch in a way that suggested it pained her very soul to have to speak about such unmentionable unmentionables and that perhaps alan might quietly correct nan on the matter of proper dress.
this, of course, was the epicenter of the mother-in-law problem.
what made holidays with sudie so horrifying for nan was that beyond the usual discomforts of being with sudie and the additional discomforts of an overnight stay there was the awkward, painful knowledge that at some point in the visit, sudie would have gone through all of nan's bags.
the first time it happened, nan chalked it up to a weird accident, as if a person might legitimately for some reason have searched a houseguest's luggage out of courtesy or necessity.
on subsequent visits when nan tried to suggest that perhaps a gift of a half dozen pairs of fresh white socks might be simply handed over and not packed into the bottom of another person's overnight bag, sudie hinted darkly that nan was not appropriately grateful for these simple gestures of caring.
nan tried to be fair with alan when she considered whether it was advisable or even possible to oppose sudie on whether these searches were an invasion of privacy or whether they were an obligation under the laws of hospitality.
it was with a smile that nan admired the brand new, bright blue strapless double sided dildo that she held in her hand. it had a lovely substantial heft to it, and a pleasing shape that left little to the imagination, even when wrapped in an old t-shirt alongside a bottle of very nice organic hypoallergenic lube.
nan tried to imagine what sudie would look like as she tried to figure out what to do next. she would want to go to alan and tell him of the unspeakable things she had found in nan's bag and maybe even be halfway through her rant before she would realize that there really is only one reason a married couple might be traveling with such a thing on an overnight stay.
nan thought how hilariously crumpled sudie's face might look as she gradually came to realize who was necessarily going to be on the other end of the blue horror. it was pleasing to think about, that time after the discovery of it in which they would all be under one roof, sudie positively fuming, but being unable to bring the thing up with either alan or nan.
nan dropped the rolled package in the bottom of her bag and placed over it the red lacy bra and panties and a few pairs of clean white socks.
she zipped it up and went to meet alan at the car.