Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I blame her entirely for my unhealthy obsession…
Okay, so ultimate FAIL on my updates for MIF – well over a year since the last chapter posted, which is inexcusable, I know. I had intended to post it by Thanksgiving of 2010. First I got busy writing a one-shot, "Poster Girl," for the original One-Shot Soundtrack contest, and I worked on it for almost two months trying to get it right. I had it finished, didn't like the ending so I trashed it and re-wrote the ending. I had initially included a lemon in the story that I removed (but might eventually post as an outtake), and so on. I also had an epic angst attack, and wrote a second chapter for my (no longer) one-shot "Remission." I depressed myself while writing it, so read it at your own risk. Then writer's block hit, and it all just went "poof."
Here we are, a year and a month (plus) and my second job later… Hopefully this won't disappoint those of you still with me.
After having my fill of angst, I wanted this chapter to take me to my happy place, so if you're looking for drama or misery, you won't find it at this point… (I make no such promises for future chapters, however.) Instead, sit back and have some fun with the Cullens!
As always, love and thanks to A Little Distracted, for beta-ing and being my best friend and putting up with all the fun and drama that comes with the title, and to FangMom for pre-reading and providing never-ending moral support and commiseration...
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed, added as a favorite or story alert. Review replies are going to be sporadic at best (if I get to reply at all – I know, it's inexcusable), but please know that it makes my day, week, month, year, and I love you all.
Happy Thanksgiving 2011 to everyone!
Playlist for Chapter 18 – "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough" by New Radicals, "Thankful" by Kelly Clarkson, "Alice's Restaurant Massacre" by Arlo Guthrie, and "Change the World" by Finger Eleven
*Voiceover* Previously on "My Imaginary Friend:"
Edward and Bella left the epic Cullen Halloween Party for some quality alone time in the treehouse…
No words could adequately describe the way I was feeling. Bella summed it up as well as possible with "Wow," but it was still much, much more.
As I watched my beautiful sleeping girl, a smile gracing her face as she murmured her love for me, I had an epiphany. My love, my mate – and someday my wife – I couldn't be without her ever again. We were simply meant to be, and there was no reason we couldn't be together. Forever.
Chapter Eighteen – Thankful
The days after Halloween passed in a blur.
When we weren't in school, Edward and I spent the majority of our time sitting at my kitchen table doing our homework and filling out a seemingly endless stack of college applications. If we weren't at my house, we were relaxing with the rest of Edward's family at his house, or christening every accessible flat surface in our treehouse. We simply couldn't get enough of each other. Once that monster had been unleashed, Edward's adventurous side knew no bounds... Well, that wasn't entirely true; he still insisted on boundaries because the other party in the equation was a fragile human. Emmett had spilled the beans about how he and Rosalie "Would've reduced the treehouse to sawdust by now," if it were them instead of us.
Still, I wasn't complaining, and the perma-smile never left my face. There's a lot to be said for the stamina of a vampire forever frozen at seventeen.
Thanksgiving was less than a week away, and Esme had invited the Swans and the Blacks to enjoy her culinary skills. Esme was an incredible cook, and loved any excuse to make enough food to satisfy an army – or Emmett, if he were human – even when it was only me that she was cooking for. I'd told her it probably wasn't a bad idea to triple the quantity for this particular occasion. Jacob alone could consume a week's worth of groceries in one sitting. Apparently, maintaining his werewolf physique required enough calories to put a sumo wrestler in a food-induced coma.
Jacob and I were discussing the upcoming feast, and I watched him salivate on himself when I told him the menu that Esme had planned. She was baking an enormous turkey with two types of dressing to be served on the side, along with mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn pudding, dinner rolls, and cranberry sauce. Emmett wanted to fry a turkey, "Cajun-style," just so he could "display his mad cooking skills" with boiling peanut oil in the Cullens' back yard. Jasper was stockpiling fire extinguishers for the event. I was providing pumpkin pies, apple pies, and just for Charlie, berry cobbler.
"Oh my God, that sounds amazing! So how are the Cullens going to explain the whole not eating thing when Charlie is sitting with them at the table?" Jacob asked.
"They have a plan... sort of." I paused, imagining the unbridled carnage to come. "Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie, and Alice made a bet to see who could scarf down the most human food. The winner gets the car of their choice. Any car, at any price, from anywhere in the world… The losers have to drive these really ugly, old, beat up, crappy used cars for a year. Edward picked the 'loser prizes' since he's not participating in the contest, and he wanted to make it worthwhile. He pulled them up online to show me: there's a Yugo, an AMC Gremlin, and a VW Microbus. They're truly hideous. The winner decides which car goes to which loser. Can you imagine any of them driving one of those? You've seen what kind of cars they have! It's almost cruel. Almost."
Jacob chuckled and nodded in agreement, his eyes glazed over as he considered the drool-worthy collection of luxury vehicles housed in the Cullens' garage.
I waved my hand in front of his face to bring him out of his trance and told him, "My money's on Emmett to win. Carlisle, Esme, and Edward have opted to 'eat like civilized people.'"
"That'll be a sight to see – dinner and a show!" He laughed. "I didn't even know they could eat regular food. Why don't they just eat it all the time?"
"Edward told me that they can go through the motions of eating, like chewing and swallowing, but they have to throw it up later. Otherwise, the food will sit in their stomach, rotting away for all eternity." I shuddered at the thought. Eewwww.
Jacob looked nauseous. "Damn, that's gross! I wouldn't touch it if I was one of them, even if it was a bet. That just sounds disgusting, but I think it will be hilarious to watch them eat!"
"Yeah, it can't be very pleasant. When Edward took me on our first date to that Italian restaurant in Port Angeles, he ate most of his meal. At the time, he wasn't ready for me to find out what he was so he put on a good show. I'm just glad that I wasn't around when he puked it back up, poor thing." I smiled as I remembered our date, and how far we'd come since then.
I stopped reminiscing as a thought occurred to me, and I frowned in concern. "I should have asked you earlier, but I was too excited about all of us being together. Does your dad mind coming to dinner at the Cullens? I know how strongly anti-Cullen he was when they first moved to Forks…"
"Nah, he's cool with it," Jacob said, grinning from ear to ear. "Dad's become pretty open-minded about the Cullens these days. I've told him so much about them, and spent so much time hanging out with them, he doesn't even call them 'Cold Ones' anymore. They're just 'the Cullens' to him now. I think he's actually ashamed of how prejudiced he was about them at first. It's pretty obvious that they're the good guys, and he knows how happy you and Edward are together. He thinks of you as Edward's 'imprint' anyway."
"Really?" Jacob's answer took me completely by surprise.
"What would he think if Edward decided to change me?" I asked quietly.
"He'd understand. I've talked to him about it already, and he actually expects for it to happen. He's heard the stories about what happens to us when we lose our imprint… We basically go crazy from grief. It's like half of ourselves being ripped away."
"Wow! I never dreamed he'd accept the idea, since technically it is breaking the treaty."
"Don't worry about the treaty," Jacob reassured me. "It's about time we update it, anyway, it's more than 70 years old. We gotta live in the now."
He thought for a moment before he continued, "The way I see it, we'd actually be protecting people by keeping Edward happy. Who knows what would happen if he lost you and went berserk? He could end up going on a mindless rampage and slaughtering half of Forks. Hell, I know I'd completely flip my shit if anything ever happened to Leah. Has he said anything more about it?"
"No. Neither one of us has brought it up recently. I'm waiting until the holidays are over to try to discuss it. They're stressful enough as it is without the added pressure of trying to convince my vampire boyfriend-slash-soulmate to end my human life so I can be with him forever."
Hmmm, not a bad plan if you think about it. It sure sounds good to me. Why can't Edward see it that way?
"Don't worry about it, Bella. I have a feeling he'll come around."
I gave Jake a tight hug. "Thanks for being so optimistic. You're like a ray of sunshine around here."
Later that evening after Charlie had fallen asleep, Edward was snuggled up against me in my bed, his long fingers massaging my scalp and combing lazily through my hair. It was so relaxing; I let out a purr of contentment. Edward stopped abruptly, and drew a sharp breath.
I turned around so I could see his perfect face in the dim light. His obsidian eyes stared into mine through his impossibly long, dark lashes, and my heart stuttered a few beats.
"Bella," he whispered seductively, his cool breath across my ear sending shivers of anticipation down my spine. "You have no idea what that sound does to me, do you?"
Edward pulled me closer and I could tell exactly what that sound did to him. I sighed happily, pressing myself even closer to him. His lips met mine and I breathed him in, burying my fingers in his silky hair to pull him tightly to me. Heaven.
All too soon, he untangled my fingers from his hair and moved my hands to his chest, securing them in place with his own.
"Bella," he whispered lowly. "You know we can't get carried away here. Not under Charlie's roof, I respect his authority too much."
"Spoilsport," I pouted. "Always the gentleman…"
Edward grabbed my bottom lip between his own and tugged gently.
"Not helping here," I mumbled against his mouth.
"You know it's not because I don't want you. God knows how much I want you… all the time," he groaned. "I just don't want to give him any reason to disapprove of me. Besides, we can spend all day tomorrow at our treehouse…" He grinned widely, his white teeth gleaming in the darkness. "Sleep tonight. You'll need your strength for tomorrow."
"I know. You're right, but you'd better make it up to me tomorrow. Repeatedly." My words came out muffled as I spoke with my face buried against his chest.
Edward pulled me into his lap with my back to his chest and wrapped his arms around me, rocking me back and forth. "You can count on it, my beautiful Bella."
"Oh! I almost forgot!" I blurted as my conversation with Jacob surfaced through the fog of my hyperactive hormones. I wriggled out of his lap and turned to face him. "I talked with Jake today about Thanksgiving dinner at your house, and he and Billy are both excited to come. I even told him about the food bet. He thought it was hilarious and yet disgusting at the same time."
"It's been ages since any of my family members have eaten solid food. I've had more recent practice." He grimaced as he recalled the experience. "It should certainly be interesting, if not entertaining."
"I can't believe you suffered through an entire meal just for me, and now your whole family is willing to do the same. I'm having a hard time trying to picture Rosalie eating anything, ever… or even Alice for that matter. On the other hand, I can definitely see Emmett plowing through a mountain of food!"
We laughed quietly at the mental imagery.
"It will be a wonderful time, Bella, I promise. My family loves you so much, there's nothing they wouldn't do for your happiness. You are as much a daughter to Carlisle and Esme as Rosalie and Alice are. You are cherished by all of us," Edward said as he stroked my cheek softly with his fingertips.
"What did I ever do to deserve you?" I whispered, feeling awestruck and overwhelmed by the depth of emotion in his voice.
"I could ask the same of you," he answered sincerely. "You've brought light and purpose to an existence that had been dark and meaningless for so very long. Until you came into my life, I believed that I was meant to walk alone for all eternity."
"I love you, Edward." Forever.
"As I love you, precious girl."
I curled into the safe shelter of Edward's arms, and as he hummed softly in my ear I felt more at peace than I ever had in my life.
Emmett and Jasper were helping Esme unload the groceries purchased in her attempt to buy out the Thriftway. It looked like there was enough food to feed the entire town of Forks, rather than a vampire family and their four human guests. Okay, technically three humans and one lupine-hominid.
Naturally, they were arguing over who was carrying the most.
"No way, dude," Emmett was yelling at Jasper. "I have two giant mutant turkeys, two huge sacks of potatoes – plain and sweet – and all this crap that goes inside the turkeys." He paused as he pictured it and a look of disgust crossed his face. "That just ain't right! Being elbows deep up the ass of a dead bird has got to be one of the grossest things I can imagine! Better Esme than me... Anyway, count the number of bags I'm holding. I know I have more than you do."
Emmett looked down to count them himself, but there were so many packed against his body that he couldn't get a clear view. He sat the packages on the ground, and started juggling the turkeys. "Let's see if I can put some spin on these bad boys…"
The circle the flying poultry made kept growing larger, and I saw the whole event unfold an instant before it happened. The largest turkey was propelled high into the air, arcing over to land on the roof with a heavy thud.
"Way to go, dumbass! That one's all yours, Emmett," Jasper scoffed. "I'm pretty sure it's in no condition for Esme to use. Damn, dude! She spent nearly an hour comparing all the turkeys in the store so she could pick out the best ones. I guarantee she's going to be pissed…"
Jasper quickly scooped up all the bags Emmet had left on the ground and ran into the house with the entire purchase, minus the two turkeys.
Emmett stood with the second turkey tucked like a football securely under his arm, his mouth hanging open.
"I'm not sure that either of those turkeys is in any condition for cooking now that you've mauled them." I stripped the turkey out of his grip and ran with it. Jasper reappeared and together we played keep-away with the turkey, or more appropriately, "Monkey-Man-in-the-Middle," thwarting Emmett's efforts to reclaim it.
"Boys! I want that turkey off my roof and in the refrigerator where it belongs. Now!" Esme yelled from the kitchen.
"Yes, ma'am," Jasper and Emmett answered in unison.
I was already innocently walking into the kitchen carrying the other turkey and handed it politely to Esme.
"Thank you Edward. I'm glad that at least one of you knows how to act like a responsible adult," she said pointedly while taking the turkey. Then she looked down at what she was holding. "Good heavens, what did they do to it? It's pulverized!"
"They didn't do anything. That one is entirely Edward's fault. It was still in decent shape until he stole it from me!" Emmett exclaimed. "I might have had something to do with this one," he admitted, pointing to the misshapen bird he had retrieved from its perch the roof.
"I can't do anything with these!" Esme wailed, waving her arms in exasperation. "Now I have to go back to the store and get new ones to replace the perfectly good turkeys that you delinquents decided to destroy. I'd send the three of you, but I'm afraid the store might not be left standing after your visit. Now can you please manage to stay out of trouble while I'm gone?"
Properly chastised, we all nodded.
Bella arrived just after Esme left to make her second trip to the Thriftway.
"Hi guys! What's going on?" she asked brightly as she walked into the kitchen to join us.
A puzzled look appeared on her face as she studied the amorphous remains of the turkeys on the counter. She picked one up and turned it over, studying the package. "What in the world happened to the turkeys?"
"Emmett happened," I told her dryly.
"Hey!" Emmett protested. "Don't lay the blame on me. You and Jas were equally involved in the destruction."
"Oh, come on!" Jasper huffed. "None of this would have happened if you hadn't been juggling the damn things in the first place!"
Bella was chewing the side of her cheek, trying not to smile.
She turned to Emmett, her eyes gleaming with mirth. "So I guess your mad skills don't extend to juggling then."
"I am a master juggler, I'll have you know," Emmett said haughtily. "I just didn't account for the trajectory that the odd shape of the turkeys would make. I'm only used to juggling things that are spherical."
"Wow, Emmett, look at you using your big boy words! I'm so proud of you," Bella said with a wink.
"Nice, Bella! I don't doubt that Emmett's good at handling balls… He's a master something, alright," Jasper managed to choke out as he erupted in a fit of laughter.
"Oh yeah, Jasper? I'll show you who's master around here…" Emmett jumped on Jasper with his elbow cocked and ready.
Bella was literally crying from laughing so hard, and her face had turned a shade of red that I hadn't seen since Nine Inch Nails played "Closer" at their concert.
"Aaaaand on that note, I think I left something upstairs in my room. Bella, can you please come help me find it?" I said, grabbing Bella's hand and pulling her along with me.
We left Emmett and Jasper wrestling in the living room downstairs, cringing when we heard an occasional crash. Esme was going to reduce them to a smoldering pile of ashes when she got back from the store.
Thanksgiving Day was finally upon us, our guests had arrived, and the Cullen household was bustling with activity. Alice and Rosalie were putting the finishing touches on the "tablescape" – whatever that was about – and Bella was in the kitchen helping Esme with the final items on the menu. All the men were gathered around Emmett in the backyard, each one offering advice throughout the turkey frying process. Charlie had informed Emmett that he had the Forks Fire Department on standby, ready to prevent his little endeavor from burning down half of the Olympic National Forest.
Emmett had set up one of our flatscreens on the back porch so we could continue with our male bonding as we watched the football game. We cheered gleefully when the Denver Broncos defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 24 – 21, in overtime. I disliked the Cowboys intensely and still held a grudge over the beating they gave my beloved Chicago Bears the year before.
Man, that smells good… I can't wait to eat! Jacob's thoughts were focused, as usual, on food. Who knew that vampires could be such good cooks? Go figure.
By the time the two turkeys were ready to carve, the house was filled with the scents of Thanksgiving dinner and the sounds of growling stomachs.
Charlie stood in the kitchen and watched as Carlisle skillfully cut slices of turkey and artfully layered them on the serving platter. "I think I could eat one of those turkeys by myself right now," he offered.
"Dad, you have to save some room for dessert, remember? There's a berry cobbler with your name on it," Bella reminded him with a little wink as he followed her into the dining room.
"Aw, Bells, you didn't have to make something just for me. You spoil me too much," he stammered, pink rising on his cheeks.
"But you know you're worth it, Dad," she replied, stopping to give him a quick hug after she sat another bowl of steaming potatoes on the table.
At last, the entire meal was ready and arranged on the table before us. Carlisle's golden eyes were shining with happiness and pride, taking in the group assembled in our home to celebrate the holiday: seven vampires, three humans, and one shape shifter, all sitting with our hands joined as he offered the blessing. Through more than three and a half centuries as a vampire, the faith he developed in his youth had not waned, and the reverence in his voice touched everyone in the room.
"As we bow our heads to pray, we give thanks to you God, for this day of Thanksgiving.
We thank you Father, for our families, friends, and for all the blessings, both big and small, that you pour out on us each day.
We give thanks to you for this food and for the hands that have prepared it. We ask your blessings upon this meal: that it will nourish our bodies and refresh our souls.
We give thanks to you for this wonderful time together, and for each one present here today.
We ask you, dear Lord, let each one of us feel your love, comfort, and presence in our lives today and every day.
Let us not forget those who can't be here with us today. We give thanks to you for them, too. We miss our loved ones, Lord, but we are thankful for all the good times that we had with them.
We know, Lord, that this life is not all there is; that the best is yet to come if we live for you. So, help us each day to live our lives in ways that honor and please you. And we'll not forget to give you all the praise and glory.
In Christ's name we pray. Amen."
"Amen," we all murmured.
The food was passed around and I watched Bella scrutinizing each plate as my family members took their helpings.
Alice whispered rapidly, so that Charlie and Billy wouldn't notice. "Now remember the rules. You must eat some of everything that is being served with the meal including the desserts. No leaving the table until everyone is finished, otherwise you forfeit and you're stuck with a crappy car for a year. Good luck, and may the best woman – that would be me – win."
I was excited to witness the outcome of the contest, since I'd picked the worst vehicles in the history of automobiles for the losers. Alice couldn't see who would win because Jacob's presence at the table blocked her "vision," so it was anybody's guess as to who would end up with their dream car.
Dude, I am SO winning this bet. I refuse to be seen in a piece-of-shit car, and I can definitely use an upgrade from the Jeep. Emmett winked at me from across the table while he heaped food onto his plate. "This looks great, Mom, Bella… but I think the fried turkey will be the best part of the meal."
Rosalie rolled her eyes at the amount of food that Emmett served himself, and proceeded to take reasonable and ladylike portions of everything. Alice followed Rosalie's lead and watched in disgust as Jasper piled his plate even higher than Emmett's.
None of them came close what Jacob had amassed on his plate. He had to construct a mashed potato dike around the edge of his plate to keep food from spilling onto the table.
Jasper glanced at me and quickly tipped his head in Jacob's direction. Hey Edward, you remember the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," don't you?Doesn't Jacob's plate remind you of the mashed potato mountain that Richard Dreyfuss made? Watching Jacob eat is more horrifying than any movie I've ever seen.
The room grew silent as everyone started eating, except for the sounds of food disappearing and Jacob's appreciative moans and rapturous grunts around mouthfuls.
Oh my God, THAT is SO disgusting! Emmett's thoughts had morphed from excitement over the possibility of winning the bet to revulsion for consuming solid food and Jacob's eating habits. Bar none, this is the nastiest thing I've done since Carlisle changed me. You owe us big-time, Edward. If it were possible for a vampire to do so, I think Emmett would have been turning green. He looked positively nauseous as he forced down huge bites of turkey, dressing, and all the side dishes.
Jasper struggled with the food on his plate. It's a damn good thing that Jake can't be included in the bet. As gross as it is, he puts us to shame. We should put him up against that skinny Japanese guy in the hotdog eating contest in New York next year.
Watching Jake shovel it in, I had to agree. Nobody would stand a chance in an eating contest with him. He could probably make good money in a circus sideshow.
"Billy, it's a good thing we help feed that boy," Charlie chuckled, elbowing Billy's side. "You'd need a grant from the government to be able to buy all his groceries. Just watching him eat, you'd think he was raised by wolves."
Jasper nearly choked on a mouthful of food, trying to suppress a snort, while everyone else around the room chortled under their breath. He took advantage of the opportunity and excused himself from the table in a fit of coughing and raced out of the room. You know what? Screw it! No car is worth this suffering. I hardly ever drive, anyway!
Billy laughed and said, "It's a good thing that Leah and Emily feed him too, because we don't have enough room in the house to store the amount of food he goes through in a week."
"Hey!" Jacob protested around a mouthful of turkey. "I don't each that much. I think you're getting carried away."
"Yes, you do!" Bella, Charlie, Billy, and I exclaimed in unison.
Carlisle was shaking with laughter, and Esme's eyes were bright as she said warmly, "I can't describe how happy it makes me to see you enjoying the food we've cooked, Jacob. You're more than welcome to come over any time you want, and I'll see to it that you have a good meal while you're here."
"Thank you, Esme. I appreciate your offer, and I'll definitely take you up on it sometime. Shoot, I'd move in if you cooked like this all the time." Jacob grinned widely as he helped himself to another serving of everything.
Rose shuddered at the thought as she watched Jacob re-load his plate. Over my pile of ashes would he ever move into our house. He's a nice enough kid, but the house stinks just from his short visits. I can't imagine what it would be like if he lived here. There's not enough Febreeze on the planet to get that stench out! And if I never see him eat again, it will be too soon…
I had to clench my teeth to contain my laughter at Rose's internal dialogue. I couldn't fault her assessment; she was completely right about the smell. It was a pungent blend of wet dog, rotting meat, and excrement. Even if I could eat human food, I would have lost my appetite just from the stench. I was thankful that Bella couldn't smell it.
Alice had focused on clearing her first plate while everyone else's thoughts were focused on Jacob, and she grinned widely as she took another serving from the platters and bowls closest to her. "Charlie, can you please pass the gravy?" she asked sweetly. "This is such a wonderful meal." Edward, you know I want a yellow Porsche 911 Turbo with black leather interior, right? She pictured the car of her choice clearly for me to see.
Rose quickly finished the food on her plate and started in on her second round. There is no way on earth I'm going to be seen driving a Yugo, or any other crap car. I'll be driving a Bugatti Veyron, thank you very much. One down, two to go, and it's mine... "Esme, Bella, Emmett, you simply outdid yourselves on this dinner. I can't tell you enough how delicious everything is, and I can't wait to try the desserts; I'll have to work out for hours on end to burn off all these calories."
I've got your workout, babe, Emmett thought wickedly.
Bella grinned as she pushed away from the table and turned toward the kitchen. "I'll go get the desserts ready and bring them out to you."
"I'll help you," I offered, accompanying her into the kitchen.
Jacob followed right behind us and watched as Bella cut and plated the pies and cobbler. Time to liven up this little competition, he thought. He rummaged through the refrigerator and came out with a two-liter of Coke. With a wink, he downed the majority of the bottle without so much as taking a breath, picked up two plates of assorted pies and sauntered back to the table.
Bella was setting a plate with nearly a fourth of a pumpkin pie on it, smothered in a mountain of whipped cream, in front of Emmett when a burp of epic volume erupted from Jacob's esophagus. Emmett clamped his hand over his mouth, jumped up and all but ran from the table. Okay, that's it. I can't take this shit anymore. I can deal with a year of whatever crappy car Alice or Rosalie decides to stick me with, but I can't handle another second of Mr. Uncontrollable Bodily Functions over here. Besides, what's a year in the life of a vampire?
"Oh! Excuse me," Jacob apologized dramatically, then nonchalantly picked up Emmett's plate, moved it in front of himself and proceeded to devour the pie.
Charlie and Billy just looked incredulously at Jacob, shook their heads, and continued eating.
"Wolves, I tell you," Charlie muttered under his breath.
"But Em, you're missing out on the desserts!" Rosalie called after him.
"You can have mine, Rose. I'm too stuffed to eat another bite," he yelled in a strained voice, as he raced up the stairs to his bathroom.
"Darn, too late," she sighed sarcastically. "Jacob already got to it."
Wusses. Two down, one to go... Rosie cackled internally.
That display of Neanderthal behavior was beyond repulsive. Alice glared at Jacob when Charlie and Billy weren't looking.
Carlisle, Esme, and I were struggling to stifle our laughter. Bella's shoulders were shaking with the effort to contain hers.
Jacob smiled widely and patted his stomach. "I think I could use some more pie. Charlie, how's that cobbler?"
"Great," Charlie mumbled enthusiastically, after hastily swallowing a mouthful of said cobbler.
Alice and Rosalie were taking dainty bites of their pumpkin pie when Jacob sat back down with what appeared to be a collection of all the desserts loaded into a mixing bowl. I had to suppress a snicker at his thoughts. This is the most fun I've had with food in a long time. Now it's time to break out the big guns and seew ho's going down, and who's getting a sweet ride...
He had stirred everything together into a jumbled mess that looked like it had already been eaten at least a few times, and then shoveled a ridiculous amount into his mouth. He made sure that Alice and Rosalie got an eyeful of him exaggeratedly licking the spoon. With his mouth stuffed full, he told Alice and Rosalie, "Mmmmm. You juth gotta try thith, ith thoooo gooooood!" and plopped huge portions onto their dessert plates using the same spoon he'd just coated with his saliva.
Alice's eyes bugged out as she watched the concoction land on her plate, and then she said, "No, thank you. Just… No." Oh my God, I can't believe I'm giving up my Porsche, but I can't do this! I know where that spoon's been, and I refuse to ingest his dog spit. He probably licks himself – he IS a dog after all. That's just vile. I. Am. Done.
"Please excuse me everyone, but I've eaten too much and I need to go change into more comfortable clothes," Alice announced as she grabbed her stomach and took her leave from the dining table.
Yes! Victory is mine! Rosalie did an internal victory dance and mentally high-fived me as she sat demurely at the table. I'm going to look amazing driving my new Veyron!
I just smiled and rolled my eyes. Emmett congratulated her from upstairs, while Jasper consoled Alice over her loss. Jacob and Bella simply grinned at her when their fathers weren't looking.
When everyone had finished eating, we left the table and gathered around the living room to watch college football on TV. West Virginia University was playing Pittsburgh in the annual Thanksgiving "Backyard Brawl." We had become Mountaineer fans during our stay in Elkins, WV, so we were cheering for WVU to win. Charlie was so absorbed with WVU pummeling Pittsburgh that he never noticed each of us leave the room to relieve ourselves of the food we'd consumed.
As abhorrent as it tasted, I brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth with mouthwash before returning to cuddle with Bella on the sofa. I could actually count on one finger the number of times I'd brushed my teeth since I was changed. She sniffed at me and gave me a look of surprise before snuggling back against my chest as I wrapped my arms around her.
After the game was over, Charlie and Billy thanked Carlisle and Esme profusely for their hospitality.
"I think that might have been one of the best meals I've eaten in my entire life," Billy praised, as he clasped Esme's hand warmly.
"Thank you, Billy. I'm so glad you enjoyed it," Esme replied, leaning over to kiss him gently on the cheek. Billy actually blushed in response.
Charlie shook Carlisle's hand and said, "We'll definitely have to do this again."
"You're welcome anytime, gentlemen," Carlisle answered.
Bella stood next to me with her arm around my waist, smiling as she watched her father push his friend's wheelchair out to his truck.
"A couple months ago, I wouldn't have believed it if you had paid me money, but I think Billy has accepted you and your family as his own," she murmured.
Jacob yelled from somewhere in the depths of the refrigerator he was raiding, "I told you he was cool with everything! I wasn't worried about him hanging out here, and as for Charlie, you all outdid yourselves on the eating thing. Speaking of, I know that Rosalie gets her dream car, but who is getting which piece of crap to drive for the next year? Rosalie gets to pick, right?"
"Okay, everyone, come down here and I'll describe the heaps before Rosalie assigns them to their appropriate driver," I announced.
Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, Carlisle and Esme all gathered around the living room for the big reveal. Jacob joined us, still chewing whatever he had found to snack on after our huge feast.
"First of all, I'd like to congratulate Rosalie on her victory. I have to admit, I was quite impressed with her ability to pack that food away."
Rosalie was practically vibrating with excitement as she made her acceptance speech. "I can't say it wasn't completely disgusting, but it was definitely worth the discomfort. I'll be thinking of you – Emmett, Alice, and Jasper – as I'm driving around in my drop-dead gorgeous Bugatti. If you're nice to me, I might even pimp your shabby rides. I can make them better than anything the guys at West Coast Customs can do."
I pulled up the images on my laptop and passed it around for everyone to see.
"These are the three vehicles I've selected for the losers: a Yugo, a Gremlin, and a VW Microbus. They're in storage in Seattle."
Groans rose from around the room.
Rosalie studied the vehicles intently before she spoke. "Jasper, as the first official loser, I have to give you the Yugo, since it's the biggest piece of crap, will probably be the first car to die out of the group, and you don't care if you drive anyway."
Jasper scowled in discontent.
Rosalie turned to her husband. "Emmett, you really disappointed me. I expected so much more from you. For that, you get the VW Microbus. It may last forever, but it's grossly underpowered."
"Look at it. That's so cool," Emmett responded excitedly, pointing to the image on the screen. "It's a red one, too…" He paused for a moment, and I smiled when I saw where his thoughts were headed as he asked, "Hey, does it happen to come equipped with half a ton of garbage and shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction?"
Bella looked at Emmett as if he'd grown a second head, having no clue what Emmett was talking about. "Huh?"
Jasper picked up Emmett's cue, and said in a serious voice, "Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it," and then burst out laughing.
Alice, Rosalie, and I joined him.
"Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie. I put that envelope under that garbage," I quoted.
"Can vampires do drugs?" Bella asked, "Because I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Maybe eating all that food had some kind of hallucinogenic side effect."
"Poor Bella, of course you wouldn't. It's from an old anti-draft song during the Vietnam War by Arlo Guthrie, called Alice's Restaurant Massacre," Alice explained. "It was one of our favorite things from the '60s. Well, really it's not just a song; it's more of an experience. They started out using it to tease me because of the name, and it ended up becoming a Thanksgiving tradition, since we don't do the whole feast thing. Edward, care to do the honors and introduce this misfortunate girl to some culture?"
Jasper handed me my guitar and grinned from ear to ear.
Emmett turned to Bella and said, "You might as well get comfortable, this is going to take a while."
I started strumming, and the rest of the family relaxed around the room.
"This song is called Alice's Restaurant,a nd it's about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's
"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant."
And I proceeded to sing for the next 18 minutes about visiting Alice; making a friendly gesture by hauling out her trash and subsequently getting arrested for littering on Thanksgiving Day because the city dump was closed; twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us; the judge with the seeing-eye dog; showing up drunk for the draft physical; telling the psychiatrist for the draft, "Shrink… I wanna kill, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead, burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL," and getting a "You're our boy" and a medal; then being sent to sit with the criminals on the Group W bench because of the littering arrest; and "I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug?"
Everyone joined in singing the chorus at the end of the song. Jacob was snorting, and Bella was doubled over and nearly crying from laughing so hard by the time I finished.
I stood up, handed the guitar back to Jasper, and took a bow.
"Dude, that was awesome!" Jacob guffawed, slapping me on the back.
"We have to do this every year," Bella agreed.
"Hopefully that's all we will need to do next year. I'm done with human food for at least another decade. Forever, if I have my way," Rosalie said, and drew our attention back to the matter at hand. "That leaves the last car for the last loser. The Gremlin goes to Alice, who made a valiant effort but still failed at the end."
"Ha! That's perfect, since Alice pretty much IS a Gremlin. They used to refer to it as a 'Little Monster,' which I think describes Alice quite well," Emmett snickered.
"Ha ha, that's very funny, you ass. Make fun of the vertically challenged vampire. Oh well, at least it's the right color, yellow with black stripes, even if it's not a Porsche," Alice pouted. "I'm sure Rosalie can make it worth the effort to drive."
"Oh, I promise I'll make a masterpiece of it," Rosalie assured.
Alice beamed. "I don't doubt that at all."
"Oooh, can I help?" Jacob asked excitedly. "I pretty much rebuilt my VW Rabbit from a pile of spare parts."
"Let me take a look at what you've done with it," Rosalie answered as she and Jacob headed outside to talk cars.
Bella grabbed my hand and tilted her head toward the stairs.
"We're just going to go upstairs so Bella can rest for a while," I told the rest of the family.
"Umm hmm. 'Rest.' So that's what they're calling it these days… OUCH!" Emmett yelled as Esme's hand made contact with the back of his head.
"This is what I'm most thankful for," Bella whispered in my ear as we climbed the steps. "I'm part of an amazing family that is more wonderful than I could ever have dreamed of, and the fact that you love me…"
I pressed a soft kiss to her lips and felt my dead heart jump in my chest.
"And I'm thankful that Carlisle was there to change me in 1918, so that I can be here with you today. You are my reason for being. I love you with all that have and all that I am."
I had been bitter for so long, angry and disbelieving in a God that would allow this half-life to be my fate. I said a silent prayer of thanks to him for knowing better than I did, for this life brought me to my Bella.
A/N: Yes, Esme's menu nearly mirrors mine. The only thing I'm leaving out this year are the mashed potatoes (since we have sweet potato casserole, two types of dressing and dinner rolls), and the corn pudding (see above). My husband's fried turkey is legendary, and it is a Thanksgiving tradition. I brine my roasted turkey, and it is also delicious. We have two types of dressing to go with the two different turkeys: regular herbed stuffing and cornbread stuffing. (Although "stuffing" is a misnomer because I don't put it inside the turkey – as Emmett says, "That's just gross!")
Also true is the fact that I am not a Cowboys fan. I am a Houstonian (formerly an Oilers fan, now a Texans fan), and it's mandatory to dislike the Dallas Cowboys. I have family members who live in Dallas and are huge Cowboys fans, and I love them anyway.
The "Backyard Brawl" is a football game that has been played between West Virginia University (in Morgantown, WV) and the University of Pittsburgh (in Pittsburgh, PA) annually since 1895. The two universities are located about 75 miles apart. I also have family members who are WVU grads, so I am required to cheer for WVU in this battle.
Alice's Restaurant Massacre" used to be played every Thanksgiving on a radio station in my hometown, and even though it's been years, I still remember the whole song and love to pull it out this time of year.
These are actual reviews for the cars Edward selected for the losers, and the Bugatti Veyron for the winner:
AMC Gremlin: You probably saw this one coming after we took on the Pacer. That car had the round version of "ugly" down pat, so we'll let the Gremlin corner the market on "angular ugliness." That's because in reality, the Gremlin was simply an AMC Hornet rudely and awkwardly hacked in two, creating a mutant hatchback. Famously, it was also introduced on April Fool's Day, which didn't help things any. Unsurprisingly, creating a Levi's edition slathered with denim upholstery wasn't effective, because honestly, nothing could cover up the ugly on this little monster.
Yugo: Ah, the Yugo. The butt of so many jokes. The real joke is that it was as bad as everyone claimed. Are you surprised that the quality control of communist Yugoslavia wasn't up to par? Actually, if you couldn't tell that from the way it looked (which was like a 6 year-old drew it with crayon on the wall), you deserved the epic unreliability.
VW Microbus: It was grossly underpowered, had to be steered like a sailboat in gusty conditions, and separated the driver from the road only by sheet metal. It was always an adventure to drive. These adventures included the engine stalling just as you were trying to accelerate into traffic, the famous gas line falls off and starts a fire, and the hold on tight here comes a semi adventure. BTW, "heat" was just a word on the dashboard.
Bugatti Veyron: The Bugatti Veyron was both the world's most expensive and fastest road-legal car at the time. Top Gear declared the Veyron "the greatest car ever made and the greatest car we will ever see in our lifetime."