So here it is:
"Piece of Pie":
There was one more slice of pumpkin pie. It was a mouthwatering orange against the dull glint of the metal pie tin and I studied it hungrily. Go ahead, Marco, take it, I mentally told myself. It looks lonely there by itself, anyways. I didn't need much convincing. Reaching my hand out I fumbled for the scalloped-edged pie server. It fell to the floor with a clatter. Cue internal panic! I yelled silently to myself as I lunged after it.
A chuckle stopped me in my tracks, and I lifted my head slowly till just my eyes were peering over the counter...causing me to immediately lock gazes with the freckle-faced brunette girl I had seen earlier. The one with the ponytail, not the one with the cat-ear headband.
She grinned and grabbed the last piece of pumpkin pie. "Haha! Victory!"
"I--uh--" I stammered. Quick, think of something to say! "Congratulations." Bad idea, Marco, bad idea. I'm sure that sounded intelligent.
She laughed and took a bite of the pie, then stepped over to the fridge. "Actually, guess what." she pulled out another pie tin. "My grandma is awesome and made not one, not two, but three pumpkin pies." She set the new pie on the counter and handed me the pie server. "Help yourself."
"Oh, uh--thanks." I blushed. Good job, Marco. Blushing? Really? What are you, some ninth grader? Blushing over pie. Great. What next? With a cautious hand, I dished up a piece.
She handed me the bowl of whipped cream. "Want some?" I nodded, and she dolloped a huge spoonful onto my plate, then onto her own piece of pie which she still held in her hand. "I'm Lily." she paused. "I guess maybe you might not be too familiar with us yet."
"Yeah, no." I shrugged. "I just uh--"
"Came for the food? Yep, me too. Well, besides Grandma and Uncle Max." Lily sat down at one of the island chairs. "He brought you here, right? Marco, isn't it?"
I could feel my face burning. Now is not the time to do your impression of an Eskimo with his first sunburn, Marco! If you can't be macho at least play it cool! "Yeah, actually it was Max-- Max Trumball? We met a few months ago."
"Awesome!" Lily nodded. "Our family has a policy for Thanksgiving--everyone is allowed to bring one special guest. Anymore it's just us five around, and we all tend to interpret the rule a little differently, but...hey! Thanksgiving is for being grateful, so who am I to complain?"
"You five?" I crammed some more pie in my face. Ok, so cool was an overestimate. Maybe try lukewarm?
Lily finished off her pie and wiped her hands on a napkin. "Yep. Me, my grandma, Uncle Max, my twin sister, and my younger brother Samuel. Kind of a weird family, isn't it? But that's because my brother and sister and I come from a really broken family. When my sister and I were ten we kids got taken away from our parents-- so Grandma took us in. And Uncle Max became our guardian too. He never married, you see. So...we're all pretty close. Flora and I are in college now, so we don't get home as often as we'd like...but at least we get to for Thanksgiving. A lot of kids don't get to do that."
I craned my neck to look past the door into the living room behind me. "So...the reason for all the extra people here is because you all bring a guest? I couldn't figure out why Max invited me--always thought Thanksgiving was for family."
Lily pursed her lips. "You can find family in all different places. My grandma brought Mrs. Eroll there--the older lady with the pink sweater? She's all alone, and they met in the grocery store when my grandma was picking up green beans last minute the other day. Sweet lady, you should talk to her. I think she's a riot." Lily stood up and moved closer to the door. I followed her. "And then my sister Flora in the crazy cat-headband brought the red-headed dude. Greg Byrant. But we've known him for a long time." She leaned closer with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. "Two love-birds there, if you know what I mean. Just watch them--they're hilarious." I couldn't help it when my face cracked into a grin, but Lily didn't pay much attention. "Then my brother Samuel brought the younger boy. I guess they play basketball together in the open gym. His name is Cody."
How on earth does she remember all this stuff? She literally just met most of us, right? Stay calm, Marco-- deep breaths. Don't go paranoid on me yet! I gripped the door frame. "Wow, you have a good memory don't you?"
Lily tipped her head. "Not really. I guess I just remember what I care about."
I felt my eyes growing a bit misty. Emotions alert! Emotions alert! Ack, do something to cover up! I coughed loudly into my sleeve. Actually, it probably sounded more like a goat with bronchitis. But hey, it worked right? Manliness preserved.
It was quiet a minute, then I suddenly realized Lily hadn't told me who she had brought. "So uh--" I rubbed the back of my neck. "Who's your special guest?" I searched the living room where the others sat chatting in an easy manner. I didn't see anyone else-- Max, check. Grandma, check. Sister with cat-ear-headband, red-headed guy, brother Samuel, basketball player kid, pink-sweater old lady. Check. But nobody else.
Lily shifted, almost as if she was uncomfortable. "Well, ah--" she murmured. "She didn't come."
"I'm sorry." I glanced down at my shoes. Whoa, man, you need to get a new pair sometime. These look horrible! No wonder people won't give you a job!
"Yeah." Lily sighed. "Actually, it was my mom. But she never called back or anything-- only I really had hoped that after all this time she would at least want to see us."
My eyes widened. Hello, brain-- now is the time to actually work properly if that is in your capabilities!! "Wow." I mumbled. "I really am sorry. I guess random folks and homeless guys--like me-- aren't a very good substitute. I wish she would have come for you."
Lily bit her lip. "I didn't really want to ask her, at first. Not after all she and my dad did to us back when we were little. It wasn't a good situation, and we had a lot of stuff to work through mentally and emotionally after that. But then I started thinking about the meaning of Thanksgiving. You know-- and read in my Bible a certain Psalm. One hundred and thirty-six. I memorized the first three verses: 'O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.' And the whole rest of the chapter, after everything they say, they repeat the 'for his mercy endureth forever'. And I just thought...if God can extend His mercy so much on me...on us as sinful, rebellious people-- then why can't I extend it to my parents? After all, the number one thing I'm thankful for in my life is God's goodness and grace towards me, and it just seemed..." her voice trailed off, and for a few seconds, it was silent. Then she gave a wry, strangled sort of laugh. "But you probably are wondering how you got stuck in this kind of a conversation with a practical stranger."
I swallowed hard. "No, I needed to hear that." I straightened my shoulders. "You know, I've been feeling pretty down lately. Just...a lot of reasons why. You know, I heard about God before, although I think over time I've forgotten how good He really is. I needed to remember."
Lily smiled. Her uncle Max spotted us and waved his arm wildly. "Marco!" he shouted from the living room.
"Polo..." We both said it without thinking before we broke off in embarrassed laughter.
Great, you just acted like a twelve-year-old. I congratulated myself. I smacked my hand against my forehead. "I'm sorry, I'm awkward."
Lily shook her head and made a face. "Flashback to when I was a kid. That was weird."
Her uncle Max had gotten up and joined us. "What's weird? You, Lily? Yes, I agree."
Lily punched his arm in a playful gesture and I chuckled--the first time in a long time. "Nah, Uncle Max. Life is weird. Hey, I have to wash dishes, I promised Grandma I would. You and the guys should go play some basketball or something."
Max draped his arm around my shoulder. "You any good, son?" He asked as he steered me towards the door. "I might as well let you in on a little secret--I'm basically a professional." He winked. "Glad you could come, Marco."
"Me too." I nodded. "Thank you. I think I needed a good old-fashioned gratefulness-filled Thanksgiving."
Oh, and the challenge for December...
and it is: Write a Story About Love. There are so many different kinds of love and I think that Christmas is just one of the times to stop a minute and think about all the many ways God loves us and the many ways we can show love to others. ;) Let me know in the comments below if you managed to do the challenge this November or not-- I know with NaNoWriMo we were all busy! :P
You all have a lovely day!