His disdainful nod and curt, "Jerri," set me off. I simply would not allow the behavior of her parents to make Katie or other guests uncomfortable. I took a deep breath, watched for my opportunity, and walked straight into the fire.
Bill's oldest stepson was standing on the edge of the deck with his new wife. I sailed up with a big smile on my face and offered my congratulations. Then I introduced myself to the wife and asked how they liked being newlyweds. We chatted for five or six minutes, and then I found a polite transition to another conversation.
Later I saw an opening and admired the youngest stepdaughter's new baby. I even asked if I could hold her. After a fraction of a second of awkwardness, I was holding the baby, cooing and cuddling.
I talked to the youngest stepson and asked about his college baseball career.
By the end of the evening, only the parents remained and everyone was sitting around the same patio table chatting. We managed quite well. In telling a story, Bill's wife mentioned something about our old lake house, something she knows only because she was there, having an affair with my husband, and I managed not to choke or laugh. At times, I felt like I was sitting in the rafters, watching a shadow version of myself smile and chat with people who have been positively vile to me for more than a decade.
It was not easy, but it could be worse. I could be one of them.