“Please tell me you don’t actually intend to eat that in lieu of real turkey. It would be an insult to all the birds that gave their lives for a traditional feast.”
Sara looked from the frozen box of Tofurky in her hand to the man that had just spoken over her shoulder. She was about to tell him to mind his own damn business when she was brought up short by his ridiculous good looks.
Really? her inner voice of reason chided. Suddenly you’re so shallow as to be easily swayed by a pretty face? Go ahead - give him hell! Tell him about the turkey farms and the hormones.
Sara opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She took in his thick chestnut hair, his cinnamon eyes fringed with dark lashes that any woman would kill for, his perfectly straight nose, and his full lips surrounded by the beginnings of a five O’ clock shadow. This man, this obnoxious carnivore of aisle four, was disarmingly beautiful. Sara shook her head to clear it and drew a breath. “That is a hideous sweater,” she said, motioning to the knitted atrocity adorning his broad, perfectly defined chest. Her heart dropped into her stomach in horror over voicing such an inane observation.
“Thank you. I am aware,” he answered good-naturedly. The sweater in question was atomic orange with neon green cuffs. A giant, multicolored, bug-eyed turkey featured prominently across the front.
“I’m sorry,” Sara said sheepishly. “That was incredibly rude of me.”
The man shrugged. “I’ve never faulted anyone for honesty. Now, about your questionable dinner choice-” he reached to take the box of seasoned tofu from her and Sara flinched away from him, dropping the pumpkin pie she had been holding in the crook of her arm. It flipped end over end before landing upside down at their feet with a wet splat. “No!” Sara dropped to her knees to assess the damage.
She had wrestled a very determined Slavic woman for this pie, and had considered it no small victory. Carefully turning the pie right-side-up Sara was disheartened to find it had become a squished mess, plastered against the plastic casing like an unlucky skydiving victim.
“Oh. I’m so sorry. Let me grab you another,” offered the turkey sweater wearing carnivore.
“Don’t bother,” Sara said with a mixture of gloom and irritability. “This was the last one.”
“Are you sure?” he asked in surprise. “How can a grocery store run out of pumpkin pies the day before Thanksgiving?”
Sara glowered at him with an expression that asked how he could be so simple. “The fact that it’s the day before Thanksgiving is precisely why a grocery store has run out of pumpkin pies. And it has - run out, that is. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, because I had to threaten an old woman with bodily harm to get this one.” Off turkey sweater’s look of disbelief she continued. “Don’t look at me like that. I maintain that I got to it first.”
Just then, the very woman Sara had fought for the pie lumbered by with her loaded cart. Seeing Sara kneeling on the ground with the ruined pie made the old woman’s face light up with delight. She barked out an abrasive laugh and said in thickly accented English, “Serves you right! Taking pie from helpless old voman.”
“I got to it first!” Sara called after the woman emphatically.
Turkey sweater let out a low whistle. “I’m impressed. She looks like she has a mean right hook.” He offered Sara a hand up. She took it so as not to be rude. His hand was very warm, especially after she had been holding the frozen Tofurky box.
“I had desperation on my side. She never stood a chance,” Sara said, using humor to keep from breaking down in tears, which is what she felt like doing at the thought of returning home without a replacement pie for the one she had so foolishly sampled late last night.
She hadn’t been able to resist! She needed some comfort food after enduring yet another marathon discussion about why she was still single. Her youngest sister Michelle’s summer elopement certainly hadn’t helped. That had sealed Sara’s fate. She was now her mother’s sole remaining project. Sara sighed, remembering the conversation.
“You’re too picky. You’re not getting any younger, you know, and your eggs wont be fresh forever.” Sara’s mother Vivian was pressing a crumb crust into a Pyrex casserole dish in preparation for making her infamous sour cream Jell-O dessert. Yes, it was as gross as it sounded.
While Sara’s sisters favored their father with brown hair and amber eyes, Sara was the spitting image of her mother. Though streaks of silver had begun to highlight Vivian’s thick black locks, and crow’s-feet crinkled the corners of her deep blue eyes, Sara couldn’t deny the strong resemblance they shared.
“Mom, not this again...” Sara slouched on her barstool.
“What? I’m looking out for you! Miss big city working girl that thinks she’s got all the time in the world. If you’re not careful you’ll wake up one morning old and alone with no one to love you but your twelve cats.”
Sara looked heavenward for patience. “A cat. I have one cat. And I’m twenty-seven. That’s hardly spinster territory.”
“She’s right, Vivian,” came Aunt Judy’s voice from the end of the breakfast bar. “Twenty-seven is still plenty young to catch the eye of a nice... person. What ever happened to that nice roommate of yours? What was her name? Randy?”
It was no secret that Aunt Judy thought Sara was a lesbian. It was almost sweet the way she was always careful to speak in gender-neutral sentences. Almost. It also didn’t help matters that Sara lived in the Diamond Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. It was a veritable gay mecca within arguably one of the most gay inhabited cities in the world.
“Sandy. And she moved back home.”
“That must have been very hard for you dear. Don’t worry, there are plenty of fish in the sea.” Sara frowned in complete exasperation. It was pointless to tell Aunt Judy that she wasn’t gay. Judy would just nod sagely and say, “To deny is to be dishonest to one’s self.”
Michelle giggled and popped a mini marshmallow into her mouth. “Sara’s not gay, Aunt Judy! She just hasn’t met the right man, yet. But that’s all about to change, because I can’t wait to introduce her to Mike’s brother, Junior, at Thanksgiving!”
At that point Sara had sagged even deeper on her barstool and started gently smacking her forehead against the granite countertop.
Brad hadn’t intended to wear the sweater his elderly great-aunt had made him all day. Aside from being blindingly bright, it was rather itchy. He had been left with no choice however when Auntie Judith had accidentally spilled her tea all over his regular shirt when he had been trying the sweater on. He still wasn’t convinced it was really an accident.
“See how handsome you look when you spruce up a bit?” she had asked. “You look like a Thanksgiving peacock! All the ladies are going to take notice.”
After leaving Auntie Judith’s community home he had just enough time to grab the ingredients he needed for his much loved pumpkin cake. Well, it wasn’t his pumpkin cake. He had stumbled upon the recipe for it the previous year, and it had been such a hit his mother asked him to make it again this year.
Brad couldn’t believe his luck. He had managed to snag the last of the canned pumpkin. He would have enough to make two pumpkin cakes - which was fortunate, because there were going to be lots of new faces at this year’s dinner. His little brother had just gotten married, and the happy couple had requested a combined family Thanksgiving.
Weaving his way through the packed aisles of his local supermarket, Brad made his way to the freezer section intent on picking up some tubs of Cool-Whip. The dark haired beauty by the fake turkey display immediately caught his attention. He thought his little barb would come across as charming - heaven knew he had a way with the ladies. Instead she had wasted no time in insulting the fruits of Auntie Judith’s labor. A firecracker. He was intrigued.
“So, why were you so desperate for pie?” he asked, not liking the way her body language was signaling her impending departure, and not wanting the conversation to end so abruptly.
“Huh?” His question had pulled her from her thoughts.
“You said you had desperation on your side. I’m wondering what spawns pie desperation in pretty vegetarians.” He winked at her. She rolled her eyes. She rolled her eyes! He was off his game. It must be the sweater. Ryan Gosling would be hard pressed to make this look good.
“Listen. I’m sure your swarthy charm usually has the ladies batting their lashes at you,” she said, “but I’m really just interested in finding what I came for and getting the hell out of here. Have a nice day.” She saluted him with the frozen Tofurky box and retrieved her shopping cart a few steps away at the end of the aisle.
“You had a cart?” he asked loudly. She turned back to him, one hand on the cart, the other on her hip. “Yeah? So?”
“Why were you carrying the pie if you had a cart?” he couldn’t help asking. Aside from drawing out this delightful encounter, he was legitimately curious. She cocked a brow at him. “What, and risk Baba Yaga over there stealing it out of the basket? This isn’t my first Thanksgiving rodeo, cowboy.”
Sara turned to go, managing to move approximately three feet before getting stuck behind a duo of slow moving shoppers. She sighed in frustration and waited for an opportunity to slip past them. Determined to keep her eyes looking steadily forward she resisted the urge to look to her left when she felt a new presence hovering there. She knew it was him. This was turning out to be the grocery store equivalent of flipping a guy off in rush hour traffic and having to idle next to him for twenty minutes avoiding eye contact.
After being pointedly ignored for a full two minutes Brad let out a low chuckle. This girl was feisty. Reaching into his basket he pulled out a can of salted almonds and popped the top. He leaned his forearms against the cart handle and inched a half step closer, tossing a handful of almonds into his mouth as he went. He knew she could feel his eyes boring into the side of her face. Finally she turned to glare at him.
“Why are you following me?” she demanded impatiently.
“I’m not! I’m shopping,” he answered, the picture of innocence.
She turned away from him again, pretending to study a box of stuffing on the end-cap display. She was so focused on avoiding him she missed her chance to advance. He quickly swooped his cart past hers and took the lead in the slowest shopping cart race in the history of mankind. Suddenly he was surprised by a happy laugh, ringing out behind him like pealing bells. He turned to investigate only to find the laughter coming from Sara. She was even more beautiful when laughing if that was possible. Brad was beguiled.
“What?” he asked, unable to keep from smiling.
Sara took a moment to catch her breath. “Your sweater-” she said, pointing at him, “it’s even uglier from behind!”
Brad scowled and tried to see over his shoulder. Oh, right. Auntie Judith had gone to the trouble of knitting a turkey butt on the back that matched up exactly with the turkey from the front side. She had even added a small black X detail where the multicolored turkey anus should be.
“You know what they say,” he teased, leaning toward her suggestively. “Those that laugh the loudest are really secretly envious.”
Sara nodded seriously. “Mmm hmm,” she said. “I’m totally coveting your technicolor turkey sweater. You’ve got me all figured out.”
Brad furrowed his brows at her unfazed demeanor. “Why are you following me?” he asked, throwing her words back at her.
“I’m not. I’m shopping,” she replied snidely.
“Dad?” Vivian wiped her sweaty forehead with the back of a butter-smeared hand. “Dad!” Vivian sighed in frustration. This was the fourth ‘Dad!’ with no response from the senior member of the household. She decided to try her father-in-law, the second oldest and equally deaf resident. “Bill?” The old men were less than ten feet away, engrossed in a game of Hold ‘em. It seemed neither one was wearing his hearing aids. She wiped her hand on her apron and made her way to the nook where they both sat in silent consideration.
George looked up from his hand when he noticed his daughter’s hovering glare. He winked at her and grinned sheepishly. Apparently, he had decided to forgo both hearing aids and dentures today. “Did you need something, Pumpkin?” George’s voice was much louder than necessary, his s whistling the slightest bit due to his lack of teeth.
“I need you to man the door. Can you guys do that?” She looked between the two of them for signs that they had understood. George nodded and Bill just stared. “I’m busy in the kitchen and Todd’s out back stacking the wood.”
“Who’s comin’?” asked Bill while trying to covertly insert one of his hearing aids, his shaking hand further complicating his attempt at stealth. Vivian reached over and helped him, letting out an annoyed laugh when she saw George trying to put in his own aids without success.
“The doctor said you’re supposed to be wearing these all day. Both of you.” Bill huffed at her lecture.
“I’m eighty-six years old and I don’t need anyone issuing me orders. I took orders from Margie for sixty years and from the United States government for forty. I’m done taking orders!” Vivian took a deep breath and put her hands on her hips.
“Alright,” she said in a defeated tone.
“I’m done,” Bill insisted.
“Alright!” So am I, she thought in exasperation. She had gotten used to these outbursts from Bill in the six months he’d lived with them, attributing his often-inappropriate behavior to grief over losing his wife. But sometimes she had half a mind to drop him off at the community home where he and Margie had lived with an apology note pinned to his shirt.
Confident that she’d now be heard, she addressed both of them. “Sara’s out replacing the pie she ruined and Judy is out getting her hair done and I have to try to make this cobbler. Beth and Tony should be here in an hour or so and I need you to let them in.”
Bill rolled his eyes. “They bringin’ his monster brats? That boy never did say sorry for breaking my good fishin’ pole.”
“And I swear that girl could break the windows with all that screeching,” George chimed in.
Vivian had to agree that Gianni and Celeste were possibly the most rotten children she had ever encountered. “They’re older, now. Maybe they’ve toned it down a bit,” she said hopefully.
“Not with that Tony spoiling them the way he does. Letting them get away with anything, and what not,” grumped Bill. “In my day, a father was a man whose word was law and children respected the property of their elders!” Bill often expressed his belief that anyone born after the year 1930 didn’t know how to raise children properly.
“I still don’t understand how a sweet thing like Beth ended up with that Tony,” George shook his head sadly. “Pretty thing could have gone anywhere and had anyone.”
“So she goes all the way to New Jersey and marries a divorced Toyota dealer. Toyota! Not even American cars!” Bill’s voice increased with each word, so that he was yelling by the time he was done. Vivian patted him on the shoulder, knowing it usually only served to add to his aggravation. The man hated to be touched.
“At least she’s happily married. Tony dotes on her, you know. Just try to be nice when they get here, Bill. And you, too, Dad.” Vivian went back to work and the old men moved their card game to the front room in efforts to avoid the kitchen noise they could suddenly hear.
Bill and George had fallen asleep within twenty minutes of moving the card game to their comfy, over-stuffed easy chairs in the foyer. The two realized they had much in common when Bill had moved in and often shared stories of their experiences in World War II during their games of cards and chess. Once they’d realized they’d been deployed from the same Army base within weeks of each other, the two had become inseparable.
They were both jarred awake by the sound of the doorbell ringing repeatedly. The inconsistent rhythm, one ring being cut off by the next, had Bill hollering and jumping out of his seat. George got up at the same time, causing the small card table to flip over, sending a mess of cards fluttering to the floor. They raced to the door, each determined to beat the other to the honor of yelling at the culprit. George got there first, as he usually did during such competitions. His dementia may be a tad worse, but he was certainly proud of his dexterity when comparing it to that of his daughter’s father- in-law. He fixed his face with his best angry scowl and opened the door. Bill pushed past him and stood directly in front of the doorbell, blocking the offender’s hand. They took a moment to glare at the young person who had interrupted their nap in such a rude way.
The person in question was about four feet tall, rail thin and sported a long, dramatic, side-swept hairstyle in jet black with green streaks. Said hair obscured most of the olive-skinned face and, where the hooded black sweatshirt seemed to hang off the frame, the dark jeans looked like they were painted on. Combat boots with neon orange laces completed the ensemble. Both of the gentleman were baffled as to whether this was Gianni or Celeste.
“Grandpas!” Beth’s excited squeal brought them out of their confused state and any yelling that may have taken place was beaten out by required welcome hugs for their eldest granddaughter. She hadn’t changed at all in the last year or so since they’d seen her. A brisk handshake was offered by both of the grandpas to Tony, who accepted with an oily smile that packed a few too many teeth.
“Hey! Thanks for finally lettin’ us in. I gotta piss like a race horse, if ya know what I mean, hey, Pops?” Tony pushed his way past Bill and George and made his way in to find a bathroom, leaving Beth to carry in the suitcases. The androgynous preteen slouched in behind her, followed by a beautiful little girl in a sparkly pink princess gown. She looked up at the grandpas and smiled. Her two front teeth were missing, and the way her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes had always given George an uneasy feeling.
“I’m the queen of everything!” Celeste’s shrill voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard. “Gianni, wait!” She rushed in after her brother and Bill closed the door.
As Sara made her way past yet another overly crowded aisle she decided Dante had been mistaken in his assertion that hell had only nine circles. This was most assuredly the tenth. “I’m half expecting to find Satan eating brains in the next aisle,” she said quietly, but loud enough for Brad to hear.
“Yeah. We do all resemble zombies,” he answered; happy she was continuing their conversation even if it was only because she was a captive companion.
Sara snorted, then shrugged. “Yeah, I guess zombies is a fair comparison. I was referring to this being the tenth circle of hell though.”
“Weren’t there only nine?” he asked. It had been a while since he had read the gruesome poem, but he was pretty confident there had been nine circles.
“There were, until today,” she answered. Brad snickered. “I like you Tofurky. You’re pretty zesty for a vegetarian.” Sara cocked a brow at him. “Are you implying that vegetarians are normally bland?”
Brad cocked his brow right back. “See? Look what you’re doing there - trying to pick a fight.”
Sara shook her head slowly trying her best not to give in to the smile threatening to burst through her bored expression. She heaved an impatient sigh that would do any angst-ridden teen proud and craned her neck to see around the current shopping obstacle.
“Aw, come on, it’s not so bad,” Brad said. “We’ve got shelter from the cold,” he motioned to the store, “plenty of good food to munch on,” he indicated his cart, “plenty of gross food to munch on if that’s what you’re into,” he indicated her cart, “and, excellent company.” He brushed imaginary dust off his shoulders. “What more could you want from a first date?”
That got her attention. “Date?”
“No?” Brad shrugged. “It was worth a shot. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in grabbing a coffee after this? You know, to make it official?”
“I don’t drink coffee,” Sara deadpanned.
“Not even if it’s fair trade coffee being sold to fund rainforest conservation?”
Sara stared at him blankly for a moment before answering. “Do you even realize how condescending you are?”
Brad was quick to back pedal. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be condescending. I was trying to make a joke.”
“Based on assumptions about my politics due to the fact that I eat Tofurky.”
Brad felt properly chastened. He knew this firecracker had a sense of humor. He just needed to find it before he insulted her irreparably. “So, that’s a ‘no’ on the coffee then.”
She did laugh then. A short burst of air easily disguised as a cough. Brad had caught it though. He knew she was warming to him - or at least not planning to shiv him with a bread stick.
“Hmm. That’s a shame. It would have been nice to experience one Thanksgiving without my mother asking me why I didn’t bring anyone special.”
Sara smiled at him impishly. “Oh, so ‘coffee’ was supposed to turn into my accompanying you to Thanksgiving dinner?”
Brad raised his hands in surrender. “Wow, you move fast! Okay. You can come to Thanksgiving dinner with me.”
Sara shook her head in amusement. “Sorry, Joseph, but I have my own family Thanksgiving to endure.”
“Joseph?” Brad was confused by the name. Sara motioned to his sweater in explanation. “You know, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”
Brad laughed loudly. “Well, Tofurky, it’s a shame you won’t join me. A sense of humor is prized in my family. I’d go from being the interminable bachelor to Son of the Year based solely on the merits of my dinner companion. My mother would be down right tolerable! I wouldn’t have to scramble for excuses as to why I couldn’t court her co-worker’s hideous niece.”
Sara nodded animatedly in sympathy. “I know how you feel! My youngest sister just got married. Now I am my mother’s personal project. She will stop at nothing to pair me off with someone. If we were jungle natives, she would sell me for zero goats!”
“I think you have that backwards,” Brad said with a grin.
“The goats. I think the bride’s parents were supposed to offer goats to the groom to take her off their hands, not trade her for goats.” Brad shrugged. Sara looked enlightened. “Oh. That must be why I’m still single. They’ve been doing it wrong.” The two of them snickered at their odd conversation, moving a few feet forward up the aisle.
Sara nodded to Brad’s cart. “Mind telling me in which aisle the canned pumpkin can be found? I’ll need it if I’m going to replace that pie.”
Brad sobered and cringed. “About that. These are the last cans of pumpkin.” His words deflated Sara like a knife to a bouncy house.
Brad felt terrible. He wished there was something he could do to bring back the friendly banter of a few seconds ago. He decided to be chivalrous. “I can’t help but feel partly responsible for your pie tragedy.”
Sara raised her brows sardonically. “Partly? That’s funny; I can’t help but feel you’re fully responsible for my pie tragedy.” Brad ignored her tone and continued. “Look, I can’t just give you these last cans of pumpkin, but I am willing to split them with you. I have enough for two.”
Sara looked at the three cans of pumpkin. “It takes two cans to make pumpkin pie,” she said.
“So it does,” he answered. “But it only takes a can and a half to make pumpkin cake.”
Sara pursed her lips. “You’re good at math, but lacking in common sense, Joseph. How am I supposed to take home half a can of pumpkin?”
Brad gave her a long-suffering look. “I was thinking we could bake the cakes together. My friend owns the bakery across the street, and has given me permission to use her kitchen this afternoon.”
Sara studied him carefully a moment. “You want me to bake with you? Do I look like the kind of girl that follows strangers to their houses and bakes with them?”
“Not my house,” Brad corrected, “a public bakery across the street. You wouldn’t even have to move your car.” He could tell she was tempted. “I swear I’m not some psycho serial killer. Though, to be fair, if I were, I probably wouldn’t go around freely admitting it to women I assaulted at the local supermarket.”
That got her to smile. He could see it in her eyes when she decided to say yes.
“Fine. I’ll bake with you. That is, if we can ever get out of this grocery store.” She tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “And thank you.”
“Hi Mom!” Where is everyone?” Beth made her way into the kitchen and gave Vivian a warm hug.
“Dad’s out back and Judy is at the salon. And I could just shoot your sister!”
Beth was intrigued. “Michelle? I thought you got over the whole elopement thing. You know she never wanted a big wedding.”
Vivian looked surprised. “What? No. Sara!”
Now it was Beth’s turn to look surprised. “Why? What happened?”
Beth prepared herself for another of the stress-induced tirades that Vivian reserved for holiday prep. Beth scooted over to give her mother a seat at the nook.
“It’s bad enough that I spent half of yesterday on that damn pumpkin pie only to have Sara help herself to it. But it’ll be impossible to make a good impression on Michelle’s new family with or without a pie.”
Beth knew that this was the part where she was supposed to ask Vivian to elaborate. The suitcases would have to wait. Maybe Tony would find his way to getting them into the guest room. Not likely. “What are you so worried about?”
Vivian took a deep breath. “Well, apparently Janet is famous for her Thanksgiving bird. Do you have any idea how offended she’ll be when Sara insists on eating Tofurky? Tofurky! That she’s bringing herself!” Vivian’s mortified disgust was vividly apparent in her tone. “I’m already embarrassed enough to be bringing a store-bought pie, if Sara ever gets back from the store. I sent her over an hour ago.” Vivian sighed dramatically and got up to attend to her cobbler.
Beth joined her at the counter and patted her arm encouragingly. “Mom, vegetarians aren’t exactly unheard of. And Sara’s a grown woman; they can hardly judge you based on your adult daughter’s eating habits. Besides, I’m sure they’ll all love your Jell-O. And if this is the cobbler you made last Christmas, then you have nothing to worry about, dessert-wise.”
Beth could tell Vivian wasn’t convinced and was about to try a different approach when a blood-curling shriek erupted from the living room.
Beth rushed in to find Gianni holding Celeste’s Princess Jasmine doll out of her reach, both of them standing on Vivian’s white love-seat with their filthy shoes on. “What’s going on? You guys get down and take your shoes off. Gianni, give her back her doll.”
Gianni scowled at Beth, threw the doll a few feet away and jumped down, his boots leaving brown smudges all over the cushions. “Whatever Beth,” he muttered, tossing his hair out of his eyes. He grabbed his backpack from the floor nearby, pulled out some handheld gaming device and got to work ignoring the world around him.
Celeste jumped down to get her doll, wiping non-existent tears from her eyes. “This place sucks. There’s nothing to do. It smells like old people. Can I have a cookie?”
“Celeste, that’s not polite. Why don’t you color while I unpack and I’ll bring you a snack in a minute.” Beth was horrified over the state of the love-seat. She hoped she could locate some upholstery cleaner before Vivian saw. The sharp intake of breath behind her told her it was too late.
“Oh, my god! Look at my love-seat! Beth, a word?” Vivian was livid. Beth followed her into the kitchen and braced herself. Just as she was about to promise a professional cleaning and to stay in a hotel from now on, Tony wandered in, looking pained.
“Sweet Jesus, you got no water pressure in the john. It’s all backed up in there; you might wanna call someone. What, somebody die?” Tony took in the facial expressions of the two women and came to the conclusion that something was wrong.
“Hi, Tony. Good to see you. I’m just a little upset because there are stains all over my love-seat. Please have Gianni and Celeste be more careful about where they put their dirty shoes.” Vivian was never shy about holding parents accountable for their childrens’ behavior.
“Hey, Viv! Good to see you, too. We’ll clean your couch. Hell, we’ll buy you a new one. I mean, it’s kinda old, right? No big deal.” He turned to Beth. “You know where my gray sweater is? You packed it, right? I told you to pack it.” Tony raked his fingers through his died black hair, ever unaware of his over-use of styling product.
“It’s in the suitcase by the stairs. Can you take our stuff up to the middle guest room? I need to get Celeste a snack and I was going to set the kids up with a movie in the den.” Tony nodded and left the kitchen. Beth grabbed some grape juice from the fridge, imagined what the seemingly harmless liquid could do by way of carpet stains, and went for apple instead. Vivian watched her silently as she arranged some cheese and crackers on a plate. Beth wasn’t in the mood for another Tony lecture and was relieved that Vivian didn’t seem inclined to give one at this time.
“Michelle should be here soon. She wanted to do a craft with the kids. She got this idea online for some really cute Thanksgiving center pieces.”
“That sounds great! I’m sure they’ll have fun. Assuming you can pry the electronics out of their hands. Let me know when she gets here if I’m still upstairs.” Beth took the snack to Celeste, who wrinkled her nose at the lack of a cookie, and started one of the many animated princess movies in Celeste’s collection. She spotted Gianni playing his game in one of the Grandpa’s easy chairs. Saying a mental prayer that the two would stay out of trouble for five minutes, she headed for the stairs where the suitcases still waited to be taken up. Tony’s was open, the contents spilling out. Apparently he had found his sweater. She sighed, loaded her arms with the heavy luggage, and made her way up to the guest room.