After meeting us at the train station, my boyfriend went over the details of our cover story.
“Now remember,” Marcus said, turning up the music so my kids would not overhear. “My sister Abigail is very fond of Madeline. She will likely ask you to convince Maddie to come visit us—“us” being me and my sister.”
“Abigail met Madeline?”
“No, but you know, Abigail calls her all the time, and they email and shit.”
“So you have to remember that Maddie is my girlfriend, not yours. You just introduced us.”
“Right. But how do I know her?”
Marcus pulled into his sister’s driveway. “I don’t know, you just know her.”
“That’s not good! I have to know her in some way that is beyond suspicion.”
“If Abigail asks, just make up something.”
“Maybe another mutual friend?”
My kids and I were joining Marcus’s family for Thanksgiving.
In this alternate universe, Marcus is not my boyfriend and we do not share a girlfriend. Instead, I am his best friend and Madeline is his new girlfriend with serious potential.
Legend has it that I introduced the two lovebirds in New York.
(Well, that part, at least, is entirely accurate)
Marcus shouted to his sister as he opened the door. We stepped inside to be greeted by two large dogs, two teenage nieces and one dodgy aunt.
These were followed by a sister, a brother-in-law, a cousin, another cousin . . .
Marcus had told me there would be twenty-three relatives at dinner, plus me and my three kids.
I began to wish for name tags.
As grown ups made introductions, my boys followed Marcus’s boys to the recreation room in the basement. They would play ping pong and air hockey for most of the day.
My daughter amused herself with a black Labrador who shared her name, keeping her eyes on the teenage girls.
Cocktails were mixed—Marcus and I took Bloody Marys, thank you—and I cleared a space to prepare my contribution to the festivities: my Granny’s famous deviled eggs.
Marcus had vetoed my other ideas for appetizers.
“No bacon wrapped anything,” he ordered. “No pork egg rolls, no sausages hidden in anything. We’re Jews, okay? Our people have suffered enough without you disrepecting our traditions.”
Allah be praised that my repertoire includes this family favorite.
“What are you doing?” a niece asked.
“Slicing eggs,” I replied, slicing eggs. “Soon to be deviled eggs.”
“Deviled eggs?” her sister asked. “What, is that a Christian thing?”
“I think so,” Abigail nodded. “Doesn’t the egg symbolize something?”
Marcus laughed. “Let’s try ‘fertility,’ okay, Abigail?”
“I don’t know about that,” I said, reaching for the mayonnaise I had packed. “But its damned good eating.”
“You brought mayonnaise?” Abigail asked. “What, you think we wouldn’t have mayonnaise? I’ve got regular mayonnaise, I’ve got fat-free mayo, I’ve got—what’s that called?—Miracle Whip . . .”
“Then you girls should learn how to make this,” I suggested to the teenagers. “Because it’s very easy.”
“But please, girls,” Abigail said to her daughters. “Just one apiece until everyone has had some, please?”
I sprinkled paprika on a tray full of eggs, declared them deviled, and set the dish on a side table.
Lillie took two deviled eggs, stuffing one entirely into her mouth. The teenagers took one each.
Abigail shook her head.
“Those won’t last long,” she said. She sipped her cocktail, and turned to me. “So, how long have you known Madeline?”
“Oh, well, not so long . . .”
I was rescued by the arrival of my divorce attorney.
When I was beginning my divorce process, Marcus had suggested that I get in touch with his cousin, who had offered him great advice on his divorce.
I met Betsy and knew she was perfect for me. She’s aggressive and tough, unlikely to be cowed by my aggressive and tough spouse. As it turns out, she is also much smarter and engaged than Lucy’s lawyer proved to be.
Betsy met Lucy at every turn, and fought back her unreasonable claims on custody. It was a tough fight, but Betsy did what was right for me and the kids.
It was an added bonus that my divorce was handled by my boyfriend’s cousin.
It’s all in the family.
I like Betsy, but I was unsure I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her, considering I owe her over seven thousand dollars.
Relax, Marcus told me. She’s got her own worries—she’s divorcing her husband now.
I kissed Betsy’s cheek and introduced her to my kids. She was soon outfitted with a Cosmopolitan and talking with her relatives about her divorce.
A true lawyer, she focused on hours spent preparing the documents.
Turns out the family has a few fresh divorces in our generation. A clique of divorced people formed. We swapped stories of dating. I listened as JDate was contrasted to eHarmony.
We swapped tales of ex spouses. I listened as a one cousin’s chummy ex husband was contrasted to someone else’s nogoodnik.
Marcus brought my second Bloody Mary. I took a sip and smiled at him.
Near as I can tell, Marcus and I were the only ones churning our new freedom into all manner of perversions.
Marcus’s mother listened in.
“You know, children, your father and I have an announcement to make today. Having just celebrated our fiftieth anniversary, we are also getting divorced. We’re tired of missing all the fun!”
Marcus put an arm around his mom. “Finally! Now I can introduce you to a few friends. Take Jefferson here . . .”
“That’s nice,” I said. “Sure, sign me up for the next fifty.”
Marcus found me later, playing ping pong with the kids. He held two Bloody Marys—our third—and nodded toward a staircase.
I finished my game with my son and surrendered the paddle to Marcus’s son.
Marcus led me upstairs to Abigail’s bedroom.
I followed him into her large bathroom.
He closed the door.
“Hey sweety,” he smiled, leaning in. “I just wanted a moment with you to myself.”
He kissed me.
I lifted myself into his lips, savoring the Bloody Mary taste of his tongue.
“Happy Thanksgiving, baby.”
“Thanks honey. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Is it weird, being with so much of my family?”
“No, it’s fine. And may I tell you, you have a fucking gorgeous family.”
He smiled. “You like?”
“Yeah! Are any of them off limits, you know, for me to fuck?”
He thought a moment. “No, it’s fine with me. Anyone in particular I can set you up with?”
“Well, the teenage sister combo is appealing. And of course, Abigail is very attractive. I could do her just to complete the brother and sister pair.”
“I do have another brother, you know, he’s just not here.”
“I don’t care about that, really. I would only be using your sister to get to her husband.”
“Yeah, he’s to die for—all tall, dark and handsome like. He’s too damn hot in his glasses. ”
“You’re telling me? I’ve known him forever.”
There was a knock at the door. “Anyone in here?”
“Come in, Abigail, it’s just me,” Marcus called. “And Jefferson.”
“Are you decent?”
“No, we’re taking a bath. Come in.”
“Thanks,” she said, entering. “Oh, thank God, you were kidding. You two hiding out?”
“Something like that.”
“I just need to ditch this sweater. Ugh, I can’t believe how much I am eating. I’m too fat.”
“Abigail, you’re not fat.”
“Yes I am, look.” She lifted her shirt and pinched a sliver of skin on her toned stomach. “I can’t even get into my daughter’s jeans now.”
“You’re fat because you can’t wear a fifteen-year-old’s jeans?” I chided.
Marcus nodded at me. “Jefferson thinks you’re hot. He says he’d do you.”
“Actually, I said I would do you to get to your hunky husband.”
“Well, thanks for the offer,” she smiled, checking her mascara. “But we’re committed.”
“Just take my number anyway—you know, for after the divorce.”
“What?” she said, turning to me, “You’ve heard something?”
Evidently, Abigail and David are accustomed to being the hot couple that everyone wants to get with. And yet they don’t fool around, and they are happy.
Dinner was traditional.
Marcus’s twelve-year-old chafed that he was relegated to the children’s table, when his fifteen-year-old cousin sat with the adults.
Marcus’s dad sat at the head of the table, leading the young people into a political discussion that the older people knew to avoid.
Marcus sat with me, and we chewed as we listened to his aunt talk about the misogynist men at her new nursing home.
After dinner, I chatted with David, now stripped to a t-shirt, until I thought the better of it. Everyone knows not to stand next to the best-looking man at a party, lest one risk unfavorable comparisons.
Instead, I treated a two-year-old girl to swings and flips, until I was exhausted by her cries of “Again! Again!”
The kids and I took Lillie the dog outside to play catch. My eldest son and I played air hockey.
Marcus took me back outside for cigars and scotch.
“You having a good time, baby?” he asked.
“Yeah, I am.” I leaned on his shoulder. “Will you marry me?”