Episode 51

ThanksGiving [part 2]

Caitlin didn’t know if she should be scared, nervous or excited about the new visitors. Rose clearly had been expecting them. But she wondered how Jay was reacting. Not being able to see him, she couldn’t catch the flashes of emotion that passed across his face. She knew something wasn’t right though, when he didn’t openly greet them as Rose did. Quite the opposite, he was shocked!

“Well, nephew, lovely to see you to,” a jolly man’s voice spoke up. Callie was waiting by Caitlin’s side, eager to greet the new comers. “Mama, is Leila coming or not?” The man asked. Mama? So this was Rose’s son? Jc’s uncle? “Come in, come in,” Rose was delighted. “I’m so glad you could make it Deshaun. Natalie, you are looking lovely, and April and Gabriella, what beautiful young ladies you are growing into.” “Go give your grandma a hug,” A woman encouraged kindly. JC’s hand was on caitlin’s arm now as the greetings took place.

“You OK?” She inquired, pulling him close. “I’m shocked. Didn’t realise my uncle could actually leave Chi town.” His tone was one of repressed anger. Caitlin knew there was some issues there. He rarely spoke of his aunt and uncle. Rose had mentioned Leila as had Ebony when they spoke about Leah, Jay’s older sister but Deshaun was a distant relative who rarely got mentioned.

“Caitlin, honey,” Rose called. “Come here. I’d like you to meet my son, Deshaun, his wife Natalie and their beautiful girls April and Gabriella. This is Jay’s girlfriend.” “Hi,” Caitlin smiled shyly. She wasn’t sure if the tension between Jay and his uncle could be eased just by a greeting but it seemed they’d traveled from Illinois for Thanksgiving so Jay was going to have to deal with it.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Caitlin,” Natalie hugged her warmly. “Rose tells us lots of nice things about you and how you and Jay are building some good businesses.” “Ah, yes,” Caitlin was smiling but she was worried about JC. This was his family. Why wasn’t he hugging his cousins? Greeting his auntie and uncle with happiness if they’d not seen each other for a while. “You’ll have to excuse me, I need to check on something.” She smiled as she walked by Rose who was engrossed with her grandchildren. Deshaun’s daughters were fifteen and twelve. They’d begun their family late and both girls were happily talking to the grandmother they’d never met.

Caitlin found JC sitting outside in the yard. “What’s going on?” She put a hand on his tense shoulder. “Where do they get off, baby? They don’t visit for almost sixteen years and then they’re here? And Auntie Leila is supposed to be coming to? What the fuck for? She’s not bothered with big mama ever since she left. She never visits, rarely calls, so why they all here now? Huh?” His anger was palatable. She sat beside him, wrapping him up in a hug.

“I don’t know,” Caitlin frowned in concentration. “Maybe, she invited them?” She suggested, stroking his head affectionately. The air was cool but not cold. She could smell many turkey dinners cooking in the surrounding houses and wondered how many other family dramas were playing out. Her own family was so small, her dad had taken off to Vegas with his current girlfriend but that never bothered her. She’d not spent a Thanksgiving with her father since she was in college and it suited them both that way.

“She invites them every year, they always have an excuse.” He responded bluntly. “Even your Auntie Leila? She’s not far away?” “But she’s always too busy for big mama. it’s usually just she and I. Not even Leah can get her ass over here to visit.” “OK, I know it must feel like a kick in the guts because they are all showing up for whatever reason. But baby, just be happy for your grandmother. It’s probably the Thanksgiving she’s always dreamed of.” He turned his head to her with an amazed look in his eyes. “You just are incredible,” He kissed her lovingly. “You’re right. I’ll be happy for her but I’ll find out what the hell they’re all up to.” He stood and returned to the house to meet his cousins.

Leila, her husband Richard, their son Demarcus and daughter Rosalie arrived ten minutes later with Leah, Jc’s sister. Caitlin smiled and greeted everyone warmly and JC was on his best behaviour. He helped Rose in the kitchen with serving whilst Caitlin helped to entertain. Demarcus who was twenty-three and not long out of college had a baby on the way whilst Rosalie was at Princeton doing law. Leah was quiet and sullen but always polite. She didn’t seem her thirty years of age. She seemed so much younger, almost child like. And this was the girl, Ebony helped to destroy with drugs?

“So how’s business?” JC was standing with his two uncles, one through marriage and one through blood. He had a strong suspicion why they were there. Rose had obviously talked about his businesses and they probably wanted in. Not on this venture, he thought. They’d never been there for him or Rose before, the only man who had ever paid him any attention was his step grandfather, Gabriel. These men had never been there for him, or his grandmother. “It’s good!” JC smiled at his uncle Deshaun. “Got my girl to thank for a lot of it. She used to work for LA events. Great business mind.” He smiled as she walked in with an empty glass which she filled as they talked. “Not living here any more?” Richard enquired. “Nah, got a place in Glendale, don’t we, baby girl?” He brought Caitlin into the conversation and pulled her to his side possessively. “We sure do,” She smiled gently. “So Rose is here alone?” Richard asked, his eyes darting around nervously. He knew his nephew had a reputation on the streets and didn’t want any trouble but he, Leila, Deshaun and Natalie had already discussed this. “Yeah,” JC drew the word out with a length of hesitation. “We asked her to come with us, but she refused to leave.” “I can believe that,” Deshaun put in, putting his can of beer down on the clean kitchen counter. “What’s this about?” caitlin felt her boyfriend tense beside her and she didn’t like where this conversation was heading. “Mama can’t cope,” Deshaun said matter of factly. caitlin gasped and Jc glared. “What do you mean?” He was on edge now. He knew they didn’t mean financially, he was paying big mama’s rent. So what the hell did they mean? “She’s getting old Jay,” Richard said, with a tone you use with a petulant child that is about to explode. “Wait a minute,” caitlin wanted to stop this before it went past the point of no return. “she’s coping just fine. Has been since Jay left. We’re paying the rent and such. We call by at least once a week, house is clean and tidy, how is she not coping?” “She’s going to need more help,” Deshaun said condescendingly. “She’s ageing now.” “Is that why you’re here, Uncle Deshaun?” Jay spat his uncle’s name venomously. “To perform some kind of intervention? You take her independence away, you may as well kill her! You think because I ain’t living here that I don’t still take care of her, like I always have done? Since Gabriel died, I’ve been the only one to care for her. Where the fuck were you? Sure, you live in Chicago but what about you tricky Dicky? Where the fuck were you and Auntie Leila? It’s less than a forty-five minute drive from your crib yet you haven’t visited Big mama in over nineteen years. Since she came to live with you!” Caitlin took She, meant Leah. “It was too painful for Leah,” Richard retorted. “And how painful do you think it was for Big mama that her own kids never came to fucking visit?” Jc raged, slamming his hand on the kitchen counter. “Don’t you all fucking dare act like you care now? Don’t you dare!” And with that, JC stormed out of the back door, into the yard and out of the gate. Caitlin puffed out her cheeks in exasperation as Rose appeared to see what the commotion was all about.

“What in God’s name is going on?” She asked, the level of authority evident in her voice. “Nothing, mama.” Deshaun quickly interjected. “Nothing, if you consider them wanting to move you out of your home, Rose,” Caitlin snapped. “That’s why Jay’s upset. I’m going to find him. Come on Callie.” She harnessed up the yellow dog and left the house, with no clue where to start looking.

“What is going on?” Rose asked again, her eyes filled with frosty demand. “We’re worried about you mama,” Leila was there now. Her dark eyes surveying her husband and brother. “Alone in this house. Why Jay didn’t take you with him, I’ll never know.” “He wanted me to, but I said no. I like my own space and this is my home, Leila. How dare you try and interfere. I did not invite you here for this or to upset Jay! Now. Forget all about this silly talk and I shall serve up dinner. I just hope caitlin can find my grandson. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!” And with a flurry, she was busying herself with the serving of Thanksgiving dinner, all of her children put back in their places.

JC spotted a huddled figure sitting on a stoop as he stormed by. He was heading toward lock up but the sight of his sister, huddling on the porch where they used to live had him stopping in his tracks.

“Leah?” He asked, gently, placing a finger under her chin to lift it up. Her dark cheeks were stained with tears. “I’m sorry,” She choked, her thin frame shaking violently with sobs. “I never wanted to leave you but Auntie Leila said it would be for the best. I’ve missed you and big Mama Jay.” He wrapped her up in a huge hug as he spotted Caitlin striding toward them with Callie at her side. Smiling at his girlfriend, he patted his sister affectionately.

“Caitlin,” He called to her. “I’m here. Leah’s upset.” She stopped beside them and waited for Leah to calm. “Come back Jay, both of you. This is Rose’s day. Don’t let them spoil it! She won’t!” Sighing, he pulled Caitlin into a shared hug with his sister. The one girl he’d failed to protect and felt a sense of conclusion. Smiling, he knew how he could help Leah and his grandmother all at the same time. But that plan would have to wait until after turkey and football.

Walking into the house, they were ushered to the dining table and somehow, the tension of the previous conversation lapsed and everyone talked and interacted. It was the happiest Rose had been in years and as she handed the carving knife to her grandson, to carve the huge bird, she smiled a watery smile. This was how life should be.

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