Authors note: Well, here's a fine pickle... After my last disastrous submission, I announced to all my friends that I was leaving the fandom, end of story. But then, a stupid plot bunny got entirely too aggressive, and my only option was to write. For those of you unfamiliar with Black Friday, in America, it is the day after Thanksgiving. The traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season, it is so called because stores that have operated at a loss, 'in the red', all year can make up their losses on this one day, and be 'in the black'. The sales start as early as 5am and can be have lowest prices of the year. It is a crazy shopping day, with thousands of people on the roads and in the stores and is definitely not for the faint of heart.
23-year-old Virgil Tracy shut down his Porsche Sportster and sat back, limp with exhaustion. He stared out through the windshield at the old farmhouse that had been his home until just a few months ago when he had graduated college and taken a job in Houston. The house, with windows lit, offered such a sense of welcome, that Virgil just sat for a few minutes drinking it in.
It didn't take long for the chill of the Kansas night to seep into the warm car, and with a sigh, Virgil got out, stretching away the long hours of driving before reaching across to the passenger seat to grab his duffle. By a habit ingrained over the years, he took the steps up to the porch two at a time, somewhat surprised not to have been assaulted by at least one of his three younger brothers.
He knew his father wasn't expected home until early the next morning, and his eldest brother, Scott, had not been able to get leave, but his brother John was home from college and Gordon had just graduated from basic training at the Naval training base in San Diego. Alan, of course, was still charming teachers and teenage girls at Kalvesta High.
Quietly opening the front door, Virgil found the house strangely peaceful. He frowned as he dropped his duffle at the foot of the stairs. There should have been the ruckus of a houseful of young men. There should have been the smells of Thanksgiving dinner. There should have been football on TV. Instead there was a preternatural quiet.
Suddenly worried, Virgil headed for the nerve center of the household, the big farm kitchen. Pushing through the swinging door, he found his beloved grandmother standing over the sink with her back to him. Seeing her there, tidy in her work apron peeling vegetables, gave Virgil a sense of rightness in the world.
"Grandma, I'm home." Virgil said, the familiar words contributing to his feeling of truly being home.
"There you are!" Ruth Tracy turned, her face wreathed with delight. "And it's about time, too! Come sit down, have a cup of coffee. How was your trip, sweetheart?"
Virgil instinctively sat in 'his' seat, accepting the mug his grandmother handed him, holding it up as she filled it with coffee. Taking a sip, he nodded. "Mmm, that's good, Grandma. Well, getting out of the city was just crazy. It took me over an hour to go five miles, but once I got out on the highway it wasn't so bad."
"You should have flown, honey. There's very little point in owning that plane if you don't use it."
Virgil smiled. His grandma didn't see the point of the little Neo-Jenny that he had built with Scott's help a couple of summers ago. The storage and upkeep were expensive, especially on his junior engineer's salary, but it was a good little plane, and apart from that, his only other vice was art supplies. "I know, I probably should have. But, you know, that car is just so much fun that I wanted to let 'er out."
Ruth pursed her lips. "That car."
Virgil grinned openly. The Sportster had been a graduation gift from his father. It was fast. It was slick. It was fast. The only problem had been getting his speed-freak father to actually turn it over to him. "Yup, that car. Hey, where are the guys? It was so quiet coming in, I thought I came to the wrong house there for a minute. And for that matter, where's the turkey? Surely you didn't let them eat it all?"
"The boys aren't here, they're in Kansas City…"
"Kansas City? What the hell… uh, I mean, heck, are they doing in Kansas City?"
"Well, they want to do some shopping tomorrow, and they decided to get a head start on it."
Virgil blinked. "They left you alone on Thanksgiving?"
"Oh, now, don't make it sound like high treason. I told them it was all right. It actually works out better this way. I'll cook the turkey tomorrow, and we'll all be here together. Well, except for your brother Scott." Ruth's voice was tinged with regret at that statement. Scott had not been home for the holidays for three years running, and his absence created a huge hole in the fabric of the Tracy family.
"So no turkey sandwich for me?" Virgil sighed wistfully.
"Not until tomorrow. For tonight, I've made you a pork roast."
Virgil perked right up. "Oh man. Grandma, I dream of your pork roast! It costs me a fortune in pillows. I wake up with them soaked in drool."
Ruth wrinkled her nose. "I don't think I needed to hear that. You go wash up, and I'll get it on the table."
"You are the best, you know that?" Virgil headed for the front of the house where he had dropped his duffle. Sweeping it up, he headed up the stairs, taking them two at a time. His bedroom was just the same as the last time he had been here. Models of famous aircraft hung from the ceiling, the walls were covered with sketches and artwork. Tossing the duffle on the neatly made bed, he headed to the bathroom.
Splashing water on his face did a good job of clearing the tiredness of the eleven-hour trip. Drying off, he headed back to his bedroom. Listening for his grandmother, he closed the door softly and pulled out his cell phone. Fast dialing a number, he sat on the edge of his bed.
"Hey, Virg! You make it home yet?" His brother John's grinning face appeared.
"Yeah. I did. I found Grandma here alone."
John's smile tightened at the tone. "Okay, so, you have a problem?"
"John, it's a goddamn holiday, and you idiots left her alone. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Whoa. You need to be sure of your ground before you fly off the handle there, Virg."
"Bullshit. All I need to know is she's alone."
"I'll tell you what. You calm down, and we'll talk about it when we get home." John's eyes were narrowed in anger.
"Don't you hang up on me… John… Don't you…" Virgil swore under his breath. He hadn't even realized he was mad until John had answered the phone. He took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself. Staring at his phone, he considered whether to try again.
His head came up at the muffled tone of the house phone ringing downstairs. He immediately flushed with anger. If John were calling to squeal on him, he'd kick his butt all the way back to Harvard. Putting the cell phone down on the bed, Virgil headed for the kitchen. As he came down the stairs, he heard his grandmother's voice in the kitchen, but when he pushed through the door, she was hanging up the phone.
"Who was that?" he asked, not sure that he really wanted to know.
"Alan. Sit down, honey, I don't want your dinner to get cold."
Virgil sat warily, but Ruth made no indication of what the conversation had been about. Instead, she continued to bring bowls and dishes to the table. Virgil whiffed appreciatively at the aroma of roasted pork and potatoes. In addition, there was homemade applesauce and asparagus in Ruth's special vinaigrette sauce. "Oh, Grandma, you spoil me."
"Would you like some milk with that, or just coffee?"
"Milk would be great." Virgil waited patiently until Ruth seated herself. Together they said a simple grace, and then Virgil dug in.
"Now, sweetheart, I want to hear all about Houston, and what you're doing there, but first, let me clear something up. I was looking for a reason, any reason to put off Thanksgiving until tomorrow. I wanted both you and your father here to enjoy it." Ruth reached across the table to take her grandson's hand. "So when Gordon said there was something in the ads that he really wanted, I was all for him going. Of course, there was no question about Alan joining him, and so I insisted that John go too, to look after them."
Virgil looked at the elderly woman with a deep abiding love. "Okay, Grandma. I just don't like the idea of you being here all alone."
"Well, now, your father is talking of moving to that island of his next summer, and with Alan graduating and going off to college, I'll be alone anyway, so you'd better get used to the idea." Ruth replied tartly.
"Wait… I just assumed you'd be going to the island with Dad…"
"So does he, but this is my home. I have no need or desire to leave. Your dear mother, and grandfather are buried just down the road, and all of my friends are here."
"But Grandma, you shouldn't be alone!"
"And why is that? You think I'm some frail little old woman? Some ninny without the resources to spend time alone? I'll have you know, young man, that I have not taken leave of my senses just quite yet. I've never been cosseted in my life, and I don't need to be now."
Virgil held up his hands in surrender. "Grandma, I never doubted that for a minute, but you'll just have to forgive me for thinking you deserve to be cosseted and coddled and put up on a pedestal to boot!"
Ruth tried to maintain a severe look, but the smile crept through. "Humph. Normally, I'd say flattery will get you nowhere, but I just happen to have an extra pumpkin pie that we might as well cut into tonight."
Virgil's eyes brightened. "Well, if you say so…"
Ruth smiled with love in her eyes, watching her grandson eat with enthusiasm.