I let out a hearty laugh as she popped straws in both of our shakes and handed one to me. “Okay, fine. I’ll find out.”
“Ahem,” she said dramatically. “I think you mean we’ll find out.”
Thanksgiving was just a few days away and Gam had insisted the kids and I come for dinner . . . about fifty times. As bad as my mouth watered every time she talked about turkey and stuffing and potatoes and cranberry sauce, I declined. Gam loved me and I loved her, but she was still Viper’s grandmother. The thought of a quiet little Thanksgiving with just the three of us didn’t sound all that bad anyway.
The night before Thanksgiving, my phone beeped and I frowned down at the strange number. I clicked on the little envelope.
Hey! I’m not sure if you kept my number, but it’s Joel. Quick question, and no pressure, but I was chatting with Jodi and Vince the other day and they told me what happened with you. She also mentioned that it was just you, Matthew, and Maura for Thanksgiving. I was thinking . . . it’s just me and Gavin for Thanksgiving, too. Do you guys want to maybe have dinner all together? If the answer is no, or this comes across as out of line, please forget I said anything.
I smiled down at my phone. Not only did I not think he was out of line, I thought he was really sweet. But . . . one big problem.
Hi! Dinner together sounds awesome, but there’s an issue. I can’t cook. Is it weird to have grilled cheese for Thanksgiving dinner?
I glanced over at Matthew who was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to build a pirate ship with Legos. “Hey, bud?”
“Yeah?” he answered without looking up at me.
“Would you like Gavin to come over for dinner tomorrow?”
He gasped and his head shot up. “Yes!”
His excitement for his new friend made me excited. The thought of having another adult around to chat with, especially on a holiday, wasn’t so bad either. My phone beeped again.
Joel: Grilled cheese is an acceptable meal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—holidays included. What time do you want us over?
Early Thanksgiving afternoon, I was rushing around like a madwoman, picking up last-minute things around the house.
“Matthew, why do I keep finding your underwear in the family room? You have a hamper!” I grumbled as I bent over and picked another pair up.
Matthew looked up at me and shrugged. “Sorry.”
I quickly picked up Maura’s toys and put them in her basket, stacked the books on the shelf, and took the bin of matchbox cars to the playroom.
“Okay,” I said with a sigh, looking around the family room. “I think I got most of it. I’m gonna run upstairs and change. You stay put, okay?”
Still staring down at his Kindle, he nodded.
I’d barely reached the bottom of the stairs when he called out, “Don’t forget to put your underwear in the hamper, Mom!” I let out a hard laugh that didn’t let up until I got to my room.
I stood in the center of my closet, studying each shelf and rack of clothes.
“That doesn’t fit. That doesn’t fit. That never fit,” I said out loud to myself with a sigh.
I had been so exhausted lately that going to the mall to buy new maternity clothes felt more like a chore than anything. Yoga pants and T-shirts were my main staple, and they would have to do for Thanksgiving, too. I pulled a clean pair of black pants from my drawer and barely squeezed my boobs into my too-small bra, praying to God it didn’t pop back open. As I was picking out a T-shirt, my favorite Wild hoodie caught my eye.
Joel said that Jodi had told him what happened, but I had no idea exactly how much she had told him and whether he knew I was pregnant or not. Nor did I know if I wanted to talk about something like that on Thanksgiving if he didn’t already know, so a big, baggy hoodie was just want I wanted. Not to mention it was worn-in and totally comfy.
I quickly threw some powder on my face and dabbed my eyes with mascara, trying to think back to the last time I’d actually put any makeup on at all. It had been . . . awhile.
Then why today?
I didn’t have time to think about the answer to my own question. The doorbell rang and I sprinted from my room and down the steps as fast as I could, hoping to get there before it rang a second time.
“Hi!” I said breathlessly as I opened the door.
He pulled his brows in tight. “Hi. Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” I puffed my cheeks out. “I was upstairs and Maura’s napping. I didn’t want the bell to wake her, so I ran. She’ll be a monster if she doesn’t get a good nap. What’s that?” I pointed to the huge box in his arms.
“Oh! This . . . is a lot better than grilled cheese,” he said with a wink as he walked past me into the kitchen. Gavin ran to find Matthew, and I followed Joel and his mystery box to the island.
“So I really wasn’t kidding when I said I love grilled cheese. I do. But . . . I figured why not see if I could find something a little more special, so I made some calls and voila! Thanksgiving in a box.”
“Thanksgiving in a box?” I lifted to my tippytoes to try and see over the edge.
Joel started pulling containers out and setting them on the island. My eyes grew wider, and my mouth salivated more as each amazing smelling box passed under my nose. Turkey and potatoes and corn and stuffing and cranberries and green bean casserole and gravy . . . it was never ending.
When he’d pulled the last box out, he looked back and forth from me to the food proudly. “What do ya think? Beats the hell outta grilled cheese, huh?”
I stared in awe at all of the food on the island and shook my head slowly. “Thanksgiving in a box. I had no idea that was even a thing.”
“I’ve done it before, but back in Iowa. I wasn’t sure anywhere around here did it, but we lucked out.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “So when do you want to eat? Couple hours?”
“Ooooor a couple minutes?” I said with a laugh. “I’m gonna set the dining room table, and the minute Maura wakes up, let’s dig in.”
“Sounds good to me,” he agreed. “What can I help with?”
An hour and a half later, I was elated that I’d decided to wear yoga pants and a hoodie for the day. If my bump wasn’t sticking out before, it sure was after dinner. I think I scared Joel when I went back for my third plateful of food.