You arrived at the car long before the other boys, so you lit up a cigarette, taking a long drag.
Then — here came Henry. You squared up your shoulders, figuring it was time to take your chance. You didn’t know when else you’d be given one, so why not.
He walked up to the car, his expression quickly souring as he threw his bag in the trunk.
“What?” you asked. You took another drag.
“Nothing, sweetheart,” he said, rolling his eyes.
He only called you that when he was pissed at you, so you retaliated.
“You got a fucking problem with me, Bowers?”
You only called him that when you were mad, and you hoped he knew that.
“Then what’s your fucking damage?”
He pretended to be clueless. “Dunno what you’re talking about, but you better stop talking to me like that.”
You turned and gave him a push.
“Or what?” you snarled.
“Or your boyfriend and me are gonna have a problem.” He stepped up until he was toe to toe with you, trying to intimidate you. You weren’t impressed.
“You mean a problem that isn’t me?”
He looked surprised for only a moment before his face went blank.
“Ah, that’s right,” you said. “It is me. You don’t like him being with me.”
“Why the fuck would I care?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” you countered.
“Let’s not and say we did,” he said, patting your cheek and moving away from you as Patrick arrived.
“Don’t stop on account of me, kids,” Patrick said, taking your cigarette and pulling a drag off it. “Looks like things were just getting good.”
“Get your own fucking smokes, asshole,” you said, taking it back. Somehow, his one pull on it got it down to the filter, so you tossed it to the ground and stamped it out with your toe.
“But then I wouldn’t get to piss you off,” he said in that creepy sing-song way he had.
“Uh huh.” You crossed your arms and went back to glaring at Henry.
Patrick looked between the both of you, amused.
“What’s got y’all’s panties in a knot today?”
Neither of you answered.
Vic and Belch showed up together, Belch pulling you into his arms as soon as he could. In spite of yourself, you grinned at him, pulling him down for a kiss.
“There’s my baby,” he said against your lips. “Missed you.”
Henry groaned. “It’s only been an hour.”
“And?” Belch asked, not looking away from you.
Henry threw his hands up. “Fine, whatever. Can we go?”
Belch laughed. “Fine, but my baby gets the front seat.”
“Belch —” started Henry, gearing up to a whine.
“Henry.” Belch stared him down, and you grinned.
Henry let out a stream of finely chosen swear words and yanked open the passenger seat of the Trans Am, shoving the seat forward, and climbing into the back seat, cursing the whole way.
“What’s up with him?” Vic whispered.
You shrugged like you didn’t know. You weren’t about to admit that you were the cause of all of this.
You all got in the car, Belch looking to you as you dug through the cassette collection.
“Music?” he asked.
“Metallica,” you said, handing it over.
He put it in and cranked up the volume, just a little bit. Not so loud that you couldn’t hear yourselves talk, but just enough to be obnoxious to anyone seeing you peel out of the parking lot.
“So, what’re you doing for Thanksgiving?” asked Vic, offhand, as you started through the suburbs near your school.
You shrugged. “Same thing I always do, I guess.”
“Big meal with my family. Why?”
“I dunno. Just wondering, I guess.”
You looked back at him, and he made a funny face at you, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue. You laughed, until your eyes caught on Henry’s, then you sighed and faced forward again.
“What’re you doing, Henry?” asked Patrick.
You knew something was up just by the tone in his voice. He was trying to start shit. You looked back at him and he smirked at you. Bad news.
“Patrick…” you started, but Henry cut you off.
“Same thing I always do,” he grunted.
“And what’s that, Henry?” asked Patrick.
“You fucking know, Hockstetter.”
It came out as a growl.
You were new enough to the group that you were out of the loop. None of the guys except Patrick made eye contact when you looked at them.
Patrick grinned and elbowed Henry in the ribs. “Someone’s gonna be avoiding their Pops all day,” he said.
Your eyebrows drew together.
“One more fucking word,” growled Henry, “and I choke you out. Got it?”
“Ooh, promise?” said Patrick sweetly.
Everyone in the car groaned.
“Put your kinks away, dude,” said Vic.
When the night was done and Belch was dropping you off, when it was just the two of you, you brought it up again.
“Babe, what did Patrick mean?”
“What, the foot thing?” he said, bringing up one of the weirder parts of the day’s conversation. “I dunno.”
“No, not the foot thing. The thing about Henry avoiding his dad on Thanksgiving.”
“Oh.” He looked incredibly sad for a moment, then his face cleared up. Probably for your benefit. “Butch — Henry’s dad, I mean — is kinda. He’s not a good dude.”
“What… kind of not good?”
“’Member when Henry came to school last month with that black eye?”
Of course you fucking remembered. You’d mentioned it to Henry, asked what the other guy looked like when he’d been finished with him. You’d figured it was just a fight — he got into them all the time, not just when he had the guys backing him up. He’d given you the most vicious glare for that simple question, so you’d dropped it. But you’d never really stopped wondering where he got it.
“His dad gave him a black eye?”
After Belch dropped you off and kissed you goodbye, you took a shower and lay in bed for hours, just thinking.
Jesus fuck, your home life suddenly seemed perfect in comparison to Henry’s. It wasn’t — your parents didn’t particularly like the phase you were going through, didn’t appreciate you running around with the town hoodlums, much less dating one of them, but fuck. They didn’t hit you for it. Hell, they didn’t hit you for anything. They’d yell, sure, but never lay a hand on you.
You couldn’t sleep.
You snuck into the kitchen and eased the phone off the hook, dialing the number for Belch’s house.
He picked up the phone, his voice gruff. Mrs. Huggins must be working the night shift.
“Hey, babe. It’s me.”
“Hey, baby. Can’t sleep?”
You sighed, put your back to the wall and slid down until you were sitting.
“Nope,” you said.
“What’s got you up?” he yawned. Clearly, he wasn’t as bothered as you were.
“Henry. I keep thinking about his dad.”
“It’s just so fucked up, you know?”
“I know, baby. But what can we do?”
“Actually, I was thinking —”
“Baby, we can’t do anything about it.”
“No, no. No.”
“No. I know it’s not our place. Besides, who would believe us? His dad’s a fucking cop, for Christ’s sake.”
“I was thinking we could have a second Thanksgiving, with the guys.”
He was silent for a moment. Then:
“We gotta cook for that? ‘Cause I think Patrick’d start a fire.”
“No, maybe we just take leftovers from our first Thanksgivings and use them. Fuck no, I don’t wanna cook.”
“Plus, where would we have it? Pat’s parents hate us, so do yours, Butch is crazy, and… oh.”
“Yeah, oh. I was hoping Mama wouldn’t mind having us.”
“Course she wouldn’t. I mean, I have to ask, but I think she’d be cool with it.”
He paused for a second.
“We gotta ask the guys what they think soon, too.”
“But listen, baby, you gotta go to sleep.”
You sighed again. “I know.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, babe.”
You both hung up and you got back in bed, feeling just a little bit better.
The next day at lunch, you arrived at the table last, putting down your tray and sitting down next to Belch. Henry glared at you and you just gave him a bland smile in return.
You didn’t have the energy to be pissed at him today. You were really fucking tired.
“So guys,” you said. “I’ve got a proposal.”
“You wanna fuck other guys? Jesus, I thought you’d never ask,” said Patrick, sending you a slick grin.
Belch leveled a look at him. “Patrick,” he said. That was all he needed to say.
Patrick shrugged, but he didn’t keep going.
“Anyway,” you said, peeling the crust off your cafeteria pizza, “I was thinking we could have a second Thanksgiving, just us.”
“Why?” Vic asked, his mouth full of pudding.
“I thought it’d be fun.”
The guys looked at each other, kinda shrugged, looked back at you.
“We wouldn’t have to cook,” added Belch. “Just take some leftovers from the first Thanksgiving, hang out, eat, fuck around. What we always do after Thanksgiving, just with better food.”
“Great, I’ll bring the turkey,” Patrick drawled.
You glared at him. “If you don’t like the idea, don’t come.”
“No, by all means, I’d love to. Dunno what my parents’ll actually let me leave the house with, though.”
You sighed. “It’s ‘cause you set everything on fire, isn’t it?”
“Patrick,” said Belch. “Not your baby.”
“It’s fine,” you said, immediately regretting it as Patrick wiggled his eyebrows at you, licking his lips. “Okay, nope, not fine. You cut that shit out.”
“One day I’ll get you, sweetheart,” he said.
“Yeah, and then I’ll beat your ass,” said Belch.
Henry watched all this with the kind of interest he saved for football and wrestling.
Then, he spoke up: “What if I don’t have anything to bring?”
“That’s fine,” said Belch. “Bring a movie or something. It’ll be at my house — oh, baby, I forgot to tell you Mama said yes — so we’re gonna have plenty of food, anyway.”
“So why do we need to bring anything?” asked Vic.
You and Belch looked at each other, then looked at him.
“Good point,” you said.
“See if you can steal a whole pie,” said Patrick, stealing a fry from Vic’s tray.
“Is that a challenge?” Vic asked.
“Man, I took a whole case of beer last month and you think I can’t handle a pie?”
“If you’re too chicken to do it, just say so. I can always do it for you.”
They went on, bickering like an old married couple until Henry cut in.
“Well, I’m in. Day after, right?”
“Right,” you said.
“Cool. Anyone wanna hear about the chick I fucked this last weekend?”
“What? You got some tail and you waited three whole days to tell us? Please, go on,” said Patrick. He leaned in for effect, and you laughed.
Then, you listened to the story, Belch’s arm around your waist, feeling like it was gonna be okay.
The day after Thanksgiving arrived, and Belch picked you up in the morning. You got in the car, smiling, wearing one of his shirts. It hung a little loose on you, but you loved it all the same.
“Hey, baby,” he said. “You look good.”
“Mm, so do you.”
He was wearing a clean shirt, and his nice jeans — the ones without any grass stains. He was still wearing his hat, though, but you knew nothing except a funeral or a fuck would make him take it off.
You leaned over and kissed him, then broke apart. You glanced back at your house and saw that your mother was watching the two of you through the front window. She shook her head and turned away. You sighed.
“Parents still don’t like me, huh?”
“One day, they’ll warm up to you,” you said. “If they just saw you the way I do…”
“Well, don’t hold your breath, baby. Let’s forget about it, okay?”
You arrived at his house just as Mrs. Huggins was leaving for work.
“Oh, hi, sweetheart,” she said, taking your hands and leaning in to give you a kiss on the cheek.
“You doin’ okay? Anything you need?”
You shook your head, smiling. “I think I’m all set.”
“Okay, honey. You kids have fun. And please don’t let Patrick set anything on fire inside. The back yard is fine, but I’d prefer it not inside.”
“Will do, Mama. Have a good day at work,” Belch said.
“I will,” she said, then got in her car and left.
Belch let you into the house, which still smelled faintly like spices from yesterday. You followed him into the kitchen to check out the food. There was plenty of turkey, a whole cherry pie, some sweet potato stuff with the marshmallows on top, and stuffing.
You grinned at him across the island in the middle of the kitchen.
“You excited?” he asked.
“Fuck yeah. It’s gonna be great.”
“Well, the guys are gonna be here in an hour.”
“Right. What do you wanna do until then?” you asked.
He walked over and put his arms around you, pressing his hips into your ass.
“Y’know, I can think of a couple things to do with an hour…” he said.
You laughed. Then you turned to face him.
“Well, by all means. Let’s go,” you said.
He picked you up and you laughed as he carried you down the hall.
When the doorbell rang an hour later, you were just pulling Belch’s shirt back over your head. You tried to fix your hair, but it was still a little bit messy. You sighed, figuring it didn’t really matter how you looked, since the only guy you really cared about was the one who messed it up.
Belch lay on his bed, a sheet just barely covering his hips. He smiled at you, and you smiled back.
“You go get the door, baby. I’ll be there in a minute, m’kay?”
You walked down the hall, hearing voices from the other side of the door. You opened it and Vic smiled at you, Patrick smoking beside him. Patrick’s eyes lit up at the sight of you as he reached out and messed up your hair even more.
“Someone’s been fucking!” he sang, throwing his cigarette butt into the bushes and striding into the house.
“Jesus, Pat, how do you always know?”
“I have a gift, baby, what can I say?” he said.
“Not your baby, Patrick,” Belch called from down the hall.
Vic laughed, then held out the box in his hand.
“Stole a pie,” he explained. “From the store, not my mom. Ma’d whoop my ass for a whole pie, so.” Then he grimaced.
“Thanks, Vic,” you said, taking the pie from him and leading both him and Patrick into the kitchen.
Belch showed up in a moment, putting his hat back on.
Patrick crowed with delight. “See, I told you they were fucking,” he said, elbowing Vic in the ribs.
“Dude, I believed you, cut it out.”
Belch just smiled at you and rolled his eyes. You smiled back.
Just for a moment, you felt like you were hosting a real Thanksgiving as a couple, just you and Belch and the people you care most about. It was breathtaking.
You hoped, though you knew that high school romance doesn’t always last, that you’d get to do it another time.
Then, the front door opened and Henry stomped in. He was moving tenderly, and you shot Belch a look that asked a question: is it his dad again? Belch nodded, then shook his head as though to tell you not to say anything. You knew better than to, anyway.
“Hey, Hank,” said Belch. “Hungry?”
“Fucking starving. Let’s eat,” Henry said.
And you did, dishing up a plate each, some of you eating the turkey alone, some making sandwiches. You all ate at the table, talking, joking, bickering, just like always. Finally, you cut into the pies — one cherry from Mrs. Huggins, one apple, courtesy of Vic’s sticky fingers — and settled on the couch for a movie and dessert.
Henry had chosen some western flick, and you weren’t exactly interested, so after you finished your pie, you kissed Belch on the cheek and got up.
“Gonna have a smoke,” you explained.
After a moment of silence, Henry said, “I’ll come with you.”
You looked at him. “…Okay.”
He went out onto the back step with you, sharing your lighter but thankfully smoking his own cigarette.
It was a companionable silence, one of very few that you’d had with him since you’d started dating Belch months ago.
“You look nice,” you said carefully.
He huffed, looking down at his button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He was even wearing jeans that had no rips in them. He looked awfully handsome, for Henry.
“Whatever,” he grunted.
You shrugged, figuring that was about what you expected.
Then, he spoke up again.
“This is cool, this second Thanksgiving thing.”
“Yeah. We should do Christmas, too.”
“That’d be cool. Good idea.”
He smiled at you, the first smile you’d gotten in months. You smiled back, then put out your cigarette.
He followed you back into the house, where the movie was still playing. You sat on the couch next to Belch, and he put his arm around you, pulling you close.
“What’s everyone thankful for?” Belch asked.
“Pussy and dick,” said Patrick, flicking his lighter open and closed again.
“Amen to pussy,” said Henry. “Not so sure about dick, though.”
“C’mon, aren’t you at least glad you got your own dick?”
Henry thought about it. “Can’t argue with that.”
“I’m thankful that people don’t pay attention in grocery stores,” said Vic, eating the last bite of the pie he stole.
“Thankful for food,” said Henry, agreeing.
“I’m thankful for my baby,” said Belch.
“I’m thankful for your baby, too,” said Patrick dryly.
“Patrick,” you and Belch said together. Then you looked at each other and laughed.
Belch kissed your forehead and the other guys groaned. Vic threw a pillow at you.
“Gross,” he said.
“Whatever, man, you’re just jealous,” said Belch.
Vic sighed. “When will I get my dick wet?” he asked, sounding as miserable as someone faking it could.
“Listen, I —” started Patrick.
Vic threw his remaining pillow at him.
“Patrick, that was one time, let it go,” he said.
You looked at Belch with a question in your eyes.
“It’s what it sounds like,” he said.
“Uh huh,” you said. You definitely needed details later.
“You didn’t say what you’re thankful for, baby.”
The guys looked at you, and you smiled.
“I’m grateful that family doesn’t have to be related to you,” you said.
You looked at Belch, and he smiled at you, soft, like you were understood.
You sunk deeper into his embrace and watched the movie and listened to the guys talked, hoping the day would be long and keep getting better.
And it did.