I would have made it out the door undetected were it not for the squeaky hinge. I should have waited another half hour for everyone to fall into a turkey-induced coma before trying to escape but my impatience got the better of me. The traitorous hinge blared a warning to the guards like in an old black and white jailbreak movie.
“Nicholas Bartholomew Grosspepper, get away from that door this instant!” My mother’s patience had been steadily shrinking all day. Now in the midst of post-Thanksgiving clean up, she was completely strung out. I could here her stomping her way toward me. Any second now and all three hundred pounds of her would turn the corner and catch me red handed. I desperately searched for a place to hide my bundle of stolen goods. In a flash of inspiration I grabbed my coat.
“Where do you think you are going?” She glared at me with her bloodshot eyes. “Well, don’t just stand there looking dumb, answer me.”
“I was just going down to the garage.” I lied.
“Not with all the cleaning up that needs to be done.”
The kitchen was full with all my relatives already pitching in to clean up. There was no real reason for me to stay and, like an idiot, I told her so. I watched the vein on her head begin to pulse. A harbinger of the beating that would come if I didn’t comply.
“You march your self in there this instant, young man. I don’t have time to be messing around with your foolishness today. Now take that damn thing off and get your butt in the kitchen.” She held out her hand for my coat.
“I’ll just keep it on; it’s kind of chilly in here.” It was an absurd thing to say. My entire family had complained all day about how hot it was in the apartment but if I took off my coat everything would be ruined.
My mother didn’t say anything. She just stood there with her arm out, waiting for me to hand it over. I had no choice. I turned, opened the door and bolted down the hallway. I ran as fast as I could, dropping canned goods and various Thanksgiving leftovers as I ran. I stopped to pick up what I could. My mother gave chase, but her turkey-laden body soon became winded and she was forced to end her pursuit. I slowed down enough to stay ahead of her until she gave up for good. Her screams of retribution echoed down the hall as I kicked open the door the stairs. I made it. There was no way she would follow me on the stairs.
I went down to the third floor and knocked on number 8. That’s where Cassandra lived. Her mother answered the door. She smiled and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. The newborn baby in her arms fussed a little so she placed a pacifier in his mouth before inviting me in.
“Well, now what brings you here today? Shouldn’t you be having dinner with your family?”
“Nah, we already ate. Is Cassandra home?”
She stepped aside to let me pass then closed the door after me. Cassandra was in the kitchen draining a pot of spaghetti. Her brothers giggled as I walked through the living room on my way to the kitchen. “Hey Cassandra, your boyfriend is here,” they jeered.
Cassandra turned and smiled at me. She blushed then dropped her eyes to the floor. She turned her back to me and resumed her work.
“What? Why would I laugh?” I was completely confused.
She spun around and pointed at me with a wooden spoon. “You probably think its funny, us having spaghetti for Thanksgiving. Just go. I don’t want you here.”
“Just go!” She spun back around to the counter and took her embarrassment and anger out on the helpless pasta.
I unzipped my coat and began placing the leftovers from my family’s turkey dinner on the counter next to her.
“I thought you and your family would like to have some turkey today too. I wanted my mother to invite you over, but she said no, so I brought you this. It’s the best I could do.”
“Does she know you took all this food?”
“Yeah, but she doesn’t know I’m here. She thinks I brought it down to the parking garage.”
“Won’t she be mad?”
“Yeah, but I don’t care; except I’ll probably be grounded for a month after this, so we won’t be able to hang out after school for a while.”
Cassandra’s brothers ran in to see what I had brought. They picked some turkey from the foil package and ran off with their prize. Her mother bent down with the baby and kissed me on the forehead. “You’re a little angel, Nicholas. A real, honest to goodness angel.”
I took my coat off and headed for the door. Cassandra followed me out into the hallway.
“Sorry I was such a jerk. Will you walk me to school Monday?”
“Yeah” I said, completely oblivious of what was to come.
She leaned in and kissed me. “Thank you, Nick.”
I couldn’t move.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she said then kissed me again. She smiled and went back into her apartment. I’m not sure how long I stood alone in her hallway. Eventually I went home to face the wrath of my mother and ridicule of my family for wasting our leftovers. Eventually the bruises healed and the name calling faded away. And you know what, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Because to this day, I can still close my eyes and see my dumbstruck face reflected in Cassandra‘s warm eyes and sometimes, if I concentrate real hard, I can lick my lips and taste her cherry chapstick.