Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, Stephanie Meyers does. However, I do own this plot and storyline. I also own my own original characters.
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, products, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any franchise. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: So sorry for the delay in posting. The reason? Two things! One, RL is kicking my ass and the other, LTLA is not pre-written as SLR was so it is taking me longer to both get in the mind frame to write and the actual time to sit down and put words to paper. I want to thank my team for all their support and all my readers for their sweet words of encouragement.
Chapter 26: Who's Your Turkey?
It is now the middle of November and Bella, Cassie, and I are leaving for Kemah. We're taking the boat to the new house on Dauphin Island for a week. It'll be the first time we take the dogs on the boat, but Dasher needs to be with Cassie, so he's going with us, and there's no way we're leaving the pups behind. The trip is long, but easy. I do all the driving so Bella can tend to Cassie and the pups. Conversation flows easy as we discuss how successful the fundraiser had been. Bella said after everything is said and done, the foundation raised just under three million dollars. We only stop once for fuel and to let the dogs run around for a little bit.
The week after the fundraiser, we took the girls to church for Trunk-R-Treat. Jasper and Sam even decorate one of the utility trailers and take it down there, filled with candy and trinkets. Both girls have a blast and the adults enjoy it, too.
When we make it to the house, I'm in awe of the new dock that we had built. The company the relator suggested did an amazing job. The boat fits perfect and it's easy for everyone to disembark. The dogs are going crazy, running around the backyard with Cassie as Bella and I unpack the boat. I'm putting the last of the luggage into the master bedroom when Bella calls to me.
"I think we need to buy a truck to keep here," she surmises, looking up from putting the groceries away. "We have to go buy furniture, stuff for the house, and just to get around. I didn't think about us needing a car here."
"Okay," I concede. "Is there a taxi service that can take us to a dealership?"
"I don't know if there's even a dealership around here," she admits, looking upset.
"Hey, pretty girl," I whisper, wrapping my arms around her, "maybe there's someone around here selling a truck. We can go over to the marina in the morning and talk to the owner. He'll know something."
Once we finish dinner and get Cassie settled on one of the two air mattresses in our room, Bella and I make a list of everything that needs to be done on this trip.
I roll over the next morning, ending up on the floor. Sleeping on an air mattress sucks!
I go ahead and get ready for the day, and move into the kitchen to make a quick breakfast. By the time the food is ready, Bella and Cassie emerge from the bedroom, dressed for the day.
Once the kitchen is cleaned and the dogs situated, we drive the boat over to the marina.
"We should've just slept on the boat last night," Bella comments as we pull into the marina and dock in one of the visitor slips.
I guess she didn't like the air mattress either.
I carry Cassie as we make our way to the office. Scott, the owner, smiles when we walk in. "You're back? How are ya?"
"Good," I announce, shaking his hand. "We bought a house when we were here during the summer."
"Fell in love with the island?" He laughs. "That's what happened to me and the missus, only forty years ago. What can I do for ya?"
"We need to purchase a vehicle to keep here at the house," Bella states, smiling at the older man. "Either from a dealership or a used one. maybe you know if someone is selling one 'round here? Preferably a truck or SUV."
"Closest reliable dealership is in Mobile," he answers, rubbing his chin. "There's a man that lives up the road selling his Nissan Armada; it looks like it's in good shape. I can call him and see if he's available for you to take a look at it."
After agreeing, we take Cassie over to the store so she can look at the aquarium while he makes the call. The man showed up ten minutes later with the vehicle in question. Not an hour later, Bella's calling Jessica to wire the funds into Joe's account and he signs over the title to her. For a used vehicle, it's in wonderful shape. You can tell he's taken great care of it.
Scott directs us to the closest courthouse where Bella can have the title changed over into her name. I call Jessica back to relay to her the information so she can add the vehicle onto the insurance policy. Once that is complete, Jessica faxes the insurance card to the marina.
I take the boat back to the house where Bella and Cassie pick me up. We take the ferry to Gulf Shores where the courthouse is located. I stay in the truck with Cassie while Bella goes in to take care of the transfer. While I we are waiting, I look up furniture stores on my iPad and find a few close by. I also call the bank in order to transfer some funds from my savings to my checking account. I don't want Bella paying for everything. This is our house, and I want to help furnish it.
It doesn't take Bella long before she's climbing back into the truck. After she hands me the papers on the truck, I give her directions to one of the furniture stores I found. I quickly look through the paperwork before shoving it in her bag at my feet.
"Welcome to Hunter's," the sales lady greets as we walk in. "Let me know if I can help you with anything."
"Wow," Bella whispers to me. "Usually salespeople just shove their help in your face."
As we casually walk around all the displays it is clear that Bella and I notice that the furniture is of good quality. It isn't made up of particleboard and plywood like other items at other furniture stores seem to be. I turn to Bella, "I'm going to see what their delivery times are. If we can't get it soon, we'll go look somewhere else, all right?"
When we asked the sales lady, we were surprised to hear that if they have the items that we want, they can deliver it today. If they have to order it, it would be delivered the following day. While Bella shows Cassie some bedroom suites to choose from, I wander around. I stop at a beautiful bedroom suite and can picture it perfectly in our bedroom.
I'm startled by Bella's voice. "It's beautiful and perfect."
"It'll be more beautiful with you lying bare in the sheets," I reply softly. "I guess we found our bedroom furniture?"
"Yeah," she agrees. "Now, can you come help li'l miss decide before she drives me nuts?"
After helping Cassie pick which bedroom set she likes the best, we make our way over to the living room and dining room sets and find items that we both agree on. Bella decides to let Sarah and my mother help with the guest rooms, but we do pick out a small desk for the sunroom, which will also serve as an office.
We stop at Target on the way back to the house to get bedding, small appliances, and other household stuff, including a television and DVD player. The furniture delivery truck pulls up an hour after we make it home. It takes us the rest of the day to get everything set-up and livable.
The next day, we take Cassie to see the dolphins before going to the home improvement store. We only purchase a few things to help us make small repairs. We will have to wait for Jasper to help with the larger projects we come across. Because there isn't a larger home improvement store nearby, Bella gets online to order a washer and dryer, patio set, and outdoor grill.
The last few days of our trip, we explore the island and just enjoy our time together. Getting the house set up was a lot of hard work, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Working to get everything set up and situated helped to remind me that this is real, that our relationship is real and progressing. We even meet the housekeeper Jessica hired to take care of the place when we're not here. She's a sweet, older woman and takes to Bella and Cassie as only a grandmother could.
The trip back to Texas is a little rough due to a storm, but we manage. Cassie doesn't want to go home, but we need to get back. Plus, Bella wants to stop at the aquarium store on the way home to purchase a saltwater tank for the ranch house. She figures if we get it set-up now, it'll be ready for fish by Christmas. Unfortunately, she doesn't find what she wants at the store, but does walk away with the phone number for a company that builds and installs custom tanks.
It's late when we make it back to the ranch, but the welcome is warm. We were sorely missed.
The Monday before Thanksgiving, Sarah and I go to town to buy all the groceries needed for the huge dinner we're planning. Normally, Bella and Sarah cook Thanksgiving dinner, but they've include my mother and me this year. We've spend the next few days reading over their family recipes and adding a few of our own. On the way back to the ranch, we stop at the meat market and pick up the five turkeys and three hams we ordered.
We're sitting around the dining room tables after dinner when Billy turns to Jake. "How'd y'all do at the turkey shoot?"
Before Jake can answer, Seth and Tyler start laughing hysterically.
"We didn't get to participate," Jake mumbles, casting a glare toward Emmett.
"And why didn't ya get to participate?" Sarah inquires.
"'Cause they made us leave," Jake states, shoving at Seth, who's still laughing.
"Wanna explain?" Billy asks with raised eyebrows.
"Emmett thought we were gonna shoot real turkeys, so he let them go," Jake mumbles in answer.
"He let what go?" Sarah demands, glancing at Emmett.
"The wild turkeys," Seth states, after getting himself under control. "He didn't know we actually shoot at targets and the turkeys are just there for show. So he opened the turkey pen, started jumpin' 'round and screamin' 'Run, run for your life', while flappin' his arms in the air. All these wild turkeys started runnin 'round everywhere. It was funny as hell."
By the time Seth is done explaining what happened, the whole room is in hysterics. Well, everyone except Emmett.
"Bro," Jasper blurts out. "Really? You released the turkeys because you didn't want them to be eaten? Where do you think the turkeys we eat come from?"
"They looked so sad locked in that pen," Emmett states, shrugging his shoulders. "I had to save them."
"Son," my father sighs, shaking his head. "You're in the south now. You don't mess around with much down here, especially with a man's hunting."
The next day, Sarah, Bella, my mother, and I start preparing the food, or at least what we can ahead of time. Baking pies, cakes, cookies, and my mother's divinity. Billy seasons two of the turkeys and puts them in the smoker, the other three we'll roast in the oven tomorrow.
On Thanksgiving morning, I'm up at five to get things going in the kitchen. I whisper for Bella to go back to sleep when she rolls over, searching for me. I give her a small kiss on her forehead and make my way into the kitchen where Sarah is already sliding one of the turkeys into the oven. I jump in and start cleaning and seasoning another one of the turkeys while Sarah prepares the third bird.
Breakfast is kolaches that Bella made the night before, which just need to be warmed up.
We start making the dough for the rolls so it'll have time to rise. The rest of the morning is spent making all of the side dishes. I'm in the process of peeling potatoes when I'm spattered with a white fluff.
"Oh, shit," Bella blurts out. "Sorry."
My mother and Sarah are bent over laughing while Bella stares at me with wide eyes. She's making the whip cream for the pies, but it seems as though the mixer got away from her.
"Pretty girl," I snap, playfully. "You will pay for that." I grab her in a hug, wiping my face all over her.
She's laughing too hard to get away from me. Sarah shoos us out of the kitchen to get cleaned up. We both end up taking a shower together. It turns into a long, blissful shower since we take the time to worship each other until the hot water runs out.
Once we're both dressed and Bella's hair and makeup are in place, we return to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner. I throw together a platter of sandwiches for the others to snack on for lunch, knowing they can't wait until five to eat considering they only had kolaches for breakfast.
I'm helping my mother put the finishing touches on the tables while Bella gets Cassie dressed for dinner. Although, it's not a formal affair, it's a special occasion and everyone is expected to dress nice.
The smells emanating around the room causes my stomach to rumble as we gather together. The smokiness of the turkey and the sweetness of the desserts has whet my appetite. The flicker of the candles illuminates the fresh flower centerpieces Bella made for each table. The pops of oranges, reds, and browns that decorate the room give off the feeling of fall, even though it's still warm outside. Everyone who lives and works on the ranch, along with Mr. Stephenson, Sue, Pete, Janice, Kate, Garrett, and Sheriff Berty are standing around the dining room in a circle, hands linked, when Billy clears his throat.
"Dear God, we thank you that we can gather together today. Thank you for bringing us through this time of loss, pain, and grief. Thank you, God, for allowing us to be here to look around this room and see the faces of our loved ones that we can be together and enjoy this meal together in health and wellness. We remember the ones we lost, but we rejoice in the knowledge we will all be together again someday. We say thank you for the time we had with our loved ones and the memories that live on in our hearts.
"We give thanks to you today for all you have blessed us with this past year. Bless this food and the hands that prepared it. Amen." Billy chokes out, blessing the day and food.
As everyone whispers their own "Amen," we form a line to fill our plates. Bella leans into my side, and I bend down to kiss her quickly, thankful I get to have her and all of these people in my life.
The food and atmosphere are perfect with laughter, joy, and love filling the room as I enjoy the best Thanksgiving dinner I've ever had.
I'm pulled from my thoughts by Heidi's sweet voice. "Momma, can I have pie now?"
Bella gasps and tears fill Rose's eyes. "You sure can, sweetheart. Come show me which kind you want."
"Me, pie," Cassie states, looking at me.
"Let's go get some pie, baby girl," I agree. I squeeze Emmett's shoulder as I walk by. Whether it was a slip of the tongue on Heidi's part, or just how she sees Rose, it's a blessing to witness how far she's come since they adopted her.
I'm in the kitchen, putting the last of the leftovers in storage containers, when my dad walks in carrying more dirty dishes. "I think the guys should go play golf tomorrow while the girls are shopping."
"Sounds good," I reply, "but if Emmett pulls any of his shit, you'll have one less son."
"Rose and your mother have already warned him," he laughs. "Now, go spend some time with your girls; I'm on kitchen duty."
I hand him my dish towel without argument and go find my girls. However, when I walk into the living room, I stop short. How the hell did they make such a big mess in so little time? "Um … what's going on?" I question as I make my way around the boxes taking up the living room.
"We're getting ready for Christmas," Bella states, shrugging her shoulders. "We have to pick our trees out tomorrow. I'm just making sure all these lights still work in case I need to buy new ones."
"Trees?" I confirm. "As in more than one?"
"Yeah," Bella answers, her excitement growing. "This house, the ranch office, bunkhouse, and everyone else's house."
"Well, I guess we need to check out these lights," I agree, taking a seat next to her on the floor and pulling the box of lights closer. It's going to be a long night.
The next morning, the ladies are out of the house by six, armed with lists and sales flyers. According to my mother, they are on a mission to get all their shopping done.
I'm sitting in my rented golf cart with Billy, waiting for the others to get their clubs and carts. A thought comes to me, and before I can stop myself, I'm blurting it out. "I find it strange that Bella didn't ask me what I wanted for Christmas when she hounded me for weeks about a birthday present."
Billy just laughs at my word vomit. "She didn't need to. She doesn't ask anyone what they want for Christmas."
"Why?" I inquire, my curiosity peaking.
"She watches and listens to everyone throughout the year," he states, shrugging. "Always gets the perfect gifts. She feels it's the thought put into the gift. Instead of just buying you something you think you want, she gets you something you need."
"Amazing and so selfless," I whisper in awe of my girlfriend.
"That she is," Billy agrees. I guess I was louder than I thought.
The day is full of bonding and laughs. Although Emmett didn't get us kicked off the green, he and Jake did turn it into a full-on banter match. Neither of them even coming close to winning the game as Peter and my father show us all up.
We had a loud dinner at the club before heading back to the ranch. Overall, the day was enjoyable.
I can't wait to see my girls.