The Comforts of Home
November 5-6, 605
Elise closed her cookbook as she heard Harrison come up the steps to the porch, home from school. She had been reviewing old family recipes and making her grocery list for Thanksgiving.
Harrison was not his usual, happy-go-lucky self. He looked really perturbed. Not only had he had a bad day at school, when Elise checked his forehead, he had a fever. She got him a snack, washed him up, and tucked him in to bed to get some rest.
Thanksgiving morning, James offered to make the kids pancakes, while Elise started in on the food prep for the feast.
Helen was chanting, “Cake, ‘Cake,” in a sing-song voice.
“We’re having special guests this evening for Thanksgiving,” James told Harrison and Helen.
“Who is it, daddy?” Harrison asked.
Helen just laughed and kept chanting, “”cake, ‘cake.”
Elise was somewhat somber as she prepared the butternut squash soup. She and James wanted to invite the Smith family for Thanksgiving, but now that the day was here, she was worried they wouldn’t feel comfortable. She really hoped the visit would go well, because she hoped eventually, the Smiths would consider moving in. Elise couldn’t imagine how they were going to manage through the winter, camping out.
Harrison was watching the kids outside when Kylie, Michael, and Elle arrived. Kylie poked her head around the corner of the house.
“Mr. P,” she said tentatively, “We’re here.”
“Happy Thanksgiving,” James said.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
“Fine,” Kylie said. “Wow, I didn’t realize you could see the town hall from here.”
Michael had seen the kids playing and sat on the stairs to watch them. Harrison came over and started telling him about the perch that he’d caught in the pond.
Kylie found her way into the kitchen and asked if she could help. Elise was just basting the turkey with the secret family coating.
Once the bird was in the oven, Elise turned to Kylie.
‘Thanks for inviting us over,” Kylie said.
“This is really nice,” Kylie added.
Elle said, “We haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving since…” but cut herself off abruptly.
Kylie cut in. “How long did it take to cook all this?!” Looks like you’ve been cooking for days.”
After a while, Elise checked the turkey again, and gave it some more seasoning. She checked the thermometer, and called it done.
Kylie’s mouth watered. She felt a little dazed, taking in the smells of the meal, the pretty house, a faint, fresh, clean smell of bleach.
Everyone sat down. James had pulled in an extra table to make room for everyone. Michael smiled at Helen as she grinned at the sight of the food.
“What’s in that coating?” Kylie asked. “It smells so good.”
“It’s really just glorified ranch dressing mix,” Elise said. “It’s the butter that really makes the turkey nice.”
“Yeah, but it beats hamburgers, especially day-old ones,” Micheal chided.
Kylie gave him a warning look.
But he went on.
“And lately, we’ve been having to eat cold food in the tent, because of the sweeps, they’re looking for campfires,” he told James.
“You could stay here,” Elise said.
Kylie looked like she was going to choke.
“Why not?” Elise asked. “We’ve got space, and…”
Kylie looked at Michael. “I told you we shouldn’t have come here,” she said, throwing her hands up. Elise looked embarrassed.
Elle and Michael hung their heads. Why did their sister have to push everyone away like that?
“Mr. P,” Kylie said, “I trusted you.”
Just like that, the Smiths got up, and left. Elise cleaned up while James put the children to bed.
Helen was sick now, too. James gave her a big hug, some Children’s Tylenol, and tucked her in.
In the middle of the night, Harrison woke up scared. He had a bad dream.
He went to get his dad.
“There’s a monster, daddy,” he said.
James looked around the bed and underneath.
Then he declared Harrison’s room to be a monster-free zone, and tucked him in.
When James came back to bed, Elise rolled over. “Is he ok?” she asked.
“He’s ok,” James said.
Elise wanted to see for herself, and give Harrison a hug. But by the time she got to his room, he was already fast asleep, safe in his bed.