You can still enjoy an excerpt from the Thanksgiving chapter of A Faculty Daughter!
Truman and I sat at the kitchen table on Thanksgiving morning, buttering tins for cornbread. Though anxiety nibbled at my midsection, I feasted on Truman. The proud blue of his shirt would have been embarrassed if it could have seen the blue of the boy’s eyes—it was just that superior. And I’d never seen Truman in faded jeans. He looked sort of . . . rugged for the first time, his gold-straw hair shaggier than ever.
It had been days since he had kissed me. With Kelly arriving soon, I needed the seal of Truman’s sweet lips as a talisman.
My mother and Ronnie were out gathering natural materials for the Thanksgiving table decorations.
I batted my eyelashes at him. “Will you kiss me now that we’re alone?”
Truman looked toward the living room where my father was reading the paper, frowned, and drew his finger across his neck in a slit-my-throat gesture.
My mother and Ronnie came in then, their cheeks rosy from the wind, the old wicker picnic basket full of clippings. Ronnie pulled a pair of dull shears from his tool belt as though he were drawing a gun.
“I cut the branches,” he said.
“I’ll take those, sir,” my mother said, snaring the shears. She shivered. “It’s nice and warm in here. Smell that turkey! Thanks for helping, Truman.”
“You’re welcome, Mrs. Bricker,” he said, wiping his hands on a dishtowel.
I wrinkled my nose and stuck my tongue out at him.
“I’ll help Tru-man!” Ronnie said. With a finger, he wiped the spills Truman had made around the muffin cups, licking the salt-buttery batter.
“Our maid never let me lick batter,” Truman said. Then he chuckled. “My father said Lizzie made Howard Hughes look positively devil-may-care when it came to germs. Father got a big kick out of teasing her—fake coughing and sneezing and stuff in the kitchen.”
Ronnie’s green eyes widened. “Not even cookie dough?”
“Nope.” Ronnie looked at Truman as though he’d spent his childhood chained to a rack in a rat-infested basement and climbed into his lap.
“We always eat cookie dough,” I said.
“And lick the beaters,” Ronnie said happily, bouncing on Truman’s knee.
“Georgie, please arrange these branches in the vase with the fluted top,” my mother said.
At a knock-knock, knock-knock on the door, Ronnie jumped down. “It’s Miss Foxie!”
Miss Foxie had said her “Brobdingnagian brood” in Leesburg wore her out, so she would spend the day with us. Ronnie told her that he put the teeny marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. He’d also eaten half the bag while my mother’s back was turned.
Truman stood. “Happy Thanksgiving, Miss Frame.”
“And to you, Mr. Parker,” she said. “Your paper on “The Prince and the Pauper” was quite good. I enjoyed your perspective on the theme that clothes make the man.”
“Asher, will you pull out the turkey?” my mother said.
At another knock-knock-knock, I froze.
“I’ll get it!” Ronnie cried. “I bet it’s Kelly!”
Though sheepish-faced, Kelly, in yet another gorgeous pullover sweater—plum and a pair of pressed gray slacks—looked as though he had stepped from a movie screen.
“Welcome, Kelly,” my mother said, her face flushed from the stove. “Georgie, will you introduce Kelly to Truman?”
Oh, Lord. Just kill me now. Why did my parents have to be so charitable anyway?
My stomach a fist, I introduced the boys and watched them exchange hellos that anyone else would have found ordinary.
“Hello,” Kelly said, his hands in his pockets.
Truman moved to shake Kelly’s hand. “Kelly. Nice to meet you.”
My pulse picked up. As the two shook hands, I looked from my darling boyfriend to my . . . friend. The two formed a tableau: the clear blue-eyed sun that warmed and soothed me by day, and the murky moon that tugged at a mystical and unexamined tide.
My father’s voice boomed. “Dinner’s on the table.”
Miss Foxie was feeling her oats. “How would you like for us to sit? Boy-girl-boy-girl?”
A lamb to the slaughter, I closed my eyes and waited for God to take me by the shoulders and steer me to my predestined place. I opened my eyes as Truman pulled out a chair for me and then seated himself to my left. And sliding into the chair on my right, like a brand new key into a lock? Kelly McGee.
“Oh!” my mother cried, rising from her post at the end of the table opposite my father. “I forgot the cranberry sauce!”
“I’ll get it, Mom,” I said, hopping up.
In the kitchen, I ran my wrists under cool tap water, willing my cantering heart to slow to a walk. Then, I upended the can of sauce over a dish, and shook it. The jellied purple blob slid out with a long smmuuckk.
Taking a deep breath, I rounded the corner.
When I was seated again, my father began the blessing. “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this splendid feast and the loving hands that prepared it. We are grateful for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us, and for those you have gathered to share our bounty. Amen.”
“Amen,” we all echoed.
My father stood to carve the turkey. He raised one of the wings, making it wave at Ronnie. “How many for white meat?”
“I want a drumstick in my tummy right now!” Ronnie said.
My mother looked at my brother as though she wanted to snatch the carving knife from my father’s grasp and use it to lop off Ronnie’s head.
“Son, that’s impolite,” my father said.
Kelly shifted, his leg nudging mine. “I prefer dark meat, Mr. Bricker, a thigh.”
I brought my glass to my lips, my teeth clicking against the rim.
Kelly passed the stuffing to me, and a whiff of musk rose above celery and sage.
“How’s that drumstick, buddy?” Truman asked Ronnie.
My father passed the breadbasket to my mother and bussed her cheek. “Everything’s delicious, Juli.”
“It is, honey, this stuffing is perfection,” Miss Foxie said.
My parents talked to Miss Foxie about her Christmas plans. I pushed the food around on my plate, feeling Kelly’s presence like a caul.
“Good cranberry sauce, Georgette,” he said. “Did you make it yourself?”
“Hardy-har-har,” I said, but stifled a grin.
Truman took my hand beneath the tablecloth.
“Georgie’s holding Truman’s hand!” Ronnie crowed. “He’s her BOY-friend!”
Kelly’s thigh pressed mine. Mortification burned a path from my knees to my neck as I peeked at him. He grinned around a bite of stuffing.
Truman tickled Ronnie’s ribs. “What do you know about boyfriends?”
As Ronnie wheezed with laughter, grins popped like flashbulbs around the table.
“Who wants dessert?” my mother asked.
After the dishes were cleared and soaking beneath a mound of suds, my mother and Miss Foxie shooed us all from the kitchen and Kelly mercifully left for home, but not before giving me a big wink behind Truman’s back.
Suddenly, I had to be alone with Truman.
I asked my mother if I could show him my room.
She studied the two of us. “Well, just for a minute. Keep the door open.” . . .