Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Thanksgiving interlude from Never Too Old For the Game of Love by Fiona McGier

Ah, Thanksgiving, the feast of over-eating. Now that my kids are all grown, it's their favorite holiday, and not just for the melange of tasty food. They like getting together with relatives without the pressure of gifts omnipresent at Christmas. I taught them all that everyone brings something to the party. Even the youngest of tots from our house, would make "smash and squeeze" cookies, where they smooshed all of the ingredients together with their hands, then "helped" as I rolled the dough into balls; they rolled the balls in sugar, and we baked cookies. As they walked into the hosting house, they'd proudly carry a plate filled with cookies, and tell everyone, "I helped make dessert!"

In Never Too Old For the Game of Love, Tegan, a divorced mother of 2 pre-teens, started an event-planning company with her best friend Patti, who contributes her culinary expertise to their joint venture. In planning a birthday party for the client of a neighbor's brother, she is unnerved to feel herself attracted to him...and the feeling is mutual. They begin an affair, meeting only one weekend a month, when her ex-husband has the kids. Despite their enjoyment of each other for a few months, both of them are busily denying that it is anything more than a physical relationship. But is it? On Thanksgiving, Alexander is invited to his brother and sister-in-law's house, since they offered to let abuela Reyes off the hook, so she only has to make the tamales, and not the whole dinner.

     With his usual punctuality, just before three on Thursday, Alexander slowly drove down the street that his brother’s family lived on… and just incidentally, also the woman of his wet dreams. He knew she lived only a couple of houses away from Edgar and Juanita, but had no idea which house was hers, so he drove slowly in order to look for a sign of where she lived. When he recognized the car in the driveway, he felt his heart skip a beat and he slowed down even further and made the split second decision to park right in front of her house.
     “After all,” he reasoned, “my elderly parents have to park in Edgar’s driveway, and Julia has all of those kids. Roberto will be taking the train out here, but I should park out on the street.”
     He slowly got out of his car and spent some time looking around the neighborhood, as if he hadn’t been there so many times before. But he hadn’t… at least not since he had begun an affair with the woman who lived in the house he had parked in front of. He hoped for a glimpse of her, but was disappointed that she didn’t appear to be home. So he slowly walked over to Edgar’s house and let himself in through the open front door. Immediately he was assailed by his nieces and nephews, and he felt his tension relax, as he became Tío Alejandro once again.
     Tegan looked out of her front window when she heard the car pull up, thinking it was John and wondering why he didn’t just park in the driveway, since he knew she wouldn’t be needing her car to get where they were eating. Patti only lived a block away. She saw the car and almost stopped breathing. When Alexander got out and looked around, she shrank behind her drapes, praying he didn’t see her looking at him through the window. She watched his every move, when he began to walk towards Juanita’s house, breathless from the excitement of seeing how confidently he carried himself, as if the whole world owed him everything and he just might deign to accept it.
      “He’s so gorgeous, and he’s mine!” she thought, then she corrected herself with the reminder that theirs was merely a physical relationship, based on one weekend a month of world-rocking sex… no more, no less. And they’d had only had three weekends together. Certainly nothing to indicate she had any claim on him other than they had the hots for each other, in a big way.
      She saw John’s car pull up and park in the driveway, and she hurried back into the kitchen in order to finish up the relish dip that Patti had given her the recipe for and requested she bring. The deal between them was Patti did all of the cooking, and she supplied the drinks. Then they figured out how to equally divide the cost, and she paid accordingly. But if Patti found a recipe that didn’t appear to be too difficult for her best friend to attempt, she gave her a copy of it, and they both acted as if it was a huge surprise she was bringing anything at all to the dinner.
     John rang the doorbell, and she heard the thunder of feet as their children raced to be the one to open the door for their dad. They were both excited and pleased he was coming to dinner with them, though Katie had watched Tegan closely when she was told he’d be there, for any reaction from her mom. Tegan, for her part, was determined to stay neutral for the day, in order for there to not be any awkwardness or unpleasantness. The added tension of knowing Alexander was comfortably ensconced only two houses away from her, made her hyper-aware of herself and she was glad she had bought an extra bottle of the white wine, gewürztraminer, that they all enjoyed with turkey every year.
     “At this point, I’ll probably drink one whole bottle myself,” she thought, before she had to go through the motions of being polite to her ex-husband in front of their children. They collected all they were expected to bring along to Patti’s house, and headed for the driveway. Tegan locked up the house and they walked together, as they had done for many years, down the block to her best friend’s house for their traditional family celebration.
     “Just like old times, huh?” asked John, while the kids walked ahead of them, excited about being together as a family again.
     Tegan made a face at him, saying, “Yeah, but with one subtle difference. You’re not going to be coming back to the house with us afterwards. Remember that.”
     John looked wounded, “But it’s still nice, isn’t it? Being together again, even if just for a short time?”
     Tegan regarded him with distaste for a quick moment, before catching sight of Katie looking back at them, “Just don’t get too comfortable ‘in the moment.’ I’m only being polite to you for their sakes. Stay away from me once I start drinking, or I may say something we’ll both regret.”
     John started to say something, but Tegan hurried to catch up with their kids and the moment was lost.
     Alexander felt like he was choking on his own jealousy. He watched through the window next to the chair that he had seated himself on, as Tegan walked along in front of the house he was in and didn’t even look to see if he was there. She must know he was… his car was right in front of her house! And just who the hell was that man who was walking right beside her, as if he belonged there? The only man who belonged next to her was him. He felt his hand clenching around the beer he held, and forced himself to relax before he broke the bottle in his fist.
     Edgar noticed he was looking out of the window and yelled to his wife, “Hey, there’s John, going to dinner at Patti’s with Tegan and the kids. Will miracles never cease?”
     Juanita stepped into the living room and took a quick look out the window, saying, “I’ll have to call her tomorrow and ask what kind of blackmail he used on her to get her to let him go with her to the dinner.”
     “Blackmail?” Alexander forgot he was trying to appear nonchalant, and asked in spite of himself.
     Edgar laughed. “Yeah, they got divorced a couple of years ago. Too bad, they were a nice couple. They look really good together, though, don’t they? And they made a couple of nice-looking kids. Rosa baby-sits for them sometimes and Katie sometimes helps Rosa with our kids, when we leave her alone with all of them.”
     Juanita poked her head back into the room, saying, “I think you should be opening the wine now, Edgar; I’m going to be taking the turkey out of the oven, and you need to be there to be sure it’s done.”
     Edgar and Juanita went back into the kitchen together, and Alexander continued to watch Tegan’s adorable butt as she walked with her family to the corner. Then they turned to cross the street and passed out of his line of vision.
     He spent the rest of the day in a jealous fit, trying not to let it affect how he interacted with his family, but thinking only of the fact that there was another man with Tegan, with his woman, spending the day relaxing with their kids… the kids they had to have had sex with each other to create. He knew she would never have allowed him to spend the day with her, since he was not allowed to be near her kids. He was good enough for her to strip naked with and scream herself hoarse with, but not for her to offer to share any other part of her life with.
     He should have stopped himself from drinking the moment he realized he was brooding about this jealousy of his, but he didn’t. His youngest brother, Roberto, was the one to realize what was happening to him, what he was doing to himself, though Roberto didn’t understand why. So when he got obnoxious after dinner, Roberto took him outside and sat with him on the porch, while he silently brooded. Then he brought his oldest brother coffee until he sobered up enough to be able to talk again.
     “I’ve fallen in love with a woman who only wants me for sex, once a month,” he told Roberto. Then he stopped short, realizing what he had just said out loud, and realizing for the first time, he had drunk way too much before and during dinner and he was going to catch hell from his madre for this day.
     He was not surprised when Roberto looked truly puzzled at him, saying, “But I thought you only chase women for that one thing: to have sex with them. Then, when they are no longer a challenge to you, you drop them like a hot potato. Why is this one any different?”
     “Why, indeed?” he asked himself, through his drunken fog. Then he had a blinding flash of insight into his own personality, and he was struck dumb by the revelation. He wanted her because she wouldn’t let him have anymore than she was willing to give him. If she told him she loved him, he’d probably get bored with her, as had happened so many times before now. But she had established the limits, and like the alpha-male he was, he was chafing under the restrictions that kept him from claiming her as his own, in front of everyone.
But what would that accomplish? Would he be able to step up and accept being a permanent part of her life, or would he start looking around for another challenge?   
      Alexander wasn’t sure what he felt about himself, but he was pretty sure disgust was part of it. One thing was certain: he wanted Tegan with a desire bordering on obsession. But was he up for the challenge of becoming an integral part of her life, or was he just over-reacting to the line in the sand she had drawn, letting him have only so much of her and not a smidgeon more? He groaned as he put his head into his hands. He had no idea what the answer was, nor did he have any idea how to find out. And the fact he was a forty-two year old man, who had behaved abominably at a family dinner because he was having a midlife crisis over a woman, was unbearably embarrassing.
      For her part, Tegan didn’t enjoy Thanksgiving, either. The knowledge that Alexander was two houses away from her house, but she couldn’t see him or talk to him, drove her crazy. Once she got to Patti’s house and opened the wine, she kept at it until both bottles were gone; then she went into Patti’s private stock and opened one of those bottles as well. She was rude to John and brusque to the children. She was totally out of control, and only Patti had any idea why she was acting like that, and even she was unable to stop what appeared to be inevitable.
     In the middle of an argument with John, when it appeared she was about to blurt out why he had left her, Patti hustled her into the next room and pushed Tegan onto her bed. “I don’t know what’s with you tonight, girl, but you need to pass out before you say things you don’t want the kids to hear!”
      At that, Tegan started to cry, telling Patti she was terrified she might be falling in love with a man who only wanted her for monthly sex. Patti had to push her fist into her mouth in order not to laugh at her drunken friend. She herself would have given her left boob for a man who wanted her for sex… even if that was all he ever offered! A simple, uncomplicated relationship. What a pleasant change from what they had both been through. But she acted like a loyal friend, and calmed Tegan down, made her drink a couple of big glasses of water, then tucked her into her own bed and turned out the light. Before she even closed the door, Tegan was snoring.
      Patti went back into the kitchen to do the dishes and watch John keep the kids amused with a tournament of video games. He offered to stay the night at his old house with his kids, but Patti knew Tegan wouldn’t approve, so she hustled him out the door and told him to go home, after the girls yawned themselves into going to bed and the boys showed signs of being too tired to keep on playing.
      She poured herself a large glass of wine from her secret stock Tegan had broken into, and watched the moon travel across the sky while toasting the errant night spirits who had bewitched her friend. She prayed to the good ones to kick some sense into her head in the morning. Eventually, she fell asleep on the couch in her own living room, amused by their rendition of a family celebration, and inordinately grateful her own ex-husband had had the good taste not to appear at her door.
Want to read how things turn out? Never Too Old For the Game of Love is the first of six books so far, about the romances experienced by the Reyes family.  The second book, Recipe For Love is about Patti's romance with a Roma biker. The fourth book in the series, Prescription For Love, is a free download. It was originally published on Smashwords, my only attempt at self-publishing. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/18367

For more information on any of my books, visit my website, which I promise to update soon! I'll have five days off both jobs beginning next Wednesday. Yes, I will have two of my kids staying here, along with my first grandbaby who is now four months old. And there is gift-shopping to continue...but I plan to tend to my long-neglected book business also. What I really want for Christmas is a way to extend my day...maybe an extra two or three hours per day? Time for me to write? Or a way to give up sleep and still keep going. Please, Santa?


Tina Donahue said...

Thanksgiving sounds fun at your house - I envy you. With my relatives, I've always wanted to run the other way. :)

Fiona McGier said...

I spent 9 years as the manager of the liquor department in a grocery store. I came to the conclusion that the only way most people can handle their relatives is with copious quantities of alcohol! My sales were astronomical during the holiday season...for any holiday that involved family get-togethers. LOL!

Hope you still managed to enjoy your Thanksgiving. My daughter, my son, daughter-in-law, and my grandson left about an hour ago, after we all pitched in to make them a big breakfast before they faced holiday traffic. Once they get past the "under the lake" part of Indiana, and get to the Michigan border, it should be smooth sailing. But that part of northern Indiana is brutal, even when it's not a holiday or shopping day...too much traffic, too few lanes, rude drivers, and bumpy highway. I'd love to move to Michigan to be closer to them, but alas, we're stuck here for the time being.