Even though tomorrow was Thanksgiving, Brenda wasn't feeling very thankful. The truth was that she was feeling downright glum. Will Pope had just informed her that, even though she was on call for Thanksgiving, she was also assigned to work Christmas as well as both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. "After all, you are the person with the least seniority. And seniority counts at holiday time."
"So are you tellin' me that I'm gonna have to work every holiday until another Deputy Chief either retires or dies?"
"No. There's a rotation system. But since you're new it's basically your turn for all three this year. But the good news is that you won't have to work any of them next year."
"So when my turn comes around next time I'll have to work all three again?"
Her petulant tone did not dissuade him. "I'll redo the rotation list after the holidays. You won't have to work Easter and the next time your name comes up in the rotation, like in about six years, you'll only have to work one holiday. But this year it's all three."
She could see that Will thought this system was reasonable so she just sarcastically said "Yippee." But his exaggerated smile let her know that he wasn't moved.
So these would be her first holidays in Los Angeles and she would spend them alone. Well, maybe not alone. Fritz was coming over tomorrow. They were cooking Thanksgiving dinner together. But she didn't know what he was doing for Christmas and New Year's. He hadn't mentioned them.
The next morning, Brenda got up early. After breakfast she snapped the green beans and made the pie crust for her mama's recipe for pumpkin pie. As she worked on the crust she was acutely aware that everyone in her family teased her about her pie crust. Clay Jr. and Jimmy had both said they'd broken a toe when they dropped a piece of it on their foot. And they limped exaggeratedly around the kitchen making their point before Mama had shooed them out. She fervently hoped that the pie filling would be so delicious that Fritz would concentrate on it instead of how bad her pie crust was bound to be. "Keep your fingers crossed, Brenda," she thought as she slid the pie into the oven.
Fritz arrived promptly at 10:00 with the turkey breast. She had reminded him on Sunday to take it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator so it would be ready to cook and he had done exactly that.
"Mmmm. What smells so good?" Fritz asked as he entered the kitchen.
"Pumpkin pie. It's my mama's recipe. I've never made it before so I hope it turns out," Brenda replied hoping her nervousness about her baking didn't show.
"I'm sure it'll taste as good as it smells," Fritz replied and gave her a kiss.
Everything was going well when the phone rang. "Uh oh, Fritz. I sure hope this doesn't mean that you have to finish up alone here."
He handed her cell phone to her. It wasn't work. Brenda sighed in relief when she saw the name on her caller ID. It was Mama.
"Hey, Mama. Happy Thanksgivin'." Willie Ray told her that her brother Jimmy had arrived last night and that Bobby and Clay, Jr. had arrived this morning with their families. She wanted Brenda to know that she was loved and missed and everyone else in the family wanted to talk to her too.
"Hey, Brenda. The potatoes aren't boiling yet. Should I turn up the heat?" Fritz asked.
She put her hand over the phone and shushed him before she turned back to the phone. "No, Daddy. That's one of my detectives. We're fixin' some food here at work." Fritz shook his head and smiled to himself at her lie but Brenda ignored his reaction and signaled to him to turn up the heat while she spoke to the remaining members of her family. The phone finally got passed back to Mama and Brenda said that she had to get back to work, wished her mother a Happy Thanksgiving and ended the call.
Brenda knew how to make her mama's green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. And the turkey was easy – just follow the directions and watch the pop-up timer. But she was fearful that her pie would be a flop. The only other time she'd tried to bake a pumpkin pie it had tasted like dish soap and she never did figure out what she did wrong.
"I've never had biscuits with Thanksgiving dinner before," Fritz commented as they ate. Then he realized that Brenda might take that statement as a criticism so he quickly added "They're really good."
"Thanks," Brenda said, "I didn't have time to make rolls and I doubt I'd do a good job anyway so I just made biscuits."
Fritz nodded and added, "And I've never had cornbread stuffing before. I love it."
"Really? Cornbread dressin' is a standard in Atlanta. I've never had any other kind."
"Well, everything is great."
"You haven't tried the pie yet so you might want to withhold judgment." Brenda then got up and started clearing the food from the table. As she got out the dessert plates and forks, Fritz brought the pie to the table.
"Should I make a pot of coffee?" Pie and coffee just seemed to go together as far as Brenda was concerned.
"Sure. That sounds good."
So she made a pot of coffee while Fritz got out two coffee cups.
Brenda noticed that Fritz really seemed to enjoy the pumpkin pie filling but gave up on the crust after a couple of bites. "Sorry about that. I'm afraid that my bakin' leaves a lot to be desired."
"No, no. I'm just not big on pie crust," Fritz lied.
"Fritz, you are a terrible liar. And even if you were a good liar you know that the first thing an interrogator learns is how to spot a lie." She said it with a smile on her face.
Fritz grinned. "I love the filling. And it's one thousand percent better than I could ever do so I'm not going to be critical."
Brenda smiled at him while thinking "This man either has no sense of taste or else he is a martyr. Either way, he is definitely a keeper."
When they were doing the dishes Fritz brought up another topic. "Are you going to Atlanta for Christmas?"
"No. Pope has assigned me to work Christmas and New Year's too."
"All three major holidays?" Fritz was surprised.
"Yup. He tells me that I'm low man on the totem pole so I get all three this year. Aren't I lucky?"
"Is it like today where you're just on call, or do you have to be in the office?"
"Probably in the office since Christmas is a busier holiday for police. And New Year's is positively nuts. What are you doin' for the holidays?"
"I'm flying home to New Jersey for both Christmas and New Year's. My sister is the only family I have and every year I spend the holidays with her. She throws a big New Year's Eve party every year so I get to see a lot of my old friends and neighbors."
"That's nice. This will be the first year I haven't been able to spend Christmas with my family."
"I'm sorry you're going to be alone."
"Don't be. I'll be busy. Too busy for family, even. As a matter of fact I'm not sayin' anythin' to my parents until it's too late for them to book flights out here. The last thing I need is for them to feel sorry for me and fly out here so I won't be alone."
Fritz laughed. "Yeah, holidays can be rough on family relationships. I really love my sister. But by the time I fly back to LA I can barely stand her. I always feel guilty because she's my only living relative but I still feel so relieved when my plane touches down at LAX."
"I sure know that feelin'." Brenda sympathized. As much as she loved and missed her family they got on her nerves after awhile, especially at the holidays.
"It takes me about six months to get over that feeling and almost the other six months before I start missing her enough to book my flight back home." Fritz and Brenda both laughed.
That night in bed as Fritz caressed Brenda's cheek he said "I forgot to tell you what I'm thankful for today. Do you want to hear my list?" When Brenda nodded yes, he continued. "I'm thankful for every beautiful hair on your head, your beautiful brown eyes, your cute nose, your gorgeous face, your gorgeous body, and your brilliant mind." And he lightly kissed every spot for emphasis as he spoke.
"Well, I can tell you what I'm thankful for too. I'm thankful that you found a finger print report and decided to deliver it in person. I'm thankful that you're apparently blind as a bat, and have no workin' taste buds. And I'm especially thankful that every other single woman in LA apparently was blind too so they passed up the chance to grab such a great guy."
"No." Fritz spoke softly. "Why do you think like that? You should be thankful that I'm such a connoisseur of beautiful women that I couldn't resist your charms."
This caused Brenda's breathing to become a little ragged. So she turned toward him, caressed and kissed every bit of his face.