Patti has opened a small cafe to house the catering business that she combines with her best friend Tegan's planning skills, in their company, Parties by Pat-Teg. When she needed to hire an assistant, she hired the only candidate who knew how to cook similar recipes to hers, and in the quantities she'd need: J.T. is a bald, tattooed Roma (gypsy) on a Harley, who seems to be the answer to all of her dreams. But her ex-husband wheedles his way back into her house, claiming to not be able to afford his apartment once his latest "bimbo" leaves him; he promises to behave himself and sleep on the couch...just until he can save up enough money to leave. Their kids are not any happier with the arrangement than Patti is, and J.T. fears his plans to convince Patti he could be a partner for her in rooms other than the kitchen might have to be postponed indefinitely.
As always, Tegan and her kids are the guests of honor for Thanksgiving dinner, along with the hugely-pregnant Tegan's new husband, Alejandro Reyes.
Since Patti was busy in the kitchen, when J.T. rang the doorbell, he was not surprised that it was Chelsea who answered the door.
“Hey, J.T. Good to see you!” Chelsea said, “Happy Thanksgiving and all…”
Her eyebrows shot up when she saw the flowers. “Are those for Mom?”
J.T. smiled and nodded, “Hey yourself, Chelsea. And yes, the flowers are to thank your mom for inviting me, so I didn’t have to spend yet another Thanksgiving eating greasy burgers, wishing I was back home, cooking and eating with my family.”
The younger Jake was sitting on the couch, watching the pre-game shows that endlessly fill the time before the football starts. He said, “Hi”, when he saw J.T., and looked surprised at the flowers. “Dad has never given Mom flowers,” he said to his sister, while they exchanged a significant look.
J.T. shrugged, “It’s not such a big deal. I really like your mom, and she has been really good to me, giving me a job, and treating me like family by inviting me over here.” He smiled at them both, “So I expect she’s in the kitchen?” He inclined his head towards the back of the house.
Chelsea smiled, and Jake made a face, as the clattering of pots against each other could be heard, along with shouting. “Don’t you guys ever put my stuff back where it belongs? I pay you to wash the dishes and pots, not to hide them from me!”
J.T. nodded at the kids, then moved towards the noise. When he walked through the door into the kitchen, his heart skipped a beat. Patti wasn’t wearing anything special, but her jeans were just tight enough to outline her curves, and the cami that she wore bared an expanse of cleavage that made his mouth water. She had put her hair up earlier, but the exertion of cooking and baking, and in general, bustling around the room, had made some tendrils work themselves loose, and they fell in gentle curves around her face, which looked sweaty and exasperated. When she saw J.T., her face broke into a wide smile. When she saw the flowers he held out wordlessly to her, the smile was replaced by a look of shock.
“What are those for?” She gasped.
J.T. smiled, “To thank you for being such a kind-hearted woman, that you took pity on this poor Rom so far from home, gave me a job, and invited me into your home to celebrate the day as if I was a part of your family. Usually I’m alone, or eating burgers in some dive. Today, I’m looking forward to helping you create a feast to remember. So please accept these as a token of my feelings for you.”
Patti moved forward to take the flowers, and as she took them in one hand, her other hand reached up to J.T.’s neck, to pull his head down, so she could give him a quick kiss. He obliged, then had to clear his throat, to swallow the lump that had appeared in it, before he could speak again.
He forced himself to focus on the food, saying “I take it the bird is in the oven?”
Patti nodded, as she placed the vase holding the flowers on the ledge in front of the window. “The pies are done, the bird is stuffed and in the oven, and I’m working on the cranberry sauce now. I got a new recipe that has cayenne and cilantro in it, so we can taste-test it soon. But there’s room in the oven for your sweet potato casserole, and room on the counter by the stove for your dough to rise. So what do you need to get started?”
J.T. put the bag with the ingredients that he had brought with him, onto the counter, and asked for the bowls and utensils that he needed, and they spent the next couple of hours companionably working in the kitchen, which was a familiar and welcome routine for them. Chelsea and Jake drifted in and out a few times, poking their fingers into foods, getting their hands rapped with wooden spoons, and being allowed to walk out only with something in their hands, so that the appetizers were gradually put out onto the table in the combination living room/dining room.
When J.T. carried the crock-pot with the mini meatballs out to set up on the card table being used as a buffet table, he had to spend some time complimenting Chelsea on the table cloths and napkins that she had made, and the fancy name-tags that she had arranged, so that everyone would know where to sit. He was amused to see that she had put him in-between her mother and herself, with her dad further down the table, between her brother Jake, and Katie. When she saw him looking, and he raised his eyebrows to look at her, she defended her choice, saying, “Hey, you and Mom have to be able to easily get in and out of the kitchen. You are the cooks, after all! Besides, I’m hoping to avoid any unpleasant scenes between my parents, so it’s better to separate them!”
In a quiet tone, J.T. now asked, “Where IS your dad?”
Chelsea shrugged, “Who knows? He said he was going out this morning, to get some beer for dinner. He said he had some other errands to run also. But I figure he’s probably in some bar somewhere, and he’ll get back in time for the football games, with some lame story about why he’s late.”
J.T. looked closely at her, “How has he been treating your mom?”
Chelsea shrugged again, “Okay, I guess. No major fights…YET,” she added significantly. Then she smiled at him conspiratorially, “But he never brings her flowers, so you’ve got that going for you!”
J.T. smiled back at her, “I treat her like she deserves to be treated. And don’t you ever forget that, young lady. You deserve to get the same kind of treatment from any boy who wants to catch your eye. If he doesn’t make you feel special, he’s not worth wasting your time on.”
Chelsea rolled her eyes, “Thanks, DAD. Now aren’t you supposed to be in the kitchen?”
As J.T. headed back into the kitchen, he didn’t look out of the window that Chelsea was facing, so he didn’t see that her father was heading up the sidewalk to the front door. The door was unlocked, so Jake Sr. let himself in, then headed into the bathroom. Chelsea and Jake Jr. exchanged looks, then they both headed into the kitchen, so there would be too many people in the kitchen for their dad to want to stay in it for long. Their plan worked, since Jake Sr. didn’t seem to want to cause any trouble in front of his kids. He barely acknowledged J.T. with a grunt in his direction, then complained about the lack of room in the fridge for his beer. He shoved it into the fridge, slammed the door hard, and opened his beer on the way out into the living room, following his son who had told him the game was starting soon. Chelsea and Patti both seemed to let out a breath when he left the room, and J.T. was too polite to comment on it, so he busied himself punching the sour-dough, and getting the counter cleaned and covered with flour, so he could make the rolls.
When Chelsea left the room, Patti said, “It’ll be good to be able to relax in my own home again, once he leaves.”
J.T. shot her a quick look, but any comment he was planning, was forgotten when Tegan burst through the back door, waddling as only a pregnant woman in her ninth month can, rubbing her belly and saying, “Is there anything to eat in this house? I have plenty of room in this ‘pup-tent’ of a dress, so I plan to eat so much the kid wants to be born early, since his ‘space’ will get over-crowded by my full stomach!”
Laughing, Patti hugged her, then Alexander, who followed her into the room, saying, “But my darling, you are so ravishing as a pregnant woman! You are glowing with happiness! I will truly miss that, as well as the ‘Mount Everest’ that your belly has become! Though it HAS become increasingly difficult and awkward to express my love, without worrying about the trauma it must be causing to our son!”
Katie rolled her eyes in the classic teenager manner, on her way in the door, saying, “For God’s sake, Tío Alejandro! Can’t you two talk about anything else, EVER?” She hugged Patti briefly, got herself a can of coke out of the fridge, said, “Hey, J.T.”, then went into the living room, yelling, “Chelsea! Where are you?”
Kevin now entered the kitchen, holding a couple of new computer games in his hand. He nodded and smiled at J.T., hugged Patti, grabbed himself a coke out of the fridge, then he followed his sister into the next room.
Tegan now said brightly, “Hey, Patti, did I tell you the OB said it was okay for me to have a glass of wine with dinner?”
Patti smiled, saying, “Really? Good, since I got a few bottles of the Nouveau Beaujolais that I liked the best at the tasting.”
Tegan leaned closer to Patti, and asked conspiratorially, “How big is your biggest wine glass? Half a bottle, I hope?”
Alexander said warningly, “Tegan, my love. One glass, not one bottle. We don’t have much longer to go now. It’s not any easier on me than it is on you. Just a few more weeks.”
Tegan sighed, “Yeah, I know.” Then she brightened again, saying, “And then it will be okay, since a glass of wine helps bring the milk down!” Then she saw the flowers in the vase by the window.
“WOW!” Tegan turned to look at J.T. “I take it this is one of YOUR contributions?”
J.T. smiled and nodded, while he rolled out the dough to make his rolls.
Tegan exchanged a significant look with Patti, inclining her head towards J.T. and raising her eyebrows. Patti smiled ruefully in return, while shaking her head..
Tegan continued, “Thanks for planning dinner for so early, Patti. This way, we get to eat with you, then head on over to Edgar and Juanita’s house, to eat more over there. Now you see why I’m so glad about the ‘pup-tent’ I’m wearing?”
Patti smiled more broadly at her, “No problem-o. I know much better than to upset a woman so extremely advanced in her pregnancy…and I’m really happy that you are eating here, as well as there. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without you here.”
Alexander now grabbed a coke for himself too, and went through the door into the living room, to watch the omni-present football coverage, and sample the appetizers that he knew would be in there.
Tegan followed him, then returned with a couple of plates piled high with a variety of appetizers, which she set on a counter; then she perched as gracefully as she could, on one of the bar stool-type chairs in the kitchen, and shared her food with her hosts. She chatted amiably with Patti and J.T. as they worked on finishing the last of the foods for the Thanksgiving feast. They were all laughing heartily at a dirty joke that J.T. had just told, when Jake walked into the kitchen.
“Sorry to interrupt the ‘hen party’,” he sneered, glaring at J.T. as he grabbed another beer out of the fridge. “When do we eat, or are you all just planning on partying in the kitchen all day?”
Patti sniffed haughtily, “Oh, the appetizers in the living room aren’t enough for you? You were planning on eating dinner too? How ever will the local bars stay in business, without you there to plump up their bottom line?”
Jake now turned to Patti and said sarcastically, “I could say something about how you know all about ‘plumping up’ bottoms…”
J.T. turned from checking on the food in the oven, and drew himself up to his full height, making the kitchen suddenly seem more crowded, saying simply, “Don’t.”
“Why not?” Jake glared at J.T. again, while moving towards the door to the living room. “What are you going to do? Make a scene at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, defending your boss? Like the good little minimum-wage employee that you are?” With an evil grin, Jake now went back into the living room, and the door swung shut on the sounds of crowds cheering on football.
There was silence for a moment.
Tegan shook her head, “How does he do that? How does he manage to suck all of the joy out of any occasion, and make everyone feel as nasty-tempered as he is?”
Patti shrugged, but J.T. was the one who answered. “He’s a small man, with a small ego, and even less self-confidence. I’ve run into lots of guys like him. He baits everyone, then backs off with his hands up, saying ‘What did I do?’, and acting as if he’s the injured party, when he’s the one who started it all, just for the fun of watching other people squirm, or get uncomfortable. The only way to deal with guys like him is to ignore them.”
Patti sighed, “Easy for you to say.”
J.T. now smiled at her, “You didn’t let me finish. If ignoring doesn’t work, then I just like to squash ‘em like a bug.”
Tegan interjected, “Yay! Can I watch? And will you do it BEFORE dinner, so I don’t have to miss a thing?”
Patti smiled back at J.T. “You’d do that for me? What a sweetie!”
The kitchen timer now went off, and J.T. and Patti turned their attention back to getting all of the food ready to be served at the same time.How does the dinner turn out? And how does J.T. get Jake the Snake to leave, so he and Patti can enjoy themselves? Find out in Recipe For Love, available in eBook and paperback.
And for information on all of the Reyes Family Romances, go to: www.fionamcgier.com