I was awake early on Thanksgiving day. It was a blustery morning, but I decided to put on some warm clothes and take a walk on the beach. I was a bundle of nerves. The thought of waltzing into a room full of people I’ve never met and trying to win them over for a purpose not yet revealed to me, was rather unnerving. It was also very possibly not the wisest decision I have ever made. I had a strong feeling that if I saw this through, my life would be very different. Is that what I wanted?
When I got back to the house, Stella was quite frantic. How would I ever keep her under control on top of everything else? I decided to put her in charge of the children…if any of them came. Stella said the “guests” seemed quite surprised by the invitation.
We set the table in the breakfast cove off the kitchen and tried to make it appealing to the girls who were twelve and fourteen, and a little eight year old boy. Trixie wasn’t too happy to be disturbed, but I was sure she would forgive us when she saw the kids. Soon it was time to get ready for the evening.
I checked on Stella one more time and reminded her that we should not say anything concerning my mother that might alarm the guests. She was busy getting holiday cookies ready for the kids to decorate.
I got ready and then waited for Stella to come and let me know when everyone had arrived. Soon there was a rap on my door. “They’re here.” Stella said. “And so are the children.”
I put on my best smile and walked down the stairs. Everyone was gathered in the front room.
“Welcome,” I said. “Mother has been out of town and unfortunately, her return has been delayed. She wanted me to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. I’m Claire’s daughter, Kat Spencer. I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed Mother and I are that she won’t be joining us, but I must say I have really been looking forward to this very special occassion.”
I walked over to the gentleman, who was standing closest to me. “Mr. Stein,” I said. “I’m delighted to meet you. I held out my hand and he took it in both of his for a moment.
“I’m looking forward to what promises to be a very pleasant evening,” he said. “Allow me to introduce you to my daughters.”
“Of course,” I turned to the older of the two. “You must be Vanessa, and you’re Alice. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such beautiful young ladies.”
I heard a small voice behind me say, “Well, lady, my name is Tio and I bet you’re pleased to meet me, too.”
I knelt down to greet the adorable grandson of Akeno and Goro Phin.
The Phin’s were pleasant, but openly curious. Caroline, the Alzheimer’s volunteer, was relaxed and friendly.
I walked over to Annette Morris, the Art Therapist, who was standing in front of the fireplace. She was not smiling.
“Ms. Morris, I…”
“Ms. Spencer,” (I was a little taken aback by the interruption. Annette Morris was looking right through me.) “How long will you be staying in Brewster?” She asked.
I felt very vulnerable at that moment, but I boldly forged ahead. “I’m making my home here now, Ms. Morris, and I must say, I’m looking forward to my new life and spending more time with my dear mother.”
I walked over and took a glass of champagne from the server’s tray. “May I propose a toast? To new friends and new adventures. Happy Thanksgiving.” Everyone raised their glass but Annette, who placed her glass on the mantle, excused herself, and left.
As if on cue, Stella came to get the children.
There were a few awkward moments after we were all seated in the dinning room, but soon small talk began and overall the dinner went well. We moved to the living room for dessert and coffee. The fireplace made the room feel cozy and everyone seemed relaxed. Throughout the evening, no one mentioned Annette Morris or offered an explanation as to why she left so abruptly.
As everyone began to say their goodbyes, Jack Stein and his daughters remained behind. “Girls, please go and thank Miss Stella, I would like a moment with Ms. Spencer before we leave.”
I had no idea what would come next. He sat in a chair facing me. He leaned back with his forefinger to his chin. He was looking me in the eye as if he was trying to find the right words to say what he wanted to say.
“Thank you for inviting us here tonight. I enjoyed the evening and I know my daughters did as well. I need to speak quickly before they come back. When you next talk with your mother, please give her my regards. Claire and I have been close friends for many years. I admire her more than any other person on earth. And also tell her this…considering the circumstances we find ourselves in, if she wants you to be a part of Project Truth or Consequences, I’m willing to consider it, and I’m sure most of the others will as well.”
“Mr. Stein, I doubt Mother will get that same feedback from Ms. Morris. Aside from that, I’m not sure what my mother has told you about me, and you’re not sure how much I know about you or your covert operation.”
“Please call me Jack. I believe you have established a good place for us to start when we meet again. I’m hoping that can happen in the very near future.”
“Let me know the time and place, Jack, and I will make myself available. And please call me Kat. You can be sure I will pass your message on to Mother.”
About that time, the girls, escorted by Stella, came back into the room.
Jack Stein rose and turned to Stella and the girls. “Thank you again Miss Stella. Kat… I will be in touch, soon.”
When the door shut behind them I turned to go upstairs to my room. I was drained and I didn’t want Stella to start asking questions. “Good night, Stella. Thank you for entertaining the children.”
“You’re very welcome,” she said. “I think Miss Claire will be very pleased when she learns that we almost pulled it off.”