When Emily’s sister-in-law planned an elaborate potluck, she felt nothing but dread at the things Jessica insisted she bring. Trying to keep her budget in mind, Emily made a casserole, but Jessica dismissed it and her. Only when karma stepped in did Jessica have no choice but to eat humble pie.
I never imagined that a family potluck would turn into such a dramatic affair. I had always had a strained relationship with my sister-in-law, Jessica.
Despite how hard I tried to make things work with her, she just had a knack for making me feel small, always flaunting her luxurious lifestyle and expensive tastes. It didn’t help that my husband, Mark, and I had been struggling financially for the past year after he lost his job.
“I can’t make any apologies for my sister,” Mark said one day when I was complaining about something Jessica said. “I know how frustrated you get, and I wish I could help make it better.”
“No, I know,” I said. “I don’t want you to do anything and strain your relationship with the family. I’ll just ignore her as much as I can.”
When Mark lost his job, it was because the company wanted younger blood.
“I don’t understand why Steven would want younger people with basically no experience to come in and take over,” Mark said, talking about his boss.
The burden was crushing on our lifestyle. We had no choice but to cut back on everything just to make ends meet. I was working two part-time jobs, and Mark was picking up any odd jobs he could find. Recently, he was working with a mechanic, learning more about the trade as he went.
Our evenings were spent poring over bills and bank statements, trying to stretch our budget as much as we could.
“I’m so sorry, Emily,” my husband told me. “We’re going to get through this. I promise you. I’m still doing everything I can to get back into the financial industry.”
“I know,” I told him, squeezing his hand. “I know that we just need a lucky break, and we’ll get it soon.”
I believed my own words, but the weight of it all was relentless, pressing down on us constantly. Naturally, it had to get worse before it got remotely better.
“Hi Emily,” Jessica said on the phone, her words dragging as she spoke.
“Jess, hi,” I said, instantly regretting answering the phone.
“Don’t forget about the potluck this weekend,” she said. “But I have a theme, and it’s luxury foods. I’ll send out a message with everything I want you all to bring.”
If I thought that I was dreading the potluck before, Jessica’s message to the family group chat solidified how much I didn’t want to go.
Hi family, remember that the theme for the potluck is luxury. Here’s some of the things that you can bring:
Gourmet cheeses, imported chocolates, and high-end wines. You can go ahead and choose which country you want to pick.
I couldn’t believe Jessica. It was easy for her to dictate to everyone because her husband was as wealthy as they came. So, money was nothing for her.
“I know you want to skip the entire event,” Mark said when I read the list out to him. “But you can’t miss this. It’s for my father at the end of the day, okay?”
I nodded. If it were any other dinner, I would have skipped it altogether, but this one was particularly important. It was a celebration of my father-in-law’s retirement, and I knew it meant the world to Mark.
“I can’t afford to skip my shift at the mechanic,” he said. “I have no choice but to go. So you have to represent us here.”
“No, I know,” I agreed. “It’s just that your sister makes everything so difficult.”
My husband sighed, rubbing his forehead.
“I don’t know how we can afford to get anything on the list Jessica sent,” I said.
“We’ll figure something out. We always do,” Mark said, sitting down to eat dinner.
“Actually, love, you know what?” he asked, putting his fork down. “Make something. Make a casserole or something to take. I don’t see how Jess can complain about you bringing something home-cooked.”
“That sounds like a plan,” I said, smiling.
I decided to make a hearty homemade casserole. I used the age-old recipe that my grandmother had passed down, with a few tweaks, it had become my version of the dish.
“It’s delicious and always a hit with me,” Mark said as he got ready for his shift on the day of the potluck.
It was a dish that was always popular with my side of the family, and I figured it would be enough.
I arrived at Jessica’s house with my casserole, hoping she wouldn’t make a scene. As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, she eyed my dish with a look of disdain.
“Emily, what is this?” she asked, her nose wrinkled.
“It’s a family recipe,” I said. “I thought it would be nice to bring something homemade among all the things you wanted.”
“Homemade? Emily, this is a potluck for goodness’ sake, not a soup kitchen. Everyone else is bringing delicacies, and you decide to show up with this? Don’t you know that Gretchen is bringing three different types of caviar? Why would you choose to embarrass yourself like this?” she asked.
She waved her hand dismissively over my dish and sighed.
I felt my face flush with embarrassment and anger.
“I couldn’t afford the things on your list,” I said. “Your brother and I are doing the best we can.”
She crossed her arms and smirked at me.
“Maybe if you and Mark managed your money better, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Honestly, Emily. This is just embarrassing. I can’t serve this to my guests. I think it’s best that you leave.”
My sister-in-law’s words stung. I had never felt so humiliated before. Without saying another word, I picked up my casserole and left the kitchen.
“Where are you going, Em?” my mother-in-law asked me as I was almost out the front door.
“Home,” I replied softly. “I’m not feeling well and it’s not fair that I get to be here without Mark.”
My mother-in-law looked me up and down, her eyes softening.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
I nodded.
I knew she wouldn’t ask me anything else. Not in this setting anyway. And I hoped she would just walk away. I was on the verge of tears, and if she had anything else to say, I knew I would just break down.
“Okay then,” she said. “I’ll call to check up on you later.”
As I walked to my car, the weight of the past year bore down on me. The sleepless nights, the constant worry, the feeling of never being good enough for the family. I drove home, my heart heavy with disappointment.
“Come on, Emily,” I muttered to myself as I got into the shower. I was determined to wash off the day and all my feelings before Mark got home.
“You’re home?” my husband asked as he walked into our bedroom. “I didn’t expect you to be in.”
I sat up and told him everything, watching the display of emotions race across his face.
“I’ll call her in the morning,” he promised. “She will not speak to you like this again.”
But karma played her game first.
The next morning, as I was making pancakes for Mark and me, my phone buzzed.
“Em,” Sarah said the moment I answered, giggling. “You won’t believe what happened last night!”
“What is it?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.
“Jessica’s potluck was a complete disaster. Apparently, her helper didn’t plug the fridge in properly after cleaning it and everything that she had prepared was spoiled. The smell was something else!”
“Oh, my goodness,” I gasped.
“Everyone left early, saying it was the worst dinner ever. Serves her right. Her dad was quite upset, though. And her mom said the only thing that would have saved the evening would have been something you made.”
I couldn’t help but laugh with Sarah. This was karma, pure and simple. Jessica’s insistence on perfection and her dismissal of my food had backfired spectacularly.

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