Craving VeraBy: Nicole Jacquelyn
An Aces Novella
“Jesus, I think I’m gonna throw up,” Tommy groaned, taking a bite of pie right before kissing the top of his wife’s head.
“Then stop eating,” Hawk called back to him as he strode away from our table. “You’re gonna feel that later.”
“Feelin’ it now,” he shot back. We all watched as he dropped onto a couch.
“Shit, he’s going to unbutton his jeans, isn’t he?” she mumbled disgustedly as he started pulling at his belt.
I glanced around at the rest of the men lounging on the couches around Tommy, most of them with their belts undone and glasses of thirty year old scotch in their hands—a treat from my pop—and I smiled.
“Yep,” I replied, chuckling as Hawk rolled her eyes.
Another Thanksgiving had come and gone. The turkey and pies had been demolished, the dishes were soaking in the industrial sinks in the back, and the kids were in makeshift beds on the floors of their dads’ rooms.
And I was feeling nostalgic.
Time was passing so fast now. I remembered when my kids were young and it had sometimes felt like the days were never ending, especially on holidays like today. Everything started so early on Thanksgiving, what with getting the bird in the oven and prepping everything else before people started showing up. Trix and Leo had been bears by the time dinner was actually on the table, and they’d always fought sleep when I’d put them into bed. Everything was exciting at the club, and the kids had hated to miss anything.
Now, I watched Trix and Leo put their own children to bed and I felt old as hell. I would have laughed all those years ago if someone would have told me that I’d miss the tantrums and the whining—but I did. I missed rocking Leo until he passed out and shooing Trix back into bed when she got up fifteen times for a drink of water and to use the bathroom.
I missed when Dragon would pawn the kids off on one of the other adults and drag me away for a quickie in the middle of the day, between stirring up the green bean casserole and mashing the potatoes. We didn’t need to sneak anywhere, anymore. And I missed it when the burden of everyone else’s problems didn’t weigh so heavy on my man that his neck was perpetually tight and caused him massive headaches that he refused to acknowledge. Most of all, I missed the people we were then, before tragedy had struck in such a catastrophic way changing all of our lives.
“Damn,” Molly said to me, a sweet smile on her face. “I don’t know how you do this every year. I was just on salad duty, and I swear I’ve been boiling noodles and cutting vegetables for the past two days.”
“I sent Cam to the store three separate times for shit I’d forgotten,” Trix said, tipping her beer in salute. I was pretty sure the smile on my baby girl’s face meant that she’d sent her man to the store just to drive him crazy.
“I burned four pies. Four,” Lily grumbled.
“They all looked fine to me,” Farrah said. She and Callie had spent the day in the kitchen with me, preferring to make a mess in a communal place where everyone helped out with clean-up. The younger generation hadn’t quite figured out our game yet, but they would. I had a feeling that next year, we’d be stepping on each other as we all tried to cook in the same kitchen.
“That’s because I threw the burned ones out and started over,” Lily replied, throwing her hands in the air and almost knocking over the empty glasses and bottles littering the table.
We’d all been drinking for most of the day, and by the time we’d dropped into our seats that night we were feeling it. That was probably why I kept glancing over at my man, remembering when there wasn’t any silver in his long black hair. Drinking always made me a little melancholy at some point, it might start out fun but eventually, I got emotional.
“Your Pop is going to fall asleep on that couch, and I’m not waking the old goat up to get him in bed,” my dad’s wife Amy said to me, laying her hand on my shoulder as she sat down next to me. It was a comforting move, and I was pretty sure it was intentional, but I’d also noticed her using objects to steady herself as she sat down and stood up lately.
“Leave him there,” I said, grinning at her. “Maybe if he wakes up there in the morning it’ll remind him of the good old days.”
“Ha!” She chuckled. “He’d probably wake up forgetting what year it is and bellowing at Charlie for not waking him up.”
We both laughed, but it was tinged with sadness. My honorary uncle, who I’d only ever known as Slider, wouldn’t ever wake my dad again after a night of partying. He was gone, along with his wife Vera, the woman who’d been like a mother to me.