The place was only a few blocks from her family’s apartment, but Lisa had never set foot inside before. The scents that hit her nose as she opened one of the glass doors made her regret waiting so long.
A mostly head neon sign proclaimed the little restaurant to be Enzo’s Famous Pizza Pies, but numerous smaller signs had been plastered around the actual one announcing things like ‘hot dogs, chili dogs, corn-dogs’, ‘burgers made to order’, ‘steak sandwiches’, ‘gyros, subs and tacos’, ‘five kinds of fries’ and Lisa’s favorite if only because it seemed to be a complete non-sequitor in the midst of the typical fast food fare: ‘shrimp cocktail, crab boil and fried scallops’.
Despite selling a wider variety of dishes than a whole block of restaurants, Enzo’s only had three booths, two tables and a lunch counter along with three ancient arcade cabinets that Lisa suspected predated her grandparents.
It seemed that the rest of the neighborhood ignored the place too, as aside from the person she was meeting, there was only one other customer, a man in his mid-fifties sitting atop his stool at the lunch counter, tucking into a sandwich consisting of a slab of steak with scrambled eggs on a sub roll that was too narrow to contain the epic proportions of the steak.
Leaving the man to his breakfast, Lisa crossed over to the only occupied booth and dropped into the seat across from its occupant.
Tatiana Farnsworth was nursing a cup off coffee when she heard Lisa arrive. She looked up to give her niece an uneasy smile. “So I decided to show up after all.”
“I’m glad you did.” Lisa returned the smile with a more confident one. “I hate the idea of you being alone in general after all the stuff you’ve been through, but I draw the line on you being alone for the holidays—starting with Thanksgiving.”
The older woman, who now looked younger than her niece toyed with a lock of blonde hair and shrugged. “I usually wasn’t around for Thanksgiving before all this. You didn’t have to…”
“But I wanted to.” Lisa asserted. “Aunt Tay, you’ve been trapped in your own head for two years. Now you’re…” She stopped, checking to make sure that neither the man at the counter, nor the middle-aged woman working the register were paying attention. “Now you’re in this whole new body—and the magical potential in it… I think this is for the best.”
Tatiana tightened her grip on the coffee up. Lisa didn’t know the half of it. She’d spent months shackled into a mad sorceress’s subconscious, but in the end, it was her fault in the first place. All because she liked the thrill of high profile burglary. If she hadn’t given herself over to be possessed by Morganna, Lisa would have been the one living through that hell.
Lisa knew some of the larger truth now, but not all of it.
“So,” She said, realizing that if she didn’t fill up the silence, she might make a confession she wasn’t ready to live with, “I’m supposed to be a friend of yours from college then.”
“Right.” said Lisa, “Your family lives on the other side of the country and you can’t afford to fly back for the weekend, so I suggested you have dinner with us instead of the residents’ hall. It’s really important that you sell it though—remember that ‘Elise’ doesn’t know anyone in the family but me, okay?”
Again, Tatiana tensed. She wondered if Lisa understood just how difficult it was going to be; spending time with her sister, brother-in-law and nephew while pretending to be a stranger. Was it even worth spending time with family when they couldn’t act like it?
Then again, hadn’t she been lying to them about what she did and who she really was for years anyway? It was just a different kind of lie. A bigger lie. Elise Halfren was a whole other person: a part-time student and waitress at a chili restaurant—a far cry from the globetrotting Tatiana Farnsworth.
“Do you think,” she asked, looking at her coffee, “That one day I might be able to explain this whole thing? To come clean about… all of this?”
The true depth of her musing was lost on Lisa, who shifted uncomfortably. “I can’t make any promises about that. All of this is so complicated—so twisted up in itself. It’s hard to know what’s safe to tell or what people will even believe. It took years and years of proof before people accepted that descendants weren’t a big hoax; I’m not holding my breath that it’ll take any less time for them to accept magic.”
“I suppose you’re right mi linda.” Tatiana groaned at what just came out of her mouth. “And I’d better get that in check. It might give everyone the complete wrong impression if this older white girl you just brought home is calling you pet names.”
Lisa laughed, then sighed. “I’m going to miss you calling me that.” She took a moment to center herself, offering up a hopeful smile. “You’ll see though: this won’t be so hard. Once they get to know you—you know, again—they’ll be treating you like part of the family without realizing that you really are.”
Buying time by taking a long sip of her coffee, Tatiana studied her niece. The young woman was full of nervous energy, never quite sitting still, and her eyes were full of the same hope she was trying to project to Tatiana. Putting the cup down, she asked, “This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”
There was no point of obfuscating. Lisa lowered her head, suddenly looking like she was five years old again for all of her shyness. “I finally have you back, Aunt Tay. I can’t really tell you what it’s been like; not getting surprise visits, or being able to call you when I needed to talk to someone who gave good advice… I feel like if I introduce ‘Elise’ to the family, then maybe I can get some of what we lost with this whole ‘Morganna’ thing back.”
Warmth rose in Tatiana as she listened. Her own worries and guilt no longer mattered as much. Lies and truths and everything related to them could wait. There were more important things that required her attention now. She did her best to mirror in her own expression that Lisa had given her. “Then I’ll do my best to make this work.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Christina ‘Tink’ Carlyle tossed her messenger bag onto her bed before collapsing into her computer chair. Sinking into the faux leather, she squeezed her eyes shut and blew out a few long breaths. Through no fault of their own, the day’s classes had been frustrating.
She knew that gong to Cambridge meant she would have to but accept even more separation from her family than she would have going to MIT or some other stateside school, and that she would have to do things on the decidedly different UK university schedule. Simple knowledge hadn’t prepared her to deal with actually living with those things though.
For the entire day, she’d constantly been fighting with herself to concentrate on work whens she knew she was missing out on catching up with her brothers, who she had hardly seen during her high school career thanks to they themselves quickly moving out after graduation. That she would be seeing them in a few days didn’t change the tiny twinges of bitterness that she was still stuck in classes when she wanted to be back in Mayfield.
Swiveling her chair around, she let her gaze fall on the antique mirror, her going away present from Lisa and Kay. It was the second ‘receiving’ mirror gate the two magically-inclined women had constructed, and it had only arrived a week ago after being lost in a shipping yard for too long.
Along with it, they sent her the ‘key’ used to turn another mirror into a gate to that one: a brass pocket watch one a long chain. There was a compartment inside the watch’s lid to hold her D-icon that allowed her to quickly don her costume and open the mirror gate in the Freeland House boathouse.
The temptation was strong to just gate to Mayfield and surprise her family for Thanksgiving.
Doing so would raise a lot of questions though. The least of which would be about what happened to the ticket her father sent her for a supersonic trip from Heathrow to JFK and the train pass from New York to Mayfield. It was a lot of money, even on a veteran’s benefits and Tink would feel bad making him think he wasted it.
Not to mention having to explain how she had managed to get home. Even if she was comfortable telling them about her extracurricular activities as Renaissance, ‘magic mirrors’ would still be a hard sell.
She checked the clock. Five after six; just after one back in Mayfield. The Carlyles didn’t have any traditions for Thanksgiving beyond dinner, so she wondered what everyone would be doing at the moment. IF she were home, she expected she would be reading in the living room; something light because it wouldn’t be long before someone decided to strike up a conversation.
This year, she might have been chatting online with Warrick; he’d been out of town and incommunicado the year before, but this year he would be in Mayfield staying at a hotel, so they might have found some time to talk.
A smile twitched the corners of her mouth. That was actually a idea worth exploring. Getting up, she went to her bed where her bag had landed, and got out her tablet. Upon returning to her desk, she slotted the computer into the desktop adapter there and switched it on.
Being at Cambridge made her a little less proud of her hobby-built desktop rig, as a lot of her classmates had enough money that they had holographic displays if not completely interactive holo-interfaces in their rooms. No matter how good her knack with technology was, she wasn’t going to be building holograms anytime soon—she built things out of scrapped parts and people seemed to only throw out holographic devices after they busted the projector. Still, there was a lot to be proud of: while she didn’t have all the bells and whistles, her rigs was probably more powerful than those that cost a hundred times what hers had.
In less than a ten-count,t he machine had booted up and she was selecting her video chat program, wondering why it hadn’t occurred to her before. It took a full two minutes of staring at call icon before it was replaced by the smiling, slightly surprised face of her mother.
“Tink, sweetie!” she beamed, “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you until you left for your flight.” Her expression brightened, “Does this mean you’re leaving early?”
“Hi Allie.” said Tink, with a sad smile, “Sorry, no I just… thought I’d say hi to everyone. I know I’m going to miss dinner but…”
“No you’re not.” said Allie, expression somehow even happier now.
Allie tilted her head to the side. “We all talked about it: your father and brothers—oh, and your Uncle Jay and his family are here too—their apartment is being fumigated—anyway, we decided that it just wouldn’t be right to have a big fancy dinner today and then just a regular dinner when you’re here with us. So our Thanksgiving is going o be Saturday this year.”
That possibility hadn’t even occurred to Tink. After all, she was just one member of the family and it was her own choice that left her stranded on the wrong side of the ocean on the appropriate day. “Really, I mean you don’t have to do that just for me. I mean there’ll be leftovers.”
On her end of the line, Allie chuckled, “I think you forget that our brothers are here—no there won’t. Besides, it’s too late to talk us out of it—there’s no turkey in the oven. In fact, we’re having pot roast.”
Now it was Tink chuckling. Her mother had picked her least favorite dish on purpose. “Wow, well maybe I don’t feel so bad about not being there now.”
“Well you shouldn’t.” Said Allie. “Cambridge was your dream and if that means a few late Thanksgivings, so be it.”
“Hey, is that Tina?” A wry male voice came from off screen. It was unmistakable to Tink as her brother, Jeff. Sure enough, he appeared over Allie’s shoulder, his long blonde beard actually trimmed for once. He grinned. “It is! How’s it going over there in brainy town?”
Tink grinned back. “It’s going fine. I just wish I was there with you guys.”
She spent the next hour and a half talking to everyone in her family. It wasn’t the most traditional Thanksgiving she ever had, but it was satisfying, and it made her feel much better about not being there in person. By the time she disconnected, she felt like she could handle the extra day of classes before her flight.
Annette St. John was enjoying Thanksgiving for entirely different reasons than most of the people in Mayfield. Where others celebrated it as a time of togetherness, she was celebrating finally being left alone for more than five minutes.
Most of the student body at the Liedecker Institute had gone home, ore were staying with family at the Dornez Hotel for the holiday. Even those, like her, who were full-time residents at the school were mostly attending the big, fancy dinner the cafeteria put on for them.
Her friend Betty, better known as Rapunzel, had invited her to spend the holiday with her family in Aspen, but she declined. While she liked Betty and found her more pleasant than most people gave her credit for, Annette was at heart a loner forced into being part of a group; she didn’t want to give up some actual alone time.
The evening found her in the common room for the first time in months.
Stretched out across the couch, she had earbuds in blasting French pop songs and a tablet in her hands displaying one of her favorite gossip websites. Today, she thought, was a good day.
At least she was thinking that before she became aware of a figure looming over her from behind the couch. She glared up to find that woman; the one Arceneaux had put ‘in charge’ of her. Granted, the woman who now called herself Stephanie Carroll saw to her needs, but the two butted heads whenever they came into contact with Annette always coming away with the disadvantage.
“What do you want?” She spat in French.
Carroll stood there, arms folded, observing the girl before her. Usually, her eyes were cold, but this day, they seemed… hesitant. Annette took that as weakness and went for it. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?”
The only way she knew she’d struck a cord was the slight narrowing in the other’s eyes. “No.” replied Carroll dispassionately in English. She walked around the couch, arms still crossed. “I have no family that I can spend the day with, no friends within reach. Just like you.”
Annette refused to allow herself to flinch. “Unlike you, I am happy for it. This place is always too loud with people being idiots and you don’t let me punish them for it.”
“No one said I wasn’t happy for it.” Carroll said. “And it was you whom I recall complaining about the nice places everyone else was able to go. Between the two of us, you’re the most upset.”
“Just tell me what you want so you can leave me alone faster.” Annette made a show of fixing her eyes to her tablet.
Instead of answering directly, Carroll disappeared back behind the couch, her footsteps telling Annette she’d walked into the kitchenette. “Stephan told me that I should show you how Americans celebrate the holiday. After all, he’s working on getting you citizenship.”
That wasn’t the first Annette had heard of it. By and large, she didn’t care. France had proven she wasn’t wanted there and so had her parents. At the same time, the US, with its Braylocke laws and rising political dissent, didn’t seem to be ready to welcome her with a hug and a mug of hot chocolate.
“Most Americans do not do things the way everyone says they do.” She pointed out. “What is the point of telling me lies about tradition?”
There was a rustling of bags from the kitchenette. “Did you know hat I’m a dual citizen?” Carroll asked. When Annette didn’t reply, she expanded, “American and Brazilian. My parents were Americans, but I was born in Juiz de Flora.”
If only for her history classes, Annette knew the significance of the name. She’d even heard the cockpit recordings from the Jabberwock aircraft on that fateful day. She poked her head up to look over the couch. The counter blocked her view of what Carroll was doing, but whatever it was had the woman’s full attention.
“I wasn’t there when it happened.” Carroll said, expression never changing. “My parents were. I haven’t ‘celebrated’ Thanksgiving since.”
Silence reigned in the room, pierced only be wrappers rustling and the whirr of the electric can opener.
“Then why start now?” Annette demanded after that silence grew too heavy. “It hardly seems worth it.”
“Because I talked to Stephan.” Carroll said, her voice rambling, “Because he pointed out that neither of us really has a family and how that’s probably why you’re so angry all the time.”
Annette huffed. “I am angry all the time because people are idiots all the time.”
Carroll ignored her, continuing with her soliloquy. “I was angry too. I’m still angry and nothing good has eve come of it. I promised Stephan that…” She paused, closed her eyes, then finished, “That I wouldn’t let you turn out like me. And last night, I finally realized something I’ve been missing, something that might have kept me form turning out like this: Family. Traditions. Roots. Just… somewhere you belong.”
Curious, Annette used her powers to elevate herself enough so that she could see what Carroll was doing and found her dumping various cans into microwave dishes as well as an odd lump she assumed was meat.
The older woman seemed to feed her gaze and turned to meet it. “It isn’t exactly the meal they have on TV.” She admitted, “but it’s going to have to do.”
Annette knew that was going to be the warmest she was going to get out of Carroll. But she also knew it was genuine. Without being ordered to, she lifted herself up and flew slowly and smoothly into the kitchenette to help prepare her first Thanksgiving dinner.
Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.
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