Behind Closed Doors – C11

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.

-BCD-

Chapter 11: The No Thanks-giving

“Bella!”

I scan through the crowd at the baggage claim of Miami International Airport for a familiar voice.

“Dem!” I’m rushed by one of my best friends and wrap him up in a bear hug. “I’m so glad to see you!”

Demetri and I met during one of my summer vacations with Mom while I was in high school, and we’ve never lost touch. He’s one of the few bright spots about making this trip.

“Let me look at you.” Demetri pulls back and looks me over from head to toe. “Girl! Who is he? Because you look like you’re getting it on the regular. Or is there the very slim possibility… you’re in love? Here, give me your bag.”

Oh, shit. My stomach drops. It’s definitely not love. Lust maybe. I had better get my game face on because if I’m not more careful, Demetri will have me spilling the beans before I’m back on a plane to D.C.

“Why in the world would you think that?” I ask, as we lock arms and exit the airport terminal.

“You’ve got this glow I haven’t seen. Ever. And I know it’s not because you’re happy to see your mother for Thanksgiving. Only good dick can bring this kind of change. Trust me. I know.” He grins widely.

“Oh? Someone new in your life?” I try to deflect.

“Girl, there’s always someone new, but this time, maybe someone old?”

“Dem, an older man?”

“Who wouldn’t want a sugar daddy?”

“I think I’ll pass.”

“Mmmm. Don’t knock it until you try it.”

We pause in front of a black sports car taking two spots.

“Dem, is this you?” I circle around the car, meeting him at the back where he is loading my bag.

“A little present from Daddy.”

“Holy smokes. This is a Maserati…”

“GranTurismo. I know.” He grins as he waves me toward the passenger side. “Don’t hate me because you ain’t me.”

We take our seats and click our seatbelts into position as this fine piece of Italian craftsmanship roars to life. “How fast have you gone?”

“Fast enough to land on your father’s radar—finally. I mean what does a guy have to do to make that mustache twitch. Well, I have some ideas, but… if only I could get him to use his speed gun on me.” He winks.

“Demetri! Stop,” I beg while laughing.

“How is your dad doing? He hasn’t shaved off his mustache, has he? It will kill all of my fantasies.”

“No, he still has it.”

“Your father is so hot. A little uptight, but I can work with that. It’s always more fun to break them in slowly. He’ll warm up to me eventually.”

“Don’t hold your breath. Thanks for picking me up.”

“No problem, but who actually travels on Thanksgiving? You’re supposed to cut out the day before or at least bag the whole week and call it a vacation.”

I wave toward all of the traffic we’re experiencing while trying to exit the airport. “Clearly, I’m not the only one. I had some work to finish up before taking off.”

“Oh, did you? And does this work have a name?”

“Demetri, stop.”

“So, you’re telling me there isn’t anyone?”

I hesitate too long, and he pounces.

“I knew it! It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me. I’m just happy for you. Maybe I’ll meet him one day?” he prods.

“Oh, Demetri. I’ve been away from you and your persistent ways for too long.”

“Well, sweetheart, you don’t get me for much longer today. I’ve got to work tonight. My adoring public doesn’t give two shakes about a holiday. If anything, the club will be packed with everyone fed up with visiting their families and ready to let loose.”

“That could be me depending on how dinner goes.”

“Well, if it all goes south, just come by the club and you can catch my show. I’ll take you home and you can sleep on my couch. It will be like old times, but I can’t imagine you not sticking around with step-daddy Dwyer. He’s like a fine wine. Is he still working out regularly? I bet he is. Those retired baseball players take such good care of themselves. Not to mention he’s loaded.”

“Again. Gross. Why do you have to fantasize about all of the men in my life?”

“It’s not my fault you’re surrounded by hotties. I have good taste and can appreciate the male form at any age. How’s your boss? Do you have any recent photos? That Emmett is prime.” He fans himself.

I take out my phone and show him the latest photos of Emmett and Hercules when we’re paused at a traffic light. “He got a dog this past summer. Isn’t he adorable?”

“I’ve never been so jealous of a dog in my life. Look at those hands!”

“Give me back my phone.”

“Promise me you’ll send those to me.”

“Fine, fine.”

“So how is work?”

“It’s always a challenge, Dem. I did go—” I stop as I catch myself.

“Where did you go?” He eyes me sharply.

“Uh, Arizona.”

“Oh? When?”

“September.”

“Your birthday? He took you away for your birthday? Oh, Bella. It sounds like he has some moves. And the way your face is flushing, I know I’m right.”

“Demetri, don’t.”

“It’s okay, but I can read you like a book. Maybe I need to come up to D.C. for a visit and do a little sniffing around. You know me. I’ll find him.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“You’re right. I can never do those cold climates. My heat alone will endanger the polar ice levels. Speaking of heat, what was that little tidbit I read about you and Seth Clearwater? Is it him? He took you to Arizona?”

“Nope, Seth is old news that was never news. He’s like a younger brother.”

“That’s too bad. He’s hot. Maybe you can set me up?”

“I can introduce you, but let me warn you, there’s quite a line. Everyone wants a shot at the First Son.”

“Except you.”

“Except me.”

“Oh, Bella, darling. Your man must be something else for you to pass on the likes of Seth Clearwater. What about the Press Secretary?”

“Dem, when do you have time to keep up on politics or watch any television?”

“Since the White House got an infusion of d—lish, C-SPAN is now one of my go-to channels. Put it on mute and there are hours of possibilities. Is Jacob Black really happily married?”

“Uh—”

“I knew it. What a waste. Leah Clearwater is an idiot.” Demetri shakes his head as he pulls into Mom and Phil’s Miami Beach neighborhood full of multi-million dollar mansions where private yachts, pools, and tennis courts are the standard not the exception.

I let out a snort accidentally when he pulls into the circle driveway. “I always forget how ostentatious everything is here.”

“Sweetheart, it’s lifestyles of the rich and richer. I don’t blame you if you would rather forget about my couch.”

“Dem, I would rather sleep on your couch than stay here any day.”

“Well, good luck at Hotel Dwyer.”

I sigh and look around at the excess. “It’s not the accommodations that make a home. It’s the people.”

“I know. I know. I’m just glad you’re my people.”

“Me, too.” I lean over a leave a quick peck on Demetri’s cheek. “Let’s see how long I last.”

“Be good, my love.”

“You, too.”

“I’m always good, but most people like me better when I’m bad.” He winks.

“I’ll talk with you soon. Maybe you’ll let me drive this before I catch my flight tomorrow?”

“I’ll pencil you into my schedule, sweets. Bye, Bella.” He releases the trunk latch, and I exit the car reluctantly, grabbing my bag.

I wave and watch as Demetri makes his way back down the driveway, then turn and walk up the steps to the front door. I ring the bell and wait.

After only a few minutes, a familiar face comes into view. “Isabella! Mi hija! Come inside.”

“Hello, Maria.” I hug her tightly. “As much as I love seeing you, why hasn’t Mom given you the day off to be with your family?”

“Oh, Isabella. I was home, but your mother decided to cook your Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Did I miss the fire trucks?” I check back outside.

“Close. The kitchen is a mess and I’m here to salvage what I can. Mr. Dwyer asked me to fix everything.”

My mom comes around the corner with a martini glass in hand. “Isabella! You’re finally here. Why don’t you help Maria in the kitchen? I’ll have someone put your bag in a room. James?”

“It’s okay. I can take it myself.” I hope she will leave me to my own devices, as the last thing I need is that sleazy creeper following me around.

“Nonsense. What good are men if they aren’t at your beck and call? James!”

Victoria’s boyfriend James comes around the corner and his eyes light up when he sees me.

“Oh, there you are. James, please be a dear and help carry Isabella’s bag to her room.”

He grabs my bag before I can protest further. “Sure, Renee. I would be happy to help. Follow me, Isabella.”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I promise Maria.

I follow James upstairs and into a guest room.

“Do you need any help unpacking?”

“No, I won’t be staying long, just tonight.”

“Well, I’m next door with Victoria, but if you need my help turning down the bed later, I would be more than happy to stop by.” His finger traces down my arm as he lowers his voice. “Victoria won’t mind. She’s busy with Riley anyway.”

“Uh, no thanks. I’m good. I better get back downstairs and help Maria, if we’re going to eat any time soon.”

I move to the door, but James puts his arm out blocking my escape.

“You don’t have to fight this attraction between us, Isabella,” he whispers. “No one has to know.”

“James, there is no attraction. Now, please move.”

“Mmmm, feisty. I like that.”

He removes his arm from the doorway, and I make a hasty retreat back downstairs, finding Maria pulling a huge pan of lasagna from the oven.

“We’re having Italian?”

“Yes, your mother’s request after the turkey caught on fire.”

“How does that even happen?”

“She decided to make a vodka turkey, but I think she was more focused on infusing herself with the vodka for the past three days.”

I shake my head and look around the kitchen. “What can I do?”

“How about you take care of the mussels? I’m about to finish up the mushroom risotto.”

“Ah, Isabella. Good. Help Maria.” Mom walks into the kitchen with an empty martini glass.

“How are you, Mom?” I ask politely, as I begin to scrub the mussels under cold water.

“I’m better now.” She holds up her fresh cocktail for me to see. “I don’t understand why it is always left to the women to prepare this meal, but no one needs those stupid traditional foods. Do they Maria?”

“No, Mrs. Dwyer.”

I catch Maria rolling her eyes and give her a smirk.

“Isabella, I have a surprise for you. Guess who I invited to dinner? You’re going to be thrilled.”

“Uh, I have no idea.”

“Oh, I’m not going to spoil it. You’ll see once he arrives.”

Oh, dear. It’s some man.

“Mom, I don’t need you setting me up with anyone.”

She begins, ticking off items with her carefully manicured fingers. “Isabella, are you married? No. Do you have any prospects? No. Clearly, you need me to be involved, as you will never be able to live the life you should without the right man. I mean, who will take care of you? You need your own Phil, then you can quit writing your little stories. You’re twenty-nine, for goodness sake. You aren’t getting any younger. At least your sisters, who are ten years younger, have jobs and boyfriends. Life is going to leave you behind if you don’t get with it. Maybe we should go shopping while you’re here and have your hair fixed.”

At the thought of being compared with my step-sisters, Victoria and Bree, I internally cringe. “Thanks for pointing all of that out, Mom. I’m only here for the night, then I’m flying back tomorrow.”

“Isabella! Wonderful you could join us.” Phil walks into the kitchen, wraps his arm around my shoulders, and squeezes.

“Thanks, Phil.” I start pulling the beards from the mussels with a knife.

“How’s life at the Post?”

“It’s good.”

“Let me know if you ever need anything, and I’ll be happy to help. I’m sure I could get you on at the Herald, when you’re ready to leave the cold winters and hot wind bags on Capitol Hill behind you and embrace the warmth and palm trees.”

“It’s tempting. Thanks.”

“When will dinner be ready?” He reaches over and grabs a toasted garlic breadstick from the large basket.

“About ten minutes, Mr. Dwyer.” Maria removes the risotto from the stove.

“Excellent, Maria. You’re a lifesaver.”

Mom huffs at Phil’s comment, then sips her cocktail. When the doorbell rings, she lights up in anticipation of whomever she’s invited. “I’ll get that.”

“We’ll steam the mussels whenever you’re finished, Isabella. It should only take about five minutes,” Maria lets me know.

“Okay, I’m almost finished.” I’m pulling at one of the beards when Mom returns to the kitchen.

“Look who’s arrived, Isabella?” Mom singsongs as if she’s won the lottery.

When I glance up, the knife I’m using goes flying out of my hands and across the floor of the kitchen.

“Isabella! Be careful,” she scolds.

I hold onto the countertop and take a few deep breaths at her surprise guest, while Maria retrieves the knife from the floor.

“I’ll just finish up the mussels.” She grabs the bowl and dumps them in a huge pot for steaming.

“Well, Isabella… don’t be rude.”

I stare at my mother in shock that she’s taken it upon herself to invite my ex for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Hello, Felix,” I grit out.

“Isn’t it wonderful that Felix could join us today?” She lovingly looks up at him.

“Hello, Isabella. You look great. Your mom explained the misunderstanding, and I’ve decided to give you another chance.”

My eyes immediately go to Mom. “Misunderstanding?”

“Yes, darling. I told Felix how you would love a second chance at making it work between the two of you and you were ready to start over. Why don’t you fix the two of you a drink and take a little time to yourselves before dinner is ready?”

I take a deep breath, knowing I’m not going to win with her. “What would you like, Felix? We have beer, wine, and whatever Mom is polluting her system with at the moment.”

“Juicy Pear Martini,” Mom supplies. “I made a pitcher of them. Help yourself.”

“I’ll just have a beer.”

I take out a glass, one of Phil’s craft beers, and pour it for Felix. “Here you go.”

“Oh, Felix, make sure you let Phil know what you think about that one. He’s been asked to invest in a local brewery, and I’m positive he would love your expert opinion.” Mom winks in my direction, while I can only roll my eyes.

“The food is ready, Mrs. Dwyer.” Maria wipes the edges of the plates with a towel.

“James?” Mom yells.

“Yes, Renee?”

“Go tell the girls it’s time to eat. I think they’re out by the pool.” She waves her hand toward the patio door.

James leaves as Mom guides Felix and me to spots at the table. “Take a seat, you two. I’m sure you have a lot of catching up to do. I’ll get you a glass of wine, Isabella.”

Felix puts his arm around the back of my chair when I hear Victoria and Bree finally make their way inside.

“I’m not eating any of this,” Victoria complains.

“We can’t eat carbs, Maria. You’re so stupid.” Bree thinks nothing of hurling insults at the woman who has made a dinner possible, despite my mother’s inability in the kitchen.

“Girls, take a seat around the table and Maria will bring out the first course,” Mom directs.

I watch as Victoria and Bree pour martinis for themselves and take seats across from me.

“Underage drinking, Mom?”

She looks over at their glasses and shrugs. “Phil and Dori don’t care. Why should I? They do whatever they want when they’re in New York anyway.”

I shake my head, but immediately stiffen when James takes the seat next to mine, across from Victoria, who is sitting a little too close to Riley, Bree’s boyfriend.

Bree sits next to Riley and across from Felix. “Bella, you need to lighten up and mind your own business,” she informs me with a condescending tone.

“Here you go, Isabella.” Mom hands me a glass of wine, sitting at one end of the table between Bree and Felix while Phil takes his spot at the other end.

“This is wonderful. We’re all here together, eating a fabulous Italian meal prepared by Maria.” Phil looks around the table, pleased with his dinner guests.

Maria brings in servings of mushroom risotto for our first course. “Maria, won’t you join us?” I offer, while Victoria and Bree wave off her attempt at putting a serving in front of them.

“Isabella,” Mom warns.

“Thank you for the offer, Isabella, but I need to work on the next course while you eat. Enjoy.”

After Maria leaves, I lower my voice. “Mom, you asked the woman to come in on her day off. She’s missing Thanksgiving with her family. At least you can be kind and offer her a spot at the table. She’s a part of this family.”

“Oh, please. She doesn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving.” Mom scoffs at the thought.

I point toward the kitchen. “It was her day off and you’re the reason she’s here.”

“Why are you always so disrespectful to me? I’m your mother and I run this household as I see fit. Maria likes eating in the kitchen, and like she said, she’s busy and has a job to do.”

She gives me her drop it look, and Felix clears his throat.

“Isabella, your mother said you were quitting your job and moving to Miami.”

At his comment, I immediately choke on the spoonful of risotto lodged halfway down my throat and grab for my wine glass.

“Isabella, maybe not such large bites next time. No one wants a chubby wife.” I look over at her, as if she’s lost her mind.

“Renee, you’re out of line.” Phil appears as shocked as I am at my mother’s comments.

“I always like a curvy woman.” James winks when he catches my eye, while Victoria is now staring me down with looks that could kill.

“Isabella, I’ll get you a membership at my gym. Not a problem,” Felix reassures.

“No. I’m not quitting my job or moving to Miami.” I turn to Felix. “And I certainly don’t need you or your gym membership.”

“Isabella, listen to yourself. You’re not making any sense. I’m sorry, Felix. Isabella isn’t acting like herself. Maybe a little more wine—”

“No, do not apologize to this cheater for anything. I dumped him mother after finding him in my bed with another woman, not the other way around.”

“Isabella, if he cheated, it was because you weren’t being the woman he needed, and that’s on you. It takes two to make a relationship work, and your job is causing you to lose focus of what’s important.”

“This is ridiculous. I’m done.”

“Quit being so dramatic and eat. You’re the one ruining our meal and time together.”

“Nope. It’s the same thing every time, and I’m not going to do this with you again. Thank you for the invite, Phil, but I can’t stay here. I’m leaving. Enjoy your dinner everyone. Not that you’ll eat it.” I set my napkin next to my plate and push away from the table, leaving for the kitchen. “I’m sorry, Maria. I’m sure everything is delicious, but I have to get out of here.”

“Oh, Isabella.” She shakes her head, but knows firsthand how difficult it can be for me to be in the same room with my mother when she starts her degrading comments. I’ve cried too many tears on Maria’s shoulders during the visits of my childhood.

I walk upstairs to the guest room, grab my purse and suitcase, then carry it down the stairs to find Phil waiting.

“Isabella, can I give you a ride or at least call my driver.”

“Please don’t bother him on his day off. I can take care of myself.”

“I know that’s true, but you don’t have to do so. You know your mother doesn’t mean any harm.”

“Unfortunately, I do know her. She can be really mean, and I’ve taken enough hits from her this evening. I’ll wait outside.”

Maria appears with a bag full of food, holding it out for me to take. “I’m sorry you can’t stay, but I understand, mi hija.”

“Thanks, Maria.”

Her arms enclose me in a motherly embrace I’ve never seemed to garner from my own mother; when it comes to me, she’s always lacked a single nurturing bone in her body. For whatever reason, the claws come out and it’s open season on my ass.

But I’m done being her emotional punching bag.

Phil holds open the door, and I carry my suitcase down the steps, pulling it behind me as I depart around the fountain and along the driveway, taking out my phone and opening my ride share app to request a ride.

I walk down Star Island Drive, and plan to wait at Bridge Road for my driver since it shows he’s only minutes away. I open the text app on my phone to pass the time and find our last conversation immediately.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day is going better than mine.

Edward responds almost instantly.

What’s wrong?

Everything here. How’s Chicago?

Mom’s having a good day. Dad’s MIA.

I’m happy for your mom. I didn’t last an hour with mine. Putting Plan D into action now.

Heading to your friend’s place?

Yes, waiting on a ride. Demetri has to work tonight, but at least I’ll see him again before my flight tomorrow.

Sorry to hear your visit with your mom was a bust.

It’s always the same. I don’t know why I ever expect a different result. I’m sick of trying.

My ride pulls up to the curb, and I double-check the license plate, making sure I get into the right car.

The driver steps out from behind the wheel and helps stow my bag in the back.

“Good evening. Is it Isabella?”

“Yes, that’s me. Diego, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you like Italian, Diego?”

“I do.”

“Then this bag is for you, for whenever you take a break later.” I hand over Maria’s Thanksgiving to-go bag. “I just can’t do Italian on Thanksgiving.”

“Thank you. That’s very kind. I want to confirm… I’m taking you to 2525 Third Avenue?”

I’d entered the address for Demetri’s apartment into the app originally, but now, I’m thinking about changing my destination, so I can catch his show. However, I’m starving and get a better idea, complete with traditional Thanksgiving foods, including my favorite pumpkin pie. It’s open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. They haven’t let me down in the past when I couldn’t get home for Thanksgiving, and I may be able to salvage this day yet.

“Hang on. I think I’m going to change the address. Do you know of a Denny’s nearby?”

A/N: Huge thank yous to LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, purpleC305, and Midnight Cougar for their help with this story. xx

Mi hija = My daughter

Not a great Thanksgiving by any means but now you have a glimpse into Bella’s relationship with her mother. Every interaction adds to the strain between them. Do you think Renee sabotaged the turkey on purpose to get out of cooking? I wouldn’t put it past her. Demetri, Maria, and Phil are bright spots when she visits. But you can’t blame Bella for always hoping for a different result with her mother or pulling the plug on her visit when it goes downhill.