"Artemis," I whined.
"Do it, Deidre," he said, shoving the baster in my hand.
He got behind me and kissed my neck, running his hands up my sides and to my stomach.
"Do it," he whispered in my ear and I shivered. I felt him smirk against my neck. "Do it and I'll let you eat some of the strawberries."
I groaned and leaned over the stove. I sucked up some juices in the baster and squeezed it over the turkey.
"Like this?" I asked and he nodded.
"See? That wasn't so hard, now was it?"
He pushed the turkey back into the oven and I shuddered.
"I thought I would fall in!"
He chuckled. "Are you going to do the stuffing now?"
"Actually," I said, going over to the ingredients, "it's called dressing." I cut up the herbs. "When you shove it in the turkey and violate the poor bird, then it's stuffing. If it's just on the side, then it's dressing."
He laughed. "You're weird."
I kissed his nose. "But that's why you love me."
We were in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Some of his family had shown up but they were in the living room. After a quick introduction, they ran in to watch the football game. Most of them were just uncles but there were a few aunts that stayed to help set the table. So far, there was only one kid. Well, she was about 11 years old and was currently staring at me.
"It's rude to stare, Gina," her mother said finally.
"Why is she here?" she asked and I looked at her. "Shouldn't she be with her family?"
"She is," Evelyn said lightly.
She and my mom were mixing up the batter for the pumpkin bread.
"But she's not part of our family!" Gina said.
"What makes you say that?" her mom asked.
My hands were shaking and I cut my finger once again. I sighed and washed it.
"I'll get you a bandage," Artemis mumbled, kissing my cheek briefly.
"I've seen the magazines," Gina argued. I did my best to ignore her. "She's cheating on cousin Arty!"
Her mom turned and put her hand on her hips. "Now see here missy: you know the media doesn't print the truth!"
"Where are your manners?" she demanded. "She is a guest in your aunt's home!"
"I thought cousin Arty was going to marry Alicia!" Gina yelled just as Artemis walked in. He dropped the first aid box and stared open mouthed at Gina. "She said she was gonna marry him!"
Her mom rolled her eyes. "Gina, Alicia doesn't even live in this state."
Gina got off the stool and stomped her foot, glaring at me. "You don't belong here. You got in Alicia's way!"
"I need to use the bathroom," I said quietly.
Artemis picked up the box. "Don't forget your-"
I walked by him but brushed our shoulders and slipped into my room. I sat down on the bed and waited. He came in a minute later and closed the door, sighing. He got out a band-aid and sat beside me. I held my hand out and he wrapped it tightly around my left pointer finger. He kissed it and I smiled a little.
"Don't listen to Gina," he said. "She's just a silly little girl who is upset for her friend."
"Who's Alicia?" I asked and he ran a hand through his hair.
Larry had warned me this would happen but it still gave me a jolt every time his ex-girlfriends were brought up. This time it was different, though. I felt like there was more to it; especially when his eyes filled with sadness.
He put his arm around me and I leaned into him.
"She was my last girlfriend," he whispered. "She lived in Oklahoma while we were dating. She fell in love with me. I did my best to explain to her I wasn't ready for something serious. I was only 25. She argued that I was getting old and needed to settle down. It upset me and I suggested taking a break." He paused, swallowing thickly, and I held his other hand. "She threatened to kill herself."
"What?" I breathed.
"Yeah, he sighed. He laced our fingers. "I came home one day and she was in our living room with a noose around her neck. We talked her out of it. She came down and begged me to marry her." He closed his eyes painfully at the memory. "I told her no. I didn't want to be manipulated into marrying her. That's when her mother finally stepped in. They took her away to a mental institution. Her mom told me she's been mentally ill since she was a kid."
I sighed. "I'm sorry, Artemis."
"The fact is, a lot of my ex-girlfriends are going to come out of the woodwork."
I nodded. "Larry warned me."
"Gina loves Alicia even though Alicia is very mean to her."
"Is Alicia still in the institution?"
"No. She was released a year ago. She tried to contact me but it was best for her for me not to respond. I didn't want her to hurt anymore."
"It's Gina's mom," he whispered. "Can she come in?"
I nodded and he got up to open the door. She walked in, Gina in tow.
"Well?" she demanded to the little girl. "What do you say?"
Gina crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Sorry."
"Sorry for what?" her mom prompted.
"Sorry I upset you. Can I go now?" she asked her mom who sighed but nodded.
We heard her storm down the stairs and Artemis sat beside me again, holding my hand.
"I'm sorry about Gina," her mom said. "I've tried to explain to her that what she read isn't true. I've also done my best to explain that Alicia... she's not coming back."
"It's hard for an 11 year-old to understand things like this," I whispered, remembering what it was like for me. "It's okay. I know she just feels bad for her friend. I just needed to get some air, that's all."
"Are you sure?" she asked, looking worried.
I smiled. "I'm sure. I'll be back down in a second."
"Okay," she said and closed the door.
I groaned and fell onto my bed. "Great way to start my first Thanksgiving with your family."
Artemis chuckled and got on his back with me. "It'll get better." He sighed. "Although, it does ruin-"
He stopped talking abruptly and I frowned at him.
"Ruin what?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said quickly. "Come on, let's go."
"No. What were you going to say?"
He dragged me off the bed. "It'll be time to baste that poor bird soon."
I groaned. "Do I have to? That oven freaks me out! Besides, I still have to finish the dressing."
He smiled. "Maybe. We'll see."
"Turd," I grumbled as we went back into the kitchen.
"Everything looks great," one of his uncles said.
He had a huge family. He had five uncles, six aunts, and seven cousins. A lot of them were from his father's side of the family, though. We sat down at the table, me between Artemis and my mom. Unfortunately, Gina was across from us and glared as we held hands for prayer.
"Now, this is Deidre's first turkey," Artemis announced, "so she will be carving it."
I gaped at him. "Absolutely not! I'll cut myself!"
The family laughed and goaded me into doing it. I groaned and stood up. Artemis handed me a large fork like thing and a huge knife. I looked at them nervously. Artemis put the fork thing in my left hand and the knife in my right hand.
"Legs first," he explained and I whimpered. "Don't close your eyes, dork!"
"Oh, you're awful," I mumbled and everyone laughed again.
I cut off the legs and the wings. He told me how to cut the rest and I tried to keep my hands as steady as possible. I didn't even want to think what the cuts would be like with this knife.
When it was carved, everyone applauded and Artemis kissed my cheek.
"See? You've got it!"