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‘Okay, my lady?’ Bette asked, her eyes brimming with happiness.
‘Yes, fine,’ Tina replied politely. Around the table, unbeknownst to them, their children watched them with keen eyes. The happy marriage that was at the heart of everything.
Bette lifted Tina’s hand and kissed it. Then she took Kit’s hand and everyone else took each other’s. When they were all joined, Bette opened her mouth to officially begin the Thanksgiving meal – and then they all heard it. Outside, the sound of a car pulling up.
Everyone glanced at each other.
‘What the . . .’
The f-bomb died on Bette’s lips. But there was no mistaking it. A car engine growled and then was cut off. The silence was deafening. Tina, marginally closer to the door, got up. Everyone watched her as she peeked out the window, but the car was too far the other way, so she shrugged and was just about to go to the door when there was the sound of knock.
It was only a knock on the door, but the tension – the mystery, the timing, the fact that everyone was so hungry and eager to begin – had all seven of them bug-eyed.
Tina moved in slow motion, as if walking underwater, towards the door. She reached for the handle, turned it, and pulled it open.
At the table, everyone except Sasha drew in soft gasps. At the door, Tina’s hands flew to her mouth in shock.
On the doorstep, all in black and carrying nothing but a small can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, stood Shane McCutcheon. She smiled that trademark diffident smile, looked up at Tina – still wearing the turkey hat – and said, ‘D’you guys still eat at three?’
The meal was a triumph. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it wasn’t. The arrival of their dear friend was a Thanksgiving gift the likes of which Bette and Tina could hardly believe. Shane was back, and she was whole, and she was there.
The hugs and smiles, the rushed creation of an extra place at the table . . . It was what this holiday was all about. If Bette and Tina had a secular Christmas, the same could also be said of their Thanksgiving. They were not people who practised a faith, and with Sasha being of Native American lineage, they took care to work with school in teaching a balanced, truthful narrative about this holiday. None of which meant it couldn’t be celebrated. Food, love, family – this could be and was celebrated.
When it came time to break the wishbone, Tina got out the Thanksgiving memory book and decreed that it was Ben’s turn to challenge someone. He chose Uncle Shane, and insisted on doing it with his left hand. Of course he lost.
‘Sorry, dude,’ Shane said, smiling. ‘And the worst part is I don’t need any wishes. I got everything I want right here.’
Much later, when the football had been watched and the punch was gone and the dishes had been washed and Solly had been walked, Bette and Tina made a bed up for Shane on the couch.
‘Thank you,’ Shane said. Then she indicated the door. ‘Mind if I have a vape?’
‘Sure,’ Bette smiled. Kit and Sunny were upstairs, so it was just the three of them, and maybe they’d stay up a little, get the skinny on their skinny friend.
Alone, though, Tina put her arms around Bette’s neck and kissed her.
‘Phew,’ she said, ‘what a day.’
Bette laughed. ‘Roller coaster.’
They gazed at each other, little wondering smiles playing on their lips.
‘I love you so much,’ Tina said. ‘And we’re so, so lucky.’
Bette just smiled and kissed her wife again, a little deeper, her hands slipping down to Tina’s ass, squeezing her playfully, a promise of what awaited when they finally went upstairs. When they broke, Tina played with Bette’s curls and Bette ran her gaze over the turkey hat.
‘You gonna keep this on for . . . y’know?’
She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
‘Maybe,’ Tina giggled.
Then she looked down and her eyes fell on the pile of leaves that had decorated the table. They’d all been scooped up and put in a heap on the counter, and there, near the top, was one that said ‘Shane’, with a little loveheart underneath.
‘We didn’t need this after all,’ she said, picking it up.
Bette touched the leaf. A beautiful red maple.
‘No,’ she said softly. ‘And for that I’m truly thankful.’