Susie was checking on the turkey when we arrived so Denny was the one to let us in the apartment. His focus went immediately to Jennie.
“Hello, Beautiful,” he said and gave her a big hug. We came in a little further in order to take off our coats.
“It’s good to see you, Frank,” Denny said as he extended his hand. Frank accepted it, “Likewise,” he said. He was being civil, and even a bit sweet, and he quietly offered Denny his condolences about Nate and Molly.
“Thank you,” he said. “Sometimes I go through a whole plan in my head to go out to the Halifax farm, I almost forget that everything’s changed.
It’s nice being out here, visiting. I probably wouldn’t be if not for Jennie. I’ve been talking to Susie quite a bit, never knew my long distance bill could be so high.”
“I’m sure Susie’s is hardly chump change either,” I told him. “But it’s good that you’re closer again. It’s a bit like old times.”
“More like new times. I don’t think you can ever quite get those old times back,” Denny said.
“I suppose you can’t,” I said as I tried to fit my coat into Susie’s small closet. Denny he took it from me, and I noticed his eyes widen a little.
“You look nice, Lucy.” he said.
I smiled. “Thank you,” I said. “You look nice too.” He did, although he wasn’t wearing anything special, just blue jeans and a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt.
Frank maneuvered his arm around me and kissed my cheek. “Lucy’s always gorgeous,” he announced.
“Yes,” Denny agreed. “She always has been.” He changed the subject quickly and declared the closet was just too small for everyone’s coat, and excused himself to bring mine into Susie’s room.
Susie came out of the kitchen and announced that everything was coming along nicely. She guided everyone to a place to sit. She seemed to want to be particularly certain that Aunt Lucy and Uncle Frank were both sitting on the love seat. “All the single people we’ve got here, we might as well keep the couple together,” she said.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Frank told her, and sat so close to me that Jennie could have fit on the loveseat too, if she’d wanted to, but she sat by Denny and Susie instead. Stuart called to say he was on his way, and Susie
summoned her brother into the kitchen to help peel potatoes.
“You’re the only one not dressed up,” Susie explained. Jennie asked if she could help, and Susie told her she looked too pretty to help, but she was more than happy to have the company in the kitchen.
“I knew it,” Frank whispered to me as soon as everyone else was out of earshot. “I knew he’d react like that, as soon as you walked out of the bedroom this morning in that dress.”
“He said I looked nice. He was being polite. He’s a Ferguson, they’re famous for their manners.”
“He said you were gorgeous.”
“After you put the words in his mouth,” I told him. “This isn’t about us. It’s about making Jennie happy on her first holiday with us, and if you don’t stop acting so jealous, you’re going to blow it-and not only with Jennie.”
Frank went to the TV and turned on the football game. “We may as well start the Thanksgiving ritual,” he said.
Susie came in and groaned, “Oh, Frank,” she gasped. “I never figured you for a couch jock.”
“I watch exactly two games a year-Thanksgiving and the Superbowl, and truthfully, I usually can’t stay awake through either of them.”
“All right,” she said. “But not during dinner.”
“Come on, Susie,” Denny said. “It’s Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and football go together, and here I am, finally in a place with decent television reception, and you’re going to cut me off.”
“Always the babysitter,” I said.
“Fine, then,” Susie said pretending to sound hurt. “Gang up on me and watch your football.”
The doorbell rang and we knew Stuart arrived.
“Ah-ha!” Susie said. “An ally!”
“Don’t count on it,” I told her. “You ever notice how often those guys huddle?”
“Look who robbed the Glam Queen!” Stuart exclaimed as he pulled me off the loveseat and twirled me around.
“Susie’s apartment isn’t exactly set up for dance extravaganzas, you two,” Denny told me.
“Well, this,” I told him, “is a holiday. And I intend to celebrate.”
“Apparently,” Denny said.
“Well I’ll have you know that no one needs to worry.” Uncle Frank announced. “We didn’t rob anybody. That dress will be fully paid for with twelve easy monthly payments.”
“I guess that’s when we dance,” Stuart suggested.
Frank guided me back on the loveseat beside him. “Well, I’m certainly not waiting twelve months,” he said.
“Ah, love…” Stuart said as he smiled at Frank and me, “oh so hard to find. Look at all of us, and these are the only two that have managed to hook up with someone.”
“Well, actually….”Susie started. There was a big smile across her face.
“Susie…,” Denny said playfully. “Have you been keeping something from me?”
“Not purposely,” she told him. “The whole thing is starting to get to the serious point. I didn’t want to jinx it.”
“Well, now we got you,” I told her. “You have to spill now, and we want details…at least the ones you can give with children present.”
“What can I say?” Susie said. “His name is Aaron; I met him about six months ago at one of the science conventions I go to in Chicago. We caught a bite to eat during a break, we exchanged phone numbers. Sometimes I get home from work and he’s sent me some goofy fax. He attends most of the conventions that I do. He lives in Iowa City, so it breaks up the drive to Chicago if I stop there on my way.”
“So, that’s why you didn’t want to stay at my house when you came to Leifton with Jennie,” Denny said.
“Partly,” Susie confessed. “But you know your house is not quite “company friendly,” Hon,”
“I love it at your house,” Jennie told him.
“Thank you, Sweetie,” he said. “For that I won’t change a thing.”
“What about you, Den?” I asked him. “Since we’re spilling beans, you got any?”
“No beans,” he said. “You know Leifton, Luce. Not a lot to pick from.”
“Well, that’s a crime,” Stuart said. “A handsome guy like you? Are you sure you’re straight?”
“Quite sure,” Denny told him.
Susie arranged where everyone was to sit at dinner, the same way she arranged everyone in the living room. Denny sat between Susie and Jennie on one end of the table. Stuart was across from Susie, Frank across from Denny, and I sat across from Jennie. Jennie commented that the turkey was almost as good as Molly’s and it occurred to me that Mrs. Ferguson had probably taught both of them her method.
Jennie spent most of the meal talking to Denny about her new school, and Amber and Skye.
Sounds like everyone is making new friends,” he told Susie, and tried to get more information out of her. “Did you invite Aaron here?” he asked her.
“We’re not quite at that spending-the-holidays together place yet,” she told him.
“That’s good,” Stuart told her. “You don’t want to come on too strong. You’ll come off as insecure.”
I leaned across Frank to talk to Stuart, “Listen to you, Mr. Lonely Hearts, giving advice,” I said.
Stuart looked at Frank and me. “I set you two up,” he told us.
Susie recalled that this was true, and Frank gave Stuart a special thank you that he had introduced him to his wife.
“That’s one of the perks of having a brother who’s a dancer. You get to meet a lot of beautiful people.”
Susie nudged at Denny. “Say the word, Den,” she said, “and I’ll track you down a scientist.”
“I’ll have to think about that one,” he told her.
“You should,” I told him, as I fed my last bite of cranberries to Frank. I loved my dress, but it didn’t leave much room for dinner and suddenly I couldn’t wait to get home.
“I suppose we should be heading out soon,” I announced. “Finish up,” I told Jennie. “You need to get washed up to go.”
“Already?” she said.
“She can stay,” Susie offered. “I could use the help cleaning up.”
“Oh can I?” Jennie pleaded.
“She’s excited about cleaning,” Frank said. “We’ve got to encourage that.”
“When would you want us to get her?” I asked Susie.
“I could drop her off on my way out of town,” Denny offered. “You can bring her a change of clothes whenever you’re over this way.”
Jennie looked at Susie and she nodded. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll find her a big T-shirt to sleep in, and I can always throw her clothes in the wash if I need to. If that works for you, Lucy, it’s fine with me.”
“Okay, then,” I said. “I guess we’ll take you up on that. Thank you.”
“No thanks necessary,” Denny told us. “We’re going to have fun.”
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