Colby pushed open the door with his hip, arms loaded down with bags, Megan right behind.
“Alan, I swear to god this cobbler better be worth it. I had to pull my gun to get these apples.”
“You did not.” Megan scolded.
“Megan flashed a guy to get the bake tins.” Colby dropped the bags on the already bulging kitchen counter.
“Colby, there’s someone in the living room to see you.” Alan said, not looking up from a pie crust. Colby gave him curious look but Alan gave no hint.
Colby wandered into the living room. The first person he saw was Charlie, the second was Esther, the third was his mother.
“Colby dear, come in, sit down, Charles and I were just having a lovely chat.”
Colby felt his brain begin to melt. “What are you doing here?”
Emily Granger gave her son a pinched looked that Colby knew meant that he was swimming towards hot water. “Can’t a mother see her son?”
“Yes. Of course. Hi.” Colby gave his mother a hug and sat down. “Um...mom...it’s the day before thanksgiving. What are you doing in LA?”
“Well it’s been unpleasantly cold this winter so your second cousin Margie has loaned me the beach place in Malibu.”
“What about the rest of the family?”
“Back in Idaho I presume. I really wouldn’t know.”
A weird little part of Colby’s world vision curled up and died. “You’ve left home!”
“Don’t be a drama queen, dear, I’m just taking a break somewhere warm and if I did not feel inclined to tell your siblings the exact location of my whereabouts, well, that’s my business.”
Megan had walked in just in time hear Colby called a drama queen by his own mother and decided she liked the woman.
“Good idea.” Megan said. “Alan’s pouring drinks. Who wants what?”
Colby was still in shock a half hour later when his mother was sipping a nice merlot and actually laughed at Charles circle, circle, tangent joke.
“Oh, I’ll have to tell that one to Katie.”
“Wait.” Colby cut in. “You got that joke? Nobody gets that joke.”
“Just because you didn’t pay attention in trigonometry, Colby Granger, doesn’t mean no one else did.”
“I never took trigonometry.”
“Well, I did and I rather enjoyed it.”
Colby was sure one of his eyes was twitching and he would place money that something in his brain just popped. “Mom?” He squeaked out. “Can we talk?” He made gestures towards the other room.
Emily put down her wine and walked proudly to the other room, Colby slinking behind.
Esther leaned forward. “Last time dad had that look was the first time he heard me cuss.”
“I know.” Megan said, “It’s the ‘I think I’m having a stroke’ look.”
In the dining room, Emily Granger faced her son. “What did you want to discuss?” She said sternly.
“What’s going on, mom?”
“I told you, I...”
“No. What’s really going on?”
Emily gave her son a hard look.
Colby continued, “Ok. Look at this from my perspective. Since before I can remember, you have spent the day before any Thanksgiving in the kitchen up to your elbows in giblets surrounded by enough food to feed the Army of the Potomac. The next day the whole family shows up, watches the game, and eats themselves into a coma and you run the whole show with military efficiency, and then do it again a month later for Christmas. You don’t sit in a California living room, sipping organic merlot, with your somewhat estranged son, trading math jokes with his husband.”
Emily sighed and for the first time in Colby’s eyes, she looked her age. “I’m tired and I’m done.” She said firmly. “I was picking out turkeys a week ago and saw them all just laying out there and decided that I was done. I wanted something different and someplace warm. I tried to talk the whole family into Fiji or something, something different but your brothers didn’t want to risk missing the game. Your sister and sister-in-laws all offered to cook dinner but it would just be the same. Same song, second verse. Then I remembered I had that standing offer from Cousin Margie and I thought a turkey sandwich on a Californian beach sounded like a perfectly good Thanksgiving to me.”
Colby looked at the taking no shit look in his mother’s eyes and gave her a hug realizing for the first time where his own rebellious nature may have sprung from. “Do you really think Alan’s going to let you get away with a turkey sandwich on the beach? He’s been prepping for weeks. We have enough food to feed half the city. He’s been drawing up schematics trying to figure out how it’s all going to fit on the table. I’m sure I caught him weight testing it last week.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“Don’t be silly mom. You’re family.”
Emily Granger surveyed the table and was impressed. She’d seen this happen to widowers before. Either they lived off ham sandwiches ‘till they got another wife or they took up watching Food TV and a few years later their cakes were beating out the ladies at the county fair. Strangely enough, those men seemed to get remarried a lot faster than the ones eating the ham sandwiches.
At the other end of the table, Alan Eppes stood and cast his eyes over the assemblage. At twelve people, it was the biggest thanksgiving to date. A long cry from the years of just him, Charlie, Don and Larry. Now there were husbands, wives, children, plus Agent Philip Matheson had been ordered along after making reference to turkey pizza, as had Niki Pepin, Larry’s new graduate assistant, who couldn’t arrange travel back to Boston. Alan thought it was cute the two already giving shy smiles at each other across the table. Geeks and G-Men, it was becoming a bit of a trend. And there was Emily Granger, who decided on a whim to chuck the good house wife image and have an adventure. In the other room, he could already see the first candle on the menorah burning low. It would be out by the time they finished.
“Tonight, we give thanks.” He began. “We thank our gods, our universe, our family, our friends. We give thanks for our health, our fortune, and each other. Our friends and family gathered here tonight, for what is health and fortune without those we love to share it with? Share our triumphs, our tragedies. Look around and know that this is good. This is life as it should be. This is our blessing and for this we give thanks.”
Emily didn’t think she’d move ever again. The party had retreated to the living room where most of the adults sat with glazed looks on their faces. The food had been divine. She always knew a lot of the winter produce was trucked in from California but she was now sure they were keeping the best for themselves. She could have gorged on the tomato and cucumber salad alone. Colby sat next to her, gently sipping a glass of fizzy water. She smiled at her son.
“You know you’re getting old when a pound of turkey on the stomach doesn’t sit the way it used to.” She teased.
“I’m just glad the criminal element of the city has decided to refrain from anything requiring federal intervention tonight.”
On the other side of the room Don raised a glass in agreement. “I don’t think I can remember where my gun is.”
From the kitchen there was a high squeal and the sound of running feet. A moment later Esther sprinted past, followed by Charlie waving a wet dishrag.
“How can those two have energy?” Emily asked in wonder.
Colby gave a bit of a laugh. “Night owls, both of them, I don’t think Esther’s been to sleep before midnight in her life.” Emily looked hard at her son. She had always been a firm believer in bed time. Midnight was not an option. “Charlie’s no better.” He defended. “When Esther was little, I used to get up at three in the morning and wander out to the garage and there Charlie would be at his blackboards, working on something beyond us mere mortals, and Esther would be curled up on the couch with a book that should have been too hard for her. They’d just be there together, middle of the night, wide awake.”
Emily could picture the scene, father and daughter, in their own worlds but easy in the same space. It didn’t take much time around Esther to understand how Colby could commit to another man’s child. She was brilliance, sweetness, and light. Though she wondered a bit about the girl’s mother. When Larry had mentioned some book reviewer Esther disagreed with Emily saw a quick flash of something hard and cold. Something surely not present in her father. Colby had sent her a portrait of the three of them when the adoption papers had gone through. It was tucked away in a drawer but she was now thinking it deserved a frame and a place on the wall with all the other pictures of family and grandchildren and if her other children, or friends, or the town had problems with it … well, they could just deal.
“I’m glad you’re here. Mom.” Colby said, the copious amounts of turkey giving him a mellow tone.
“So am I, you have a good life here, good family, good people.”
Colby nodded. “Yeah. They take a little getting used to but this is good.”