The Extra Place-Setting

Dad refused to sit still and watch as I set the table for dinner. I had managed to finish cooking everything spot on time, and there was still ten minutes left on the clock before 5:00 P.M came about. That’s when dad came swooping in, no longer able to hold back and helped me move everything from the kitchen to the dining room table. I wanted the organization to look perfect as I was picky on the lay-out and worked on the place-setting, while he brought in the food.

I didn’t realize the mistake I was making until he carried the last of the meal in, setting the oven-roasted turkey in the space I’d made for it in the center. Dad cleared his throat and said my name softly.


I hummed underneath my breath in acknowledgment.

“It’s just the two of us this year.”

“I know but don’t worry. I cooked a lot for your big belly.” I shot him a grin then went back to folding the forks and knives into the napkin using a special technique that mom taught me long ago.


There was something about his tone that urged me to look up at him. I was met by a serious, almost grim face. There was a faint smile on his lips but it wasn’t genuine.


I followed his gaze and looked at the table, wracking my brain over what he was getting at when I saw it. Two place settings had already been done, and here I was...working on a third. Briefly shocked with my subconscious actions, I released a nervous laugh and dropped the napkin on the table, the cutlery forming a loud clang against the surface.

“I-I guess old habits die hard.”

“May,” my dad repeated, much softer this time.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll just clear it up.”

His hand reached out and stopped me, curling around my fingers.


He shook his head. “Leave it.”

I frowned. “No. It’s not like she’s here anymore. Let me just-” His hand tightened around mine and when I looked up, he shook his head at me. Not in a condescending way, like a parent would if they were scolding their child. But the gentleness in his eyes was almost consoling - it was like dad was trying to tell me he understood. I stopped struggling against him and nodded with a smile.


As we started to settle down, dad added jokingly, “Besides, you know what they say. Always leave an extra place setting for an unexpected guest.”

I grinned at his effort to try and make me feel better, to try and distract me from the thoughts that had formed in my head each time I looked at that unoccupied chair. Behind the smile that dad wore, I could tell he was trying just as much not to think about mom. If she had been here, the mom that used to love and look after me several years ago, she would have been proud of the meal I’d made.

But no - now was not the time for regrets and ‘what if’s to be swimming around in my head. It was the time to form new memories of how fun Thanksgiving can be if spent in the company of those you loved most. I wanted to enjoy this meal with the man in my life that I looked up to, my dad.

Just as I was about to start serving the soup for both of us, the doorbell rang. I set down the soup bowl and glanced over my shoulder at the front door.

“Who could that be?”

I shrugged. “Dunno. I’ll go check.”

Making my way through the living room and toward the front door, my hands shook by my side. ‘Snap out of it Makayla,’ my mind instructed my heart, mocking the foolish fantasy that started to build up inside of it. Though I longed for the presence of my mother, despite what she’d done to break our family apart, I knew there was no possible way she was the one behind that door. I braced myself for the inevitable disappointment as my hand curled around the door knob and swung the door open and wasn’t disappointment that hit me.

My heart beat faster, swelling up with an emotion that I could only place as a result of joy, followed by inklings of confusion. Because I had no logical reason to feel happy. It wasn’t my mother that stood on the front porch. It wasn’t my mother that was shooting me a happy, almost shy, grin. It wasn’t her that I felt happy to see, when moments ago, I’d been longing for her presence.

It was Damien.

The End

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