There was a nagging feeling that Frankie needed to be doing something, but what? His reading homework was done. He'd written an essay. Actually, e-mailed it to his professor.
Oh, it was about his trip to Alliance with Lottie.
It was true, Vada didn't like his girlfriend. But he kept telling himself he was only imagining it.
Of course, Vada would bring up the worst scenarios. What if they got caught in a snow storm on the road to Lottie's house for Thanksgiving. No telling, how bad a snow storm might be in a rural area. There were Lottie's parents to face. Was he really up for something like that? After all, this was Frankie and Vada's first Thanksgiving together, ever.
But he knew how it would go down. He'd be the odd man out. Henry would be with Josie and Vada had Alo. Just another boring day, watching football games and a cold turkey.
It sounded so festive at Lottie May's house. There would be a singing down at the church. Her brothers were sure to take him hunting. Granted, he didn't really want to shoot anything. But still, it would be great meeting her family. And it felt so right.
His phone dinged from Facebook messenger. Frankie drew a blank. It was a message from work. They were sending him his Black Friday schedule. He'd forgotten all about working the Christmas Rush sale.
"Well, that's not suppose to happen." Lottie looked at him with her dark and alarming eyes.
"I didn't know." Frankie felt he'd let her down. "I..I ..really..didn't...I'm sorry.." He found himself stuttering.
"Who would go shopping at a University Bookstore, after Thanksgiving!" Her voice almost bellowed across the commons.
"I guess, they think people need all that..Husker gear." Frankie sighed as if he didn't really want to upset her.
She started punching numbers into her phone. He could see it now. Her complaining to the Board of someone and having the Book Store shut down. But then he heard her talking to her Mom about how she wouldn't be able to come home for Thanksgiving. She was spending it with Frankie and his family.
How many times could Xander Sanchez's step-mother call in a day? She wanted to check to see if the car, a neon green Nissan Cube, was sufficient.
“Its really nice.” Xander felt himself smile, “I dunno, if..If I deserve it.”
“You, have a job.” She started.
About that, Xander thought. He hated to hear Gun putting him down about his job at the nail salon. He could hear him now. “You’re such a sissy boy.”
“Winter is coming.” His step-mother said ever so haunting. “You, needed something decent to drive.”
It was far from just decent. It was a new car.
“I know.” He reminded her that it snowed in Korea too. “I’m used to the cold.” Even if she kept telling him he was too thin and needed to eat. “Really, I’m OK. Everything is OK.” Still he had butterflies about meeting Gun’s family.
“Um, I’m getting a roommate.” He decided to tell Nessa, hoping she didn’t decide to redecorate anytime soon. As it was, he hadn’t even asked her over. He wasn’t sure he wanted too.
“Where will he sleep?” She questioned.
“Oh. well..we’ll figure it out.” He guessed he couldn’t tell her they were sleeping together. He cringed at the thought of her making a big deal out of it.
“How about bunk beds!” She said with such enthusiasm. He was afraid she was already ordering them off Amazon.
“No.” He didn’t mean to sound so harsh. “I mean, its not camp. OK?”
“Oh, right.” There was laughter in her voice. “You, two are grown men.”
Xander blew a breath. He must have looked like a crazy guy in the woods. He took a step off the patio and then a few more steps of pacing. All the while, wishing he could get off the phone with her. He looked at the balcony and saw Josie.
He listened to Nessa a little while longer, rambling about curtains and bedding. He really didn’t even care what she wanted to do, but Josie was waving for him to come over.
“Uh, I gotta go.”
He raced in and locked the patio door. Then the front door and stepped to Josie’s side to knock on the door. She opened it on the first tap.
It was then he knew, this wasn’t exactly a social call. That perturbed look of hers was so consuming.
Xander looked at her straight lipped. Something serious was going on.
“So you know.” She glared at him.
She gave him the eye.
“Oh, that.” Xander hugged himself in his loose cardigan and followed her to the kitchen. There place was quite cozy. There were so many pictures of Josie and Henry together. He studied them along the wall, along the shelves. Even on the fridge.
She put on the kettle.
“Why don’t you want him to know about the baby?” Xander didn’t get it. “I mean, you two .. are extremely, happy? Right?” He looked back at her while she was getting the tea cups ready.
“Yeah, we’re happy.” She didn’t make it sound so.
“Well, it is his? Isn’t it?” Xander didn’t think he was blacking out that much. For a moment, he wondered just what sort of lousy neighbor he was.
“Thank God.” He found himself being silly about it now. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat, and finally took a seat at the kitchen table while she filled the cups with boiling watcher. She found a sleeve of shortbread to bring to the table.
“Well, thank you..for..the little tea-party." It was a pleasant surprise for a late afternoon
“I had a miscarriage over the summer.” She said ever so matter of fact. “I was in England, at the time. Really, I thought I was late. He flew all the way there, all excited. Me being pregnant. And then I wasn’t. Which, you know..hey..that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
Xander watched her all animated about her trip after graduating high school.
“And we did have a great time. We went to Paris. You know, kind of like this honeymoon about nowhere. We’re not even engaged.” She laughed, but he knew it was fake. Josie watched her teabag dangle in the cup. “Anyway, before I started college, I went in, had a check up. I was going back on birth control, but then when I found out, what really happened. I just couldn’t. I was really sick of myself. How could I’ve... not have known.”
She did look quite sad.
“But, you’re having a baby.” Xander was excited for her.
“I feel like I’m walking on egg shells.” She cradled the tea cup, in thought.
“But you have to tell him.” Xander told her.
“I will, I’m just waiting for the right time.” She nodded.
Xander bit into a cookie then.
“Since you know my secret.” She stared at him very seriously while he dipped part of the cookie in his tea. “Who’s been crying, at your place?”
Xander looked at her blankly.
“Crying?” He wasn’t sure how to explain it. “I-I guess it must be me.” He slipped a lock of hair behind his ear. “I must be homesick.” He told her where he used to live. “I dunno, when the opportunity came along to come here, my Aunt said I had to take it. Meet my real father. I guess it was a lot more overwhelming than I thought it would be.” He stared at his hot tea wishing he could tell her everything. Somehow, he felt safe, wanting to explain Hanna to her (How he might be in love with a ghost), but he didn’t want her thinking he was crazy. “And well, I bumped into this friend of mine from high school. Crazy, you know. But there he was. He’s a cook at Daisy’s. Daisy’s his relative.”
“Daisy?” A smile came to her. “It really is a small world.” Her smile was bright. “She’s like one of my best friends from high school.” She smiled more and so did Xander. Yeah, he was beginning to think he could have friends here.