Text Copyright © 2022 by Kayley Loring
All Rights Reserved.
CHAPTER ONE – Damon
“Thanks, But No” Thanksgiving is a today-old tradition in this house. So far, I’ve said “Thanks, but no thanks” to five great people that I have absolutely no desire to spend time with today, because not one of them just wants to have me and my son over for dinner. They want to seat me next to their single cousin Charmaine who’s nothing like the single cousin they tried to set me up with last year and definitely probably won’t try to steal my wallet. Or their divorced coworker, Suzy Twinklebutt who—get this—has a thing for unhappy guys who have absolutely no interest in dating!
Who’s unhappy? Is what I want to know. Just because I don’t like talking to people about stupid things, would rather stay home alone or with my son on the weeks that I have him—just because I’d rather die alone than go on another date with anyone ever again—that does not make me unhappy. That makes everyone who doesn’t understand how awesome my life is an idiot.
Not that I consider my mother an idiot, but I need to wrap up this FaceTime call because the game is about to start.
My mother, who started insisting I call her Goldie last year, is currently in Australia, on a solo seniors tour. This is all part of the new phase of her life wherein she is trying new things. I love my mother, and seeing how sad she was after my dad passed was heartbreaking. So I support this new phase of her life. Even though I don’t really want to know that some of the new things she is trying involve making extra money from throwing wine parties for women and selling them “marital aids” that have names like Hammer Time and The Great Dicktator. I certainly don’t need to know about the elderly gentleman who’s taking her salsa dancing in Sydney tonight, but I’d rather let her talk about that than hear her tell me that life is short and she needs another grandchild.
“So I guess I’m going to learn salsa dancing tonight after the barbie—which is what they call barbecues here.”
“Right. I’ve heard that.”
“Where’s my only grandchild? Are you really having dinner alone tonight, Damon?”
“We aren’t alone, we have each other.”
“Are you having turkey?”
“I roasted a turkey yesterday so I could watch football today. We’re having leftover turkey sandwiches—with all the trimmings and side dishes. Trust me. It’s epic.”
My mother sighs. She never liked my ex-wife, but she also didn’t like that we got divorced, and she somehow also didn’t like it when my ex-wife remarried. I do not want to get into it with her tonight. I want to make sandwiches for myself and my son, watch the Boston Tomcats game with my son, and fall asleep on the couch in a food coma at eight-thirty with my son. I’m not rejecting everyone else—I just want to spend the weekend hanging with my son, who’s had activities and play dates every other day this week.
I call out for him. “Bart! Come say hi to Grandma.”
He’s been running around the house for the past hour, “making things look nice.” He brought out a bunch of candles that I forgot I had and some throw pillows that came with the sofas. He sprayed Febreze on everything because he says the whole house smells like socks, which it definitely did not. Since when does an eight-year-old boy care what a house smells like? I’ve literally found month-old ham sandwiches under his bed.
“Hi, Grandma!” he yells out as he bounds down the stairs. He’s carrying one of my neckties and a bottle of my cologne. “Happy Thanksgiving, Grandma!” he says, not looking into my phone as I hold it up to his face.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Bartholomew. Hold the phone still—what have you got there, Peanut?” my mom asks.
“Close your eyes!” he says to me.
I don’t know what it says about me that I immediately do it, but this kid has nearly blinded me—not once, but twice—by sticking his fingers in my eyes because he was so happy to see me. I squeeze my eyes shut and say, “What are you—” and get cologne sprayed on my tongue.
“Close your mouth too!”
My T-shirt is practically soaked in Dior Homme within seconds. I step away from him. “Okay, knock it off. What are you doing?”
“Put this on!” He flings my navy blue silk tie at me. “You need to shave! You need to put on a suit!”
“What? No I don’t.” I wear suits three hundred days a year. I’ve been wearing sweatpants all day and I will wake up in them tomorrow. I let him eat way too many cookies today. He’s all jacked up on sugar. “You know what—we better go, Goldie. I gotta get some tryptophan into this kid.”
“It wouldn’t hurt you to shave on a national holiday, now would it, dear?”
“Love you, Mother. Be safe. Email me when you’re back from dancing with…”
“Definitely check in after your night with Rod.”
“Life is short, my love, it’s time for you to—”
I end the video call, but I’m sure she’ll understand. Because it’s time for me to end the call and get on with our day.
“You have beer breath!” Bart says, wrinkling his nose.
“Damn right I do. Go wash your hands for dinner.”
“Make your hair look better!”
He shakes his head and stomps back upstairs.
I grab myself another beer from the fridge, glancing out the kitchen window, because I think I see a figure moving in the backyard next door. But I don’t see my neighbor. Which is fine. I don’t need to see her.
My phone pings with a text notification. It’s my buddy Shane, who’s one of the five great people I’ve already turned down for dinner today. I had a three-episode arc on his Disney Channel show You’re So Wizard! back in the day when I was still acting. We’ve stayed friends ever since, even though he went on to become a big movie star and I went into entertainment law.
SHANE MILLER: You sure you guys don’t want to join us over here tonight? Willa and her Grammie made plenty of food and we’ve got a good game of touch football going in the front yard. By that, I mean the kids are playing touch football and we’re in here drinking.
NICO TODD: And by “us,” he means all of your favorite former Disney Channel co-stars, our wives, kids, my Grammie, and Kat’s single cousin who loves kids and hates clubbing. I’m not saying you’d like her, but I’m not not saying you’d dislike her.
NICO TODD: Wait. Is that right?
NICO TODD: Guess I’m already drunk.
ME: It’s still a “Thanks, But No” Thanksgiving for me, guys. Bart and I are all good here. You guys have fun. <thumbs up emoji>
SHANE MILLER: <thumbs down emoji>
NICO TODD: <thumbs down emoji>
ALEX VEGA: You sure? I’ve already Lazy Wingmanned her for you.
ME: You are forbidden from ever Lazy Wingmanning me again.
ALEX VEGA: “Hey. You wanna meet a guy? I know one. He has a face and a body. You in?”
ALEX VEGA: FYI she was in.
SHANE MILLER: “Psst. You know that guy I was telling you about? He’s moderately good at math and his car works.”
ME: <thumbs down emoji>
I casually saunter over to the living room window to glance around outside. Make sure there are no hooligans and such. This is a good Santa Monica neighborhood and we all have to do our part to keep it that way. I keep an eye on the neighbors. To make sure they’re safe.
Little Miss No thanks, I Got It is at home. Or her car is in her driveway, anyway, which is interesting. In no way relevant to me, but interesting. She’s probably over there trying to have a better “Thanks, But No” Thanksgiving than me. Never needing me. Always trying to one-up me.
I once saw her changing a flat tire, offered to help, and got a “No thanks, I got it,” and then she practically lifted her car up over her head with one hand to prove a point. I painted the front door red and she painted hers redder. I planted an avocado tree in the backyard, she planted an avocado tree, tomato vines, red onions, and a lime tree, so she could make her own yard-to-table guacamole. I started jogging—she trained for the LA marathon and was running a seven-minute mile within a few months. She saw me building my son a new bookcase, and proceeded to build herself a gazebo. A couple of weeks ago, I asked her if she needed help putting up Christmas lights outside her house. She looked insulted, politely declined my offer, and then proceeded to not only mount Christmas lights along her roof, she also installed a projector that features animated holiday displays on her garage door. On November first.
I’ve started doing things just to see how she’d take it up a notch.
As soon as she moved in a year and a half ago, she saw me carrying my seventy-five-year-old neighbor’s groceries in from her car—next thing I know, Nikki’s driving Ida Blank to the farmer’s market every weekend and hanging out with her on a regular basis. It’s the only charming thing about Nikki—her friendship with an eccentric retired stage actress who has five ex-husbands. Ida once mentioned that Nikki’s competitive with men because she has four brothers. All I know is, she’s always around…in a tank top and jeans that somehow won’t stop sliding down her hips, exposing her thong straps. That creamy skin between her waist and those beltless waistbands look so silky smooth—it’s not my fault I’ve fantasized about slowly dragging my fingertips along the skin just beneath the bottom of her tank top while kissing her. Gently circling until she has goosebumps and begs me to put my hands on her. Kneading the flesh of those round hips until she moans and starts grinding on my thigh.
I’m a lot better at not showing off my underwear.
Or maybe she’s way better at flashing hers.
She’s definitely better at having a great ass—which is irrelevant, because we are equally good at ignoring each other while simultaneously pissing each other off.
And I’ve got a game to watch.
Except when I turn away from the window, I realize that Bart has muted the TV. He’s lit the candles and dimmed the overhead lights. He’s somewhat carefully placing a vinyl record on my record player, almost as carefully as I taught him to. When the needle drops, I hear that he has selected side two of my Marvin Gaye’s collected hits. That is not the vibe I’m going for today.
“What are you doing, buddy? The game’s about to start.”
“Don’t be mad, okay?”
The doorbell rings.
Did he order a pizza without telling me?
“Don’t be mean!” he hisses, as he runs to the front door. When he opens it, there isn’t a pizza delivery guy standing on my porch. There’s a hot slice of neighbor in a skirt. “Hi! Come in!” he shouts.
Nikki peers inside and looks around.
Bart sticks his head out the door and looks around. “Where’s Dildo?!”
“At home. I wasn’t sure if it would be okay to bring him.”
They both look over at me, as if they’re expecting me to say something. As if I have any say in anything right now. As if I know why Nikki is standing at my front door, her pretty face all flushed, wearing a pretty blouse and skirt and boots…with a suitcase.
“Dad! Dad. Dad! Can Dildo come?”
“Her dog! I wanna play with Dildo!”
Dildo. Nikki has a wiener dog named Dildo. I still haven’t decided if that’s the second charming thing about her or if I will never forgive her because my son runs around her backyard yelling out, Come on, Dildo! Get it, Dildo! Give it to me, Dildo!
“Uh-huh,” is all I say.
“He can come over?”
“Yes.” I consent. I consent to Dildo.
“Yay! Can I let him skateboard in the house?”
I don’t answer that, because Nikki is still standing in my doorway in a skirt and boots, with a suitcase, looking around the open living room at all the candles and Marvin Gaye and all the no other people in my house.
She clears her throat and then tugs at the giant check-in hard shell roller luggage.
Hands in the pockets of my sweatpants, I take a step toward the door. “You need help with that?”
“No thanks, I got it.”
Of course she’s got it. “What is it you’ve got in there, exactly?” I drag my fingers through my hair. Shit. I should have made my hair look better.
She sighs. Exasperated with me already. How dare I ask about her giant suitcase. “Pies. I wasn’t sure what kind of pie you guys like or how many…people would be here…” She stands the suitcase up beside the island of my open kitchen. “So, I baked six of them.”
I walk over to her and cross my arms in front of my chest. It’s not my fault if I’m flexing and my forearms are getting veiny. That’s what happens when attractive, infuriating women show up at my house uninvited, with a large suitcase. “Six of them? You baked six different kinds of pie?”
“Yes. Do you already have pie?”
“No, I was going to buy a pumpkin pie at Ralphs, but Bart wanted cookies. Did you bring a pumpkin pie?”
“Of course I brought a pumpkin pie,” she grits out.
We stare at each other, unblinking. My jaw is tight. Her nostrils are flaring. My hands are balled up into fists. Her chest is already starting to heave. This is how it is. This is always how it is. We’re either ignoring each other or we’re trying to hate fuck each other with our eyeballs.
“Did you bring whipped cream?” I mumble.
“I left it in my fridge. I will return with Dildo and whipped cream.”
“I hope there’s a cream pie in our future too.”
“You will not be disappointed.”
“Feel free to unpack while I’m gone.”
“I will definitely unload by the time you’re back.”
I think I catch her smirking as she turns on her heels. The heels of those sexy knee high boots. I watch her walk away as I assess whether or not the preceding conversation was mutual double entendre or if I’m the only one thinking about the pie between her legs and unloading into it.
What the fuck is happening to my “Thanks, But No” Thanksgiving?!
My father-son Thanksgiving Day parade has been hijacked. Derailed. Canceled.
As soon as she shuts the front door, I open my mouth to grunt my son’s name, but before I can, he says, “I invited her for dinner!”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to say no thanks!”
“You can’t invite people over for dinner without asking me first, Bart.”
He crosses his not-at-all-veiny arms in front of his chest. “Well. I did. It’s Thanksgiving. It’s sad just being you and me. I like Nikki and you need to be nicer to her.”
“I am nice to her,” I say. But all I’m thinking is—it’s sad? Is my son sad? Why is the tip of my nose tingling? Why are the rims of his eyes getting pink? “Buddy.” I reach out for him and muss up his hair. “I just wanted to spend the day with you.”
“I don’t like you being alone when I’m not here.”
“I’m not lonely,” I insist. There really is a lot to unpack here, as my former therapist would say. But I don’t have time for that right now. I don’t have time to explain about all the women I went through in a forgettable one-year period after his mother started dating another man. I don’t have time to tell him that I’m actually glad the woman I married is now happily married to someone else and that I don’t want to start dating another woman until I know for sure that I can be my best self for her. Because I stopped being my best self for my ex-wife and I want her to be the last woman I ever disappoint.
Right now, I have to turn off Marvin Gaye, turn up the volume on the TV, blow out the candles, and bring out a bottle each of red and white wine from the pantry, because I don’t know if Nikki likes red or white. “I’m not mad at you, Bart,” is all I say, as I dash around, doing all of those things.
I’m about to run upstairs to change my shirt, when she knocks on the front door and opens it. The wiener dog comes bounding in on two-inch legs.
“Dil-dohhhhh!!!” My son crouches down and the dog leaps into his outstretched arms.
I really should get him a pet for when he’s here. But he likes Nikki’s. And I guess I don’t hate that he’s always over at her house playing with him.
I finally get around to unzipping the suitcase and see that there are six plastic pie carriers neatly stacked inside of it.
Nikki’s heels click along the hardwood floors. She stops in her tracks. “Should I take off my boots?”
“No!” I answer, way too quickly. Most people should take off their boots in my house, but I want to be the one to unzip those boots and peel them off of her shapely calves. And I’m not going to do that right now.
“Oh-kayyyy.” She bends down to lift a pie carrier out of the suitcase and I get a whiff of her fragrant, billowy, chestnut-brown hair, and I am so fucking happy that gravity is a thing, because her flimsy blouse droops down and I get a good look at her cleavage and the turquoise bra that gets to cup those perky breasts. I look away before she stands up and places the pie on the island counter. “He told me there’d be a bunch of people,” she mutters. “He said you were having a party.”
“Well. There aren’t. I’m not.”
“It sounded so unlike you to have a party or to willingly do anything with a bunch of people, but he said you’re trying to ‘open up and have more fun’.”
“That makes more sense.”
“But here you are.”
“Yeah… There are a lot of smells in this house.”
“That’s Bart’s thing,” I blurt out, annoyed. “I didn’t know you were coming over.”
“So I’ve gathered. Would you like me to leave?”
“Would you like to leave?”
“I can’t decide if it would be more rude to leave or stay.”
“Would you like to be more or less rude?”
And here we go again.
“Dad! Nikki! Can Dildo skateboard in the house?”
Bart’s claim to fame in this neighborhood is that he got Nikki’s wiener dog to ride a skateboard down the sidewalk. Nikki always runs alongside him, to make sure he doesn’t veer into the road. But it’s pretty great. GIF-worthy.
“Sure. Fine with me as long as it’s okay with Nikki. Just be careful. Don’t make Dildo knock anything over.”
“Fine with me.”
“Yeaaahhhh!!!” Bart runs upstairs and Dildo starts to run after him, then changes his mind when he sees how many stairs he’d have to go up.
I’ve got my leftover Thanksgiving feast spread out on the dining table and the kitchen table is covered with empty containers. Nikki and I unpack her pies on the island counter in silence for a never ending moment.
“So. Ida’s in New York.”
“Yes, she’s having dinner at Bette Midler’s.”
“I’ve got red and white wine. Sparkling water. Flat mineral water. Sparkling apple cider. Juice boxes. Cranberry cocktail. I can mix you up pretty much any cocktail you want.” This is true. To a degree. I was a bartender in college. My bar isn’t quite as well stocked as it was in my twenties. But the rest of me is.
“Got anymore beer?”
“You bet. Actually, lemme go grab another case from the garage.”
CHAPTER TWO – Nikki
This guy is a piece of work. If he were a beer, he’d be a plastic cup of day-old flat keg beer. If he were a pie, he’d be mincemeat. If he were a cake, he’d be rye bread. If he were a side dish, he’d be a dish rag. I can’t believe he hasn’t thrown me to the curb by now. Every time I see him, he’s frowning at me. Any time he sees me doing anything he gets all judgey-face and asks if he can do it for me because he clearly doesn’t think I’m doing it the right way. Or because he can’t believe I’m putting up Christmas lights before the day after Thanksgiving.
I don’t know how Bart’s turned out to be such an amazing kid. I’m only here because of Bart. I was invited to five other dinners today, but I’m here. Because Bart’s great. And because now I have six kinds of pie and I’m not going to leave them and I’m not going to take them back home and eat them by myself. And because Demon (a nickname I only call him in my head) looks hot with that messy brown hair, wearing those gray sweatpants, and he may be storing a Disney Park jumbo turkey leg in there. He smells like a dozen male models just rubbed up against him in a European nightclub. But it’s not terrible.
I sent my bestie conniving neighbor a text when I went to get Dildo, but she’s obviously too busy being fabulous on the other coast.
ME: You put Bart up to this, didn’t you?!
I already know she did. I just want her to know that I know. And that I am not okay with it.
When Demon’s in the garage and Bart’s retrieving his skateboard, I check my phone and see that I finally got a reply.
IDA: Oh hello, and Happy Thanksgiving to you, my darling!
ME: Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re having a wonderful night. Mine is going to suck.
IDA: First of all, I did not put that boy up to anything. I merely advised him on how to facilitate the process.
ME: The process of ensuring that my Thanksgiving would suck?
IDA: The inevitable process of allowing Damon to stuff you like a turkey.
ME: Pffft! He’s younger than me.
IDA: Pffft! Five years.
IDA: If I were fifteen years younger, I’da hopped on his gravy train by now, you know what I’m saying?
ME: I always know what you’re saying, Ida. Always.
IDA: BRB, my love. Billy Crystal wants me to tell the story about the time I played Viola in As You Like It and Sir Ian McKellen tried to make out with me backstage.
ME: One of my faves. But I still don’t forgive you.
IDA: Life is short, my darling. Bone your handsome neighbor.
What was she even thinking? Even if Demon and I got along—which we do not—Thanksgiving is the absolute least sexy kind of dinner date. Even if there weren’t a child here. It makes people want to take their pants off for all the wrong reasons.
I wander around the open living area. The interior of this house is even nicer than I thought it would be. I know Demon has a housekeeper who comes once a week, but still. It’s very tasteful. For a demon’s lair. I watch the big screen, knowing that my dad and brothers, their kids and wives and girlfriends are all watching this game back in Ohio and my mom is probably by herself in the kitchen doing dishes right now. I feel a tug of regret for not flying back for a day, but I just couldn’t make it work with my schedule this year.
Dildo circles my legs and I bend down to pet him. It’s not my fault my blouse is exposing my cleavage again when Demon walks in from the garage. It’s not my fault that I like how he makes a deep, guttural sound when he sees it and then looks away.
He places the six-pack of beer on the counter, pulls out two bottles, twists off the caps and brings one over to me. I take it and clink bottles with him.
He doesn’t even say cheers in return, he just raises his bottle and takes a good, long pull.
I take an even longer pull.
We glare at each other for about five years.
“Make a hole! Spread apart! Make way for Dildo! Coming through!” Bart hollers.
Demon and I step away from each other just as my dog comes rolling past us. Bart always does a great job of pushing the skateboard straight and with just enough speed to get Dildo going without tipping.
“Woohoo!” It’s never not fun to watch a wiener dog on wheels.
“Nice one, buddy,” Demon says. “Well, we should get to eating.”
I finally notice the spread on the dining table.
While I’m helping Bart to lift my dog up off the skateboard, he tilts his head and says, “Hey, is Dildo more than a name?”
“What do you mean?”
“Does it mean something? Because I heard Grandma talking on the phone once and she was saying she has some dildos she thought someone would like.”
“She was probably talking about dogs,” his dad blurts out, from over by the dining table. “She probably knew some dogs she thought they’d like.”
“Hey, funny story about how Dildo got his name.” Demon clears his throat in warning, but I wash my hands at the kitchen sink and proceed to tell the story. “You know, I adopted him from a friend who was moving to New York and was going to live in an apartment that didn’t allow pets. When she took him to the vet for the first time when he was a puppy, she filled out a form, and wrote Piero. Because she named him after her grandfather in Italy. But she was holding him and the clipboard with the form she was filling out in her lap, so her handwriting was really messy. Her capital P looked like a D. Her e looked like an l. The lady who typed everything into the computer system assumed it said Dildo and my friend was too polite to correct her.”
Bart wrinkles his nose. “He doesn’t look like a Piero.”
“No. He doesn’t.”
Demon is staring at me, quizzically.
“He definitely looks like a Dildo,” Bart says, thoughtfully.
“Yep. Grab a plate, everyone!” his dad says, as if he’s addressing a roomful of people. “Make your own leftover Thanksgiving meal sandwich. Everything was in the fridge overnight,” he tells me, “and is now room temperature. If you’d like to heat anything up…” He gestures toward the microwave in the kitchen.
He’s got a veritable smorgasbord of carved turkey slices with rosemary and citrus garnish, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, candied yams, two kinds of cranberry sauce—from a can and homemade with whole cranberries—baked green beans with slivered almonds, corn, and three kinds of sliced bread.
I am impressed.
I watch him and Bart enthusiastically pile ingredients onto a slice of bread. It’s really adorable how excited they are. Even if they’re amateurs.
I take my time assessing the ingredients and select three pieces of bread, because my sandwich will be layered. If I were eating this as a regular meal, I’d be arranging everything on my plate so that the different foods don’t touch each other—that’s not weird—but I happily make exceptions for sandwiches. I am the best at making sandwiches.
When I press down on my first layer and start on the next one, I realize Demon has been watching me. His brow furrowed, as usual. “Are you layering the ingredients in alphabetical order?”
“That’s not weird.”
“It’s a little weird that you separated the sliced almonds from the green beans so you could layer them first and then put the corn on top.”
“It’s CORN!!!” Bart and I both sing at the same time—because who wouldn’t in this day and age?
Demon wouldn’t, apparently, but he doesn’t even blink.
“So the gravy can’t go on the mashed potatoes?” he says, almost laughing. “Because of the alphabet?”
“No. Because gravy tastes really good on green beans—have you ever tried it?”
“No. And I’m never going to.”
“It’s not a competition.”
“Yes it is.”
He actually breaks into a smile and shakes his head. Then he sees Bart feeding my dog turkey. “Hey, is it okay for Dildo to eat turkey like that?”
“Yes. It is.” I do appreciate him asking. And I very much appreciate that this was, as far as I can recall, the first time I’ve heard him say “Dildo” out loud.
“Can we sit on the sofa, Dad?”
“That was the plan,” he says.
I walk slower than them, assuming father and son will sit together on the couch.
Demon places his plate of amateur sandwich and beer on the coffee table and then takes a seat on the sofa. And the loudest, longest fart echoes around the room, for what seems like an awesome, hilarious eternity. It’s mostly drowned out by Bart’s laughter, though.
Demon frowns at him, stands up, tosses the throw pillow aside and reveals a flattened whoopie cushion. If he gets mad at Bart for that, he sucks even harder than I thought. “Well-played,” is all he says, as he places the deflated rubber cushion on the side table. “Well-played.” He holds up his hand to high-five his son.
What do ya know.
I take a seat in a comfy armchair, slowly lowering myself, just in case there’s another whoopie cushion beneath this pillow. There isn’t. I like this chair. I like this living room. I really like two-out-of-three of the other mammals in it and the third one might be growing on me a little.
I wish Ida were here. That would make this feel even cozier, but it’s…strangely cozy all of a sudden.
As Demon is reaching for the remote, Bart raises his hands in the air, mouth full of bread and mashed potato and corn, and yells out, “Let’s all say what we’re thankful for! I’ll start. My dad is thankful for me and that I make his life more fun, and he wants to show how much he loves me by getting me a baby pig named Bob because I would take really good care of him.”
He gazes at his son with so much affection, it makes my ovaries throb. “Almost all of that is true, except for half of it.”
“And I’m thankful for Dildo and that my name rhymes with fart and that my friends call me Barf. I’m glad I only scraped my hands and knees four times this year and didn’t fall on my face ever. Oh—also that it didn’t hurt when my teeth came out. But I still think I should have gotten more money for the top one.” He pouts at his dad, who’s shaking his head at him, lovingly. “Now you, Nikki.”
I swallow my excellent, winning sandwich before saying, “Okay, well, I’m grateful for Dildo and Ida and my family back home—”
“Where’s back home?” Demon asks.
I start to continue listing the things I’m thankful for, but he interrupts me again.
“And why aren’t you with your family back home for Thanksgiving?”
“Because I’m going there for Christmas.”
“I’m grateful for my job—”
“What do you do again?”
“She’s a Girl Scout,” Bart informs him.
I laugh at that, because that is adorable. “Close. I’m a location scout. For film and TV productions. I scout locations.”
“Right,” his dad says.
He knew that. I know he knows all of that about me. Because Ida told me he asked her. He asked her where I was from, he asked her what I do. He asked if I had ever been married. He asked how old I am. How does he not know that Ida would tell me everything? Does he not know that Ida has told me everything she knows about him? About how graciously he handled his divorce? About how good he is at coparenting with his ex?
Ida knows everyone and Ida knows everything about everyone and everyone knows it. I don’t know how she knows for sure that Demon hasn’t been dating anyone since I moved here a year and a half ago, or that he’s been staying home more since I moved in. I certainly don’t know why she thinks it has anything to do with me. I definitely don’t know why she thinks I’d care.
She should know that I’m perfectly happy being single. She should know that just because I started to cry that one time she kept plying me with merlot and got me to admit that every now and then, yes, I do wish there was another human in the house with me—not that Dildo isn’t enough. If only to help me open one-out-of-twenty jars when that jar’s being an asshole, or to reach that one smoke alarm on the one high ceiling that always starts beeping in the middle of the night when it needs new batteries—and fuck you, merlot!—Ida should know that that was just a sometimes feeling. It doesn’t define my life. If Dildo had big strong hands that could open jars and long arms that could reach the ceiling from a stepstool, I would be all set. Well, with Dildo and my Hitachi Magic Wand, obviously.
“Go on,” Demon says. As if he wasn’t the one who kept interrupting me.
I take another swig of beer before saying, “And I’m grateful that Bart is such a sweet neighbor, and that I won the sandwich competition, the end.”
CHAPTER THREE – Damon
NO MORE MS. NICE PIE
While I will never admit sandwich-defeat, I have to say that Nikki’s pie is even more delicious than I imagined it would be.
The pumpkin filling is the perfect texture. Not too much spice, I don’t taste the egg. There’s a hint of ginger but just enough to offset the sweetness of the sugars. And the crust is even better than my mom’s. She didn’t even bring whipped cream from a can, it’s homemade. And perfect.
It’s a fucking perfect blend of flavors and textures.
“Good,” I growl. I didn’t mean to growl. It just came out that way.
“Thanks,” she says.
We’re leaning against the counter. She’s having a slice of warm apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I watch her savor each bite.
I want to make her eyes roll to the back of her head as she closes them like that. I want to make her drop her head back and groan like that. I want to kiss that long neck and feel it vibrate against my lips as she hums because she’s so happy.
“These homemade crusts?”
She rolls her eyes. Not in the way that I want to make her roll her eyes. “Of course.”
“Good.” I growl again. For effect.
She grins. “I like your leftover Thanksgiving sandwich buffet on Thanksgiving day concept. I’m gonna steal it.”
“And make it better?”
I shrug. “Can’t help it if I do.”
That’s cute. She’s really cute, even when she’s being a competitive little turd. Who’s older than me, but hot. Capable and hot. And probably not crazy.
Most of the women I spent time with before and after my wife—if they were cakes they’d be banana nut bread. But Nikki. If she were a pie, she’d be this pumpkin pie. And I would eat her every night. And then she would probably insist on giving me an even better blow job.
But I can’t think about that right now, because my son is here.
Bart is on the couch with Dildo. He’s eating a chocolate pecan pie. I don’t think he’s ever had a pie with nuts in it before, but he seems to love it. He’s already been instructed not to share the chocolate pie with the dog. When he finishes shoveling the last of his pie into his mouth, he jumps up and yells out, “Let’s play Charades!” I’m thankful that he remembered to put his plate down on the coffee table before jumping up.
“You know how to play Charades, buddy?”
“Uh-huh! Watch me!” He holds up two fingers, waving his hand around. “It’s a movie!”
Yeah. He doesn’t know how to play Charades.
“Wonder Woman!” Nikki calls out.
“Iron Man!” I say.
“The Dark Night!” she says, gleefully.
“Wait, I haven’t done the things yet!!!” Bart complains.
“Guardians of the Galaxy!”
Bart slaps his forehead. “Waaaaiiiittttt!”
“Man of Steel!”
Wait. Why does she keep naming DC Comics movies?
I give her the side eye, which she returns in kind.
“Marvel guy, huh?” she mutters.
“Yes. I have good taste.”
This will never work.
Bart starts swinging one arm around like he’s trying to catch a butterfly with a net.
“Net,” I say. “The Net starring Sandy Bullock.”
“You call her Sandy?” she smirks.
“Everyone calls her Sandy.”
Bart’s shaking his head and flicking his fingers at us.
“Netflix!” Nikki exclaims, jumping up and down.
I like how she jumps up and down as much as I hate that she likes DC movies.
“Yesssss!” Bart jumps up and down too. “I win!”
“Okay, first of all—Netflix is not the title of a movie. Secondly, that is not how you win at Charades.”
“I win!” he says again.
Then he runs over to the kitchen light switches and dims the overhead lights before dashing over to the record player and putting on Barry White.
The game got turned off half an hour ago.
I’m recording it. It’s fine.
“I gotta go do stuff upstairs!” Bart calls out as he shuffles across the floor to the foot of the stairs.
“Hey. Hang on, there.”
He stops in his tracks and spins around to face me, his posture and expression revealing that he thinks he’s in trouble.
I go over and give him a hug. “Thanks, buddy,” I lean down and whisper into his ear.
He nods and smiles up at me. “Thanks, but no thanks,” he says, chuckling, and then he stomps upstairs.
Dildo is on the rug, wiped out and worked-over by my son, which is a sentence I hope I never have to say out loud.
I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and check the notification. There’s an email with an attachment, from my mom. She’s sent me a selfie with her and Rod. An “usie,” I’m told it’s called. Rod has exactly as sunburnt a face and bleach-blond hair as I was expecting him to have, but my mom looks so happy. I guess I don’t have to worry about her. Rod may only be making her happy for a few days, but she’s going for it. She deserves to be happy. I guess I do too.
Wait—does Rod have a stud in his tongue?
I don’t want to know.
I leave my phone on the counter.
Nikki’s started clearing the table and taking the dirty dishes to the sink. No discussion, she just does it.
I like that.
Maybe I can live with the DC movies.
Or maybe I can convince her how wrong she is to like them.
Or maybe I’ll just help her clear the table and see what happens next.
I start putting the leftover leftovers back into their containers. “Was that story you told about how your dog got his name true?”
She laughs. “No. He’s a wiener dog who’s shaped like a wiener. My friend thought it was funny. He was two years old when I adopted him, so it didn’t seem right to change his name. So. I have a wiener dog named Dildo and your son likes to play with Dildo.” She shrugs. “What are ya gonna do.” She sighs.
“I know what I’d like to do…”
“Give you another reason to feel thankful this year.” I say it in a low voice, my back to her. Just in case.
She brings me another slice of pumpkin pie with the exact right amount of whipped cream on it. “Well, I hope you saved room for me for dessert.”
Christ almighty, she’s gonna try to top me at the punny dirty talk.
“I hope this isn’t the only way you’re going to try to top me.”
“I hope that turkey isn’t the only thing getting stuffed this weekend.”
I take the plate of pumpkin pie from her, swirl my index finger around in the whipped cream, and hold my finger up in front of her.
She holds my gaze as she leans in and slowly licks all the way up the length of my finger, and then flicks the tip of her tongue at the tip of it. She moans as she takes my entire finger into her mouth and throat, and then swallows the cream and licks her lips. “Good,” she coos.
I have never made out with a woman when my son was in the house before, but I want to make out with this woman.
I adjust the stiff one in my sweatpants and say, “Don’t go,” and then run upstairs to make sure Bart’s bedroom door is closed.
I slowly return to find Nikki sitting on the sofa.
Barry White is Ohhhhh babying from the speakers.
And Ohhhh, baby, I’m gonna remove those knee high boots from those shapely calves. I stand in front of her and she leans back, placing the sole of her boot against my chest.
I slowly unzip that boot, carefully remove it from her foot, let it drop to the floor. The lights are dim, but I’m pretty sure the sock she’s wearing has a turkey on it. There’s another charming thing about her.
“I didn’t expect anyone to see my socks today,” she says, quietly, and I think she’s blushing, and I think I like her a lot.
I rip that sock off of her like I’m gonna rip her panties off of her soon.
Just not now.
She gasps and then bites her lower lip as she rests her other foot against my chest and I do the same thing. Slowly, and then fast, to make her gasp again. I lean down to kiss her, but she pulls me down, flips me around so fast that I don’t realize I’m seated until she straddles me.
Her lips taste like whipped cream and her tongue tastes like cinnamon and brown sugar.
The skin beneath her blouse is exactly as smooth as it looks, and I am ten times harder than I’m comfortable being with my son in the house.
I hear him moving around upstairs.
I hear Nikki whimpering.
I reluctantly pull back from her and we both look down at the dog. He’s shifting from one short leg to another and looking impatient and vaguely apologetic.
“Shit,” she whispers, as she straightens her blouse. “I need to let him outside… I guess I’ll take him for a quick walk? Or can I let him out in your backyard?”
She’s the one who’s barefoot now, but all of a sudden I’m getting cold feet.
What am I gonna do—bang my hot neighbor on the couch while my son is playing Mario Kart upstairs?
Who am I? A Brodie brother?
“Actually…I should probably…”
She lifts herself up off my lap. “Oh. Okay.”
“No, it’s just that—”
“Yeah, no, yeah.”
“No, I just—”
“Yup, nope, it’s fine.” She stands up.
I take her hand. “Nikki. I’ll text you later.”
She gives me a skeptical look.
“I will. I have your number. Ida gave it to me a long time ago. Said if I ever find her passed out or dead, I should call you.”
“Interesting,” she smirks. “She gave me your number a long time ago and told me the same thing about you.”
“Interesting. I really will text you later. I had a good time tonight. I’m glad you came over.”
She tries really hard to suppress a smile. “I’m really glad I came over. Damon.”
“Okay, I’ll let you win that one. You want me to walk you home?”
“No, thanks,” she smiles. “I got it.” It’s a sad smile. I want to taste that whipped cream and cinnamon and brown sugar again, and kiss all the sadness away, but I don’t want to start things up again.
CHAPTER FOUR – Nikki
I ONLY HAVE PIES FOR YOU
I’ve got my hair up, my face washed, my teeth brushed, my pajamas on. Dildo’s in his bed, and I’m about to get into mine and wear out all of the batteries in my house. None of what happened today was what I was expecting to happen, and this isn’t how I ended up wanting the night to end, but I’m not mad. A little frustrated, perhaps. Very impatient to see the demon again.
My phone vibrates as I’m climbing into bed, and it’s embarrassing how quickly I check the notification.
It’s a text from Ida.
It’s awful how disheartened I feel.
IDA: How’s it going over there?
ME: It went. I’m back at my place. Alone. How was your dinner party?
IDA: Bette’s still wearing her Hocus Pocus costume and it was a straight-up Thanksgiving meal instead of combined Hanukkiving like in 2013. I sang songs from ANNIE with Sarah Jessica Parker, and Lin Manuel Miranda told me he had a crush on me when he was a teenager.
ME: The usual, huh?
IDA: The usual. Did you not get stuffed, dear girl?
ME: Not even in the feast sense. It was actually kind of perfect. This is the first T-Day I can recall where I don’t feel comatose after dinner.
IDA: I’m surprised. But then again, there was always a moment before each of my five ex-husbands asked me to marry them when I thought for sure I’d never see them again. Men get cold feet right before their hearts really warm up to women. It’s still early in LA. You’ll see.
ME: Well. The sun’ll come out tomorrow…
IDA: Bet yer bottom dollar. Love ya, my dear girl. Give Dildo a kiss for me.
ME: Will do. Love ya too.
Just as I’m opening the drawer of my bedside table, my doorbell rings and then my phone vibrates again.
Dildo barely even stirs, he’s exhausted from playing with Bart.
I smile to myself when I see the text notification and the new contact name I just gave him in my phone.
GRUMPY MOTHERCLUCKER: It’s me. At the door. You up?
It’s embarrassing, how up I am, all of a sudden.
I don’t even change out of my pajamas.
Or put on my less unsexy slippers.
I give Dildo a kiss from Ida and then pad down the hall to the front door and check the peephole before opening it.
As soon as I open it, Damon slips inside, shuts the door, and pushes me back against it, kissing me until I feel that jumbo turkey leg growing hard against me. He now smells like only five or six male models have rubbed up against him in a bakery, and he tastes like something I’ll be craving for the rest of my life.
We’re both breathless when he pulls his lips away from mine.
He lowers his forehead to rest against mine and says, “Hi.”
“Hi. Where’s Bart?”
“I got an Uber and dropped him off at my friend Shane’s house.”
I frown at him.
“I mean, I went with him in the Uber and then came back in that Uber. I didn’t just ship him off with a stranger.”
He kisses my cheek.
“Is he spending the night there?”
“Are you spending the night here?”
“We’ll see. Are you going to be all grumpy and judgy again when you wake up in the morning?” I’m grinning and my arms are around him as I say it, but I feel the shift in his posture. I feel the mood shift all of a sudden.
“Things are gonna get really hot and filthy really fast here, so I just want to say…”
He holds my face in his hands and I look directly into his eyes, possibly for the first time—and it’s shocking just how much warmth is behind them as he gazes into mine. “I know I can be kind of rough around the edges sometimes. And I don’t know you as well as I want to yet, but ever since I first saw you, I haven’t been as aware of anyone besides my son since…”
His ex-wife. I’m sure he means to say since his ex-wife, but he doesn’t want to talk about her with me. And that’s fine. But I don’t mind that there was someone else before me. A heart has to break before it’s truly open. I know this from experience.
I rise up on my tiptoes and kiss him on the cheek.
“Anyway…” he continues, grabbing my ass. “I gotta wishbone for you right here, you naughty girl.”
Happy Spanksgiving to me.