The event was a haze. As I came down the aisle, Michael’s eyes met mine, and before I knew it, we were saying “I do.” We turned to face our guests, and that’s when I saw my new mother-in-law, Vivian, looking stunning in her jewel-encrusted gown.I was ecstatic to be at the reception. Michael and I went around introducing ourselves, extending greetings and accepting congrats. Mom was standing at the punch bowl by herself, and she looked uneasy. I moved over. “Having fun?” She gave a nod, but her eyes did not grin. “Obviously, my dear. You look amazing in that dress. ”“Mom, thank you. I — “ “Well, well,” someone interrupted. With a glass of champagne in hand, Vivian emerged. “Evelyn, dear, that’s certainly an… interesting choice of attire.”Mom’s face reddened. “Oh, I’m very grateful. Vivian, your dress is equally gorgeous. ”A small smirk formed on Vivian’s lips. “Yes, well, some of us like to make an effort for important occasions.”I started to bite back, but Mom grabbed my arm instead. Why don’t you go dance with Michael, Sophia? This day is unique for you.” I reluctantly left them, but I stayed close to Mom all night. She retreated to the room’s corners, appearing to get smaller.My phone buzzed the following morning when Michael and I were eating breakfast. Jen, my cousin, was there. She said, “Hey, how’s the newlywed?”Fantastic! even if I’m worn out. ”“Perhaps. I have to tell you something, listen.” My blood started to boil as Jen related what she’d heard at the wedding. Had Vivian referred to my mother as ugly? To further visitors? Jen remarked, “I’m so sorry, Sophia.” “I didn’t want to ruin your night…” “No, I’m happy you informed me. Regards, Jen. With my hands trembling with rage, I hung up and faced Michael. “Your mother called my mom ugly at our wedding.” His expression dimmed. “What? Are you certain?”“Jen heard her out. Whoa, this is unbelievable!” A hand went through Michael’s hair. I’ll speak with her, all right? She ought not to have stated that. But I had a plan in mind already.

“No, I’ve got this.” I reached for my laptop and opened the contact details of the wedding photographer. I quickly composed a message while my fingers skimmed over the keyboard:“Hello, Rob Regarding our wedding pictures, I have a unique request. Could you point out any pictures of my mother-in-law that don’t look good? In addition, I was curious if you might apply some artistic editing to the pictures to make her appear worse.” Before I could stop myself, I pushed send. The photographer said right away: “Yeah, of course. That’s something I can accomplish. However, are you positive?” “Definitely,” I answered.Peering over my shoulder was Michael. “Sophia, what are you doing?” I forcefully closed the laptop. “Not a thing. Just curious about the pictures. Clearly not buying it, he scowled and let it go. I was nervously awaiting the pictures for the next three days. I was astonished to see them in a shared folder when they eventually showed up. With her mouth hanging open, Vivian was shouting at a helpless child. She was seen in another having “spinach” between her teeth.Her makeup appeared slightly smudged and her wrinkles appeared more prominent in each picture. A pang of remorse shot through me, but I ignored it. This was something she deserved. I was shocked when the phone rang. It was Vivian. “Sophia!” she cried out. “What have you done to my photos?” I pretended not to know. “What do you mean?” “Don’t try to fool me! I look awful in each and every one of them!” “Well, that seems strange. It’s probably just an error. “Mend it! Right now.”Before I could reply, she hung up. With a worried expression on his face, Michael entered. “Was that my mother?” I gave a nod. “She’s not happy with the photos.” He let out a sigh. “Sophia, what did you do?” I told him everything, including the modifications and the request to the photographer. With every phrase, his face got more concerned.Finally, he remarked, “I can’t believe you did that.” “I know what my mother said was wrong, but this… this isn’t right either.” A knot of guilt tore at my belly. “I just wanted to stand up for my mom.” “I know that, but there were more sensible approaches. We ought to go chat with your mother.” We were sitting in Mom’s living room one hour later. When we told her what had happened, her eyes got bigger.“Oh, Sophia,” she murmured. “You didn’t have to do that.” “But Mom, she did you harm! I was unable to allow her to get away with it. Mom gave a shake of her head. Her remarks may only cause me harm if I allow them to, honey. Furthermore, you’ve merely given her more power by striking back.” Michael gave a throat clearing. “Evelyn, I really apologize for what my mother said. It was completely inappropriate.” “I’m grateful, Michael. However, you shouldn’t apologize for it.” Mom spoke again after a brief period of stillness. “Thank you, Sophia, for wanting to stand up for me. That’s not the way, though. That is not acceptable for us to do.”My eyes started to water. “Mom, I apologize. It just hurts me to see someone treat you horribly since I love you so much.” She drew me into an embrace. “I understand, my dear. I also adore you. But sometimes, leading a happy and fulfilling life is the best kind of retaliation.” I felt glad as we left Mom’s place, but also a little ashamed. Michael gave me a tight squeeze. He questioned, “So, what now?”I inhaled deeply. “I suppose I have to put this right now. even though your mother isn’t deserving.” He gave a nod. “We’ll do it together.” We invited Vivian over the next day. Entering our apartment, she had a thunder cloud on her face. “Well?” she insisted. “Are you going to fix those atrocious photos?” I inhaled deeply. “Vivian, I must apologize to you. I instructed the photographer to alter those images so you appear unflattering.” Her shocked eyes widened, then narrowed with rage. “How dare you —” “I’m not done,” I interrupted. “I took action after learning about your remarks regarding my mother during the wedding. Is she being called ugly? That was inappropriate and cruel.” Like a fish, Vivian opened and closed her mouth. Michael intervened. “Mom, your words were hurtful. Since Evelyn is now a member of our family, she merits respect.”I had a brief fear that Vivian would blow up. Then her countenance changed in a certain way. With a regretful admission, “I suppose I may have been out of line.” “We all were,” I answered. “Perhaps we should restart now? Could you please apologize to my mother and I will get the images corrected?” After hesitating, Vivian nodded. “I suppose that’s… fair.” Though not flawless, it was a beginning. Michael grabbed me and hugged me as Vivian departed.“You have my admiration,” he whispered. I gave him a heartfelt grin. “I’m grateful. All I can hope is that this is the start of something better.” The following week, Michael, Mom, Vivian, and I got together for dinner. Though uncomfortable at first, the tension gradually subsided as the evening went on. I watched as Mom and Vivian shared anecdotes about their kids while gingerly finding common ground. It was something, but not quite friendship. Vivian drew me aside as we were saying our final goodbyes.“Sophia,” she uttered in a quiet voice. “I apologize. For my actions as well as my words. I hope we can go past this, because you’re fantastic for my son.” I felt a burden release from my shoulders as I nodded. “I’d like that.” Michael smiled at me as we drove home. “Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” I chuckled. “Well, I guess not. But will we promise to never act in such a manner again?” He gave my hand a squeeze. “Deal.”I reclined in my chair and reflected on our voyage together. From the ideal wedding day to the turmoil in the family and back again. It wasn’t simple, but perhaps that was the whole point of family: the complex, messy, and lovely reality of loving people for who they are, flaws and all. How would you have responded in that situation?