Chapter One - Angels, Demons & Vampires
“You're cooking the gravy too hard!” Grandma Rose grumbled, peering over Constance's shoulder.
Constance rolled her shoulders. I knew that move, she did it whenever my brother made some sort of remark she didn't like, and instead of making a come-back, she did the shoulder roll. Meanwhile she struggled with her inner turmoil. I'm probably the only one who caught on since I'm clairvoyant and also sensitive to emotions—an empath. She wasn't one to argue with anyone if she could avoid it. Especially when in company. In this case it was her husband's grandmother making the snotty remark. I thought Constance had the patients of a saint for all she put up with. Especially today of all days.
Thanksgiving aromas overpowered me. I wiped the sweat from my brow and wanted to strip the sweater off, but resisted. Underneath I only wore my new cranberry camisole, so with company here that wouldn't go over well. Plus Grandma Rose would not appreciate all the skin, I'm sure. The kitchen was small, cramped with one too many people in it, and a hot oven. It didn't help my stomach ached from hunger pains. My only job now was to watch the dinner rolls in the toaster oven. Easy peasy, right? My brother, Randy had the honor of carving the humongous turkey that had been baking since some ungodly hour this morning. It now “rested” on the counter top under a tent of aluminum foil. There were two different stuffings: traditional, and some sort of cranberry thing. I would eat the traditional one because Constance, my sister-in-law, was the only person I knew who baked it inside the turkey—like my mother always did—it was really moist.
“You'll get lumps!” Grandma Rose said, hovering near the stove.
“Grandma, I've done turkey gravy dozens of times, this is perfect!” Constance wore an exasperated look on her face. Yep. She could take no more grousing from anyone, especially grandma.
“It's too thin,” Grandma griped again, glancing down her nose at it through her glasses.
Constance swiped a wayward strand of her honey-blond hair out of her eyes, paused in the stirring of the gravy and gave Grandma one long blink—which means 'back off'. Beads of sweat popped up on her brow. It had to be eighty-five degrees in here. “You just said it was going to get lumpy.” She began stirring again.
Grandma Rose harrumphed and stomped out of my sister-in-law's kitchen. A collective sigh of relief filled the kitchen once she disappeared through the threshold. You wouldn't know she'd had hip replacement surgery only two weeks ago. When asked where her walker was, she'd said that the doctor had given her some new treatment and wouldn't elaborate. But she did have a slight limp.
The buzzing of the carving knife stopped again, and Randy glanced over at us. “She seems to be getting worse every year,” Randy said, shaking his head.
“You mean her hip?” Constance asked.
“No,” he said in a low growl. “Attitude.”
“Did it seem like she was just a wee bit more snarly than normal?” I asked.
“A wee bit?” Constance snorted, then glanced up at the doorway of the kitchen warily. In a low tone she went on, “She's become more of an old bitty as the years drag on. Today is no exception. She berated my driving the whole way over here!”
I couldn't help snicker. My favorite grandmother was, of course, Grandma Tess, my mother's mother. But she lived in South Dakota, and, being a snowbird, she was already down in Arizona for the winter. Someday I promised her I'd go and visit her. It would be nice to experience the desert at Christmas—no snow and palm trees.
I was hanging out in Constance's kitchen not to get away from Grandma's scowl, but to stay away from Bill Gannon, who had been invited by my own brother. He came to the door a half hour ago. My brother didn't know Bill was the descendant of Nephilim. But he was aware of Bill's amorous designs on me (which would remain unrequited, thank you), and had extended the invitation of Thanksgiving to both Mrs. Bench and Bill. Mrs. Bench, my next door neighbor, was a card-carrying witch and Bill's supposed grandmother. Supposed because I had a feeling she had no idea he wasn't really her grandson, but a very good dupe. I'm rarely wrong, and although I couldn't get a read from either of them, I had this Knowing that Bill was not who he said he was, which turned out to be correct.
Things would have gone a little smoother, too, if Grandma wasn't such a pain in the ass. She wasn't afraid to tell anyone what she thought of anything, or anyone. She had told Constance her dress was “too young” for her, and then turned on me and asked if I didn't own any dresses—since I'd worn jeans. But in my own defense, they were pressed and had rhinestones on the back pockets. Plus my sweater was new and in fall colors. Afterwards she commented that maybe my new job didn't pay me enough to buy any good clothes. I almost wanted to show her my checking and savings accounts. That was only the first five minutes she'd been here. She then wondered why the girls were allowed to watch the TV too close, and, in a snide way, said that what they were watching was going to ruin them for life. I had blocked her the best I could all my later years of life, as I was doing now.
I'm a touch clairvoyant. Any time I'm with other people, I know things about them without them telling me. At a much younger age, I would blurt things out that maybe they didn't want other people to know about. It was embarrassing. I was embarrassing to my family. So, I learned how to block other people's emotions and what I might read from them. I call it my Knowing.
It was either a hindrance or a help—depending upon which way you looked at it—to be able to read everyone in this house. This included what they may have done in the past, or something that might happen in their future, or something they knew. For instance, I knew my Aunt Shelly worried about being pregnant—at age forty-five. She hadn't yet told Uncle Monte. These are the things I am privy to without anyone so much as saying a word to me. So, when asked why Grandma Rose didn't have her walker, and she had mumbled something about being on some sort of special medication, it didn't quite square with what I was getting at all—which was absolutely nothing from the woman. Red flags had gone up from that moment on. I simply didn't know what was up with Grandma Rose and why I was unable to get a read from her. This worried me far more than Bill being here. I should have been struggling to not get a read from Grandma, but she was as blank a card as Bill—Bill because he was supernatural.
The timer on the stove went off in an irritating pulsating tone. Constance silenced it, by hitting the button with bruit force, making it clank in protest.
My brother looked at her, pausing in his carving white meat and said, “You okay, hon?”
“No!” She mopped her brow with the back of her hand. Wisps of honey-blonde hair dangled out of her twist all around her head, making her look like a cleaning woman straight out of a Charles Dickens' novel—especially with the black and green apron she wore.
“I think the rolls are done,” I said. Constance handed me a turkey-shaped oven mitt, its colorfully spread tail covered my hand. I slid it on and used it to snag the pan of rolls out of the oven. I couldn't help but smile upon inspection of the perfectly golden rolls and shook them carefully into two baskets lined with calico napkins to match the table setting. Constance had done an excellent job of decorating, but that didn't surprise me, since she ran a craft and antique shop in the nearby town of Moonlight. She always did have a keen eye for decorating. Especially during the holidays.
“Wow. I want to slather one with butter and put a piece of turkey on it right now!” I said. And then leave so I don't have to sit by Bill Gannon and listen to more of Grandma's rude remarks.
“Hungry?” Randy teased. He now held the large carving knife ready to cut off a leg from the enormous bird. I wanted to snag it while piping hot and run away with it.
“No.” Instead, I snagged a piece of dark meat off the platter and popped it into my mouth before he could stop me. “I'm starved like I haven't eaten since last week,” I said, figuring a bit of levity was needed in this moment, before we faced the hungry crowd out in the dining room. Besides Grandma Rose and Bill, this crowd included Uncle Monty, Aunt Shelly, and their two boys, Brian and Chris, and my nieces, Tara and Jena. Out of all the special times of the year, this one meal was it for me. I could endure Grandma Rose, and Bill's amorous gazes for this.
They both chuckled, and that was good enough.
Constance turned off the burner. “Well, this is done. Thick, thin, lumpy, it's done!”
We each had our duties: I handed one basket of rolls to each of my two nieces, Tara and Jena. They were cute as buttons in their mid-calf length calico dresses and bonnets. They'd wanted to look like pioneer women for the occasion. Constance had sewn the dresses, and the bonnets had come from her craft store.
“Con, honey, you ready?” Randy asked. He picked up the platter of the cut-up meat—white on one side and dark on the other.
“I'm ready as I'll ever be,” Constance said. She carefully poured the gravy into a large gravy boat and wiped up a drip with a towel. Taking up the handle of the gravy boat in one hand, she grabbed the bowl of mashed potatoes in the other. I had the bowl of vegetables in one hand, the cranberries in the other. Everything else was out on the table.
“Here we come, ready or not!” Randy called, sailing out in front of Constance with the carved turkey on a huge platter. Behind him Constance followed, and I brought up the rear.
“Land sakes! You should have asked us to help you!” Grandma Rose cried, meeting Jena half way.
I surged around the corner, entering the room last.
Randy settled the turkey in the center of the table. “No, we said we're doing the whole meal ourselves, and we meant it,” he said, taking the gravy boat from Constance, while she set a brown ceramic bowl of mashed potatoes down.
Bill stood as if the Queen of England had entered. His eyes zeroed in on me, which made me feel oh-so self-conscious.
He leaned toward me, took the cranberries and the bowl of vegetables from both my hands, and whispered, “You look beautiful tonight.” He settled the bowls in a couple of bare spots on the table.
Uncle Monte watched the exchange. Shelly smiled wide, leaned and said something to her husband. I heard, “Don't they make a nice-looking couple?”
To Bill I said, “Uh, thank you.” My face went hot over what he'd just said, and the fact that my closest relatives had heard it. Where was a fire extinguisher when I needed it?
Bill drew out the chair beside him. I glanced up at him and looked straight into his incredible green eyes, and handsome face with the chin dimple. Bill looked like some gorgeous guy who stepped off the cover of GQ.
“Thank you.” I couldn't refuse to sit next to him, as that would look rude. Besides, all the other seats were taken except for one at the end of the table—which I had figured was left in memory of my father. I bent my knees to sit, and Bill drew the chair forward for me. Okay. This was not something a modern man these days did. They might know to pull the chair out, but usually they didn't move it in for the lady. The fact that Bill used an outdated custom was telling. This left me wondering how old Bill really was. Being a Nephilim, he might be a few hundred years old, for all I knew, though he looked no older than thirty.
“Thank you,” I said, knowing I would constantly be saying that to him tonight. Pass the potatoes, please? Thank you.
Lightning flashed outside the house, followed by a deafening crash, and made the house tremble.
Tera screamed. With quick hands Grandma grabbed the rolls from her before she dropped them to the floor.
The eight-year old surged for her mother and wrapped her little arms around Constance's leg.
“Land sakes!” Grandma Rose hissed with annoyance. “It's just a storm.” She slammed the rolls on the table, and a couple fell out. One rolled to my plate and stopped. I picked it up and put it on my plate. Still warm. Where's the butter? I looked for the fancy-rectangular-shaped butter dish. It was too far away. Damn.
Constance looked sharply at Grandma. Dismissing her outburst, she said to Tara, “Oh, honey, it's just a storm. We talked about this before. Remember?” Her hands protectively cupped Tera's head. The little girl had a hard time with storms. Her younger sister, Jena had no trouble at all with them.
“When did it start raining?” I wondered, checking the windows. The outside was totally pitch-black until another bolt lit up the sky and yard.