Song of the Day:
Ghosts We Knew - Mumford and Sons
But I will hold on as long as you like
Just promise me that we'll be alright
But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from you
And we'll live a long life
"Words simply cannot express how jealous I am of your talent, Adrian."
I glanced up at Cecilia before I looked back down at the pan in front of me. Thanksgiving Day was a day I both looked forward to and dreaded. I enjoyed Thanksgiving because I was a growing boy after all and I liked having a healthy supply of food put in front of me. I dreaded Thanksgiving because my mom seemed to enjoy having me make absolutely everything for dinner, almost completely by myself. However, I had to consider myself lucky that I had Freedom around, as she was always more than willing to lend a helping hand. Ever since Mrs. Devereux passed away, my mother insisted on having the Devereux family over for Thanksgiving. I was used to preparing a dinner large enough for five and Free always helped out as much she could. Even Eddy was particularly useful as he always seemed to know exactly what kind of desserts to make.
Cecilia was flitting around the kitchen as Freedom and I cooked dinner and Eddy sat at the counter and decorated the desserts. For a few minutes, Cecilia attempted to help Free as she prepared deviled eggs. Even though I kept telling her to leave her be, it took Thomas to intervene and assure that Freedom knew what she was doing. Cecilia slowly slinked away from Freedom before she began to watch me prepare the mash potatoes. It was only after I finished those and moved on to the next pan that she spoke. After she spoke up, I glanced down at the pan in front of me.
"It's just sautéed green beans and mushrooms," I said with a shrug as I flipped the vegetables over the heat.
"And look at that! You can flip food over in the air without a spatula. I'm a failure as a woman," she exclaimed.
"That's sexist," Freedom spoke up, not bothering to look up as she put a spoonful of filling into the deviled eggs.
"How do you even know what that means?" Cecilia asked her as she leaned against the counter.
"Free's smart. She's in third grade but she reads at an 6th grade level," Eddy answered absentmindedly.
"I'm surrounded by prodigies! Mother, up in Heaven, why didn't you grant me such intelligence?" Cecilia exclaimed.
"You're so loud," I grimaced.
"And you are not a normal child," she said as she pulled me toward her. "I'm worried for you."
"Don't grab at me while I'm sautéing!" I yelled as I pushed her away.
"You're such a baby," she laughed.
"You'll be crying like a baby when I drop this pan of hot oil all over you if you grab at me like that again," I nudged her away with my foot. "Go away."
"Okay, okay, Mr. Bossy. I'm sorry that I enjoy your presence over the stuffy adults in the other room," she shrugged as she sipped her glass of water.
"Lord, give me strength," I shook my head. "How are you getting married?"
"No idea. I have the mind of a three year old. I guess that says something about your father," she sighed as she ruffled her hair.
"Gross, dude," Eddy laughed from the other side of the kitchen.
I turned around to give Eddy a stern glare before shaking my head and flipping the vegetables once more. After a few moments, Cecilia heaved a heavy sigh and left the kitchen to go to the living room where my mom, Thomas, and Jack were at. I could not help but sigh with relief once she exited the room. I cared for Cecilia but I felt like I had to watch what she was doing and be very careful about my actions around her. She seemed to be preparing me for what it would be like to take care of children.
"I like her," Free commented after Cecilia left.
"I'm getting used to her," Eddy shrugged.
"I like her, but she's such a handful," I shook my head.
Eddy laughed loudly, "You're mad because she's a cock block."
"Eddy!" Free and I scolded simultaneously before my cell phone began to ring.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit," I muttered under my breath. "Free, can you answer it? I can't step away right now."
"Which pocket?" Free asked as she hopped off her stool.
"Back left," I answered.
I felt Free take my cell phone out of my pocket as I stirred the vegetables around the pan with a wooden spoon. Free sat back at the counter and answered my phone before balancing the phone on her shoulder.
"Adrian Dawson's phone, this is Freedom speaking," she answered. "Is this famous Nara Lee Evans?"
"What?" I turned around.
"Adrian, don't you dare take your eyes off that pan," Free said sternly. "No, he's just sautéing vegetables right now. I think he'd burn them if I let him be a distracted by you."
"Free," I groaned.
"It's a compliment, Adrian. She's a good distraction," Free explained to me before turning back to the phone. "Oh, I'm Freedom. I'm Eddy's little sister."
"Yo, Lee!" Eddy shouted as he leaned towards Freedom.
"Stop being so loud," Free grimaced as she leaned away. "No, I'm seven. Oh, thank you. No, Eddy and Dad and I come over here for every Thanksgiving."
"Free, let me talk to her," I said as I moved the frying pan and turned off the flame.
"Not going to happen. You still have to check the turkey and put the biscuits in the oven," Free reminded me.
As I panicked over the forgotten biscuits and rushed to the pantry, Free turned back to the phone to say, "Are you sure? 8 o'clock? Okay, I'll tell him. It was very nice talking to you as well. Bye."
"She hung up?" I asked as I dug through the pantry.
"She said she had something to do and that you should call her back at 8 and it's important," Free relayed to me as she put my phone down on the counter and picked up her spoon.
I thought about it carefully as I placed the biscuits on to a tray and brushed the butter on top of them. I had absolutely no idea what Lee wanted to talk to me about. It had been a week since the event in Alice's Warehouse and we both carefully avoided bringing it up amongst each other. It was possible that she wanted to speak to me about that but I also somewhat doubted it.
Eddy, Free, and I spoke amongst each other for a few minutes as we put the finishing touches on the food and desserts. Around five o'clock, everything in the kitchen was finished. As Eddy and I moved the pans holding the turkey and the ham onto the dining room table, Free carried the other plates to the dining room. After all the plates and cider and wine bottles were placed, I called in the adults. Eddy, Free, and I sat on the bench on one side of the table as Cecilia pulled Jack to sit with her across from us. My mother sat at one end of the table while Thomas sat on the other end.
"Wow, Adrian, this all looks so amazing," Cecilia said in awe. "I feel like a failure as a woman that I can't do this."
"That's sexist," Free told her without blinking. I knew that Free was aware she had said this to Cecilia before so I had to admit that I grateful that Free did not bring that up.
"How do you even know what that means?" Cecilia leaned forward.
"As a woman, I feel like I should know the word as well as its definition," Free nodded.
"You are a trip, little one!" Cecilia laughed out loud.
"Enough talk," Jack interrupted with a grin. "Let's eat."
"Wait a minute, Jack," my mom said as she slapped his hand away from the food. "We have to pray first."
"You pray before dinner?" Jack asked incredulously.
"Yes, Jack, we pray," my mother answered sternly as Cecilia shifted in her seat and let out a small sigh.
"We didn't pray when I was here," Jack said.
"That was then. Now we pray before dinner," Mom told him.
"I don't pray," Jack shook his head as he leaned back in his seat.
"Mr. Adrian's Papa, I don't mean any disrespect but I think you need to remember that this is Mama D's house. If she says so, we pray. If you don't like it, may I suggest that you stay quiet and be respectful while the rest of us pray?" Freedom spoke up with her innocent voice.
Jack blinked in surprise as he stared at her. Eddy had to turn around as he covered his laughter with a snort as I ruffled Free's hair with a large grin on my face. Mom gave Free a gentle smile before she nudged me and held out her hand to me. We all clasped hands around the table, Jack grimacing as he held hands with both Cecilia and Mom. I could see Jack keep his head up as the rest of us bowed our heads and shut our eyes. I did not mind or care that he did not pray with us. All I wanted was that he kept Free's suggestion to heart and stayed quiet and respectful. I squeezed my mom's hand before she began to speak.
"Dear Lord in Heaven, we gather today and we thank you with all of our hearts. We thank you for the houses over our heads, the food on our table, and the love you give us. We thank you for every new day we awake to and the events we experience every day. We thank you for the paths you set in front of us. We thank you for the people in our lives. We kindly ask that you take care of Antonia Devereux, as well as Cecilia's mother. We live through you, Lord, and we thank you. Amen."
"Amen," we all spoke simultaneously.
"That was a beautiful prayer, Jocelyn. Thank you for including my mama," Cecilia smiled.
"Of course," my mom smiled before turning to Mr. Devereux. "Thomas, will you?"
"Oh, man, it always feels like such a shame to cut up such a beautifully prepared bird," Mr. Devereux grinned as he stood up and picked up the knife in his hand.
"My boy did good," my mom patted my hand.
"It wasn't all me. Free helped a lot," I shrugged.
"What about me, jerk?" Eddy turned toward me.
"I'll give you credit for dessert. Don't get too ahead of yourself, idiot," I shook my head.
"Boys," Mr. Devereux said sternly as he began cutting into the turkey. Eddy and I grinned at each other from over Free's head. Eddy and I began talking with Free and were silently giggling on our side of our table. Cecilia grinned widely as she watched us from across the table.
"You three are like siblings, aren't you?" she asked.
"Adrian's like my brother. No, he is my brother. He's been there my entire life, just like Eddy," Free grinned as she hugged me.
"And I love this munchkin. How could I not?" I said before I kissed the top of her head.
Cecilia gave all adoring glances before leaning back to whisper something in Jack's ear. He leaned towards her and his face dropped into a serious expression. He briefly glanced at me before turning back to her. He nodded in her direction before she leaned back with a content smile. By then, Mr. Devereux had finished carving the turkey and had cut a few slices of the ham. As I opened the bottles of cider and wine, everyone began to serve themselves and we all started to eat dinner.
Dinner passed by pleasantly and though it felt like we were absolutely filled with food, everyone had room for dessert, which Eddy excitedly brought in after the dinner plates were sent awake to the kitchen. Eddy had assorted a variety of cookies and a couple of pies by himself. I don't know where he had found it but Eddy had even managed to find a small box of blue raspberry ice cream. After dessert had passed, the adults had moved on to the living room as Eddy, Free, and I began to put the food away and were cleaning up the kitchen. I had just begun to wash the dishes when Jack walked into the kitchen.
I was aware of Jack's presence by my side as he leaned against the counter but I ignored him as I scrubbed at a plate with a sponge. Jack shifted nervously, rubbing his hair back and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt. I glanced at him a few times but he simply stood there with his hands in his pockets. After a few moments, he exhaled heavily through his nose before he turned towards me.
"Adrian, can we talk in private for a few moments?" he asked me.
I turned towards him to stare at him. I scanned his face before nodding and pulling my hands out of the water. I wiped my hands on a towel before following him out of the kitchen, towards the back yard. Jack stood outside the door. I halted my steps as I turned back to look at him. He was not looking at me but at the sight before him. His hands were still in his pockets as he scanned the sight of the garden.
"It looks different," he commented.
"Are you offering a word placement for what you really think or are you being literal?"
"Calm down, kid, it looks great. I was being literal. It is literally different from when I was here," he stated as he walked past me to walk down the stone path that was laid down on the left.
I had to resist the overwhelmingly strong urge to roll my eyes as he walked away from me. It had been years since he had last came over to the house, much less go to the back yard. We were not going to keep the garden exactly the same since he left. We did not change it immediately or drastically when he left. It made it to the way it was gradually over time. But yes, it was different since he was last here. That was the point he was making so I did not speak any of my thoughts out loud.
As Jack ventured around and explored the back yard, I sat down on a beige lawn chair on the other side of the yard. I fiddled with the green friendship bracelet around my wrist, briefly glancing up at him every now and then as he inspected various vegetables and flowers growing in plots and pots. A few minutes and several sighs later, Jack made his way towards me and sat on the chair to my left. He sat there in silence for a moment before turning to look at me. I raised my eyebrows in his direction, waiting for him to speak.
"Adrian, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that I hit you," he told me.
"You do realize it has been a month since it happened, right?" I reminded him. "Why didn't you apologize sooner? Why did it happen in the first place?"
"I can't explain it, Adrian," he sighed as he looked over at me. "I'm just…"
"I'm just an asshole. What do you want me to say, kid?" he exclaimed as he stood up. "I don't know how to explain my actions. I'm a fucking asshole and I hit my kid. And it's tearing me apart that I actually did that."
I stared at him in silence, my eyes following him as he paced in the grass. I glanced at the house, the open back door allowing the faint sound of Eddy's and Free's laughing to spill outside. As Jack continued pacing, I rubbed my hands together in an attempt to keep them warm. I turned my gaze to the floor as I slowly kept rubbing my hands together. I blinked in surprise as I felt heavy cloth drop over my shoulders. I looked up to see Jack without his black leather jacket walking away from me. I cautiously wrapped the jacket around my shoulders as Jack put his hands on his waist.
"My dad liked to beat me. Did I ever tell you that?" Jack sighed heavily.
I shook my head before realizing that his back was still toward me and he could not see me. But it seemed futile to answer him anyway. Jack seemed to be in his own little world.
"Kids get beat by their parents or have alcoholic parents all the time. And those kids only grow up to be two different kinds of people, I figure. One group never touches their kids that way or never touch alcohol. The other…well, they grow up to be just like their parents. I always hoped I would be the first group. But as I got older…obviously, I turned out just like my dad, didn't I?" Jack slowly turned around and made his way back to his seat. He remained silent for a few moments before glancing at me. "Can I be honest about something?"
"Yeah," I nodded.
"I know what you thought about Cecilia. You thought the reason I'm marrying her was because she's my reason to give up drinking," Jack said as he stared at me.
I blinked at him once before nodding slowly. He gave me a grin before looking away. He let out a small chuckle before shaking his head.
"It's true that I was already dating her when I gave up drinking and she supported me but she wasn't the reason why. I gave up for two reasons: my dad and you," Jack stated.
I furrowed my eyebrows before glancing at him in the corner of my eye. Jack was staring up at the orange and pink sky before he looked down at me.
"You're nothing like me, kid, you know that? Jocelyn always said you looked like me but when it comes to personality and habits and all that shit, we couldn't be more different," Jack remarked as he stared at me. He assessed me for a few moments before looking away again. "My dad was an alcoholic. He got drunk every night. My mom had already split so that meant I was the only one for him to beat. And as I got older, I got angrier. Before I hit 18, I was out. My relationship with him after I moved out was always shaky. The last time I ever talked to him was when your mom and I got married. I called him a fucking asshole and a drunk who needed to disappear.
After your mom and I divorced, I moved to the city and worked at a law firm. I was dating Cecilia and I was still drinking and she dealt with me. Then I got a phone call at home saying that my dad was killed while driving drunk. And I realized that I had not spoken to my father in nine years. The last words to him were words of hate. I will never say anything to my dad again.
And then I remembered the night your mom kicked me out. I treated her horribly and you heard me. I know you were on the staircase, Adrian. You heard all that. That's the first thing I thought about. How my son probably hated me and I hadn't talked to him in years. How I turned out to be a fucking asshole and a drunk who needed to disappear."
"I never hated you," I said slowly while shaking my head, causing Jack to look over at me. "I don't hate, Jack. That's pointless. I was just angry with you."
"I understand that," Jack nodded.
"Well, I'm glad you're not a drunk anymore," I sighed as I shook my hair out of my eyes. "But you're still an asshole."
Jack laughed loudly before clapping a hand on my hand. "That's my charm, kid. Still working on fixing that though."
I nodded before slipping off the leather jacket from my shoulders and handing it back to Jack. Though he took it from me, he folded it over his arm instead of putting it back on. We sat outside in silence, staring at the garden and the sunset sky above us.
"I forgive you, Jack."
"Thank you, son."
For some reason, I did not correct him or admonish him for calling me "son." At that moment, it did not even bother me.
Jack and I sat outside for a few minutes longer before finally heading inside. Everyone inside noticed our entrance but made a point not to say anything. Jack immediately headed towards Cecilia, who gave him a proud smile before placing her hands on his shoulders and leaning up to kiss him gently. I ruffled Freedom's hair as I passed her before sitting on the couch next to Eddy. The seven of us sat around the lounge room talking carelessly. After time had passed, Free suddenly put her hand on my knee. I blinked in surprise before looking down at her.
"Adrian, weren't you supposed to call Nara Lee at 8? It's 8:20," Free pointed out.
I turned around quickly to look at the clock above the fireplace to see that Free was correct on the time. I swore under my breath before jumping off the couch to walk outside to the backyard. I could hear my mom grumbling something about me as Eddy laughed while I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. I shivered at the sudden chill, stuffing one of my hands in my pocket as I called Lee. It rang twice before she picked up.
"I thought the little one forgot to tell you to call," she said immediately.
"Sorry, I lost track of time," I apologized.
"Oh, so you forgot about me. That's even worse," Lee sighed before chuckling into the phone.
"I could never. So what's up?"
"Happy Thanksgiving, Adrian," she said simply.
"That's it?" I laughed.
"No," she said slowly. "I actually wanted to ask you something."
"What? Like a favor?" I questioned curiously.
"Not necessarily. It's all up to you if you want to do it or not."
"Well, what is it?"
"I was wondering if…well, I was wondering if you wanted to come over to my place for dinner and meet my family."
I choked on my saliva as soon as she finished speaking. I pounded on my chest, gasping for air, before thinking seriously about what she said. I clearly must have heard her incorrectly. We were friends, but I could not imagine her inviting me over to her house. I licked my lips as I clenched my cell phone in my hand.
'You were wondering if I what?"
"Wanted to come over for dinner."
"Where your dad will be? Should I be scared?"
"Adrian, you've already met my dad."
"Yeah, but this time it'll be official. He'll be meeting me as a guy, not just as Jocelyn's son."
"There's no difference," she laughed.
"There's a huge difference."
"Is that a no?"
"No!" I exclaimed. "I want to go."
"Don't talk me out of it. When should I come over?"
"This Sunday. At five."
"Okay. Okay. I'll see you then."
"See you on Sunday, Adrian."
I was way in over my head this time.
A/N: Thank you to GinBrat for the review and dreamless encantations for the favorite/follow.
I've kind of...I don't want to say I have writer's block but I'm in a bit of a funk where I just can't...write. It really unnerves me. Anything I do manage to write, I'm not happy with. I don't want to put up anything I'm not happy with. Luckily, I do have up to chapter 35 written (albeit unedited) but I'm just spacing the time between uploads just in case I can't write another chapter and I leave you all with nothing. But I'm hoping that as soon as I start school again, I'll have my urge to write again. Until then, I wish you all every happiness.