The next day, Missy disappears into the shower again.
“Miss!” Matt calls into the bathroom from the hallway. “What the hell you doin’? It’s one thing to be in the tub for an hour; it’s a whole other thing to be in the shower for an hour! I’m amazed the hot water’s been lasting that long. We gotta get goin’ to yer folks’ place for turkey dinner. Like now!”
Missy and Matt arrive back at the sweet white house where a number of cars sit in the driveway. Linda waves at them from the kitchen window.
After walking in the back door, Missy finds herself surrounded by a group of humans assembled in the kitchen. They’re holding tight to clear vessels of various colored liquids and nibbling thin, crispy, crunchy things.
“Help yourself to potato chips and everything else,” Linda says, seeming somewhat disheartened that she has to steer her daughter around the food spread on the kitchen table. “Want some pop?”
Linda bites her trembling lip. “You’ve always liked Sprite the best. Let me get you some of that.” She pours some clear liquid into a cup for her daughter.
A man about five years older approaches her. She smiles but returns to examining the food on the table.
“Missy Miss,” he says, clearly crushed that she doesn’t remember him.
“Yer brother Rod,” Linda says.
Missy notices that one of those strange drops slips from her mother’s eye down her cheek before she brushes it away. By now she knows they’re called tears, but they’re still odd to her.
Linda puts her arm around her son. “You remember him, don’t you, Missy? Well, hopefully this will all come back to you.”
“I’m so sorry I didn’t make it back to see you in the hospital,” Rod says to her, taking her hand. “But I called Mom every day to check on you.”
“Montana’s too far fer a quick trip, especially with a family and all,” Frank says. “But at least we got him home fer Thanksgiving.”
“Montana?” Missy hasn’t studied geography as much as other things.
Rod puts his arm around a woman who’s about his age. “You remember my wife Lori? And the kids? Here are yer favorite niece and nephew, Alison and Jim.”
“Are you my favorites?” Missy asks them.
“Only because they’re yer only niece and nephew,” Frank says. “Gettin’ to be a handful, almost teenagers and all.”
“And look who’s here over here,” Linda smiles. “Yer cousin Leslie. You two were as thick as thieves.”
“Thick as thieves?” Missy makes a note to study American idioms more in her late-night Google sessions, too.
“You two were so close, just like sisters.”
A woman about her age approaches her and awkwardly gives her a hug. “You remember me, don’t you, Missy?” At Missy’s blank look, she continues, “We grew up together, nearly as close as sisters. I know all of your secrets, and you know all of mine.”
“Your secrets are definitely secrets now,” Missy says, and the group laughs—although not really.
An older man approaches her and puts his arms around her. She freezes.
“Missy, you remember yer Uncle Charlie, don’t you?” Linda asks.
Every cell in her body turns to ice. She can barely look him in the eyes. Thankfully she gets a reprieve by another woman reaching out to hug her.
“And yer Aunt Jane.”
“Missy, we’re so happy yer back with us.”
“And here’s yer Aunt Flo, from Greensburg, where the tornado hit a bunch of years back. You have any recollection of that? The whole town was leveled but no one was hurt.”
“Nope,” Flo says. “We had enough warning that it was coming that we could turn off the gas and electricity in the whole town, and everyone hunkered down in their basements. And you should see how we rebuilt it! You’ll get to see it this summer, hopefully, when my youngest gets married.”
Missy smiles, as she tries to recall tornado from her Google searches. She tries eating one of the thin, crispy, crunchy things and almost gags. It’s close to what she imagines the sea would taste like, since she’s heard it’s full of salt.
Whatever did my brothers and sisters do before the advent of the computer and the internet? Well, they probably didn’t get rerouted after their training, that’s what.
Missy and Matt walk into her parents’ dining room and Missy stops, stock still. The side table is laden, overflowing with a deluge of food—a huge (dead) bird with a small pitcher of brown sauce beside it; large serving bowls of soft white stuff, elongated green things, and what looks like chunks of bread; several smaller serving bowls with some kind of red sauce; butter on a dish, dinner rolls, and a braided loaf of bread. An assortment of cakes and pies sit on a nearby table. Oh, right. She remembers from the chicken-fried-steak meal that the brown sauce and soft white stuff are gravy and mashed potatoes.
“Are we expecting more people?” Missy asks.
“No, darling,” Linda laughs. “We’ll just have lots and lots of leftovers. We’ll be eating this through the weekend.”
Missy watches Frank and then Matt load food—and then more food—onto their plates. She’s more than somewhat dazed.
Linda takes her plate. “Here, let me help you. Here’s some turkey, here’s some stuffing, and here’s some mashed potatoes and green beans. Here’s the gravy boat—you tell me what you think is enough.” Linda pours until Missy holds up her hand. “That’s all? Well, okay.” She butters a dinner roll and plops it on the mountain on Missy’s plate.
The crowd can’t all fit around the dining table, so some sit in the living room, balancing their up-to-the-stratosphere-high plates of food on their laps. Missy tries to focus on just her plate, eating around the edges and trying to get as far inward as possible.
The football game—Is that a gladiator event? No, wrong millennium—on the television makes it hard to hear the conversations around her, which seem a little stilted. The family members cast glances at her, and she just tries to smile back at them as best she can.
“Going back fer seconds,” Matt says. “Want anything?”
Seconds? S he shakes her head as her mouth is stuffed with stuffing.
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