PLEASE SEE INDEX PAGE FOR DISCLAIMERS & OTHER CHAPTERS
Chapter Notes: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt "Giving thanks".
Chapter 22 :: Thanksgiving
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter
++ Dana ++
I know better than to go anywhere near the main kitchen today. Well, to be honest, none of us goes anywhere near that kitchen all week, unless we have permission from Kerry to be in there. Yes, it's supposed to be available to anyone living here, but we all know that Kerry has unofficial control over the room, especially since Tamia was born. She takes her job as nutritionist for everyone on the Ranch seriously. And I, for one, am grateful for that. But that doesn't mean I'm stepping foot in her kitchen today.
She's been up since well before dawn, coordinating the cooking of the proteins for dinner today. What am I saying? She's coordinating the entire meal, but the proteins are the major players that need coaching and coordinating. Three twenty pound turkeys, a large honey ham, a pork loin roast, and a pot roast have to be cooked today between all of the ovens in the Ranch. Thankfully, the ham really just needs to be heated thoroughly, so will be the last thing cooked. And that's not even counting the side dishes and desserts. I don't know how she coordinates it all every year for twenty-four adults and fifteen children -- and I'm probably forgetting some people in that estimation -- and pulls it off relatively stress-free. She even manages to make vegetarian fare for Sara that is comparable to the meat-based dishes.
Thankfully, the rest of us have our traditions to uphold, which includes cooking certain dishes in our own homes. Monica has made this fantastic seven layer salad that everyone adores. And it goes together relatively quickly, even in the large quantities that she makes it. I, on the other hand, make the jell-o salad that my grandmother and mother have made all of my life.
William wanders into the kitchen, Thomas dragging behind him, and smiles brightly at me. "Hun'ry, Mama!"
"I know you are, handsome. How about a fruit roll-up?" I ask, reaching into the cupboard to pull out his favorite snack. William's delighted clapping is more than answer enough for me. "Go sit on the couch and I'll start up Looney Tunes for you while you have your fruit roll-up."
He quickly does as I ask, and I can't help the smile spreading across my face as I watch him settle into his favorite corner of the couch, Thomas by his side. That he's sitting in Monica's normal spot is not lost on me. I move to start the DVD before handing him his snack. He sighs happily when I lean over to kiss the top of his head.
"Fank you, Mama."
"You're welcome, handsome."
I head back into the kitchen to check on the set of my jell-o salad as Monica walks into the apartment.
"You know, I can smell the turkeys cooking down in the office? Is it time to eat yet?" She sets her laptop case down on the desk and comes into the kitchen for a quick kiss and a glass of juice. Glancing over my shoulder, she stares at the clock on the stove. "We've got at least another hour before everybody starts gathering for the appetizers and movies. What else do you need me to do?"
I consider her question for a moment, attention drawn away by the delighted giggles from our son as he watches his cartoons. "Jell-o salad is in its mold in the fridge. We're not going to need that for a while yet anyway. It'll take us about twenty minutes to finish putting together your seven layer salad, so we don't have to do that right now. And Kerry hasn't asked for our oven yet, so she must have everything covered for the time being. I'd say that we have a little over half an hour to watch cartoons with William. That work for you?"
Smiling broadly, Monica grabs her glass in one hand, and my hand in the other, and leads me into the living room. William only grumbles a little bit as we resettle ourselves on the couch, but he loves sitting between us.
By the time we make our way into the Great Room, there's a decent crowd gathering already. It takes me a minute to even get through the doorway, because Monica stops in her tracks and just takes several slow, deep breaths. The cornucopia of scents assailing our noses is almost orgasmic, and I know the food's still not completely ready yet. William tugs at my hand, pointing toward the big screen TV where the older Farazell-Fraiser kids have already congregated in preparation for the movie marathon. I wonder what Zo has decided they'll watch this year. Last year, it was a handful of old Don Bluth animated movies. The year before was Disney movies. I couldn't even guess what mood Zo's in for this year.
"Go on, handsome," I say with a smile. "Go over by the kids and get ready for the movies. I see Cubby and Justin are over there, and I bet Jimmy and Michel will be here any minute now. Your mami and I will be within shouting distance, okay?"
"'Kay!" he says and runs off toward the older kids.
Luckily, Emily has noticed that we've arrived and gets up to greet William. She leans over to say something to him, and he dutifully turns around to wave happily at us. Only once we wave back does Emily guide him over to get him a spot in front of the TV. We watch him interacting with the older kids for a moment before Zo breezes over to snatch the trays of seven layer salad out of our hands.
"You can ogle all you want," she says with a saucy grin, "but there are hungry people here, and I'd like to keep my body parts intact!" Before we can do more than chuckle, she dances off toward the kitchen, sidestepping people wanting the dip like a professional receiver. Davie's amused outrage at getting hip checked in the process only makes the situation funnier.
We wander over to the table where the adult members of the Farazell-Fraiser clan are all sitting. Davie is pouting and rubbing at her hip. "And don't you dare tell me to go crying to Sylvia, Karen Taylor. You know as well as I do that she'll just laugh and say I deserved it."
"And she'd be right," Karen retorts, eyes twinkling merrily. "You know the rules about the Thanksgiving feast here at the Ranch."
"Humph! I'm going to spend time with my nieces and nephews."
And with that, Davie wanders over by the TV. The happy cries of her name by the children get a round of fond chuckles from around the table. Art studies us for a moment before pointing a finger at Monica.
"You bring the seven layer salad?"
"Did you not see your sister hip check Davie to get it in the kitchen just a couple of minutes ago?" is the reply, complete with an arched eyebrow.
"You do have a point."
"And you did make the tabbouleh, right?" Monica asks, calculation in her tone. "It's just not Thanksgiving without it now."
Darya laughs and pats Monica's hand. "Do you really think I'd let her get away without making the tabbouleh? Though Kerry did draw the line at trying to add lamb into the meal again this year. She's made it quite clear that lamb is for Easter, not Thanksgiving."
"I think it's finally time to give up the ghost on that one," Art mutters with a half-hearted pout. "But Davie made some new cookies for dessert this time."
"Cookies?" I ask, just loud enough for Davie to hear me, and dig into my pocket for one of the coins I'd stuffed there earlier. "Who in the hell makes cookies for Thanksgiving dessert? It's supposed to be pie!"
"Quarter, Aunt Dana!" Fawn calls out happily, which is repeated by the rest of the kids amidst a series of giggles. She separates from the pack and trots over to our table when I wave her over, hand outstretched. I flip the quarter toward her, and she catches it easily after a couple of rotations before stuffing it into her pocket. "Thank you!" And with that, she makes her way back to the TV area.
"So how much of her college fund is saved up from the swear jar now?" I ask drily, shaking my head.
Sam and Darya chuckle as Janet shakes her head in defeat. "That child has better money management skills than Scrooge himself," she complains fondly. "I'm quite sure she'll be a millionaire before she's turned eighteen, if I give her half a chance."
"And you're holding her back why exactly?" Art teases, then pouts when Janet slaps her shoulder none too gently. "I fully support the idea of my kids supporting me as soon as they possibly can."
By the time we shuffle back into our apartment, I want nothing more than to spend the next several weeks in a food-induced coma. And I know Monica and William probably feel the same way. Thankfully, we don't need to worry about leftovers for a while, though the group as a whole did decimate a good portion of the food today. The seven layer salad was as big a hit as it's always been. I think the kids nearly killed off one of the trays themselves!
Monica wearily carries William into his bedroom. He doesn't even so much as twitch as she undresses him and tucks him into bed with Thomas. She stands there for a moment, just stroking his hair, and I have to wonder if she's not contemplating crawling into the bed with him. I certainly wouldn't mind doing it, that's for sure. Finally, she turns around to join me, dropping his dirty clothes in the hamper.
"You know, you could have left him in those clothes," I say gently as she leans over to press a light kiss to my lips. "We need to do laundry tomorrow anyway, and he's definitely going to need a bath."
She shrugs and turns around to watch William sleep for another moment. "It was habit, I suppose. Nap time now, yes?"
With a knowing chuckle, I take her hand and lead her into our bedroom. The monitor goes on the nightstand, as always, and I push her onto the bed. Monica sprawls back without hesitation, giggling softly when I start to remove her boots and socks. Slowly, I get her just as undressed as she just got William, then strip myself out of the clothes that feel just a bit too tight in the aftermath of that huge meal we devoured. By the time I'm crawling under the covers with her, her eyes are drooping and dangerously close to completely shut.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Monica," I murmur and press my lips against her cheek. "Nap now, and we'll contemplate pie once we get up."
"Mmm," Monica slurs happily, drunkenly. "I like pie." This sends her off into a fit of giggles that is evilly contagious. When we finally calm down, which takes longer than I would expect for how tired and full we are, she shifts onto her side and strokes my cheek gently. "You know, what I said during the thankfulness speeches was true. I am so very thankful to have you and William in my life. As sick and twisted as it sounds, I'm really thankful that Snake Eyes brought you into my life. I haven't been the same since, and I don't mind that at all."
"Flatterer," I tease lightly, feeling the flush of embarrassment tingeing my cheeks. "I know you meant it, and I feel the very same way. You and William mean everything to me, and I would be lost without you in my life."
"Te quiero, mi corazon," she whispers against my lips. "Now and always."
"Now and always," I repeat, and mean every syllable of it.