A few months into their relationship, Taylor and Gail spend Thanksgiving together – with Gail’s sister.
“Okay, Allison, I’ll let you know. Thanks for asking us.”
My ears prick up at that last word.
Gail is frowning slightly as she looks at me.
“What’s up, baby?”
“I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not, Jason, but Allison has invited us to spend Thanksgiving with her and Bill.”
Now it’s my turn to frown. “‘Us’ as in you and me?”
Gail smiles. “Well, yes. That’s what it usually means. What do you think? Would you like to?”
I realize this is one of those ‘next step’ moments you come across in relationships; that moment when it’s a case of move things forward… or not. I can’t say the idea of spending time with Gail’s sister thrills me; in fact since I got divorced from the Bitch, I’d rather chew off my fingers up to my shoulder than spend ‘family’ time where there’s no chance of a quick escape.
Gail hasn’t said anything but I get the distinct impression that Allison doesn’t approve of me. Normally I wouldn’t give a shit but Gail is special, really special, and I don’t want to risk losing her.
I admit defeat: whatever happens it’s a lose-lose situation.
“Sure, baby, why wouldn’t I?”
She raises her eyebrows in a way that tells me she’s not buying my bullshit. That woman can read me like a fucking book: either that or she saw me shudder with horror at the whole Thanksgiving-ritual-slaughter-holiday – and I’m not just talking turkey.
“Well, I thought you might want to see Sophie.”
Yeah, I really would, but the Bitch is taking the Princess away to see the coven leader, a.k.a. my ex-mother-in-law.
“She’ll be with her mother in Santa Barbara.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Jason. I know you miss her.”
I don’t like talking about that – it makes me want to break something: preferably the Bitch’s neck. Only kidding. But I wouldn’t mind smashing the shit out of that ugly wedding china her family gave us.
I realize Gail is still looking at me.
“It’s cool. I’ll see her next weekend.” Unless the Bitch changes her mind, which is pretty damn likely since the brain implant didn’t work.
“What about Mr Grey? Will he give you the time off?”
“Yeah. He’s planning to go see his parents at Bellevue.”
“Really? For the whole of the holidays?”
I seriously doubt that. The guy is umbilically attached to his laptop; and I strongly suspect he won’t want to spend more than one night at his folks’ place.
“Shouldn’t think so, but he said he didn’t need me. I think he’s just planning on working…”
Neither of us mentions his new sub – the Williams woman. But I’d bet my bottom dollar we’re both thinking of her.
Gail shakes her head and sighs.
“It’s such a shame: he’s such a nice, young man.”
I know what she’s referring to but even though he’s a fucked up bastard, he’s got more than most 24 year olds could ever dream of. Yeah, I know, and a lot less, too.
“So, you feel ready to meet my family?” She pauses and looks away. “You don’t have to, Jason. I’d understand.”
“Of course I want to, Gail. It’ll be cool. Don’t worry.”
Famous last fucking words.
Which is why, on the day before Thanksgiving, we’re heading down the I-5 towards Portland and the town of Beaverton.
“Who’s going to be at this shindig, baby?”
“Well, Allison, of course. Her husband, Bill; their two girls Rachel, who’s 14, and Kimmi, who’s 11. I expect they’ll invite the neighbors, Vince and Claudia; oh, and Bill’s mom, Celia.”
No Uncle Fester?
The house is one of those suburban ranch houses that you see everywhere in small towns: a patch of grass in front and a larger yard at the back.
I pull up in the road and Gail reaches over and squeezes my thigh.
“Sure, baby. Follow you anywhere.”
She smiles and gives me a reassuring kiss on the cheek.
Gail’s just about to knock on the door when it flies open and a girl comes running out.
I guess this must be Kimmi. She’s got light brown hair and braces and a cute little round face.
“Mom says you’ve got a boyfriend, Aunty Gail! She said you’d never get a boyfriend, but you did, didn’t you? Maybe I’ll get a boyfriend next.”
Gail laughs, but I can tell that it’s slightly strained.
“Kimmi, this is my friend Jason. Jason, this is Kimmi.”
“Hi Jason,” she says, shyly.
“Hi Kimmi. Good to meet you.”
I hold out my hand and we shake formally, then she blushes and giggles. It kinda reminds me of Princess Sophie and I can’t help smiling back.
I look up and see a woman who must be Gail’s sister. I catch her as she’s running her eyes up and down me. She’s fucking checking me out! That is so fucking uncool!
I stand impassively while Gail and Allison hug. Then I’m introduced and she shakes my hand, a chilly expression at odds with the way she was checking out my package. Fucking hypocrite.
It’s weird seeing some of Gail’s lovely features on this stranger’s face; but she’s got none of Gail’s appealing softness, even though she’s younger than Gail – although still older than me.
I just know we’re not going to get on. I feel like I should have a fucking map that says Here be dragons.
Gail leads me inside and Kimmi shows us to our room.
“Mom wanted to give you separate rooms, but Grandma Greene is staying so there’s no room. Mom said she didn’t want you guys doing it in here. What did she think you were going to be doing?”
“The crossword,” says Gail, quickly. “She doesn’t want us getting newsprint on the sheets.”
“Oh, okay,” says Kimmi, wandering off. “I thought she was talking about sex.”
Gail’s mouth drops open and she turns to stare at me, blushing in a really cute way.
“Your sister got a problem with you doing it, baby?” I say, raising my eyebrows.
“I… I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry, Jason.”
“S’okay, baby. I like breaking the rules.”
“Hmm, I’ve noticed that. I don’t know how you managed that in the Marines.”
“Didn’t get caught, mostly.” I pull her into my arms and kiss her softly. “Wanna break some rules now?”
She kisses me back passionately, showing me that wild side that I really fucking like. She’s got one hand on my ass and the other up the inside of my T-shirt and things are getting really interesting when there’s a polite cough.
I pull back and see a paunchy guy in his late 40s smiling at us.
“Uh, hi! I’m Bill. Good to meet you, Jason. Hey, Gail. How you doin’, honey?”
We shake hands and he gives Gail a hug.
I know from what Gail has told me that Bill has some sort of job in computers. I could have done a personnel check from Welch’s database, but that felt like spying on Gail’s family.
“Welcome to the mad house, Jason. I hope you’ve got a strong stomach.”
Yep, gotta lot of practice working for Christian-king of mad-Grey.
“Thanks, Bill. Appreciate you inviting us. Oh, hey, brought you this.”
I hand him a bottle of Tequila Gold and his face lights up like a freakin’ Christmas tree.
“Oh, man! Thanks!”
“And I’ve brought some pies and cakes, too, Bill,” adds Gail.
“Gail, you are a saint… and some of your special stuffing?”
“Of course, Bill. I couldn’t let you down, could I?”
“Jason – this woman is a saint.” He gives Gail another hug.
“Kinda noticed that, Bill.”
He winks at me.
“So, did you meet Rachel yet? I think she’s in the backyard. Either that or sulking in her room,” he mutters under his breath.
Yeah, this is going to a fucking fun family get together.
“I’ll go get the luggage from the car, baby.”
While I’m out at the car, Bill comes to help me. Gail has packed enough food for several platoons of hungry grunts.
“Um, Jason, don’t take this the wrong way…”
Oh, fucking what?
“But would you mind not mentioning the tequila to Allison? Just between you and me, buddy?”
“Sure, no problem, Bill.”
“I keep it my playroom.”
I nearly choke.
“I make model airplanes and submarines; I keep them in the garage. Allison calls it my ‘playroom’ – her little joke.”
Thank fuck for that! I don’t think I could take seeing anymore playrooms – especially not in suburban Oregon – they might have antlers on the walls. I’m already scarred for life. And I really don’t want to imagine Allison in bondage gear. Aw hell! Too late. My stomach heaves and I nearly lose my lunch.
Bill helps me carry Gail’s boxes of food into the kitchen. When I see what Allison is making for our dinner, I regret not bringing any MREs with me. Yeah, they’re vacuum-packed military rations that are about five years old, but they look a helluva lot better than the brain-colored sludge that Allison’s cooking. She calls it ‘risotto’; I call it risky on my stomach lining.
It’s not till we’re all sitting around the dining table that I finally meet Bill’s mom, Celia, who’s been taking a nap, and the oldest daughter, Rachel.
Celia: It’s not easy for a widow, you know. If I had to rely on my kids to look after me, I’d be on the streets.
Bill: Now, mother…
Allison: [snarling]You’re not on the streets, Celia, you’re in our very comfortable guest room.
Rachel: So, you’re, like, a driver?
Celia: I know I’m just a burden to you. I can eat my dinner in my room.
Bill: Aw, mom…
Rachel: And you’re, like, a bodyguard?
Allison: If you’d prefer to eat in your room, Celia…
Celia: Well, I…
Kimmi: Aunty Gail, if Jason’s your boyfriend, are you going to, like, sleep with him?
[Cue: echoing silence as all eyes turn to Gail.]
Kimmi: Mom, you said that Aunty Gail ought to know better at her age than having a toy-boy, so I was just wondering if…
Rachel: Oh wow! You totally said it! You are in so much trouble!
Allison: Kimmi! I didn’t…
Gail is staring at her plate, mortified. And I am so fucking angry at that bitch of a sister of hers. I reach over and take Gail’s hand.
“If anyone’s got a problem with me seeing Gail, I’d rather they said it to my face,” and I turn and stare at Allison. “Not that it will make any damn difference whatsoever.”
You sour-faced, lemon-sucking, prick-blocking, poodle-breathed bitch.
“That told her,” mutters Celia in a stage-whisper.
The rest of the meal passes with tense indigestion, although whether that’s from the fucking awful food or the arctic atmosphere, I couldn’t say. Gail is quiet and I know she’s still upset. Bill tries hard to keep the conversation going, and I really appreciate that, being a chatty guy myself.
“It must be interesting working for Christian Grey: he’s making quite a name for himself. What’s he like?”
“Interesting,” I offer.
“Mr Grey is really very sweet,” says Gail.
“I believe his company is developing a new operating system, is that right?”
“We don’t get involved in the business side of things,” replies Gail.
Smooth, Gail. Very smooth.
See why I love that woman? She’s smart, she’s loyal, she’s kind and so fucking sexy. Did I mention sexy?
When we finally get to be alone, I pull Gail into a hug.
“You okay, baby?”
“I’m fine. Allison didn’t mean it like that – she just worries about me. Are you, okay? My family can be rather full-on.”
“Like water off a duck’s ass, Gail. I’m good. Marines are trained to survive in hostile environments.”
She laughs softly. “What other training did they give you?”
“Stealth, concealment… in fact, I’d really like to be concealed in you, baby.”
“Oh, really? Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that, although the stealth will come in handy, too: these walls are very thin.”
I fucking love a challenge.
Shortly after dawn, I’m woken by a loud scream and I automatically reach for my gun – which isn’t there. It’s locked in a steel box in the trunk of my car.
“What the fuck?”
Gail lays a hand on my chest, looking scared.
“I’ll go see what it is.”
I pull on my jeans and move quietly towards the kitchen, keeping an eye open for anything I can use as a weapon. But by the time I get there, I realize that Bill is the one who needs a weapon – and it’s Allison who’s doing the screaming.
“I can’t believe you, Bill! I ask you to do one thing! One solitary, single thing – and you even manage to screw that up! All you had to do was take the turkey out of the freezer. But, no! That was too difficult for you!”
“I’m sorry, honey, I just…”
“Oh, shut up, Bill! If only you were half the man your mother is!”
Ouch. That gotta hurt.
I’m just about to go back to Gail when Allison turns and sees me. She can’t help herself from staring. Okay, so I’m not so sartorially elegant as usual, but come on! Have some fucking class, lady!
“Heard screaming. But I guess you’re okay in here.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” mutters Bill.
The guy really looks like he wants back-up but I’ve had enough domestic ear-batterings from the Bitch to last me a life time. I give Bill a look that tells him he’s on his own.
“Okay?!” shrieks Allison. “Okay?! No we are not ‘okay’; we are so far from being okay that we’re living in a world where Donald Trump has won the hair-care of the year award!”
“I forgot to defrost the turkey,” says Bill, glumly.
“How can we have a Thanksgiving meal without the turkey?” yells Allison.
By this time Gail is padding into the kitchen wearing just her robe. Knowing that she’s naked under the soft material distracts me from the matters arising.
“Allison, there’s lots of food: I’m sure we’ll manage.”
“But the turkey,” moans Allison. “It’s a 22-pounder. We’ll never get around to eating all of that if we don’t have it today!”
“Well, look, it’s early. If we put it in the oven now…”
“What about the giblets?”
Bill is looking pretty fucking nervous – guess he’s worried his giblets will be on the menu if this doesn’t work out.
“When the turkey is cooked enough, we’ll use tongs to get them out.”
I back out of the kitchen and Bill follows me. When talk turns to giblets, it’s time for a guy to be invisible.
I take a quick shower and, for a second, I think about not shaving. But Gail isn’t into stubble. Ah, what the hell: I’ll shave tonight.
I pull my jeans back on and a long-sleeved T-shirt. Gail hasn’t returned so I assume Camp David is still going on in the kitchen.
Allison’s discordant tones echo through the house. As I pass Celia’s room, she sticks her head out of the door and I nearly have a heart attack. She’s not wearing her wig and she hasn’t got her teeth in. And the appalling thought crosses my mind, Bet she gives one helluva blow job.
Fuck! I’ve been working for Grey too long: my mind has been twisted. I’ve got to get another freakin’ job.
With the image replaying like a horror-film in my mind, I practically run into the kitchen.
Gail gives me a strange look: I must look pretty fucking freaked.
“Jason, we have a problem – with the turkey.”
“Yeah, heard the war-cry, baby.”
Gail hides a smile as Allison throws me a look that would freeze underwear.
“Another problem, Jason. The turkey is too big for the oven.”
Bill looks like he wishes he could be beamed aboard an alien spaceship where anal probes are used randomly.
“You could chop its legs off, baby.”
I turn to Bill. “You got an axe? Good for chopping wood?”
“Why, yes, I do, Jason. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to chop its legs off, Bill. Wanna help?”
“Don’t make me laugh!” snarls Allison. “Bill with an axe? He needs both his left feet!”
Jeez, with a wife like that, I’m surprised Bill hasn’t drunk poison – or administered it. I noticed a laburnum tree in the garden – maybe he wants to do it slowly. Personally, I’d want more instant results. What can I say – I’m an in-the-moment kind of guy.
I throw a look at Gail who shrugs and looks sympathetically at Bill.
I pick up the turkey, which is looking fifty shades of sorry for itself, and carry it into the garden. Bill follows, twittering softly.
He shows me the axe next to a pile of logs by the porch and I pick it up. The blade is a little blunt but it should do the job. I look at the turkey – I could have sworn it just trembled.
I swing the axe at one of the logs and it makes a satisfying thud as the blade bites into the wood. The sound makes Bill jump.
“Thought it might be an idea to get some of the rust off it first, Bill.”
“Oh, right. Yes. Whatever you say, Jason.”
After a few blows, I decide to take on the turkey.
I look at the turkey: the turkey looks at me.
You lookin’ at me? Hey, turkey! You lookin’ at me? Then who the hell else are you lookin’ at? You lookin’ at me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re lookin’ at? Oh yeah? Eat this, turkey-head!
And I aim the axe at its right leg. The axe catches at an angle, and slides off.
“Still got all your toes, Jason?” asks Bill, quietly.
I wrestle the turkey back into position and show it who’s boss. This time the axe lands in the middle of its chest and there’s an odd splintering sound. I start to feel a bit sick.
I hit it again, and its left leg is partially severed. I nearly spew my guts. I hit it again and again and again.
THWACK! BIFF! KER-CHANG! BOING! PING! KER-POW! THUD!
That fucking turkey is fucking laughing at me! You’ll be laughing on the other side of your giblets, mother-fucker!
I can feel the sweat starting to run down my back as I axe that fucking bird into the next life. It’s one helluva Thanksgiving turkey massacre.
Finally, I get the legs off the poor beast and Bill carries them into the kitchen like trophies from a war.
There are chunks of frozen turkey spread across the garden like some macabre splatter gun.
I drag the battered carcass inside, feeling a sense of achievement as well as benign pity for a vanquished foe.
The turkey fought well, but I am The Victor. Eat that, turkey-brains.
Gail looks appalled at the mangled meat and Allison looks like she’s about to vomit. Or cry. Or both.
“Got the legs off, baby.”
“So I see, Jason.”
I shrug and wander off to the living room. Kimmi’s watching ‘Chicken Run’:
“So laying eggs all your life and then getting plucked, stuffed and roasted is good enough for you, is it?”
“It’s a livin’.”
I can relate to that. Kinda reminds me of working for Grey.
“Hey, Kimmi. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Thanks.” She pauses. “Eveyone’s shouting.”
“Is the turkey dead?”
“It was frozen, Kimmi.”
“So it’s dead?”
“Yeah, very dead.”
“Did you shoot it?”
“Mom says you carry a gun. That’s pretty cool.”
“No, I didn’t shoot the turkey.”
“So, how did you kill it?”
“Well, it was already pretty dead, but I hit it with an axe.”
Celia shuffles into the room.
“Happy Thanksgiving, granny!”
“You, too, Kimmi-kins!”
“Jason killed the turkey with an axe.”
She turns to stare at me.
Shoulda seen it, lady: poultry in motion.
“Yeah, must have lost my head.” And then kissed my ass goodbye.
Bill comes in to rescue me.
“So, Jason, how about seeing my playroom?”
I can’t help wincing: must be Freudian.
I spend the rest of Thanksgiving morning sitting in Bill’s ass-freezing garage, drinking Tequila Gold and inspecting his models. I just wish the submarines didn’t remind me of Grey’s set of anal plugs. There are some images a man can live without.
The doorbell rings and Bill wanders off to answer it. I take another quick hit of tequila and head to the Russian front where Gail is doing her best to bully Allison’s cooking into something edible. But nobody ever won on the Russian front. They say Napoleon’s army ate their own officers on the retreat. Probably weren’t as chewy as Allison’s turkey-giblet stuffing.
Gail uses a long roasting fork to poke the turkey in the oven, and I feel a certain sympathy for the poor, tortured beast. Hasn’t it suffered enough already?
“Hey, baby. Need a hand?”
“You’ve been drinking!” she scolds.
Fuck, I love it when she tells me off. Makes me horny.
“Seemed like a good idea at the time, baby. I was in Bill’s playroom.”
“I’m so sorry, Jason,” she whispers. “This isn’t how I imagined spending Thanksgiving.”
“I’ve known worse, baby. And I got to wake up with you.”
She runs her hand down my cheek and kisses me gently.
I start to give her kiss the attention it deserves, when the Queen Cock-blocker sails into the kitchen.
“For goodness sake, you two! There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing!”
“An empty kitchen seemed like the perfect place to me, Allison,” replies Gail, coolly.
I shove my hands in my pockets and leave the room whistling the chorus for ‘Me and Mrs Jones’:
“Me and Mrs. Jones
We got a thing goin’ on
We both know that it’s wrong
But it’s much too strong
To let it go now…”
Bill introduces me to the neighbors Vince and Claudia as, “Gail’s partner”.
And it makes me think. ‘Partner’? Is that what I want from Gail? No, she’s much more than that to me. But I promised myself I’d never marry again; not after the Bitch ripped my guts out and wore them for garter straps. But Gail’s not like that; and she’s sure not like her sister. So, ‘partner’? No. I want more. Much more. Me and Mrs. Jones are going to have to have a conversation about that. But not today.
We all take our places at the dining table and the sacrificial beast is wheeled in. Jeez, it looks so… flat. Kinda deflated and humiliated.
And the image of hacking its legs off, chunk by icy chunk, surges to my mind. My stomach lurches in sympathy.
“Turkey, Jason?” says Allison, looking for all the world as if she’d like to do something violently unpleasant with my giblets. Maybe I should introduce her to Grey.
“No, thanks, Allison. I’m vegetarian.”
Gail looks at me, and I shrug.
And a big thanks to everyone who’s bought ‘The Education of Sebastian’. Hope you’re enjoying it.