While everyone had been on their best behaviour at the ceremony, Olivia’s prediction of a chaotic reception is ultimately proven correct.
Paula’s brothers are rowdy – hilarious, but rowdy – and she had really underestimated the number of cousins that the Stabler kids have. She really shouldn’t have – given Elliot and Kathy’s very Catholic approach to birth control, it’s hardly surprising that their siblings would have done the same.
Which is how Olivia finds herself surrounded by a mass of very blonde, very Irish strangers. None of them seem to have any real idea of who she is – which is by far her preference – but they’re all chatty, and friendly, and so very very rowdy.
Elliot had disappeared some ten minutes previously to get them drinks, but Olivia is unsurprised that he’s been waylaid, and she’s been having a surprisingly pleasant conversation with Pilar while she waits for him. Paula’s mother, too, is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Stablers.
They are chatting easily about just how lovely the ceremony had been, despite the short notice, when Olivia hears a conversation across the table that makes her blood run cold.
“I didn’t realize Maureen had another kid.” The man who’s speaking is tall and blond, and looks a great deal like Kathy.
“I don’t think she does,” his companion replies. “Maybe she brought a friend to distract Logan.”
“Nah,” he shakes his head. “They look way too much alike – he's related somehow.”
Olivia is fairly certain they’re talking about James, and her suspicions are proven correct when the older woman sitting next to the couple pipes up.
“That’s Elliot’s little bastard,” she says, shaking her head. “I have no idea at all why he’s here – it’s not proper.”
Olivia isn’t quite sure whether she’s mortified or enraged, but before she can make up her mind, Pilar has spoken up.
“What a horrible thing to say about a child,” she scolds. “You ought to be ashamed.”
The young couple sitting opposite them are visibly squirming in their seats, but the older woman looks to be digging in for a fight. Olivia very much wants to make a hasty exit – she has no desire to make a scene at Liz’s wedding – but Pilar is just staring straight back at the woman, daring her to say another word.
“You ought to mind your own damn business,” she throws back, either missing or disregarding the hard look in Pilar’s eyes. The couple beside her look positively mortified now.
“I could say the same to you,” Pilar rebuts, prim as ever. “Who my daughter has chosen to invite to her wedding is not any of your concern. Though I am now questioning Elizabeth’s judgement in having invited you.”
The woman scowls, and it occurs to Olivia that this is – more than likely – Kathy's mother. She looks to be winding up for what Olivia is sure will be a scathing rebuttal, but before either of them can say anything more, Kathy has appeared at the table, a vaguely alarmed look on her face.
“Is everything alright here?” She asks, eyes lingering on the older woman warily.
“It most certainly is not, Katherine!” Olivia doesn’t think she’s ever heard anybody call Kathy Katherine before. “Why you thought to allow Elliot to bring that-” she pauses, face pinched, “boy here, I have no idea. Honestly, was a lesbian wedding not shameful enough? Did you really have to include Elliot’s bastard child?”
This time, Olivia is furious. She’s now all but certain that she’s about to shout at Kathy’s mother in front of a room full of strangers, because nobody – nobody – speaks about her son that way.
Kathy beats her to the punch, though.
“Mother,” she spits. “Come with me, right now.” The woman looks ready to argue, but Kathy just catches her under the arm and hauls her to her feet. Everyone at the table looks as surprised as Olivia feels, but Kathy just turns back to shoot them an apologetic look as she drags her mother from the reception hall.
The moment she’d seen her grandmother enter the reception hall, Maureen had ushered James and Logan in the opposite direction, and she hasn’t left them alone since. If either of them are finding her behaviour odd, they haven’t mentioned it, and she has no intention at all of leaving them, even if they do protest. She’d far prefer that Logan be embarrassed by her than have to deal with the inevitable fallout from whatever hateful nonsense her mother’s mother is likely to spew.
What the ever-loving fuck had possessed Liz to invite their most unpleasant relative to her wedding?
Scanning the room, Maureen finds Kathleen at the buffet table, and herds the boys along with her to intercept her sister. They’re briefly confused, but easily mollified with the promise of food.
“Katie, a word?” She says, keeping her voice down and a placid smile plastered to her face. Kathleen raises an eyebrow, but nods. “What is Gran doing here? Has Liz lost her goddamned mind?”
“Gran is here?” Kathleen’s eyebrows raise further. “Isn’t she worried she’ll burst into flames if she gets within twenty feet of a lesbian?”
Maureen snorts, despite the relative seriousness of the situation. Their grandmother really is one of the most horrifically homophobic people she’s ever met – one of the most generally judgemental, unpleasant people she’s ever known, honestly. She hasn’t spoken to the woman in probably five years, and really isn’t looking to break her streak.
“Probably,” Maureen nods. “And while she’s always been a sucker for a buffet, I don’t see her making the trip from Queens and risking her eternal damnation for some crab cakes.”
“The crab cakes are fantastic,” Kathleen points out. “But you’re probably right. Why do you think she’s here, then?”
“I have no idea,” Maureen shrugs. “She wasn’t at the ceremony, and it’s too late to object; so your guess is as good as mine.”
“Did Liz invite her?” Kathleen asks. “Or is she gate crashing?”
Maureen considers that for a moment. She really can’t imagine Liz wanting their grandmother at her wedding, but taking a bus from Queens just to crash a wedding out of spite seems like more effort than Mary Delaney has ever put into anything in her life. Any further pondering on that question is interrupted, though, when she sees her own mother dragging their Gran out of the hall by her elbow.
“Well,” Kathleen says, answering her own question, “my vote might be leaning towards gate crashing.”
“Stay with the boys,” Maureen tells her sister. “I’m going to go eavesdrop.”
It takes her no time at all to find her mother and grandmother, as they have struck up a shouting match in the hotel lobby, seemingly unconcerned about being overheard. Maureen quickly informs the front desk clerk that there is no cause for alarm, and then moves towards the pair, keen on – at the very least – directing them to somewhere more private.
“Mom,” she says, carefully, “Gran, this is maybe not the place for this.”
“Oh, do butt out, Maureen,” her grandmother snarks. Clearly, in the five years they have been estranged, the woman hasn’t mellowed.
“Mother, you will not speak to any of my children that way,” her mother states, in a tone that brooks no argument. “Maureen is right – we're making a scene.”
“A scene?” Her Gran scoffs. “Really Katherine, as if that carnival of sin isn’t scene enough.”
Carnival of sin? Jesus, apparently her Gran’s slipped even further off her rocker than Maureen had thought.
“That’s enough,” her mother snaps. “I have no idea why you’re here, but you aren’t welcome. I’m going to call you a cab, and you’re going to leave. Whether that’s with or without force is entirely up to you.”
Maureen has never heard her mother’s voice so hard before, and honestly, she’s impressed. Over the years, her Gran has gone from rigid, but fairly reasonable, to the sort of vehement, closed-minded hatred that gives people of faith a bad name. Up until now, they’ve all just sat back and left her be, but today she’s crossed a line, and Maureen has no doubt at all that her mother would use force in having the older woman removed. Part of her kind of wants to see that – though she knows that it’s not her most mature impulse.
“Fine,” her Gran sniffs. “If you want to condemn yourself to hellfire, I’m not about to stop you.”
“Oh shut up,” her mother retorts, rolling her eyes. “If you want to be a miserable old bitch, fine, but don’t bring hellfire into this. Even you must know that’s a reach.”
Perhaps, Maureen thinks, she will get her immature wish for a physical confrontation, because she’d be willing to bet money that her Gran is thinking about taking a swing. She’s elderly and arthritic, so it probably wouldn’t amount to much, but it’s still very much on the table.
“An unnatural stain on the institution of marriage,” her Gran holds up a finger. “A second divorce,” a second finger goes up. “A little bastard born in sin,” a third finger. “And you, Katherine, in the middle of it all – celebrating it. Spitting in the face of decency – in the face of God. Hellfire is practically inevitable.”
The slap that echoes through the lobby startles Maureen, because – despite her brief wish for a confrontation – she didn’t actually think that one would materialize. She certainly hadn’t expected her mother to be the aggressor – though she does think the slap had been more than earned.
“Okay,” she butts in, needing to deescalate this before it spirals any further. “Gran, it’s time for you to leave.” She grabs her grandmother by the arm, taking her chance while the older woman is momentarily stunned. She’s lucky enough that there are taxis waiting just outside the doors of the hotel, and she quickly gets her protesting grandmother situated in the back seat of one, directing the driver to take her to the train station. She has no idea at all if her Gran had taken the train, but she’s a grown woman, and she’ll figure something out.
When Maureen returns to the hotel lobby, she’s surprised to find her mother standing just where she’d left her, but with a small, pleased smile on her face.
“Mom?” She asks, tentative. “You alright?”
“I’m wonderful, Maureen,” she says, still smiling. “I’ve wanted to do that for years.”
Maureen can’t help her startled laugh. For all that her grandmother has always been unpleasant, her mother has always advocated patience in regards to the woman. She’d been ever the level-headed peacemaker, and seeing her now, so obviously pleased at having used force – however minimal, and deserved – is a bit odd. Honestly though, Maureen is happy for her. She can’t imagine it had been easy growing up with Mary Delaney as a mother, and, despite the poor optics of slapping an old lady in a hotel lobby, it had probably been kind of empowering.
“Let’s go back in and get some food,” her mother smiles. “Kathleen was going on about the crab cakes, and I’ll be damned if I miss out on them because of that miserable old bitch.”
Maureen is so pleased for her mother – and so amused by how this has all played out – that she doesn’t notice James peering out at the lobby from behind a potted plant.