Chapters One & Two

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“Drake, honey, is that you?”

With a sinking heart, he adjusted the receiver to his ear, spiritually bracing himself for the onslaught to come. “Yes, Mom, it’s me.”

“Oh, honey, how are you? I wanted to be the first to wish you happy birthday.”

“Thanks, it was really nice of you to—“

“Oh, I know I could’ve waited until tomorrow, like your father said, but hey, you turn thirty-six today, not tomorrow. Besides, it’s a wonderful age, worth celebrating because it won’t ever come again.”

Just like all the others. Rapidly calculating the wasted time of his life, he suppressed an ironic smile. “That was really nice—“

“So what time are you coming over tomorrow?”

“Well…I suppose—“

“You know, everything’s almost ready for the Thanksgiving dinner. I have the turkey and the cranberries, and the potatoes. I’ll even try to make a pumpkin pie, though your father insists we buy one. Well, I told him that for my kids, I’d rather do it myself than buy one ready-made. But he’s got a thick head, so I had to agree I’d do as he says if I get really tired.”

“I see.” Drake tried to break the rushing flow, already knowing it was useless. And how can she breathe through all those words? He wondered, not for the first time in his life.

“Anyway, I’m sure Jenny will help a little and I’ve asked her to invite also Aline—“

“Aline?” He managed to cut in.

“Yeah, remember her?”

How could I forget? Anguished at the idea of seeing her again, he sighed.

His mother had continued as if completely unaware of his tightening stomach. “Your sister’s best friend and our next door neighbor.”

“I know who she is, Mom.” Slightly annoyed with her need to state well known facts, he shook his head. “But why is she coming over? It’s been years since we last saw her.”

“Not for your sister, honey. She’s kept up the friendship and helped her through a very bad year for the poor thing’s lost her mom to cancer just a month ago. Now she’s all alone and I didn’t think it fair she should spend the holidays by herself. She was part of the family anyway, don’t you remember?”

All too well. He sighed, wishing he could forget.

“And Jenny insisted, too, so I asked her over.” A deep breath told Drake that Rose Seymour had finally taken the much-needed pause. “Why, is it a problem?”

“No, of course not. I’m just surprised. That’s all.”

“Not as much as I, honey, especially when I learned Aline wouldn’t be the only unexpected guest. Jenny said she’ll probably convince her fiancé to spend Thanksgiving with us.”

“Jenny’s engaged?” Apparently, there was no end to surprises.

“So your sister tells me, with Dale…something.”

He liked to imagine her beloved features creasing in the effort to bring forth what she probably had no interest in recalling.

“I don’t remember his last name,” she admitted at last. “Whatever he’s called, it’s a nice change for your sister, don’t you agree? She hasn’t dated anyone particularly interesting since Mike left her.”

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