Author's Note: This contains more cutting room floor pieces from a removed novel weaved into a newish story. Enjoy.
The aroma from the turkey filled the Taylors' spacious dining room. Braemore had set them up "college style," as Tami liked to say, but what his and hers closets and separate dining rooms and kitchen nooks had to do with college, Coach Taylor did not know. He did, however, appreciate the basement, which Tami had allowed him for a man cave, and he'd spent a lot of time down there yesterday, because Shelley had arrived a full day before Thanksgiving. He'd only emerged when Julie and Matt came through the front door later that same evening.
The china plates lay empty before the family members, and they were making the traditional pre-meal rounds, wherein everyone was compelled to announce publically an object of his or her gratitude. Gracie said, "I'm thankful I get two pieces of pie for desert!"
"I said no to that, Gracie," Tami reminded her.
"I'm thankful mommy's going to change her mind," Gracie insisted.
Tami sighed. "Well, I'm grateful for my family, all of y'all, and I'm especially grateful that my dutiful daughter Gracie knows that no means no."
Shelley was grateful for her new job in Baltimore. "Now I'm just a short drive from my sister and brother-in-law." She beamed at Eric, who smiled thinly before expressing his gratitude that the Pioneers had made it to the play-offs this season.
Matt said, "I'm grateful I sold those two sculptures so we can afford a down payment on our condo."
Everyone now turned to look at Julie. Eric raised his wine glass as his daughter began to speak. "Well," she said, "what I'm really most thankful for" – Eric brought the glass to his lips "at the moment is" – he began to sip "the fact that Matt and I are going to have a baby."
Shelley laughed as the red liquid spewed out onto Eric's empty plate.
"What the hell were they thinking?" Eric asked his wife as they lay in bed later that night. Immediately after the announcement, Aunt Shelley had poured forth effusive congratulations to her niece, and Tami had smiled and said, "That's great, you two," even though it was quite clear to her husband that she did not for a moment think it was "great."
Coach Taylor had said nothing at all. Instead he had risen and plucked up his wine-coated plate and taken it to the kitchen to wash it off. When he returned, he picked up the carving knife and began violently shredding the turkey. Tami had gone into instant motion, starting the side dishes around the table and making sure the conversation was flowing on other subjects entirely.
"I don't know, hon." Tami was sitting back against the headboard, next to her husband, who was staring dumbly ahead with his arms crossed over his white t-shirt.
"Did they forget to use birth control?"
"We talked while we were doing the dishes," Tami said. "She said it was planned."
"Planned? They planned to have a kid before she finished college? Before she has a full-time job? On just his income?"
Tami shook her head. She didn't precisely disagree with her husband, but she also wanted him to calm down and accept what was happening. The decision had been made; there was nothing they could do about it, and when Julie left Saturday morning, Tami didn't want her to leave with the impression that her father thought she was doing a horrible thing. "He's making as much as you were at his age, hon. And she'll have her degree by the time that baby is born. She's almost done. And we…we were about the same age when we had Julie."
"Yeah, and you remember how hard that was? Me having to work those two jobs for a while, hardly seeing each other - "
"I know. But we pulled through. And we're still here together. In our four-bedroom house, babe. With a savings account and two relatively new cars and a pretty decent marriage I might add."
He rubbed his eyes. "This can't be happening," he said.
"It's happening. And when you see her tomorrow, you need to let her know you love and support her."
"Of course I love her!"
"And support her."
"Okay. Okay. Can we have sex?"
"What!" She laughed in disbelief. "That's a bit abrupt, hon. You're not going to do your usual first and tell me what wonderful wife, friend, mother, and lover I am? Then hint for a little while? And only then muster up the nerve to ask?"
"This has me so stressed out, babe." He turned to her. "There is no way I am going to be able to relax unless we have sex. Besides, I'm going to be a grandpa soon. We need to enjoy this before we get too old."
She slid over next to him and put a hand on his chest. He looked at her with more weariness and frustration than desire. He did need to relax, and how. At least he was willing to try to unwind, and she really couldn't argue with him that sex would be an aid to that process. "I could use a little distraction and stress relief myself," she said, and then she reached over him and turned off the light.
In the darkness they found each other and undressed one another effortlessly. His hands moved slowly and confidently, her body as familiar to him as his own. The tension in his muscles began to uncoil as she worked her magic with feathery touches that caressed and teased. He found the places he knew delighted her most, sought them with his hands and mouth and tongue. He judged wordlessly the moment she was ready for him, and when he was in her she let out a soft moan of welcome, but he did not yet move. "I love you," he whispered. "You're an incredible wife, friend, mother, and lover."
She laughed lightly. "You know I already said yes, right? You know where you already are?"
"I know." She couldn't see his eyes clearly in the thin film of moon and starlight that seeped through the blinds of the window, but she heard the sincerity in his voice. "But it's true. All of it. It's all true, and it's worth saying." His lips claimed hers and they moved in concert, fears for their daughter and all other concerns temporarily banished from their minds.