CARTER REED THANKSGIVING
(set between Carter Reed and Carter Reed 2)
Amanda was right behind her. She gave me a grin and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
I sighed. I tried not to take Theresa’s words to heart, but it was hard. “I’m sorry. Carter asked me what I wanted for Thanksgiving and this is what you said. You guys, our new family. I didn’t think about how it might be interrupting your other plans.”
“I—” Theresa stopped. She gaped at me and then her shoulders fell down in a sudden swoop. “I’m a selfish twat, aren’t I? I didn’t even think.” She turned and grabbed Amanda’s hand, pulling her over so all three of us were holding hands. “You guys are my new family. I am so sorry, Emma. No wonder Noah got all huffy and stormed out when he suggested that we head here and go to his family’s for lunch tomorrow.” She offered me up an apologetic half-grin. “Ever since my parents died, it’s always been at Noah’s house on the afternoon of Thanksgiving. We start then, cook all day, snack for lunch, and then there’s this grandiose dinner in the evening.” Her tone turned wistful. “It always made me forget about my own parents. I think they went over the top because of that, you know, to distract me.”
“It sounds wonderful.”
Amanda frowned at me. She had heard the envious tone from me and I flushed. Carter was my family. So was Amanda and even Theresa and Noah, but especially on holidays, I missed my brother. A lot.
“Are you thinking of Mallory?”
I blinked a few times, my thoughts with my brother, but Amanda’s question brought a new pang to me. I gave her a rueful grin. “I am now. Her and her baby.”
Amanda reached out and laid her arm around my shoulders. She stepped in closer. So did Theresa. All three of us were hugging one another now and Amanda said, “We’ll do her memory well, Emma.”
Theresa snorted. “I think I have an entire bottle of wine I’ll dedicate to Mallory.”
We all laughed then. I shook my head, but the idea of all three of us drinking a bottle of wine in memory of Mallory, getting wasted—it had some merit. I let out a sigh. “I think that’s a tradition Mallory would’ve joined in with.”
Amanda laughed. “Mallory would’ve bought the wine herself.”
“After she had broken up with her latest boyfriend that morning.”
Another burst of laughter from Amanda. She tipped her head back, grinning. “You’re right. My word, you’re so right.” The chuckles faded and she sniffled, wiped the back of her hand across her cheek. “I miss her. I feel dumb saying this, but I missed the stupid dynamic all four of us.”
“Yeah.” Times had been simple back then. Work. Console Mallory after her recent break-up, then curl up on the couch and watch movies with Amanda. Ben would scowl, bark at us, then grumble as he finished the cooking. “He was such an asshole.”
Amanda dissolved back into laughter, shaking her head. She stepped back from our hug and used the back of both her hands to wipe over her face. “Man.” She let out a pent-up breath, wiping at the corner of her eyes now. “I feel so dumb, but I do. I miss the group.” The tears kept cascading down and she gave us both a watery grin. “I’m sorry. I’m a mess. I love you guys. That was a fun family, but this, between us now, this is a family I only could’ve imagined getting.” Her face wrinkled up and she whispered out, “Thank you.”
“Oh.” Theresa grabbed her and pulled her close. Both of them were hugging, rocking back and forth, and Theresa’s tears weren’t far behind.
Watching them, I felt my own tears well up. Amanda was right. This was a family I only could’ve imagined. And, as if sensing the direction of my thoughts, Carter came to the doorway. He took in the sight of Theresa and Amanda hugging, then lifted an eyebrow at me.
I shrugged, grinning like an idiot at him.
Carter was my family. He would always be my family from now on, and for that—for the return of him back into my life—I was eternally thankful for.
I mouthed to him, “I love you.”
He mouthed back, “I love you more.”