The day before thanksgiving Blue and Gladys deliver the pies and cheesecakes. It was a mammoth task to get them all done but Blue is really pleased with his efforts and excited that he already has a long list of Christmas orders too.
Gladys loved getting to see so many people and it turns into a lovely social day. Blue doesn’t want to take the credit but since he’s been cooking for Gladys her movement has improved and he knows she’s reduced her pain killers.
Blue gets up super early thanksgiving morning and heads to his house. He gets the fire started in the main room and in the kitchen and gets the stove on. He has scrubbed the room top to bottom, the stone floor was in great shape under the dirt and has been polished and looks as good as new. He replaced the kitchen units and counter and has indulged himself with a beautiful refrigerator.
He’s discovered he shouldn’t be selling cheesecake and so is trading them for other things and keeping it quiet. He’s sad as it’s his best dish but wants to do things right and doesn’t want to spend out on the raft of licenses and refrigeration equipment he would need beyond what he already has.
Gladys has mentioned teaming up with one of the bakeries in town and he’s considering approaching them after the holiday.
Blue looks round his kitchen and smiles. He looks at the beautiful freshly scrubbed table, imagining having kids sat round it peeling fruit, doing homework and playing games. He has dragged a pair of old armchairs in from the other room cleaned them up and Abby made him new covers for them, saying she still had her pattern from years before. He can’t wait to curl up in one later and have some quiet time reading his book.
He takes one last look around and gets started on the cooking. He has read up on sides to make and is getting creative and wants to make sure everyone gets something they like.
The kitchen soon smells wonderful as breads and stuffing bake. He peels potato after potato, carrot upon carrot and a raft of yams. The veggies bubble away and he prepares green beans and red cabbage. He wishes he’s been able to pep in advance but the baking took over. Still he loves it.
Mike comes by with extra chairs, the turkey and a contraption to deep fry it in. Blue looks both horrified and excited.
“Can I help you in here? Boy I can’t believe it smells so good without any meat on.” Mike grins.
“I’m good. I hope I’ve made enough. I think we’ll be okay. That bird is enormous!” Blue says.
“It’ll be fine.” Mike grins as Blue takes some bread out the oven.
“Want a slice now? I got that butter you mentioned.” Blue grins.
“I won’t say no.” Mike grins and the two stop and have a coffee and enjoy some fresh buttered bread.
Blue gets back to ricing potatoes and pops in another batch of bread figuring too much is better than too little. Mike heads out to get Abby and Gladys. People soon start arriving and have brought flowers and dishes and centerpieces the kitchen is a hive of activity until everyone goes outside to watch Mike do the turkey. Blue double checks everything. Puts the last of the veggies on to boil and stands aside to let Gladys make gravy. Blue grins to himself, he’s done a great job.
Soon Mark is carving the turkey and Blue is passing dishes to the table. Everything looks good, the table is groaning with food. The kitchen is packed, every seat taken. Blue takes a few pictures and sends them to Robin, Cheryl and Gervais.
He still keeps his distance from his former life. He drops a line to Robin and Gervais now and then but hasn’t called them. Gervais is still insisting on coming for Christmas and Blue is actually beginning to come round to the idea. He just worries Gervais will tell Momma and the others where he is.
Blue gets up to slice another loaf of bread, he prefers the taste to dinner rolls and no one has complained. He smiles again at all the happy faces enjoying his food.
The guests chatter away and after eating everyone helps to clear, some play cards and others doze where they are. Blue and Abby talk about his plans and the upcoming Christmas fayres.
“I’ll concentrate on gingerbread and more Christmassy breads and cakes. I thought I could put together some gingerbread houses for people to decorate themselves.” Blue says.
“That sounds wonderful. And Christmas dinner will be here too? You’ve made a rod for your back already providing such a feast.” Abby says.
“I barely had to buy anything, just flour and yeast and the butter. People brought so many things by I couldn’t cook it all. Once the pies are done I’m going to put the extra potatoes in the oven to bake so we can make soup with them tomorrow.” Blue grins.
“Baked potato soup. Delicious, though I’ll need to add some bacon to mine.” Abby grins.
Blue stands up and gets everyone’s attention.
“I’ve never really done thanksgiving before, it’s not a tradition I grew up with and at college my plans always fell through. But I understand we’re supposed to say what we’re thankful for. I am so thankful that you all chose to spend your day here, I’m thankful for the way you’ve welcomed me to the town and didn’t let me feel like a stranger or outsider. I’m thankful to Mike for the job, to Gladys for opening her home and to Abby for helping me out beyond measure by selling this place to me. I may have only just started the renovations but it feels like home already with all of you here. I hope you will all come back for Christmas too.” Blue says and the guests clap.
“My boy we are all thankful that you landed here. Everything else is of your own doing. Sharing your kindness and talents and reminding us what the town used to be like. And I am thankful for this red cabbage and mashed potatoes.” Gladys says.
The rest of the table take a turn and Blue knows his first hosting is a success, he pops the fruit pies in the oven and takes the cheesecakes out the fridge and decorates the fruit one.
Happy he grabs the ice cream out the freezer knowing with the room as warm as it is it won’t take long until it’s ready to serve. Mike gives him a hand bringing it all to the table. No one is hungry but it’s been a couple of hours since the main course and it smells so good no one refuses.
Gladys and Abby sit in the armchairs by the fire with their desserts and Blue pulls up a stool and sits with them.
“You look like you belong right there. You know you’re both always welcome.” Blue says.
“I feel right at home. We had some lovely meals here, all the farming families.” Gladys says.
“My sister would sit here knitting, basket of wool at her feet, pot of coffee always on the stove. The kids coming in and out asking for this or that. You need a cat.” Abby says.
“I want some chickens. I always had chickens at home.” Blue says.
“Cats will help keep the mice away.” Abby says and Blue nods not sure he wants a cat.
“Gladys you were right.” A young bouncy blonde woman says approaching the trio.
“I know. Blue this is Heidi who owns the bakery in town.” Gladys says looking smug.
“I was going to find you after the holidays.” Blue says.
“Are you free tomorrow?” Heidi asks.
“Just cooking and working on this place.” Blue says.
“Can I come by for lunch? I keep the bakery closed on black Friday. Give myself an extra day off before working right through to Christmas.” Heidi says.
“I would love that. I take it you liked my cheesecake.” Blue says for once not being shy about his talent.
“I did and I have a plan. All the food was wonderful, thanks so much for having me. Being single can be a pain at this time of year, especially as a baker as people expect something elaborate. When Gladys told me I could bring flowers and have a real rest I didn’t believe her but I’m glad she insisted.” Heidi says.
“There is lots of leftovers you can take back for your supper tomorrow, have a real break.” Blue grins.
“Oh I will. And if there’s any bread left I’ll take some for breakfast.” Heidi grins and Blue can tell he’s made another true friend.
“I’ve had your 9 grain loaf and it’s delicious. I’m good with plain white and with flavored breads but not good at healthier ones.” Blue admits he walks over to the stove to put the potatoes in. Heidi starts passing them to him and they talk more generally about the town and her business.
Blue is sad to leave his house at the end of the day, everyone stayed until late enjoying the company. He sent them home with leftovers, full bellies and smiles.
“So how did I do for my first thanksgiving?” Blue asks as he drives Gladys and Abby home.
“No one would have known. You did a grand meal.” Gladys says.
“A new tradition from the old.” Abby says.
“I meant it about the house. I am so, so grateful and thankful. It means so much to me.” Blue says.
“I wish I’d sold it to you for a dollar. You gave us all a lot of joy today and well every day since we met whether it’s a hot cup of coup or a good conversation. I am thankful for you.” Abby says as Blue walks her in to her house.
“You take care. I’ll be round with food tomorrow.” Blue says.
“I bet you’re exhausted. You’ve worked non-stop since you got here.” Gladys says.
“All worth it for today.” Blue grins.
The next day Blue is stirring a huge pot of soup and has lots of containers of vegetable stew and curry cooling on the counter when Heidi arrives.
Blue ladles out some soup in to bowls and garnishes with a few jalapeño slices from a jar.
“Coffee?” Blue asks.
“I’m fine with water.” Heidi smiles and Blue pours her a glass.
“Here you go.” Blue says sitting down and tucking in.
“This is lovely. I know you’re very busy but I want you to consider doing 2 mornings a week at the bakery. You can sell your cheesecake through me and we split the profit, that way you can fill your Christmas orders. If we happen to pick one up on someone’s behalf and drop it off on our way home, well no one will mind. I also want to extend our offerings, something like this soup and a chili as lunch specials. I’d like you to make some of them. Abby also said you’re planning to do gingerbread houses. I make great bread, good cakes and exceptional coffee but I don’t have an artistic flair. I do okay but I want more eat in trade the lease next door has become available and I want to expand into it. How about it.” Heidi says.
“I’d say your bread was exceptional too. You’d want me in two days to make enough for the days in between, and I’d have use of your commercial kitchen and refrigeration for my things. You’ve seen the trendy businesses moving in and my cheesecake might be a hook along with your bread which is already a big seller but isn’t se. Lunches using local produce fits with the target customers and locals.” Blue says.
“Right. I’m sure you chose this town the same as I did, its close to the city and is on its way up but has a lot of local charm left. I’ve only been here for two years and I’m doing well. This time of year people need more than a sandwich and although I always sell out I want to expand the range a little and keep people around. I don’t want to be a full café, more bakery cum coffee shop.” Heidi says.
“The only problem is I’m vegetarian and don’t cook meat. I can make seasonal soups but not meat chili. I can do veggie curries too. You want one pot dishes that you keep warm not something you heat up?” Blue double checks.
“Exactly. I could buy in or do it myself but frankly yours will be better and I’m being nice doing you a favor given we are rivals for things like pies.” Heidi says.
“I don’t want to step on your toes with pies, I just wanted to get started making some money and baking is something I can do. The fayres wouldn’t have impacted you but I guess thanksgiving orders did. But we can combine our orders going forward.” Blue says.
“Exactly. I actually did okay and it was nice not to be quite as stressed as last year.” Heidi says.
They trade ideas and practicalities. Blue is very happy with the offer as although it takes time away from the house anything that helps him financially is good and he won’t be letting anyone down who ordered cheesecake. He wonders if he’ll have time to get his yoga classes off the ground, then figures he won’t be able to do so much here at night.
Heidi stays for the afternoon and helps Blue cook up the rest of the excess vegetables. She’s clearly more than just a baker and a skilled chef herself.
“What gives? You’re clearly trained and not just as a baker.” Blue says as Heidi chops onions at light speed.
“I went to culinary school but restaurant life isn’t for me. I did it for a year but I missed baking bread and I missed having a social life. My great aunt died and left me some money that I wasn’t expecting so I moved here and bought the bakery. I got lucky the previous owner had tried to add on a catering business, which is why I have the full kitchen as well as the bread ovens but it failed. I got a lot of equipment for my money. I leased the espresso machine and was up and running. This town has been lucky for me. I came here to look at a place to live as it was cheaper than the city and there the bakery was, it was like it was waiting for me.” Heidi says.
“Like this place for me. After 2 years of bad luck I feel like I’ve had nothing but good luck since I arrived.” Blue says.
“Same, the year in a restaurant was the worst. I thought I was achieving my dream but I was miserable. I broke up with my long term boyfriend, suffered no end of abuse from others in the kitchen from leering and comments to pressing too closely to pass to outright groping. My great aunt who I adored died and I took a day off to grieve I couldn’t face it. Went back in the next day and one of the mangers offered me a lift home as it was late, he was being all sympathetic and then tried to rape me on the way to my door. I was lucky my roommate heard me shout. I lost my job, my fault for leading him on. I was in despair then the money, I never knew she had any to leave, let alone to me. Well it turned me around. I took the time to think of my dream and here I am.” Heidi says.
“You don’t mention the rest of your family.” Blue says curious.
“My parents divorced when I was 3 and used me as a pawn for years. I cut them both off the second I completed my final college credit. I felt bad for using them to pay for it but as I’d only gone to please them I let it go and got on with saving for culinary school. How about you? How old are you?” Heidi asks.
“I’m 20. It was just me and my momma growing up. We have a difficult relationship and I’ve stepped away for now. I sold something expensive she gave me, dropped out of school and wound up here. I had a rough time with relationships and friends and the two siblings and father I didn’t know I had until last year. I sold something expensive momma had bought me, dropped out of school and wound up here. Best thing I did.” Blue says.
“It sucks when your parents have a new family. Both mine do now.” Heidi says.
“I’m one third of a set of triplets. Its complicated. She has pretty much replaced me with them.” Blue says.
“You were raised apart from your triplet siblings and didn’t know they existed. Complicated doesn’t cover it.” Heidi says and Blue laughs.
“Worse still my brother and I are fully identical twins, he is thinner than me due to lifestyle differences growing up and finding that out at 19 was insane.” Blue laughs.
“I didn’t know about my dad’s kids until they were 7 and 9. I was 18 and heading off to college. I don’t see them as siblings, I wish I could be in their lives without him but his wife hates me. I guess her pregnancy was why he stopped having me to his house when I was 9.” Heidi says.
“So you know how it feels to be replaced too. Sucks.” Blue commiserates.
“Fucking sucks.” Heidi agrees.
“I’m glad I’m not the only one with surprise siblings.” Blue grins.
“Same.” Heidi laughs.
“Did you find love here? Are you dating?” Blue asks.
“I’m flattered but you’re a little young for me.” Heidi laughs.
“Oh, no, I’m a lot too gay for you. I thought everyone knew.” Blue says and Heidi laughs.
“My trust in men isn’t yet restored. I hope to start dating soon. Once I get the extension to the bakery up and running then I’ll be ready.” Heidi says.
“Or you’ll be looking for a new excuse. No judgement from me, I have run away from all my options.” Blue says thinking hard about whether he can give Gervais and inch or of he needs to keep him entirely shut out.