Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving Postscript to BLOOD, ASH, AND BONE

Warning: Spoiler Alert. If you haven't read Blood, Ash, and Bone, you might wonder why my hero is limping around, or what the heck the big deal is with Garrity's promotion, or why Tai is so delighted that Trey actually sucks at something. No worries -- I'm sure Amazon has a couple of copies still lying around.

Anyway, this epilogue didn't make it into the final edition, but I do adore it so, not the least of which is because it answers that age-old question that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time -- how exactly would a Krav Maga expert carve a turkey?
Epilogue—Thanksgiving Day

            Trey was still stiff but relatively mobile. He insisted on carrying the box with the cake in it, a chocolate ganache creation from the bakery near his place. I’d paid for it with part of my profits from the Expo. I’d almost choked on the price, but it was Thanksgiving.
            “Our first major holiday,” I said.
            He rang the doorbell. He’d put on a suit even though I’d told him this was a low-key event in my family. He moved without his usual easy grace, but without pain finally. And the black eye had mostly healed up. The lip too. And the myriad bruises and scrapes and slashes.
            “What makes a holiday major?” he asked.
            “Baggage,” I said, and rang the doorbell again. “The more you bring, the more major it is.”
            Eric opened the door, glass of wine in hand. He hugged me, shook Trey’s hand. “Drinks in the living room, dinner in thirty minutes. Make yourselves at home.”
            Beyond him, I saw the gathered guests. Gabriella perched on the edge of an armchair, her mouth wide with laughter while Garrity regaled her with some story, his hands quick and expressive. And then off to the side—Rico. He saw me, and his face split in that Hollywood grin. He held his arms open, and I saw flashes of new bling in his eyebrows and on his fingers, his cafĂ©‘ au lait skin darker now from all the California sunshine.
            “Baby girl!”
            I shoved the cake in Eric’s hands and ran his way as fast as I could.

            Eric did not cook, but like me, he knew how to find someone who did and pay them to do it. We gathered promptly at one, the six of us, to a sideboard heaped with oyster dressing and green beans almandine and sourdough rolls and . . . I peered closer. Sure enough, a tureen of miso soup graced the delicacies—Gabriella’s work, I was sure. My own offering stood proud and tall, a skyscraper confection of dark chocolate I’d earned with my own two hands.
            I sat and looked around the table. Savannah was something, and Atlanta was something else, but this circle of people was home. I realized this with bright clarity and took Trey’s hand under the table.
            “Happy Thanksgiving,” I said.
            Garrity stood. He looked awkward and nervous. “Okay, everybody, I have something to say. You all know I’ve been up for a promotion, but I haven‘t been able to talk about it much. It‘s official now, though, so I guess . . .” He grinned, embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck. “As of Monday morning, I am the new FBI Liaison for the Atlanta Metro Major Offenders Task Force.”
The room filled with the sounds of cheers and chairs scraping as Gabriella, Rico, Eric and I threw words of congratulations at him. There were hugs, handshakes, raised glasses. Trey remained seated, however. He was staring at Garrity, who was steadfastly staring back. And then, with quiet resolution, Trey stood too. He picked up his glass of Pellegrino and held it toward Garrity.
            “Whatever you need,” he said quietly. “Don’t hesitate to ask.”
            Garrity nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Will do, my friend.”
             I put my hand on Trey’s elbow and squeezed. And then there was more hugging, and Gabriella kissed Garrity, making him blush. And Rico opened a bottle of sparkling wine, and there was more toasting, and laughter, and the sound of crystal touching crystal, the high ringing cheer of celebration.
            And through it all, Trey watched, not saying a word.
            Eric eventually brought out the turkey, a tarted-up spectacle with little paper panties on the drumsticks. He dropped the platter to the table, then looked at the knife. He passed it to Rico, who passed it to Garrity, who passed it to me. I held it hilt out to Trey.
            “Be thankful it’s not a sword,” I said.
            He accepted the blade gravely. Looked at the bird, back at the knife, back at the expectant faces. He took a deep breath and stood.
            “Okay,” he said.
            And then he began.

            Afterwards, as the sun first started melting into the horizon, Trey and I moved to the back patio. I had a glass of wine, he had hot tea. We sat next to each other on the steps, very close. Everyone else stayed inside—we could see them through the picture window, glazed in the warm interior light, like a living Norman Rockwell painting.
            We could also see the remains of dinner, the turkey carcass desiccated and destroyed. It lay on its side, one leg sticking out at a right angle. Shreds of meat flapped from the breastbone; tattered skin clumped in a pile. The platter resembled a very small, very brutal, crime scene.
            “That,” I said, “is the ugliest carving job I have ever witnessed.”
            “I told you, I’ve never carved a turkey before.”
            “Obviously. I especially liked the double jab and then the hook, like you were disemboweling the poor thing. That was a Krav move, wasn’t it?”
            “No, Krav doesn‘t . . . wait. You’re not being serious.”
            I smiled and shook my head. The bird lay there, a mound of tattered flesh. Silent. Accusatory.
            I took his arm. “I’m glad to know there‘s one thing you suck at.”
            “There‘s two actually.”
            “Really? What’s the other one?”
            He shot me the sideways look. There was a tiny smile lurking at the corner of his mouth, that sweet deep dimple giving it away.
            “I’m not telling you,” he said.
            I elbowed him in the ribs. “I‘ll get it out of you eventually, you know I will.”
            The smile deepened. “I know.”
            I laughed until my eyes watered. The last lick of sunset flickered out, and the wind kicked up a notch, smelling of winter to come. I shivered, and Trey raised his arm and let me huddle under his jacket. He did it without my having to ask. One small gesture, another small step, ever forward.
            “I have something for you,” he said.
            “Uh oh. It’s not the bill for the new shoes, is it?“
            He shook his head and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. On it was a numbered list, handwritten and alphabetized. It took me a second to recognize it, but when I did, my chest went all soft and melty.
            “The reasons you’re with me. You made a list.”
            “The original is on the computer, if you want a printed copy. But I thought handwritten was more appropriate. Considering.”
            I didn’t tell him that I’d already seen it, that I’d sneaked a peek at it while he slept on the car ride back from Savannah. Knowing what was coming did not dull the pleasure I had reading it again, for even though number seven wasn’t unexpected anymore, number three was still sweet and number thirteen was still . . . enticingly specific.
            Trey’s expression was serious. “I know there’s still more on my . . . . what did you call it?”
            “Your later plate.”
            “Yes. That. I’ll get to them. But I wanted to do this one first.”
            I read to the end of the list. He still had an asterisk by the last one -- showing up. He’d underlined it too. And the words he’d said during the summer repeated in my head, yet again. I will always show up, for as long as you want me to. I promise.
            I squinched my eyes shut. “Damn it, Trey, I swear . . . The words are here, right here. They won‘t come up, but that doesn‘t mean, it‘s not that . . .” I leaned my head against his shoulder. “You understand, don‘t you?”
            “Of course I do.” He took a deep breath, let it out slow. “This is where I kiss you, right?”
            I turned my face to his. “Oh god, yes.”

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