Josalee smoothed the front of her apron over her growing belly and glanced at the timer for the dozenth time in the last five minutes. She sighed, pulled open the oven door a couple inches, and peered in at the fat and glistening, browning turkey in its roasting pan.
“It’s not gonna run away,” her younger sister, Kimie, said from behind her, making her jump. Josalee slammed the oven door closed and glared at the teenage girl. Kimie rolled her eyes and plucked a raw snap pea from the colander in the sink and popped it into her mouth. Before Josalee could shoo her away, Niall strode in, glanced at Josalee by the oven, and joined Kimie at the sink. A snap pea crunched between his perfect white teeth, and Josalee sighed again.
“You two are the worst sous chefs ever,” she said, laughing as Niall stole another snap pea and winked at her. Her heart fluttered in her chest as he locked eyes with her. She tore her eyes away, chastising herself. “David and his new roommate are coming,” she said, busying herself with the pot of peeled potatoes. She lit a burner and filled the pot with water, then set it to boil.
Niall leaned on the counter next to her, a dishrag in his still tan hand. Maybe LA gave all of its residents a permanent olive glow, she surmised. “Are you okay?” he asked, lowering his voice. In another life, she might be married to this hot shot, and the baby in her belly wouldn’t be a bastard, as her father called it.
“My life is becoming a soap opera,” she said, snorting. She took the towel from him and replaced it with a can of cranberry sauce. “Make yourself useful, Darcy.” She turned from him and whirled on Kimie. “And you,” she said, handing the girl her phone, “call Ingrid and make sure she and Victor are still coming.”
Ingrid applied another layer of red lipstick, checked her teeth, and used the mirror to peek at Victor. He sat on the bed behind her, taking his time lacing his dress shoes. She pressed her lips together and stood. Without a word, she left their bedroom and padded downstairs, where she reached into the closet and pulled out her coat. She made sure to bang the door knob against the wall, where a deep scuff marred the otherwise perfect teal paint. After a moment, she heard him coming down the stairs. She left the closet door open for him, grabbed her clutch, and went out to the car.
Her phone rang as she slid into the passenger seat. Fingers sorted through the items in the clutch: lipstick, compact mirror, wallet, and finally the smooth rubber of her phone case. “Hello,” she said, not bothering to glance at the display.
“Josalee wants to make sure you’re on your way,” Kimie said into the phone, with all of the excitement a seventeen-year-old could muster. In the background, Ingrid could hear the clunk of a wooden spoon against a pot and a giggle from Josalee.
Getting over David with that director, I see, Ingrid thought with a sly smile. “Tell her we’re on our way… eventually.” Ingrid rolled her eyes, craning her neck to see the door. Either Victor forgot to lace his shoestrings through a couple holes or he was purposely making her wait. “Ask her if she needs us to grab anything on our way,” she said, narrowing her eyes at the door.
Kimie relayed the message, Niall Darcy said something, and Josalee laughed again. I bet they’re sleeping together, Ingrid thought. She felt a warm tingle run through her belly and, for a moment, wondered what would happen if she went back inside and took off all her clothes while Victor played with his shoes. Maybe, she thought, we’d have sex, and everything would be okay, just like in the movies. She stifled a snort, and just in time.
“She said no thanks, just hurry up,” Kimie reported, and hung up.
Ingrid punched the car horn twice and glanced at the door again. After a heartbeat, Victor came out, pulling his coat on as he jogged down the front steps. He looked flushed, despite his dark skin. She frowned.
Josalee handed Kimie a stack of their grandmother’s china plates and sent the girl into the living room which, for the time being, served as their dining room. One thing David hadn’t ensured before they signed the lease was room for entertaining. Her heart ached at the thought of him. At least he’s coming to dinner, she reminded herself. With a frown, she realized she hadn’t heard from him yet. “Kimie,” she started, then shook her head. She retrieved her phone from the counter and scrolled to David’s number in her contacts.
“Anything I can do to help?” Niall asked, striding back into the kitchen.
She sighed and put her phone down. “I just checked the turkey. It’s still there.” She gave him a wry smile and smoothed her apron.
He smiled back, then donned oven mitts and removed the boiled potatoes from the burner. As he drained the water, she turned off the flame. God, I hope he doesn’t think I’m trying to sleep with him, she thought, scowling down at her slightly protruding belly. She had to admit, though, that the director looked good in her kitchen. Ingrid would totally tell me to snag him while I can. She watched Niall digging in her refrigerator for milk and sour cream, but it was David she saw. She picked up the potato masher from the counter and gave him a smile as he set the ingredients on the counter.
“I’ve got it from here.”
Josalee set the carved turkey in the middle of the table. It looked a lot better than she imagined. She smiled, then frowned as she looked around at the empty table. She sighed and motioned Kimie and Niall to sit. If I weren’t knocked up, she thought, I’d totally have a glass or two of that wine Niall bought. She smiled at her only two guests and gestured to the food. “Dig in, guys.”
“Chef first,” Niall said. He winked at her and she felt herself melt. Before she could recover, Ingrid burst in, Victor trailing behind her.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” her blonde friend said, throwing her arms around Josalee.
“Traffic was horrendous,” a loud female voice said from behind Victor. As the couple moved inside, Josalee saw Octavia and David on her stoop. Her heart fluttered in her chest at the sight of him. “C’mon, Curls,” Octavia said, and brushed past Victor. She seated herself next to Kimie, flinging her coat on the back of her chair. She held out her hands, palms up. “I’m starving.” She glanced around at everyone, an eyebrow raised.
David ran a hand through his hair. “Uh, Octavia,” he said, lilting the last syllable of her name. “We don’t say grace.”
Josalee watched as her ex-roommate’s new roommate’s eyes widened, and swallowed a smile. She turned to David. “Can I take your coat?”
They ate in silence for so long that Octavia thought she might go crazy. She poured more gravy on her sliver of dry turkey and took a sip of the wine. “So,” she said, turning to Niall, “what do you do?”
“That’s forward,” Kimie said, her phone glued to her ear. She dove back into her conversation, but her eyes remained on Niall.
Josalee cleared her throat and scooped the bowl of cranberry sauce from the table. “Anyone want more?” No one said a thing. She glanced at Ingrid, but the blonde was on her third glass of wine and sat with her head propped on her hand, an amused smile playing on her lips. Even David, Josalee noticed, glanced at Niall between sips of wine.
Her new roommate took a sip of his fourth glass and jerked a thumb at Josalee. “Right now I’m wondering if I’m going to be able to pay this lovely lady rent,” he laughed.
Octavia smirked. “So you’re unemployed? That sucks.” She glanced at Josalee’s belly.
Niall shook his head. “No,” he sighed. “I’m going to be directing the most stupid film in Hollywood as soon as I finish signing contracts and whatnot.” Josalee watched as the entire table — minus Ingrid and Kimie, who already knew what he did for a living — leaned forward, suddenly awake.
David set down his fork and stroked the light stubble that covered his upper lip and chin since Josalee last saw him. “That’s good money,” he said slowly. Niall shrugged and scooped more mashed potatoes onto his plate.
Out of the corner of her eye, Josalee saw Kimie set down her phone. “Don’t worry,” her little sister told David, “Niall’s not bangin’ my sister.”
No one moved for what felt to Josalee like an eternity. Ingrid burst into laughter, covering her still perfectly lipsticked mouth with one hand. Josalee saw Niall quirk an eyebrow. She stood from the table. “Anyone want dessert?”
Sandpaper Fidelity returns in January 2013 with an all-new four-issue story arc! Catch up on the entire series now for only $0.99 an issue.
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