Ian was cautiously amused at the amount of penis paraphernalia that was lying around our house, but he made me store it all in the spare bedroom (and double check to make sure I got it all) when he sat down on the couch after his shower one evening, only to discover that he was being poked in the butt-cheek by a stray jumbo, fruit flavored cock pop that had apparently slipped between the couch cushions. In my defense, I’d dumped everything out of the bags into piles on the couch (I ran out of room on the coffee table) to make kind of an assembly line when I was putting together my party favor gift bags for everyone.

So sue me for missing one huge, hot pink, penis shaped sucker. And the two penis straws and a tin of dick mints that were down in the couch, too.

Thankfully, we hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Victoria since that night when we went out, but that didn’t mean I was resting easy. I had a sneaking suspicion that she would try something on Thanksgiving, but Ian had stopped that before it even started.

Ian’s parents had invited us to their posh, catered dinner party for the holiday, but since they invited the Jones family, regardless of everything that Ian had told them, he’d advised them in no uncertain terms that it’d be a cold day in hell before we’d show up. I felt bad for him, because they are still his parents, but he was adamant that he refused to stand for me being disrespected by their ridiculous notions. But, of course, I was absolutely jumping for joy on the inside that I didn’t have to spend any time with them.

The day of Thanksgiving, Ian and I went over to my parents’ house early so I could help my mom. She’d called two days earlier and asked if I would (like I’d say no), and Ian had just come with me rather than having two separate vehicles there, so he was in the living room with my dad, who was flipping back and forth between the two parade channels and bitching that football wasn’t on yet.

I was cubing up blocks of Colby cheese for my mom’s homemade mac & cheese while my mom chopped onion and celery for the stuffing when she asked me, out of nowhere, “Are you happy?”

I blinked in surprise. “What?”

“Are you happy?” she asked again.

“Well, yes, Mom, I am. Why would you ask me that?”

She shrugged one shoulder and continued to work, chopping vegetables without missing a beat. “I’ve asked both of your sisters that at one time or other. It’s a relevant question. I want to know that my children are really, truly happy with their lives. So can you answer your momma, please?” She huffed and pursed her lips at me, but I could see the twinkle of laughter in her eyes.

“Yes, Mom,” I said, my lips tilting up in an indulgent half-smile. “I’m happy. He makes me very happy, as you well know. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be marrying the man.”

“Okay. That’s all I need to know. So how about this Icktoria bitch? You punched her in the face, yet?”

“Mom!” I exclaimed, laughing. “No, I haven’t punched her in the face. Do you want your child to go to jail?” I asked her, shaking my head. “I take it Emma and Allie opened their big mouths and told you what happened at the dance club that night?”

“Does a bear shit in the woods?”

I dropped my head and sighed. “You could have just said yes, Mom. Simply yes would have worked.”

She just hummed and tossed the chopped vegetables into a bowl. “Have you talked to your brother lately?” she asked, changing the subject.

She’s good at that, and she does it randomly, with a quickness.

I loaded the chopped cheese into the baking dish with the cooked macaroni and reached for the milk, shaking my head as I did. “Why? What’s he done, now?”

She sighed. “I just wish he’d settle down, or at least find someone decent to date. I’ve had enough of the Buffy, Kitty, Nimby-Pimby girls he’s been seeing lately.”

“Nimby-Pimby? Mom, seriously. Those aren’t even words. And Calland will settle down, eventually. He just needs to find the girl that won’t take his shit and puts him in his place.” I smiled. “God, I can’t wait to watch that.”

“Should be pretty interesting, I’ll give you that,” Mom commented, moving to the sink to wash her hands. “So, when are you gonna give me grandbabies?”

“Jesus, Mom!”

Ian was shaking his head, his shoulders bouncing with silent laughter.

We were all sitting around the table, stuffing our faces with the overabundance of food that had been prepared for the day, talking over one another, and having a good time, in general, but in that moment, I knew exactly what had caught Ian’s eye and caused his laughter.

But then, so did my sister, who groaned and dropped her head onto my shoulder, since she was sitting next to me.

“Mother! How many times have we told you not to give him eggs?” she whined as she watched our mom slip a deviled egg under the table to the waiting yellow lab snout we knew was resting on her knee.

“What?” she said, defensively. “I’m not doing anything!”

Yes, she said that with a completely straight face as she slipped a sliver of turkey under the table to the black lab snout we all knew was resting on her other knee, the yellow one’s perfect counterpart and partner in crime.

Luke wisely kept his mouth closed, not bothering to argue with his mother-in-law, but his lips were twitching.

“Doug! D.J.!” Emma yelled, lifting her head and then hunching down to peek under the table at the wagging tails attached to the opposite end of the snouts that were currently chomping down on whatever else Mom had slipped to them.

“Might as well give it up,” I muttered to her. “You know they won’t leave her side.”

She glared at me and then sat back up, shrugging. “That’s fine. You know the rules. Dogs are yours for the night, Mom. And you know what’s going to happen. Happens every time you give Doug eggs, and then Dad bitches at you, you call me complaining and swearing because he’s stinking up the house…” She crossed her arms and stared at Mom defiantly. “Hope you’re happy.”

Ever since Luke and Emma had gotten together, Doug, and now D.J., were required to attend every family event at my parents’ house, especially Thanksgiving. In fact, the very first Thanksgiving Doug had attended with my family, my mom had set him up with his own little plate at the kitchen table, and fed him with a fork. Now that there’s two of them, she’s settled for simply feeding them from her plate while they hide under the table with their heads in her lap, but they still get their fair share of the Thanksgiving feast, no matter how many times Emma pleads with her to stop.

And Emma’s right; she gives Doug deviled eggs every time, and without fail, Emma and Luke leave him (and now D.J., too) at their house for the night, and Doug returns the favor by passing enough toxic fumes from his rear end to choke a horse and subjecting my poor parents to the stench.

It’s a vicious, hilarious circle, but hey…that’s my family.

After dinner, we all tucked into the stock pile of desserts, laughing as usual when Calland (who had actually refrained from hiding the mac & cheese from her this year) started messing with Emma.

She’d gotten a piece of pecan pie smothered in whipped cream, and was feeding Everly small bites of the whip cream in between taking bites of her pie. Whenever she’d turn to the baby, who was sitting in the high chair beside her, Calland would move the plate just enough that when she’d turn back, her elbow would cruise through the whipped cream, smearing all over her sleeve.

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