Thanksgiving Surprise


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Margery Trask smiled at her younger sister, Dorothy, who was sitting in the passenger seat as she drove the two of them to Pirate's Point. It was the first time that she, her sister, and her brother would be spending Thanksgiving together in years. Dorothy was actually feeling up to going out, which was cause enough to celebrate, and she'd hinted at a surprise to share with her two siblings. Margery was curious as to what it might be but suspected she'd have to wait.

"When's the last time you were at Pirate's Point?" she asked Dorothy.

"Oh, it's been forever. I think it must've been right before I fell ill." Dorothy had been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus right before she had turned thirty. Since then, she'd been in and of hospital care and stayed in a convalescent home between flare-ups. She was usually too fatigued to go on any kind of outings, but, after a few scary trials, the new medication regimen and treatment she'd been undergoing was working well for her.

"So, I hear Frank's made a lot of changes to the place, again?" Dorothy asked after a few more minutes on the road.

"Yes, he has. It borders on tacky, in my opinion, but he's walking that fine line to bring in the tourists and still keep the locals interested as well." Margery sighed. "You know I almost hate to admit it, but our big brother's actually done well."

Dorothy rested her head against the seatback and closed her eyes. "Oh, Margery! You and Frank were always arguing. Promise me you'll try not to goad him into losing his temper this week. I've really been looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with both of you this year."

Margery glanced at her, concerned. "You're not too tired already, are you? We'll be there soon and then you can rest."

Dorothy opened her eyes and smiled. "No, I'm feeling fine. It's just car rides always make me sleepy."

As her sister drifted off to sleep, Margery also hoped she and Frank wouldn't argue. Her recent visit there with the Bob-Whites of the Glen had had its moments, but she'd been pleasantly surprised that she and her brother had gotten on as well as they had. She was worried about the trip now, though. With Dorothy coming along and without the teens to distract and provide a sort of buffer between the adult siblings, someone was bound to lose their temper.

 

Margery pulled her cheery orange Volkswagen Beetle into the parking lot of Pirate's Point Inn. It might not be as comfortable as one of the Wheelers' cars, which they said she could borrow, but it was her own, bought and paid for out of her wages.

Dorothy had slept the rest of the ride and had missed seeing the restored galleon parked in the cove as they drove around the bend. Margery preferred the look of it in the day time, as it was now, without all the glow-in-the-dark paint to make it look haunted. She woke her sister gently. "We're here."

Dorothy stirred for a moment and then sat up quickly. "That was fast. You weren't speeding, were you?"

Margery chuckled. "No. You slept the last forty-five minutes."

"Oh, sorry. Guess I'm not the best company on the road." Dorothy opened the door of the small car and stretched. Margery watched her sister as she looked around the place. Her eyes must have landed on the pirate ship in the water below the point. "Is that what I think it is?"

"It is." Margery rolled her eyes. "It's for 'atmosphere', a word you'll probably want to get used to around here."

"Marge! Dorothy!" Frank Trask strolled up to them quickly, giving each of his sisters a large bear hug. Margery was relieved to see that he was in normal business attire, not some outlandish pirate costume. "It's good to see you again so soon, Marge. And Dot! It's been far too long."

"It has, Frank. It really has." She nodded her head toward the majestic galleon. "I hear you've turned this place into some sort of amusement park. I do hope you'll show me all the attractions."

"I'll give you the grand tour, but first let me show you to your rooms. Last time Margie was here, she didn't want to stay in the fancy guest rooms and opted for her old bedroom, which I haven't touched." He gave her a good-natured grin. "How about you, Dotty? Care to stay in a luxury suite?"

"Oh, no. My old childhood room is just fine with me, too." She gave Margery a knowing glance. "But I would like to see how you've decorated the rooms. I hope they're tastefully done, because, if I recall correctly, interior design is not your forté."

Margery stifled a laugh as she pulled the two overnight suitcases from the small car. "And you told me not to goad him."

"I'm hurt. Wounded." Frank tried to put on an offended air. "I always make sure everything is tastefully done around here. Well, at least in the kitchen." He winked as he rubbed his stomach. "But for the rooms, you're right; it's not my area of expertise. I hired a company to do the decorating and I think they look nice. Hopefully you will, too."

"The Bob-Whites and their friends all liked their rooms when we were here," Margery commented as they started to walk toward the inn. "They enjoyed the nautical theme very much."

"Glad to hear the positive feedback." Frank took both bags from her, pulling the strap of one over his shoulder while he carried the other by the handle.

"Is Gabriel still here or has he quit again?" Margery asked with a wink as they passed through the doors of the inn.

Frank chuckled. "Gabriel quits every other day, but he's still here."

Dorothy eyed her two siblings suspiciously. "And who is Gabriel and what does he do around here?"

"One of the best things Frank did for this place," Margery replied, not really answering her question as they headed for the stairs leading to the guest rooms.

"Why, thank you. I happen to agree. Although he's not irreplaceable, as much as he thinks he might be." Frank pointed out the dining room to Dorothy as they walked past it. "Gaston Gabriel is our head chef here at Pirate's Inn. He keeps my dining room full with locals, not just hotel guests. They know this is the best food around for miles." There was a note of pride in Frank's voice.

Margery glanced at the large oil painting on the far wall, expecting to see the garish portrait of a grizzly looking captain standing over his treasure. She smiled in surprise to see that Frank had actually restored the original portrait of Captain Trask. She was glad for it; the "old softy" might not look as fierce and scary as the other painting, but it lent that touch of authentic history to the place that the local residents would appreciate.

 

Margery settled into her room, a sense of calm enveloping her. She hadn't spent Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter, with her family in more years than she cared to recall. When her parents had passed away, and then Dorothy became ill, she'd gone to work and supported her sister the best she could while Frank tried to keep the family business running.

It felt good to be with her brother and sister, though. Almost like old times. Except ... she hoped they didn't have to resort to quoting proverbs at each other to avoid spats.

She brushed her hair, applied a fresh layer of lipstick, and then left her room, intending to rejoin her family in the lobby of the inn.

She found Dorothy and Frank outside the entrance, bickering, as usual.

"It's November, Dot. What kind of flowers would you expect to be growing out here?" Frank pointed to the plot of ground covered in dying shrub.

"Just because it's autumn doesn't mean you can't have color. Plenty of plants will bloom into late fall. Chrysanthemums and pansies to start with, and how about some Aronia?" Dorothy suggested.

"Aronia?" Frank apparently had never heard of those.

"Chokeberries. The red kind." Dorothy glanced over at Margery.

"I'm not sure I know what those are either," she admitted.

"They're red berries, and edible, good for you even. They're used in jams and for wine and all sorts of other foods, but you can eat them raw, too. You won't have to worry about visiting children picking them for fun and getting sick, unless it's because they eat too many." She winked.

"Chokeberries." Frank mulled over the word. "I think I have heard of those but I thought they were black."

"There are black and red varieties, but the red ones will bear fruit into the winter while the black ones tend not to." She gazed over the grounds, standing with her hands on her hips, and then gave a firm nod to Frank. "If you'll drive me to the nursery in town, I'll pick out some better landscape plants and bushes. Something that will look pretty year-round. And a few annuals for color would really perk up the place."

Frank looked like he was about to argue with their sister, but then he caught Margery's eyes. "Actually, Dorothy, that would be really nice. Thanks."

Dorothy turned around and faced Marge, her eyes opening wide. "Wow. He's really come around, hasn't he? I expected to have to put up a bit of a fight."

"He has. No need to fight at all." Marge winked at her brother as she hooked her hand onto her sister's elbow. "And I can take you into town myself. I know Frank's schedule can get crazy around here. But for now, let's go to the dining room and grab something to eat. The food here really is delicious."

"I'm sorry, Marge." Dorothy gave her a half-hearted smile as they started to walk together. "You think I'm picking on him, but I'm not. Not on purpose. But fall should be colorful, even this late in the season."

"Actually, I think you're right. I didn't point it out to him last month because there was enough other stuff going on. But if he's really committed to this place, it should be beautiful inside and out." Margery smiled at her sister as they entered the building.

"Thanks for the support." Dorothy grinned back. "You know how I am about plants and gardening, especially since I seem to spend so much time in a hospital room convalescing these days. I can't do much else, but I have a little plot of land they let me play in at the hospital. They consider it part of my therapy."

"Well, hopefully that's all going to change—having to stay there so much, that is. And then you can have a larger garden all your own." Marge squeezed her elbow slightly. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you were able to join us this year."

"I'm happy about it, too." Dorothy frowned slightly. "Although Frank's teasing is something I sometimes thought I missed, I could sure do without it. He's started in already."

Miss Trask glanced sideways at her and winked. "We've been here less than an hour. This doesn't bode well."

"I know. You're not going to believe what he told me." She paused dramatically. "He said Jensen Ackles is here. In this inn. This weekend." She laughed. "He thinks I'm so gullible."

"Jensen Ackles?" Margery was unfamiliar with the name.

"Oh, Marge, don't you ever watch T.V. anymore?" Dorothy sighed. "He's on that show Supernatural. And if I were a good twenty years younger, oh my!" She fanned herself with her hand.

"I'll have to look him up. But Frank very well may have been telling the truth."

"You're not in on his joke, are you?" Dorothy shook her head with mock disappointment.

"No, I'm not. But we did meet a famous author here last month and when I looked through the guest book, he's had quite a few well-known guests stay here." Marge shrugged a shoulder. "Who's to say this Jensen Ackles isn't here?"

Dorothy pulled open the door to the dining room. "I'll believe it when I see—"

"Oh, dear." Miss Trask saw that there was some sort of commotion in the dining room that hadn't been evident on their earlier pass through. Photographers' flashbulbs were going off, blinding her momentarily. But they soon finished up and left the object of their cameras' focus in peace.

"He really is here," Dorothy whispered.

Frank strode up to them, a wide grin on his face, as usual. "I told you so, Dot. So, you are going to eat at the captain's table with me tonight, right? Mr. Ackles will be joining us at the table."

"The captain's table for dinner it is, then." A hopeful expression filled her blue eyes as she added, "Any chance we can join him for lunch now, though?"

 

Dinner that evening at Pirate Inn was a very pleasant affair. Margery, Dorothy, and Frank were joined at his table by Jensen Ackles and another lovely young couple staying at the inn. The tall red-headed woman and her dark-haired husband lived in Virginia but had stopped in at Pirate's Point during their vacation travels.

The conversation was light and fun and everyone was having a good time. Mr. Ackles was charming and relaxed, treating everyone at the table as if they'd all been life-long, personal friends of his that he hadn't seen in ages. He showed keen interest in the vacationing couple's photos and stories, and had listened intently to Dorothy's tales of life inside the hospital. He'd laughed with Frank over stories about pirates and contributed quite a few chilling ghost tales of his own.

When it came time for dessert, Weasel, still one of the most popular waiters at the inn, brought out one of Gaston's delightful creations, something known merely as 'Captain Trask's Treasured Tart' but which turned out to be a very delightful pumpkin chiffon pie.

 

The next morning when Margery went to Dorothy's room to walk with her to breakfast, she was already up and dressed, ready to go.

"Good morning, Margie!" she called out.

"Good morning, Dot." She winked at her sister. "I trust you slept well?"

"Like a dream. Only it wasn't. It was real! We ate dinner with Jensen Ackles." Dorothy let out a dramatically romantic sigh. "I'd say pinch me, but if it is a dream, I don't want it to end."

"I told you Frank might not have been joking, and I'm glad he wasn't." Margery linked her arm through her sister's.

"Well, you can't blame me for being suspicious. With Frank, you never know." Dorothy tried to look stern but failed.

"I know Frank's pretty busy with the inn, so how about you and I head to the nursery? I'm sure he won't mind." Margery looked around for their brother as they walked through the main lobby.

"Sounds terrific." Her sister opened the door and stepped outside.

Two young boys, one blond and one dark, were playing with race cars on the sidewalk out front.

"Boys! Put those cars away. You're disturbing the other guests." The woman who spoke was presumably their mother. She had a small case in her hand, and a frazzled-looking gentleman beside her was pulling two bags along the sidewalk.

"Aw, Mom!" The younger-looking boy picked up the toy car in front of him—an orange car with the number "01" scrawled on it with a black Sharpie. "I was pretending to be Bo Duke and I was winning for once."

Margery chuckled lightly as she smiled at the family. "Hope you had a pleasant stay."

"It's been delightful. Hope yours will be as well," the woman answered politely. "Happy Thanksgiving."

"Happy Thanksgiving," both Margery and Dorothy called back as they walked past.

 

Frank came up to the two girls later that afternoon. "Digging outside in the dirt, are you?"

Dorothy flung a small bit of dirt in his direction, but not far enough to actually hit him. "Care to join us?"

"Join us?" Margery scoffed. "We're just about finished."

"You know I always wait to show up until the work is almost done." Frank winked. "Seriously, what have you planted here?" His eyes gazed over the green and purple plants bordering some young bushes.

The Aronia bushes they'd selected were already full with berries. Witch hazel had also been planted, both early and late blooming varieties. The early blooming plants still had vibrant yellow and red blooms, while the other ones would start blooming in January.

"It's ornamental kale," Dorothy announced, getting up from where she'd finished putting in the last one. "We also planted some tulip bulbs. You'll have to wait and see where, though. They should come up in the spring."

"Did you see the mums and the pansies near the lobby?" Margery gave him a warm smile, hoping he wouldn't be upset that they'd gone ahead without his permission.

"I did. A couple of the guests commented on how lovely they looked." Frank shook his head in contrast to the words he next uttered. "This place really did need a woman's touch. Or a gardener's touch, anyway."

"Well, I'm glad you like it. I was afraid maybe we'd gone overboard and over budget." Dorothy winked.

Frank suddenly frowned. "How did you pay for all this?"

"We'll settle the bill later, Frank," Margery quickly interjected. "It wasn't too much, I promise."

"Now, Margery, I won't stand for you—" Frank started to argue with her.

"The pen is mightier than the sword, Frank." Margery interrupted.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease," Dorothy added.

"Fortune favors the bold." Margery gave him a small smile.

"The early bird catches the worm." Dorothy elbowed Margery gently.

Franks mouth twitched. "A penny saved is a penny earned," he grumbled.

Dorothy glared at him with mock sternness. "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

At that Frank did finally laugh. "You win. You win. All right, little sisters. We'll settle the bill for all this later. Right now, I'll just say thank you for helping out."

"Good things come to those who wait," Margery couldn't help adding, even though their little game was over.

 

The following morning Dorothy came to visit Margery in her room. She was sitting on the corner of the bed, a couple of worry lines across her brow. "He wasn't too upset, was he?" Dorothy asked. She waved her hands a couple of times, impatiently waiting for the mocha sparkle color on her nails to dry.

"He wasn't upset at all. The cost was really reasonable," Margery reassured her.

Dorothy blew on her nails and then gingerly tested one. "Dry."

Margery scoffed lightly. "Are you asking them to dry or announcing they are dry?" She finished putting together her outfit for later.

"Asking them to," Dorothy replied. "Is that what you're wearing?"

Margery nodded as she eyed the pumpkin colored sweater and the simple gray slacks. "Is it okay? Dressy enough?"

"I think so. The sweater's really pretty and the gray is just the right tone to set it off." Dorothy blew on her nails once more. "They are dry!" She turned to her sister and impulsively hugged her. "Happy Thanksgiving, Margery!"

The words 'what was that for?' were on the tip of Margery's tongue, but she held them back. "Happy Thanksgiving, Dorothy."

Margery excused herself to get dressed and, after, the two women made their way to the lobby.

"Is it just the three of us for dinner tonight or do we have to eat at the captain's table and all that again?" Dorothy asked as they walked.

Margery thought over what their brother had told her earlier in the week. "I know that Frank will have the restaurant open this afternoon, but I think he was planning something more buffet style and then closing early. And he said the three of us were going to be eating privately."

"Sounds good. Especially with my surprise." Dorothy grinned gleefully.

Margery raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess: You're engaged. Or—" She pretended to look scandalized. "—pregnant!"

Dorothy laughed heartily. "Oh, gosh, like I'd be able to keep that kind of news secret. No, nothing that exciting. I promise."

"And what are my two favorite girls giggling over this morning?" Frank wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders, breaking them apart.

"Just enjoying the morning." Dorothy grinned.

"What is she up to, Margery?" Frank asked suspiciously.

"I wish I knew." Margery's blue eyes twinkled merrily. It was good to hang out with her brother and sister. She'd say it was like old times, but, honestly, it was even better than old times. They were actually getting along and the few small squabbles had been quickly resolved.

Margery and Dorothy wanted to help with the Thanksgiving Day meal preparation, but Gabriel really didn't want or need their help so they moved instead to the dining room. Frank had a large-screen T.V. installed along one wall so those who wanted to follow the football game it was tuned to could do so. But Margery and Dorothy lent their hands to decorating the room in a festive fall theme.

They were in the midst of spreading out silver candle sticks with orange candles on each of the tables when a familiar booming voice made Margery turn around in surprise.

"Margie! Dotty! Frank!"

Margery ran to the man standing in the doorway—an older man with a few thinning strands of gray hair and bright blue eyes that always seemed to twinkle in merriment—and hugged him tightly. "Uncle Arthur!"

Dorothy was smiling like a Cheshire cat and Margery knew this must be her surprise. She turned to her sister. "You planned this, didn't you?"

Dorothy nodded as she reached to take her turn to hug their favorite uncle.

Frank came forward as well and gave his uncle a bear hug. All of them were happy to see their father's younger brother.

"Dorothy may have planned me as a surprise for all of you, but, Dot, I have a surprise just for you." Uncle Arthur gestured to the youngest of the siblings.

"What is it Uncle Arthur?" Dorothy looked around him trying to see if he was hiding anything behind his back. "Do you have candy for us like always?" She grinned and held out her hands.

"Ha, ha, ha!" Their uncle laughed heartily. "You bet I do, but the bourbon balls I brought for us all are still in my bag. No, this is something specifically for you, and I cleared it with your doctor so I don't want you to worry about it."

"Cleared it with my doctor?" Dorothy was obviously curious.

Margery was as well. "What would you need to clear with the doctor?"

But their uncle just turned around and headed out of the building, calling over his shoulder, "Well, aren't you going to follow me to come see?"

The three grown adults all looked at each other and then shrugged as one. Frank led the way after their uncle, and Margery felt as if they were children at Christmas time again. She winked at Dorothy. "Are you sure you don't know about this surprise, too?"

"Not a clue," Dorothy admitted.

They walked out the doors and there, sitting obediently on the sidewalk, was a large, fluffy dog.

"Is that a Siberian Husky? For me?!" Dorothy nearly squealed in delight. "I've always wanted a dog! But I can't—"

"But you can, Dot." Uncle Arthur grinned at her. "See his vest? He's a certified companion dog, trained specifically to work in convalescent homes. You'll be allowed to keep him. His name's Bonehead, by the way."

Dorothy was petting the dog and he seemed happy to meet his new owner. Margery smiled at the pair. "He's amazing. You're amazing, Uncle Arthur."

The older man's cheeks pinked slightly. "I know she misses having a pet like you always did at home. This boy here will be a great therapy dog for her, too."

"Bonehead?" Frank raised an eyebrow. "What kind of name is that?"

Uncle Arthur laughed again. "It's a fine name for a fine dog."

"I agree." Dorothy pat the dog on the head affectionately. "Bonehead and I are going to be the best of friends. I can tell."

Margery smiled happily. They hadn't even gotten to dinner, but it was already the best Thanksgiving she'd had in a long time. Spending time with her brother, her sister, and her uncle—and all at once—was a gift worth treasuring.

She knelt down next to Dot and her new dog, petting Bonehead vigorously.

"Margery? Margery Trask?"

The deep voice behind her sounded both hesitant and ... hopeful. Margery turned around, not sure who to expect. "Jack? Jack Hughman, is that you?" Idiot. Who else would he be?

"It is." His mouth formed a wide smile. "It's so good to see you!"

Margery stood up and tried not to stare too hard at the good-looking man in front of her. He was tall and trim, and she could see the muscles on his arms even under his light brown sweater. His once-dark hair was heavily peppered with gray, and his hazel eyes gazed at her with admiration. He'd aged well, obviously worked out, and she quickly noted that he wore no ring on his finger. The fact that he was here at the inn on Thanksgiving day, and seemingly alone, would've made her almost sad for him, except that Jack Hughman was ... hot.

Oh, boy, Margery. Do you really think a lady of your age can rekindle a romance with your high school sweetheart? Well, it'll be fun finding out, anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!


THE END


 

Word Count: 4,328

This was a Secret Santa Gift-Fic for the lovely Maleficient. I was pleased as punch to have her name. Mal asked for a fun, light-hearted story that didn't have to include Christmas and that focused on secondary characters. She named Miss Trask among a short list of favorites, and my first thought was to do a story where Miss Trask spent the holidays with her brother and sister.

You should have noticed plenty of elements that I included that were specific to Mal, including and not limited to the color orange, gardening, nail polish, Jensen Ackles, Bo Duke, and a Siberian Husky. She also mentioned that she bakes a pumpkin chiffon pie every Thanksgiving. There are more Mal-specific items than that, some more personal than others, so I don't want to list them all out.

Mal, I really hope you enjoyed this! It was fun writing for you and I'm glad you twisted my arm and made me sign-up for Secret Santa. (She didn't have to twist too hard, though. *g*)

MaryN, thank you so much for the feedback and the suggestions. I very much appreciate your editing for me. You rock!

Background image is from a photograph by Andre Abrahami of an Aronia bush bearing chokeberries. It was taken from the Wikepedia Project. The use and manipulation of the photo are permitted under the Creative Commons media license CC BY-SA 2.5. I manipulated the image by stripping the color and overlapping and cropping the edges to make it seemless top-to-bottom and feathering to solid gray on the right edge.