Disclaimer: Hinton owns all, except Tabitha.
Big thanks to our Beta Reader – Latch!
I see my reflection in the window/It looks different, so different than what you see/Projecting judgment on the world/This house is clean baby
Betty hummed as she shoved the turkey into the oven and began working on a pumpkin pie. She smiled at Frank, Tim, and Curly's heckling at the TV. It was one of the few times they actually got along. Kneading the dough, she sighed and looked at the clock. It was noon and her brother and parents still hadn't reached Tulsa yet. Had they changed their minds? Her parents had always been hard on her, and didn't get any easier when she married Tim, Curly, and Angela's father, all those years ago. Pushing the thought out of her mind, she peered into the living room.
Angela was sitting on the couch, making remarks about how the TV was too loud. Betty hoped she didn't spill any nail polish. She had already ruined bed sheets that way. Tabitha, on the other hand, had her head buried in a book with a scowl on her face - no doubt due to the noise. That girl was going to make something of herself. She'd make the family proud.
"Too much noise, Tabby?" Betty asked her daughter as she made her way into the kitchen.
"Yeah, it's my homework and I need to get it done for school." Tabitha nodded, sitting down at the kitchen table.
"Sweetie, you have a week off," Betty said. "Why don't you take a break?"
Tabitha frowned at her. At least one of her children was worried about school. "I want to get it all done; I still have math and science left. I hate math; it always makes my average go down."
"It's Thanksgiving - one day won't hurt, hm?"
"Okay, Ma." Tabitha smiled. Betty returned it and pulled out a rolling pin from the drawer.
"Why don't you help me? You can put the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. Just don't put it in the oven - I'll do it," Betty said, remembering last Thanksgiving when Tabitha had burnt her arm.
"Okay," Tabitha said. Taking a handful of marshmallows, she poured them on top of the sweet potatoes.
"Don't sneak a few for yourself; you'll ruin your appetite."
Angela walked into the kitchen with a bored looked on her face.
Betty sighed. "What is it, dear?"
"Can I go to Bryon's house for awhile?"
"I'm sure he's spending Thanksgiving holiday with his family," Betty answered, unhappy at her daughter's disinterest in the family. "Why can't you spend yours with us?"
"I thought Bryon's family hated you?" Tabitha asked.
"Mind your own fucking business," Angela hissed.
"Angela!" Betty scolded. "Don't make me wash your mouth out with soap."
"Fine." Angela huffed. "If I have to spend the day here, can I at least go over to Bryon's house for dessert? He invited me."
"Okay, but I think it's too early for dessert, don't you?"
"Yeah," she said, sitting down into the chair across from Tabitha, glaring at her as she did so. Betty wished those two would get along.
"Hey, Uncle John," Curly greeted her brother.
"I didn't know Uncle John was coming," Angela said, getting up from the table.
"He and your grandparents are visiting this year." Betty smiled, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Grandpa John?" Angela grimaced. "He always says that my outfits make me look like a tramp."
"The clothes hamper is in the utility closet," Betty said, sighing. "Put on one of my blouses."
Angela scowled at the thought. "So, you agree. You think I look like a tramp?"
"Of course not." Betty bit her lip. "But I don't want to hear Daddy complain."
Betty resisted the urge to roll eyes once her daughter started to cough. "I think I'm getting sick. I should go upstairs. Grandma and Grandpa are old; I don't want them getting a cold."
"Angela, sit," Betty warned, but Angela was already at the door.
"Tell them I said hi."
Betty shook her head when she heard her daughter walking up the stairs.
Patting Tabitha on the back, they made their way into the living room where her family was talking loudly amongst themselves.
"Angela went upstairs in a hurry," her father commented from the couch.
"She was sick."
"You're a bad liar," John whispered in her ear.
Betty smiled and elbowed him in the stomach. Laughing, her brother pulled her into a hug. It had been a year since she had seen him; he'd spent two days at their house before fleeing to Arkansas with a waitress he'd met. They lasted about three weeks - a personal record for her brother.
Betty watched her youngest daughter hug her grandparents. "Did Tabitha tell you she made the honour roll this semester?"
"That's wonderful, darling," her mother said, patting Tabitha's hand.
Tabitha blushed. "It's not a big deal..."
"Of course it is. Nobody in our family has done anything like that," John said.
"Yeah," Tabitha said, biting her lip.
Betty smiled; at least one of her children knew what modesty meant.
"Are you thinking about college?" her father asked Tabitha.
"She's only in middle school," Tim spoke up, his eyes still glued to the T.V.
"Never too early to think about college," her father disagreed. "It's something you should think about, boy."
Tim gave her father an incredulous look, but kept his mouth shut. Her baby was smart, but he and everyone else knew he wasn't college material.
"Betty, why don't you go upstairs and get my granddaughter?" her mother suggested. "I never get to see her."
"I'll go with you," John said, following her up the stairs.
"You might have to drag her downstairs," Betty said once they were in the upstairs hallway.
"I figured as much." John grinned, his dimples showing. Those dimples got him into more trouble than his eye for married women. Her brother was handful, to say the least, but he knew how to get out of trouble, just as fast as he got into it. Yeah … That's where her sons got it from. Not her or their father, but their uncle.
Betty frowned. "She didn't even want to stay here; she'd rather be with her boyfriend today."
"I'll talk to her," John said, knocking on her door.
Betty opened the door after not getting an answer. Angela was lounged on her bed, reading a fashion magazine and eating candy corn that had been left over since Halloween. Not many children came trick-or-treating at their house, but Betty always stocked up on the stuff anyway.
"Your grandmother wants to see you," Betty said.
Angela rolled her eyes. "More like judge me."
Betty sighed and rubbed her temples, feeling a headache coming on. She looked at her brother for help.
"Come on, Angel, don't be difficult. You're supposed to spend today with your family."
"You don't look sick to me," John said, sitting down on her bed and snatching the magazine from her hand. "'How to make your breasts look bigger...' Hm, interesting." Sticking out his chest and looked down.
Betty rolled her eyes as Angela blushed.
Taking the magazine back, Angela said, "I swear, the men in this family are so immature."
"We try," John joked.
"If I go downstairs and say 'hi,' then can I go to Bryon's?" Angela asked, looking at Betty.
"You don't want to spend time with us?" John asked, frowning.
"Everybody's too busy fawning over Tabitha," Angela said, rolling her eyes. "She's the good one and I'm the tramp."
"Ain't nobody said you're a tramp," John said, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close.
"Grandpa did," Angela said, sitting up.
"Ignore him." John shrugged. "All of us do."
"Fine," Angela huffed. "But as soon as dinner is over, I'm going to Bryon's." Angela walked out the door and slammed it shut for emphasis.
"Sure is a firecracker," John said.
"She's going to make us all gray before our time. At least Tabitha's no trouble." Betty smiled. "I think she has her first crush."
"Isn't she too young for that?" John asked.
Betty shook her head. "It's Angela's boyfriend. I doubt anything's going to happen."
X X X
Betty walked downstairs and sighed when she saw Angela pouting on the couch, listening to her mother talk to her about the 'proper way a girl should dress.'
"Angela, why don't you come help me in the kitchen?"
Angela got up and pushed past everyone into the kitchen with a scowl on her face.
Betty checked on the turkey and looked at her daughter. "They're just very old school, honey."
"Old school," Angela scoffed. "More like still living in caves."
Betty laughed, remembering when she was younger; how strict her parents were with her. But they let John get away with everything. "Yeah, but your grandfather loves you, and he's just worried about you."
"Sure," Angela muttered, plunking cranberries into a pot of water.
Curly walked into the living room with John in tow. "Mom, can I invite Laurie over after dinner?"
"Doesn't she want to spend thanksgiving with her family?" Betty asked, wondering when children stopped caring about their families.
"Who's Laurie?" John asked.
"His girlfriend," Angela said, pouring sugar into the boiling water with the cranberries.
"So, you finally got laid?"
"John!" Betty snapped.
"Oh, come on, Betty. Him and Angela are old enough now."
"They're not even eighteen yet, John," Betty scolded. "Or married."
"Don't act like such a prude. Remember when I caught and your boyfriend in the car one time..."
"Tell us more." Angela smirked.
"No, he won't," Betty said sharply. "And that boyfriend happens to be your father. So it doesn't count."
Betty glared at her brother. He acted more childishly than the children.
"What doesn't count?" Tabitha asked, walking into the kitchen.
"Nothing, honey," Betty said. "Why don't you take your grandparents a drink?"
"Okay, can I have my book back now?" she asked, opening the fridge and taking out two beers and a diet Coke.
"Why don't you watch the football game with the boys?" Betty suggested.
"Because I don't like sports."
"Why don't you help Angela make the stuffing, then?"
"So can Laurie come 'round or not?" Curly asked impatiently.
Betty sighed. It wasn't that that she didn't like Laurie; she just wanted to spend the day with her family. "Yes, dear, she can come over." She sighed, smiling at the expression on Curly's face.
"Who wants to play a pick up game of football?" John spoke up, looking at his nieces. "Angela, you need some toughening up."
Tabitha scoffed. "She might break a nail."
"Ew, no." Angela scrunched up her face. "I don't spend hours doing my hair and face to end up smeared in mud."
"Doesn't make much of difference," Curly started. "You still look like-"
"Charles, be nice to your sister," Betty said, cutting her son off.
"How about you, Tabitha. You're not superficial like your sister, are you?" John asked teasingly.
"No," Tabitha preened. "But I couldn't tackle anyone to save my life."
" I don't know if I feel comfortable with her out there with you boys. You get awfully rough. Besides, I don't want to start Thanksgiving day in the hospital."
"Relax, Betty, ain't nobody going to tackle a little girl," John said.
"Just keep an eye out for her, then," Betty said, frowning.
"Alright, alright," John said, and wandered off into the living room to round up Tim and Frank.
Tabitha followed her uncle and brother out into living room, saying, "But I don't even know how to play."
"Mom, you didn't have to get up," Betty said, mashing up the potatoes in a pan as her mother walked into the kitchen.
"I'm old, not dead," her mother said. "What can I do?"
"You can make the stuffing, Grandma," Angela said, reading the directions on the box with a frown on her face. Betty loved her daughter with all of her heart, but she was not going to make the best housewife. "I'm not that much of a cook."
"Well, maybe if you spent a little more time at home and less time gallivanting around the neighbourhood..."
"Betty, you have to stop defending them and face up to the fact that they're not going to get anywhere in life."
She watched her daughter scowl as she stared at her grandmother. Betty's blood boiled. "Angela, honey, why don't you go upstairs?"
"Or why don't you go to Bryon's? I'll save you some dinner."
Angela smiled. "Okay. Nice seeing you, Grandma," she said sarcastically.
One Betty heard the door shut, she turned to face her mother with her hands on her hips, dinner forgotten. "How dare you come into my home and say that garbage in front of my kid?"
"Oh, please, Betty," her mother scoffed. "I'm sure they've heard it all before."
"Not from their grandmother, who's supposed to love them no matter what," she defended. "I know Tim and Curly like to get into trouble, but they're boys; it's what they do. John wasn't an angel either."
"John isn't always in and out of jail!"
Betty bit her lip. "If you hate my family, then why did you come down here?"
"John dragged us here," she said haughtily. "He's enlisted for the Army. He wanted to spend his last Thanksgiving with all of his family."
Betty's face fell and she felt bile rise up in her throat. "What?"
"You heard," her mother said.
Betty couldn't believe how emotionless her mother was acting, especially when breaking the news.
Betty recovered. "This news should bring us closer for John at least; you shouldn't take my mistakes out on your grandchildren."
"I shouldn't have to," her mother said. "You could have just gone to a convent, given up Timothy, and married Robert Smalls."
Betty frowned as she remembered the man who her parents had wanted her to marry. His family had their own ranch and brought in a good amount of money, even during the Great Depression. He had a good public image and sent her flowers in attempt to woo her – only everyone failed to see him for the jackass he was.
"Instead, you married that Shepard, who ran off and left you with three children."
"Matthew loved me at one point, and I would have never gone along with that plan. I love Tim and I don't regret having him."
"Biggest mistake," her mother muttered.
Betty was about to defend her son, but she paled at the sight of Tim in the doorway. "Tim..."
Tim stared at his grandmother, his eyes dark and his expression black. He stalked up to Betty and put an arm around her.
"You okay, Ma?" he asked, not taking his gaze off of his grandmother. Her mother sent her a disappointed look before excusing herself and walking back into the living room.
"I'm fine, dear," Betty said. "And about what you heard-"
"I never listen to them anyway," Tim interrupted. He pulled out some money and handed it to her. "For next week's grocery bill."
Betty smiled. He may have been a mistake or a nuisance to everyone else, but Tim was the best thing that had ever happened to her.