Susie wasn’t kidding when she said she wanted help cleaning. The kitchen was a disaster. I was put in charge of bringing Taffy dishes to wash, and Susie dried them and put them away.
“That was quite an interesting day,” Taffy told Susie.
“Holidays usually are,” she said.
“I guess they’ll get even more interesting when you start inviting Aaron,” Taffy said. “I’m really happy for you.”
Susie smiled and put the coffee cup she was holding in the cupboard.
“You know,” she said. “You have been by yourself for an awful long time….”
“Susie, you’re not setting me up with a scientist.” Taffy said.
“Would it be so bad?” she asked him. “Stuart thought you were gay for God’s sake.”
“At least he believed me when I told him I wasn’t.”
“Stuart was right about one thing,” Susie told him. “You’re not unattractive, and you’re a good guy. There’s no reason why you should be alone.”
“I appreciate what you’re doing, Sus,” Taffy told her. “You’re in this new relationship. You’re all excited. You’re thinking everyone should be as happy as you. I am fine, Susie. People do exist without partners, you know.”
“Priests and monks,” Susie said. “And you’re neither.”
“Come on, Susie. You know what it’s like in Leifton.”
“I also know you, Denny, and I don’t buy it. It’s time you stop being faithful to Lucy McMillen. She’s not yours anymore.”
“I know that,” Taffy said. “She’s obviously very happy.”
“Well, I think we both know how looks can be deceiving,” Susie told him. “But even if she was available, she’s not for you, Hon. You know I love Lucy, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Taffy was starting to sound irritated. “I’m not a kid, Susie. You can’t tell me how to live my life,” he said.
“I know you’re not,” Susie told him. “but you’re not eighteen either. I can’t tell you what to do, but you are still my little brother, and I will give you advice. It’s up to you whether you take it or not. You don’t get through life by
standing still. Figure out what you need and go find it.”
As Susie stood in front of Taffy telling him in every way she could that he should let go of Aunt Lucy and get on with his life, I began having thoughts that embarrassed and frightened me. Skye’s words kept going through my head.
“Everyone gets divorced eventually,” she had said. I found myself wishing that something would go wrong with God’s plan after all. That Aunt Lucy and Uncle Frank would somehow break up, and that somehow I would
get to live in a house with both Aunt Lucy and Taffy. I knew I was wrong to wish it, but I couldn’t help myself.
Taffy wiped his hands on a towel. He kissed the top of my head, and did the same to Susie. “Thank you for your concern,” he told her, “but I can take care of myself. I think I’ll go ahead and hit the showers, if you don’t mind.”
Taffy set down the towel and started to leave the room before he turned in the doorway. “I love you both,” he told us.
“I love you too, Denny,” Susie told him.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Taffy,” I said.
Taffy smiled big. “Right,” he said. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Susie got up at the crack of dawn and went to the department store to bring me a change of clothes and a pair of pajamas so Aunt Lucy wouldn’t have to come by. Taffy and I were both amazed at how early the stores opened the day after Thanksgiving.
“I’m sure you’re Aunt Lucy has Christmas shopping and her own errands to do today,” Susie told me. “Think of the clothes as a Christmas present.
I was happy to get a present, but I was especially grateful for a chance to spend some time with Taffy by myself. We decided it would be a nice surprise to have breakfast ready when she got back, so we gathered the ingredients for pancake batter and started putting them in a bowl.It wasn’t as much fun as I usually had with Taffy at first, and I decided it might be best to go ahead and say what was on my mind.
“Taffy,” I asked. “Was Susie right about you and Aunt Lucy?”
“Jennie, you shouldn’t listen in on other people’s conversations,” he told me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t help what I hear.”
“Your Aunt Lucy and I were together a long time ago,” he said. “And then she left.”
“I knew that.”
“You probably know more than I do,” Taffy told me. “It sounds like your Aunt Lucy and Frank are getting along better than when you came to see me in Leifton. Less fighting I hope.”
“They’re trying not to fight while Christmas is coming,” I told him.
“They should make a practice of it. It’s not good for you to hear that.”
I went to the refrigerator and found an apple to chop into the pancake batter, the way my Mama used to.
“My mom used to do that too-put apples in our pancakes,” Taffy told me. “I think that’s where your mama learned it. I don’t remember your grandma making apple pancakes.”
“If I tell you something you won’t think I’m a heathen, will you?” I asked Taffy.
“Never,” he said. “What’s wrong, Sweetie?”
“Sometimes I don’t miss Mama,” I confessed. “Sometimes I’m glad she’s gone.”
Taffy didn’t even sound shocked. “Why do you think that is?” he asked.
“She was always so scared of everything and worried all the time. It’s like she was always hurting.”
Taffy nodded. “It is good when the hurting stops. I think they have the better end of the stick in some ways, being up in heaven and all.”
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