Chapter 14

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I wake up in the morning feeling extremely well rested. The alarm clock on the side table tells me it’s 07:30 AM, so I climb out of the pillowy bed and jump in a quick shower. Grace has stocked the guest room well, which comes in handy when I realize I forgot to put shampoo in my toiletries bag. The shampoo in the shower smells incredible and produces a rich, luxurious lather. I don’t recognize the bottle as any of the brands you find on the shelves at the drugstore so I wonder if she’s gotten if from a salon.

When I’m finished showering, I quickly blow dry my hair with the hair dryer I find under the sink, brush my teeth and get dressed. I tidy up the bathroom, make my bed again and unplug my phone from the charger by the window. There is a text from Christian waiting for me from about five minutes ago.

 

Good-morning, Sleeping Beauty. We’re having breakfast in the dining room, come join us.

 

I slip my phone into my pocket and take the complicated journey through the big house to the dining room.

“Good-morning, Ana!” Grace says brightly as I walk in to see Christian’s entire family seated around the table. She’s dressed in a fluffy lilac colored robe with silky, taupe pajama bottoms peaking out underneath. In fact, the whole lot of them are in PJs, except Christian who is wearing khakis and a navy blue button down shirt.

I take a seat next to Elliot, who looks as though he’s trying not to fall asleep in his oatmeal.

“Please, help yourself, Ana. We have a long day ahead of us. You’ll need your energy,” Grace says. She gestures to the food spread out over the table and I smile gratefully and reach out for a blueberry muffin. There is some orange juice in a carafe in front of me so I fill my glass and begin picking at the crumbly muffin on my plate. It’s delicious.

I look up at Christian as I pop a bite into my mouth. He’s staring at me but I can’t read his expression. He looks as though he’s lost in thought gazing at me while I eat. It makes me slightly self conscious, but fortunately, Elliot distracts his focus.

“What are we doing today anyway?” Elliot asks. “Whatever it is we have to be back here before one. I’m not missing kickoff.”

“Oh we’ll definitely be out of the house at one,” Grace says slyly, and she smiles at Carrick.

“Well then count me out. You guys have fun doing whatever it is your doing but I’m not missing the game.”

“Suit yourself then,” Grace says. “You watch the game here on TV and we’ll watch it live at the stadium in Seattle.”

“What?” Elliot cries, knocking over his glass of milk as he gestures wildly in surprise. He grabs a napkin and begins dabbing the spill while staring expectantly at his parents.

“Yes,” Carrick says. “Linc has kindly offered his company’s box seats to our family for today’s game as a welcome home surprise for you kids.”

“We’re going to spend the day with the Lincoln’s?” Christian asks, and I can hear a note of panic in his voice as his eyes shift nervously to me and then back to his father.

“No,” Grace replies regretfully. “Andrew had some business to take care of down in California so he and Elena will be out of town this week. He didn’t want the tickets to go to waste so their driver will be bringing the tickets over sometime this morning.”

Christian visibly relaxes and I realize that I feel tension leave my body as well. For everything I know about Elena Lincoln, I don’t want to meet her, much less spend the day with her in front of Christian’s family.

“I wouldn’t want them to go to waste either,” Elliot says, rubbing his hands together excitedly. He shoves a much too large spoonful of his oatmeal in his mouth and begins to chew furiously.

“Come on, eat up, we’ve got a game to catch,” He continues, although its very difficult to understand him through the large amount of oatmeal he’s still struggling to chew. When he swallows, he reaches over to Mia’s glass of orange juice, drains it and bolts away from the table. Mia looks indignantly after him as he practically skips to the kitchen.

“Do you like football?” Grace asks me while she pours Mia another glass of juice.

“Yes,” I say. “My step-father follows all kinds of sports so I grew up on Seattle teams.”

“Good,” She says brightly. “Did you bring any kind of Seahawks clothing that you could wear to the game?”

“No, I don’t think I have any, even at home.” I say.

“Well, I”ll have to take you up to my closet after breakfast and we’ll see if we can find you something,” She says, and I nod to her with a smile.

Christian glances between his mother and I and I think I see a small smile begin to curl at the corner of his mouth. Gretchen appears through the door to the kitchen to clear our plates just as the doorbell rings.

“That must be the tickets,” Carrick says, pushing away from the table and hurrying out to the front door. I hand Gretchen my empty plate and Grace stands and holds out her hand for me. I take it and she leads me to the stairs in the entryway, Mia following closely behind us.

“That’s my room,” Mia says, pointing to the first door on the left as we come up the stairs, “And that’s Christian’s room. It used to be Elliot’s room when I was little, but Christian had to switch with him cause he was sneaking out at night, so he had to take the room closest to Mom and Dad.”

Grace glances down at Mia reproachfully but Mia just shrugs and hurries down to push open the door at the end of the hall. Grace and Carrick’s room is huge, too big for a bedroom, I think. There is a giant wooden canopy bed at the center of the room, a small office space in the back corner and a reading nook close to the door. Grace leads me into cavernous walk in closet and then to the back corner where several jerseys, t-shirts and sweatshirts with the familiar Seahawks logo are hanging.

“Elliot’s just always been such a fan, I’m always picking up things to wear so we can watch the games together on Sundays,” Grace explains as she sorts through the clothes. “How about this one?”

She holds up a dark blue jersey with the number 12 on the front and the word “FAN” written across the back in bold white letters.

“I think that looks great,” I say gratefully as I slip it on. It fits rather well. “Thank-you, Grace.”

“Oh don’t mention it, dear. I’m just so happy to meet you. I don’t know if you realize, but Christian has never brought a girlfriend home to meet the family.” Her eyes twinkle as she sets the bait out in front of me, willing me to admit Christian and I are dating.

“Oh, Christian isn’t my boyfriend. We’re just good friends. We live across the hall from one another and he’s in a couple of my classes,” I say, feeling my face burn bright red.

“I see,” She says, although there is something behind her eyes that doesn’t change despite my refutation of her assumption. “Is that how you met then, in your dormitory?”

“Yes,” I tell her. “And then he just seemed to pop up wherever I went. I work in the library and he studies there a lot.”

“But you two are fairly close?”

“Well, it’s kind of hard to get close to Christian. He seems fairly guarded but yes, I’d say we’re close. We’re good friends,” I explain hesitantly.

“And a wonderful friend you are, I’m glad he’s met you,” She says with a smile.

“Do you want to come to my room and help me pick out what to wear today, Ana?” Mia asks.

“Sure,” I tell her and then smile at Grace as we turn to leave.

Mia’s room is pink. Very pink. Her walls are painted the color of bubblegum, her bedding is deep fuchsia, and there is a large, fluffy pink rug covering the majority of the floor.

She disappears into her closet and then reappears with a heap of Seahawks gear, which she throws onto the bed. She insists on trying each and every piece on for me and I entertain her by giving careful criticism of each outfit she models for me. In the end, she decides on an identical jersey to the one I’m wearing, happily insisting we will be twins today.

She hooks her arm through mine and leads me back down the stairs to the living room where Christian and Elliot are watching pre-game shows.

About an hour and a half before kick off, we all pile into the Grey’s SUV and make the short drive into Seattle. When we arrive at Qwest Field, Carrick and Grace take Mia to our seats, while Elliot drags us into the Pro Shop. Christian and I look around at the small trinkets in glass cases and on shelves while Elliot goes wild, buying hats, t-shirts, and a Hasselbeck jersey. Christian buys some face tattoos for Mia, and then we head into the stadium.

The game is exciting as we go into halftime tied but end the game on top 24-19. Elliot and Carrick spend the entire game jumping up and down, screaming at the field, and when time is up and the Seahawks win, they hug each other quickly, perform some kind of handshake that looks as though they’ve done a thousand times before, and scream some more. By the time we leave the stadium, they’re both hoarse.

We take a taxi from the stadium down to the docks where Carrick buys us all tickets on a ferry to Bremerton. We’re going to dinner at a restaurant called Anthony’s and as we set sail, I make my way out to the open deck with Christian to watch the sun set over over the sound.

By the time we arrive back at the Grey’s house in Bellevue that night, we’re all exhausted. Mrs. Grey has work the next day, and Mia has to go to school, so they head immediately for bed. Elliot, Christian and I decide to stay up a little later to watch a movie. I sit cross legged in front of the screen next to Christian but about halfway through the movie, Christian adjusts some pillows to lay down on, pulls the blanket over the back of the couch down to cover him, and gestures for me to lay next to him. I hesitate for a moment, knowing we have so much to work out still, but eventually give into the urge to be as close to him as possible.

Near the end of the movie, I’m feeling warm and content, wishing the movie would never end so I would never have to leave Christian’s arms. Today has been so incredible, and not because of the game or because of dinner across the sound, but because I’ve spent the entire day, drama free, with Christian. There’s something I feel being around him that I’ve never felt before. Like everything is finally right, like I’m where I’m supposed to be.

The credits for the movie begin to roll and the music overlaying the text is interrupted by the sound of Elliot snoring on the other side of the sectional.

Christian is stroking my hair and I wonder when he’s going to break up our sweet cuddle. His arm moves and I think he’s going to pull the blanket off of us to get up, but instead his fingers brush my cheek and he pulls my face around so that I’m looking at him. He traces the lines of my face with his fingertips, lightly touching the soft curve of my lips, and then he leans down to kiss me. I close my eyes and feel a tingle of pleasure run through my body as his warm lips touch mine. Unlike the other kisses we’ve shared, which were hard and fueled by his unbridled passion, this kiss is sweet and tender. There is no urgency, there is no tension, there is only affection and desire.

When I don’t pull away from the kiss, even after several seconds, he lifts his body up off the couch, not breaking our precious point of contact, and rolls me onto my back so that I’m beneath him. He captures my wrists and pulls them gently above my head, but holds them firmly in place. His tongue explores my mouth and I groan with deep desire. He momentarily deepens the kiss and then stops, pulling away to look at me.

“I was going to tell her this week,” He says. “I thought I would see her at some point.”

“And now she’s out of town,” I finish for him, and he nods.

“Then call her,” I plead, staring up at him. He shakes his head, rolls off of me, and begins pacing around the room. He looks anxiously at Elliot still sleeping on the other side of the couch, and then reaches a hand out for me, and leads me to the guest bedroom where I’m staying. Closing the door as quietly as possible behind us, he joins me on the bed and takes my hand. He looks so torn as if he is trying to decide what to say or whether or not to say anything at all.

“I don’t understand,” I tell him honestly. “You told me you wanted me to meet your mother and I have. I’m spending the whole week with your family, surely by the end of the week they’ll know who I am. Just call her.”

“It’s not that simple, Anastasia,” He says, his voice hardening slightly. “There is a lot of… uh, history between Elena and I, a lot of things that will have to be worked out in order for us to separate. I need to speak with her in person.”

A horrible sensation of doubt runs over me as part of me begins to think that this will never end. That he doesn’t want to tell her and that I’m going to be waiting forever.

“Whatever you say, Christian,” I say, looking down at my fingers. I wish he would leave, I just don’t want to look at him right now. I wonder if he sees that in my posture or something because he lets go of my hand and stands.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” He says, and when I nod he turns to leave.

“I’m going to tell her, Anastasia.” He says, pausing at the door. I look at him, wondering if my expression looks as blank as his empty promise makes me feel. I watch him close the door and get up to get ready to go to sleep. As I lie there in the wonderfully comfortable bed, I wonder if he ever will tell Elena it’s over or if he’s just stringing me along. Part of me is starting to believe that, but another part of me tells me that he wouldn’t have invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family if he wasn’t serious. I battle with myself until I fall asleep, and even as I drift off into unconsciousness, I not that my lips still feel electrified by Christian’s kiss.

“Hey,” A soft voice says to me and I stir awake, surprised by how bright the room around me is. I blink through the nearly blinding sunlight to see Christian standing over me.

“You’ve slept in,” He tells me. “It’s nearly ten o’clock. My father wants to take us out on the boat. Get dressed so you can get some breakfast before we head out.”

I nod sleepily and pull back the heavy duvet to get out of bed. Christian leaves the room as I take a short but invigorating shower to wake up, blow dry my hair, and get dressed. I choose clothes warmer than is probably necessary as I figure it will be chilly out on the water, and I’m not a big fan of cold. I also decide to take my copy of Mrs. Dalloway, just in case we spend an extended amount of time out on the lake and I need something to distract myself.

When I come out to the living room, Elliot, Carrick, and Christian are all watching the news on the couch rather than eating breakfast in the dining room.

‘There are some croissants on the breakfast bar in the kitchen,” Christian says, glancing at me over his shoulder. I smile at him and then make my way into the kitchen where I find a bowl overfilled with large, buttery croissants. I take one and eat it quickly then return to the living room.

“All set?” Carrick says jovially, clapping his hands together as he stands from the couch.

“Yes,” I say. “I’m sorry if I kept you waiting.”

“Oh not at all,” Carrick says. “This is the perfect time to sail.”

Christian, Elliot and I follow Carrick from the living room back into the kitchen and then out the door. The back yard is a large, beautifully landscaped, lush lawn that slopes softly down towards Lake Washington. Christian takes my hand as we walk across slate stepping stones to a boathouse down on the water. Inside, past a small sitting room and a skinny staircase that leads to a loft, there is a long, sleek looking sailboat bobbing slightly in the hole in the floor. Christian holds my hand to steady me as I climb into the boat with Mr. Grey and then goes to the large, glass, garage-style door blocking the path of the boat and opens it with Elliot’s help. When the door is open, they too climb into the boat, each sitting on opposite sides from one another. Carrick pushes a button next to the steering wheel and I hear the sound of a motor start and we begin to pull forward through the water.

Once we’re away from the shallows by the boathouse, Carrick cuts the engine and moves to the back of the boat to pull the propeller out of the water. Meanwhile, Christian and Elliot unfurl the sail and begin pulling ropes and tying them off until the sail is taught enough to catch the wind and take us further into the lake. I sit next to Christian on what he tells me is the Port side of the boat and we sail around the lake for about an hour or so. The November air is quite chilly out here, and I’m glad I’ve brought warm clothes, but the water is so blue and the surrounding hills covered in evergreens are so beautiful that I find myself not caring. We sail down the lake towards Renton and I gasp as we move past the trees and Mount Rainier comes into view.

“I think this is a good spot!” Carrick says, and he drops anchor while Elliot and Christian lower the sail. Christian, Elliot, and Carrick pull out poles and settle in for an afternoon of fishing and I lay out on a bench to read. It’s such a relaxing afternoon, I’m almost sad when Carrick pulls up the anchor to start heading back. Elliot and Christian pack the fish they caught into a cooler with ice as Carrick tugs on the sails and begins steering us back to Bellevue

“Did you bring home enough for all of us?” Grace asks as Elliot and Christian haul the cooler through the back door and into the kitchen.

“Elliot had a great day. Out caught Christian and I two to one,” Carrick says, kissing Grace on the cheek.

“Well, go wash up. I’ll have Gretchen clean these and we’ll have a fish fry tonight.” She says. I follow Christian and Elliot out of the kitchen and disappear into my room where I wash my hands thoroughly with warm water. I hadn’t realized on the boat how numb my fingers were.

When I return to the kitchen where Grace, Elliot and Carrick are converged, Grace hands me a hot mug of water and a tea bag.

“Christian said you prefer bag out,” She says sweetly and I smile at her and take the cup gratefully.

“Where is Christian?” I ask, and she motions to the dining room with her head. I walk across the kitchen to peak through the door and see Christian seated at the dining room table with Mia. She’s pouring over a text book and Christian is very patiently helping her with her homework. A ridiculous smile creeps across my face as I witness the sweet moment between Christian and his little sister and I remember the first time he told me about her. The warmth in his voice and the softening in his eyes. He looks up and sees me staring at him and he raises an eyebrow at me and then looks back at Mia, who asks him a question.

Later that night, rather than watch a movie together we all sit in the living room, a fire blazing merrily beneath the hearth, and tell stories. Grace eventually convinces Mia and Christian to play music for us and we move to the formal sitting room off the left side of the entrance hall to the grand piano. Mia unpacks her Cello and they play three pieces for us. I’m impressed. They play together perfectly.

When Mr. and Mrs. Grey and Mia go to bed that night, Elliot suggests we all head out to the hot tub in the Grey’s back yard.

“I don’t have a swim suit,” I tell him and he raises his eyebrows suggestively at me until Christian slugs him in the arm.

“I’ll go see if you can borrow one of Mom’s,” Christian says and he returns a few moments later with a dark blue two piece swimsuit. I roll my eyes as I take it and disappear into my bathroom, wrapping myself in one of the oversized fluffy towels tucked away in the closet by my shower.

Elliot leads the way through the back yard to a large in ground pool, which is covered for the winter, but the hot tub next to it with the infinity edge is open and inviting. We sink into the hot water and talk for about 20 minutes before Elliot decides he wants to play a game of “Never have I ever”. He jumps out of the hot tub, disappears into the house and returns with three bottles of beer before dipping back into the water with Christian and I.

“I don’t think we should be drinking at Mom and Dad’s house,” Christian says, frowning as Elliot hands him a beer.

“Wouldn’t be your first time,” Elliot replies as he hands a bottle to me. Christian glares at him and shoots an anxious look back towards the house before gripping tightly to the aluminum cap and twisting it off. I can’t get mine off so I hand it to him and he opens mine for me as well.

“Okay,” Elliot says. “Never have I ever…..attended an Ivy League school.”

Christian and I roll our eyes but take a small drink of beer. Mmm, the combination of cold beer and the hot water is not too bad.

“Never have I ever dated two girls at the same time,” Christian says.

“That’s not fair, you’ve never dated one girl,” Elliot says as he takes a deep drink from his bottle.

“What?” I ask sharply, turning to glare at Elliot.

“It was in High School!” He says defensively, but I don’t relax until Christian confirms the story. Elliot assures me that part of his is all in the past and I tell him it better be because Kate will have his balls. We go a couple more rounds, Christian and Elliot each asking very pointed questions to one another until Christian turns to me.

“Never have I ever had sex with Carter Reed,” He says, his eyes baring into me. I stare back at him, swirling my finger over the top of my beer. He waits for about five seconds for me to take a drink and then smiles.

“Nice,” He says under his breath and I roll my eyes.

“Never have I ever lied to a girl about doing something I repeatedly promised I would do,” I say, staring single-mindedly at Christian but he also refrains from taking a drink. I purse my lips and Elliot glances between us.

“Never have I ever secretly dated someone in this hot tub and refused to tell anyone making it super awkward for everyone around them,” Elliot says pointedly and Christian and I laugh but don’t take a drink.

“Never have I ever been driven home by police on prom night because I was caught having sex in a parking lot,” Christian says. Elliot drains his bottle and I laugh. The game ends as I become much more interested in that story and as Elliot tells us what happened, Christian fills in the blanks that Elliot purposefully leaves out. My attention is distracted as I see a light by the edge of the hot tub and notice Christian’s phone is ringing. He and Elliot seem to be oblivious to it and while they laugh and joke. I wonder if it’s Mrs. Lincoln.

The rest of the week goes by fairly quickly as it seems that every day the Grey’s have something planned for us to do. Part of me wonders if it’s all a ploy to entice Christian to come home more.

On Tuesday, Grace announces that she plans give her entire staff Thanksgiving off and she will make Thanksgiving dinner on her own. Then she tells us that she’s never actually made a Thanksgiving dinner and so I volunteer to help. I make a list of all the things that I need from the grocery store and after Grace gets home from work on Wednesday, She, Mia and I head out on a girls shopping trip.

Before we get the groceries, Grace stops in a department store in downtown Bellevue to buy Mia a new dress to wear on Thursday, confirming my fears that Christian’s family does indeed dress up for Thanksgiving dinner. We head to the grocery store and spend over an hour combing the aisles for all of the ingredients we’ll need the next day. Thankfully, we are able to buy a large enough fresh turkey that doesn’t have to be thawed.

When we get home, I find a large drink cooler in the Grey’s garage and fill it half full with my special salt, garlic and brown sugar brine and ice. I submerge the turkey in the liquid, cover it, and set it aside to soak for the night. Mia and I make both a pumpkin and an apple pie for tomorrow’s dessert and since we’re taking up all the space in the kitchen, Carrick orders us all pizza for dinner.

When we’ve eaten our fill of pizza and the pies are cooling on the racks in the kitchen, I go to find Christian who is playing the piano in the formal sitting room.

“Will you drive me over to Kate’s?” I ask. He stops playing and looks at me worriedly.

“Why? What’s wrong?” He asks.

“Oh…nothing, I just don’t have anything to wear tomorrow so I thought I could go look through her closet.”

“Do you want to go out and buy something?”

“No, I’m sure she’ll have something and she doesn’t live far, just over on Mercer Island.”

“Okay, just let me grab some keys,” Christian says. He stands from the piano and I follow him out to the living room.

“Dad, can I borrow your keys. I’m going to drive Ana over to Katherine’s house so she can get some clothes for tomorrow,” He says.

“Yes, they’re on the hook in the pantry,” Mr. Grey says, without looking up from the paper that he’s reading. Christian disappears back into the kitchen while Elliot sits up, looking away from the UFC fight he’s watching.

“You’re going to Kate’s?” He asks.

“She isn’t there, Elliot. I’m just going to be in and out,” I tell him.

“I still want to go,” He says, jumping up. I shake my head at his excitement but wait for him to get his shoes on before we go to meet Christian in the garage. It’s only a twenty minute drive to Kate’s house from where Christian lives and when we pull into the driveway, I think to myself how strange the house looks with dark windows. Kate’s house was always a very warm place to me. When she moved here from Montesano when we were nine, we vowed to stay best friends forever and I’ve spent every moment here I could since then: long weekends, school holidays, even weeks at a time over summer break.

I get out of the car and punch the four digit code into the control next to the garage and the door rumbles to life as it raises slowly into the air. When I open the door from the garage to the house, we are met with a loud beeping noise.

“What is that?” Elliot asks, panicked.

“It’s the alarm,” I say. “Wait here, I’ll turn it off.”

I go to the alarm in the kitchen, plug Kate’s birthday into the number pad and the red light on the alarm turns blue and the beeping stops.

“Kate’s room is upstairs,” I call back to Elliot and Christian, and they follow wearily after me. I flip lights on as we go, trying desperately to avoid tripping over the eclectic mix of furniture Kate’s mom has strewn throughout the house.

When we get to Kate’s room at the top of the stairs, I flip on the light and stare nostalgically around the perfectly tidy room. The same lavender quilt lies over her bed and her walls are still painted the bright plum color as the last time I was here. If Mia’s room is pink, then Kate’s room is purple. I open the door to her closet and begin sorting through the dozens of outfits hanging neatly on hangers. Elliot begins snooping around the room, exploring this unknown territory that is filled with secrets about Kate.

“What is this?” Christian asks, and I look over to see him holding a picture of Kate and I at the fair when we were thirteen.

“Just embarrassing relics from my childhood,” I say, turning back to sorting through the closet. I pull out a black, high waisted pencil skirt and a flowy white chiffon blouse. Satisfied with my choice, I look down at Kate’s shoes for a pair of black pumps that aren’t on a sky high platform.

“What are you doing?” Christian asks as I pick up a pair of shoes. I turn to look at him but he isn’t speaking to me, he’s looking down at Elliot, who is sprawled across Kate’s bed hugging her pillow closely to him.

“It smells like her,” Elliot says dreamily.

“Creepy, Elliot,” I say with a laugh as I close the closet door behind me. He straightens out the wrinkles in Kate’s bed as we turn to leave and then follows after us sulking. I re-set the alarm in the kitchen and we all hurry through the garage door.

“I think I hate the Bahamas,” He says as we climb into Mr. Grey’s car. Christian rolls his eyes and pulls out on the street heading back to Bellevue.

The next morning, I set my alarm extra early so that I can be awake to put the turkey in the oven. I roll out of bed and walk out to the kitchen, still dressed in my pajamas. There is a dim light on in the living room and when I walk past I see Christian sitting on the couch reading through another book with the words World Economy written in bold face across the front. He looks up as I walk into the living room and creases his brow when he sees me.

“Anastasia, why are you up at this hour?” He asks.

“I need to get started on dinner if we’re going to eat by one,” I tell him. He slips a bookmark into his book and follows after me.

“Can I help you with anything?” He asks and I nod my head.

“The turkey is in the drink cooler in the garage, can you bring the cooler in here?” He nods and disappears to the garage while I pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees and search for a roasting pan. When I find it, I pull the butter we bought yesterday and celery, onions and carrots out of the fridge. When Christian returns with the cooler, I’m slicing the vegetables into uniform pieces. He watches me cut the vegetables patiently and when I’m finished we both wash our hands and he helps me pull the 20 lb turkey out of the brine and place it into the roasting pan. I cut thin slices into the turkey’s skin and stuff butter into the cut and then fill the turkey with more butter and the sliced vegetables. A quick dusting of salt, pepper, sage and garlic and I cover the turkey with aluminum foil and slide it into the pre-heated oven.

“Now what?” Christian asks.

“Now, I’m going to go take a shower,” I tell him.

“Do you need help with that too?” He asks suggestively. I roll my eyes and turn back towards my room.

When I’m clean, I take a little extra time to look presentable. There is a curling iron under the sink and I try my best to mimic the motions I’ve seen Kate do a million times to curl her hair. It doesn’t come out as perfect as Kate’s normally does but there is extra volume and shape to my hair when I’m finished and I’m satisfied by the result. Luckily the mascara and lip gloss Kate gave me at the beginning of the year is stuffed into the bottom of my toiletries bag so I carefully apply them before slipping into the outfit I took from Kate’s closet yesterday.

The Grey’s are all in the dining room, snacking on croissants, when I emerge into the kitchen after I’m finished getting ready. They’ve all dressed up and I’m glad I had the foresight to have Christian drive me over to Kate’s.

“You look lovely, dear!” Grace says kindly as I meet her in the kitchen. “What do we get started on?”

“We can prep the dressing and cook the cranberries.” I tell her. “I think this would be a good place for Elliot, Christian, and Mia to help if they wanted to.”

Grace nods her head and then pokes her head out to the living room.

“Boys!” She calls. “Get your sister and come in here to help for a minute.”

While I pull the cranberries, sugar, dried fruit and oranges out of the fridge, Elliot, Christian, and Mia appear behind me. I hand them two loaves of white bread and tell them to begin toasting it in the toaster. Christian and Elliot begin the task while Mia helps me zest the orange and Grace washes the cranberries in the sink. I stew together the ingredients for the Cranberry sauce and while Christian and Elliot tear the newly toasted bread into bite sized pieces.

Over the next few hours, we’ve made dressing, cranberry sauce, roasted green beans with onions and bacon, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, and a creamy corn casserole that I’m famous for in my family. Christian and Elliot set the table in the dining room while Grace, Mia, and I lay the food out over the pristine white tablecloth. Carrick pulls out a long fork and carving knife, and just as we’ve all sat down to enjoy the meal, the doorbell rings.

“Who could that be?” Grace asks, taking the napkin from her nap and setting it on the table. We watch after her in silence as she rushes to the door and, because it’s so quiet in the dining room, we can hear her the noise of her heels clacking against the stone in the entryway and the sound of the heavy front door being pulled open.

“Elena, darling!” Grace cries with delight. “I thought you’d be gone all week, what a wonderful surprise!”

“Oh Grace, you know we’d never miss a holiday with you and the kids,” A woman’s voice answers. I turn to look at Christian, who has gone completely white.

“Fuck,” He says under his breath and I feel a shiver of nervous dread course over me.

Next Chapter

 

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