|CREDIT for this really cool photo: HERE|
It's not like I haven't touted the culinary prowess of certain characters in the Persephone Alcmedi series. Johnny, the werewolf King and frontman of the rock band Lycanthropia makes one hell of a macadamia nut cookie. And Nana loves to cook things that showcase her Greek heritage through cooking things such as: lahanodolmathes. (Ground beef and rice with eggs, dill, and onion rolled up in cabbage leaves; topped with avgolemono sauce—egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and corn starch—poured on right before they’re served.)
That said, I'm going to share the Epilogue of SHATTERED CIRCLE below. It's Thanksgiving Dinner, and all the characters are there. Though the 'big-picture' situation is far from ideal and their struggles are far from over, they are trying to put all that aside, briefly, and enjoy a moment of family and togetherness.
Before that, though, let me say I hope you and yours are together for Thanksgiving.
** possible spoilers if you haven't read the whole series
Right after brunch late Thursday morning, Johnny showed up with a baby pterodactyl—he claimed it was just an enormous turkey, but I had my doubts.
Since my predawn soak in the tub yesterday had ended with me so sleepy that I couldn’t keep my eyes open, he had tucked me in and snuggled beside me—but he was gone when I awoke. He’d left me a note saying that he was having his son brought to Cleveland and he had to be there when the boy and his grandmother arrived.
I understood that, and my heart was a bit relieved that the grandmother and not the mother was coming with the boy. But it meant that we spent a day and a night apart, and we hadn’t gotten to talk.
We had so much to talk about.
I could tell by the glint in his eyes that he wanted to talk to me now, but Nana got her granny panties in a twist over that giant bird we had to roast. She began arguing with him about who was going to cook. I nearly left the room twice, but finally they settled their mock dispute—and then started debating whether or not it was possible to cook a partially frozen turkey.
The Internet confirmed it was safe and doable, but would add 50 percent more time to the already interminable five hours the twenty-three pounder would take. Once they had gauged the seven and a half hours and decided they needed to get that thing in the oven pronto, I asked if they were going to stuff it.
Bad move on my part.
Their lighthearted fight turned into some kind of Iron Chef stuffing challenge. When they began disagreeing on whether it was “dressing” or “stuffing,” I left.
As I climbed the steps to the second floor, I was confident that no matter what, our Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a scrumptious feast. I showered, then returned to my unmade bed and lay down wrapped in my towel. My whole body remained sore and I was at my limit of ibuprofen tabs. Admittedly, when Mountain had come to patch the hole in the floor yesterday, I shouldn’t have insisted on helping. I thought it would help work my muscles out of being tight and achy.
That hadn’t been the case.
My body was taxed to its limit by my meditation incident, and by the added strain of all that Menessos had done. When my eyes shut, my thoughts swirled around Beverley. My heart fretted over that “L” word, a boy, and where his mother might be. And my soul worried that Hades wasn’t done with me yet.
When everything in the kitchen was under control, Johnny inspected the damage to the house.
Mountain had gotten everything patched or repaired except the old rotary phone. Its place on the wall was empty, the cords duct-taped into the hole in the wall.
Demeter dug out a tablecloth and hand washed it in the sink, then threw it in the dryer. While she was waiting on it, Johnny heard her talking to Eris on the phone.
It was clear that Eris was inviting herself and her son— Red’s half brother, Lance—to Thanksgiving dinner.
Demeter couldn’t exactly say no, even when she heard Lance’s protests in the background.
When the call ended, Demeter came to Johnny. “I take it your wolf ears heard that?”
“Yup. I’ll see what I can do about fixing the dinette table.”
“Me, you, and Persephone are three, Eris and Lance make five. Mountain and Zhan make seven. The big dining room set will seat twelve if we pull out all the leaves.”
“My son and his grandmother are coming.”
“Gregor is driving them.”
“I invited Celia and Erik.”
“That’s twelve. Four wærewolves. No wonder you brought an ostrich to roast.”
“It’s just a big turkey. I swear.” Johnny sucked in a breath. “I also invited Menessos.”
She nodded approval, then abruptly waved him off.
“He won’t eat.”
“He will bring Beverley.”
Demeter’s face lit up with a grin.
By seven thirty, my world was locked in a blissful moment. I sat at the end of my big dining table and could see into the living room and the kitchen with a turn of my head.
Everyone I cared for most was here, in my home, with full bellies.
Johnny and Erik were laughing it up in the living room with Celia and Gregor close by. Nana and Toni— with Evan sitting close beside her, petting my dog, Ares—were on the couch chatting like old friends. In the kitchen, Menessos had a serious look on his face; he must have been briefing Mountain and Zhan. My mother and half brother were whispering at the far end of the table.
Beverley was on my lap and I had my arms wrapped around her.
Her dark hair had been cut into a bob and there was a new necklace around her throat. I had thought, at first, that it was a weave of ribbons, but I now recognized that it was strands of her deep brown hair woven with the paler walnut-brown strands from Menessos and also some blond, which I would guess was Risqué’s. Hair of a demon, or a half-demon, had to pack some power. . . . I was sure it was a means to help her control the power brimming inside her, but I couldn’t help remembering the shabbubitu’s words about Beverley being bound to the vampire. And Menessos was wearing a necklace of the same around his throat.
Eris announced she was going out for a smoke, and Lance accompanied her into the garage.
“I missed you so much,” I whispered into Beverley’s ear and squeezed her tighter, pulling her head under my chin. “And I was so worried about you.”
She hugged me back. When she eased back into place, I saw her eyes were glassy with unshed tears.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I’m just so scared . . . like my mom was. I’m scared of what I’ve become.”
“Oh, honey.” I smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead. “All this Lustrata stuff scares me, too.” I offered her my most reassuring smile. “But we will find a way. Together.”
Minutes later, she slipped away from me and went to stand with Menessos. She slipped her hand into his and whispered something to him.
Movement on the other side of me caught my attention.
Evan was slowly walking toward Johnny. Ares followed him. I got up and stepped to the doorway of the living room to watch. I’d been introduced to the boy, who was the spitting image of Johnny. He was polite, but there was an all-boy orneriness in his smile. Nana would probably have said he was full of piss and vinegar. But Ares clearly liked him, and that meant something to me.
Johnny wrapped his arm around the boy and gently pulled him closer. “Evan, did I tell you that Erik here is my very best friend?”
Evan shook his head. “No.”
I noticed that Erik had proudly squared his shoulders.
Beverley stepped up beside me and I felt Menessos at my back.
“Well, he is. We’ve been friends a long, long time. Who’s your best friend?”
Nana and Toni quieted, both listening.
Evan shrugged. His voice sounded small and dejected as he said, “I dunno. Gramma said we were moving here. I won’t get to see my friends anymore.”
Johnny’s smile diminished.
The joyful ambience of the room dropped into sadness.
“I’ll be your friend,” Beverley said, stepping into the living room.
Evan looked her up and down, and a slow smile came to his lips. “Really?”
In moments, they had decided to play. “Can I show him my room?” Beverley asked, facing me and Menessos.
“Yes,” we said in unison.
The kids hurried up the stairs.
It was remarkable, and I was reminded that in youth, friendship really is that simple.
Johnny came to the doorway and extended his hand to Menessos as a lopsided smile rounded his cheek. “Thanks for comin’, vamp.”
“Your invitation was an unanticipated show of charity, wolf.”
I grabbed their clasped hands in both of mine. I let them see in my eyes what this moment, what everyone together, but especially them, meant to me.
“It wasn’t charity,” he began, pausing briefly when we heard the garage door open and shut as Eris and Lance returned. “Sometimes blood and breeding aligns you with people you are glad to have in your life, and it’s easy to honor those bonds. Sometimes it’s the opposite.”
“Sometimes Fate aligns you with people you don’t want in your life,” Menessos added, the obvious question conveyed in his tone.
Between my hands, I felt Johnny’s grip tighten on Menessos.
“Sometimes we have to grow up and accept what Fate has in store for us, and put our faith in the alliances we are given.”
Thinking on my recent experiences, I whispered, “All Hell is about to break loose. Are we ready for this?”
“We all now know”—Menessos paused to make a poignant glance at the people in the living room, and give a nod to indicate the kiddos upstairs—“precisely what we are fighting for.” He added his free hand atop mine. Johnny put his free hand atop Menessos’s. With a wink at me, I knew he’d heard me earlier when his response was, “We will find a way. Together.”