Enjoy a special holiday season sneak peek at Jaeli Tal’s Thanksgiving from the next book in the Monster’s Within Series - Telling the Truth.
As the gods would have it, her mother decides it’s best to stay in Rhode Island until Thanksgiving Day. “To get things settled” she said. That’s fine with Jaeli. Once she gets home, she realizes her apartment is much smaller than she had thought. Living by herself, her space felt so huge and lonely.
Well, apparently her living room is so small that her pull-out couch isn’t exactly pull-out-able and the space in her bedroom in no way supports the blow up mattress like she thought it would. The only thing she can think to do is move her couch sideways and open it into the little kitchen area. But then there is the matter of the table which she can’t move out until after Thanksgiving dinner and there really isn’t anywhere to store it anyway. She’s mid panic when her mother calls to reschedule. It’s one hell of a breath of fresh air.
Later she will figure out that Jason can sleep on the couch, Marianna and Ariel on the blow up mattress on the floor of the living room and her mother in bed with her. Or some variation thereof once they all arrive and argue locations. She’ll try not to worry about it until Wednesday night when she’s setting things up.
And washing a hideously smelly turkey.
“It was never like this when we picked up a bird from the butcher at Christmas.” Oliver brushes off, not wanting to wash the thing either. Must be nice having someone wash a slimy, foul smelling, frankly disgusting carcass of a thing for you. Jaeli remembers her mother doing this frequently, but she never realized it was so bloody, and the texture... Jaeli never needed to know what a heart, liver, or kidneys feels like. To think her mom used to cook those as well and put them outside for the neighborhood strays. No thank you, in the trash they go along with an entire roll of dirty paper towels. The smell starts to overtake her again, it must be the metal sink. She thinks the stuffing will be made of her own vomit this year before Oliver mans up and pushes her out of the way looking just as lost in what to do but thankfully less bothered by the odor. She has no idea how her mother did something like this for them so often and all of a sudden this ache hits her. She misses her family so much. She’s almost not even dreading the drama that’s sure to ensue or the stress of having Oliver there to witness it. She just wants her mom.
Jaeli is just as lost with the turkey when it comes to the baking part. She has her mother’s stuffing recipe which is an unfortunate measuring disaster, something she’s had to rework twice before opting to stuff the bird with apples and an orange like it was Christmas and starting a fresh batch just to bake by itself and serve as a side. It isn't her fault. The recipe literally calls for “one of your grandmother’s tall glasses of milk and your father's mug of melted butter. Enough mushrooms per slice of bread,” etcetera. There is no actual amount of bread. Mostly measurements like “enough cinnamon to cover the apples, enough apples to cover the bottom of Uncle Emerest’s pan.” and the lovely notion of “don’t forget celery, onion, and poultry seasoning”. It’s a disaster. If it wasn’t so delicious, Jaeli would have called a quits and tuned in to the Cooking Network a long time ago. She’s just figuring out that “enough” bread was two slices per pound of turkey. She’s getting the gist from there, trying to keep the balance of not too wet, not too dry with more ingredients from the list as needed.
Oliver is humming an unfamiliar but lovely tune while making a pie he insists was the most American one he could find. It looks like apple. She’s fairly certain Catherine is bringing pumpkin pie but it will be good to have a variety. She’s content working alongside him. They both fall into a clean as you go routine in the small space and keep to themselves. It’s surprisingly comfortable. She keeps letting herself sneak little glances his way, watching him decipher the recipe and make sure everything is just right. Jaeli smiles to herself as he tries to put the crust into a glass pie plate, inevitably pulling a hole in it and swearing quietly. When he’s ready to bake the bulging monstrosity she hears a click click clicking from the oven and a confused “Erm…”
She steps over to see what the problem is and sees Oliver holding the faded old temperature dial in his hand. Well, that’s not good.
“Please tell me you have a functioning oven.” Oliver said in his best slow, clear, and patient tone.
“The stove part works and I’m pretty sure I’ve heated cookies up in it before.” Jaeli shrugs. She’s not home a lot, so sue her. She honestly didn't know there was anything wrong with the old beast.
“Ok, it bakes cookies, we can try again.” He starts fiddling with the dial, trying to get it back on but everytime he tries to turn the over on, it would just give up on him.
Jaeli bites her lip and raises her hands in innocent surrender. “I’ve honestly never tried to heat it past the first click?” She asks more than says. Honestly. Why is it so easy to be honest with him but no one else?
“How have ya never used yer oven?” He is definitely judging her and it’s breaking the little spell she was under just a moment ago.
“There’s this thing called college meal plan. And I have a perfectly functioning stove top, microwave, and toaster.” Two pieces of toast for the stuffing popped up, not quite toasted but well enough that one more round on the highest setting would be fine. Yeah, she has crap. But what else is an off campus apartment supposed to have? Half of it came from pawn shops or Savers, they don’t exactly let you test or exchange the merchandise. The other half was already there when she moved in.
“Well, what are we goin’ ta do? Ya can’t bake a pie in a pot! Oh Christ, wha are we goin’ ta do with the damn turkey I just gave a bloody bath?”
“Do you have an oven?”
“No.” Jaeli gives him a raised eyebrow, judging him for judging her. “Thas different. I live above a restaurant.”
“Do you think we could use those ovens? Maybe? Pretty please?” Jaeli bats her eyelashes and sees the very second he breaks. She would feel bad if he lost the alpha man grump he has going on.
“This bird is the biggest pain in me arse. Are ya sure your pilgrims didn’t just eat ramen or maybe just popcorn and your toast like Charlie Brown?”
“You’ve seen Charlie Brown?”
“Yes I’ve seen bleeding Charlie Brown. He’s been on every damn day this week. An’ it’s cute. The smart one with the blanket reminds me o’ you a bit.”
“Aye. And unfortunately I’m the little blonde git chasin’ after ya.” Jaeli barely gets to tilt her head before he steamrolls right over that comment. “Now, have you got anythin’ I can carry this home in? Because I don't care to wash it again.” Oliver asks, gesturing angrily at the turkey.