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Thursday

November 26, 2015 (Thanksgiving)

Silberman's Books

 

Sam cursed fluently under her breath as she tried to shuffle the Tupperware container full of stuffing from one arm to the other in order to free up a hand, without losing her grip on the bakery-bought pumpkin pie. After a moment of precarious positioning she gave up, and with a surreptitious glance around her, summoned a small tendril of shadow which obligingly held the pie for her, allowing her to unlock the door and enter the store.

 

For the first time in her life, she had found herself in surprisingly high demand as a dinner guest. Both her employer Lynn and her roommate Asli had made plans involving her and Thanksgiving dinner, and since this didn't exactly happen to her too often, she hadn't wanted to disappoint either party, resulting in the plans being merged. Asli's apartment was far too small to host several people plus a large dinner, so they were congregating at Lynn's place instead. Asli was with her, of course, and had mentioned inviting someone else that Sam hadn't herself met.

 

The whole thing was creating a decidedly surreal atmosphere for Sam, who had spent all of her previous thanksgivings either nibbling halfheartedly on a turkey dog or high as a kite. Celebrating the occasion by sitting down to an actual feast with her peers was a new experience for her, but she was determined not to show it. She pushed through the door, transferring the pie from the tendril of darkness - which vanished instantly - to her hand. "Hello? We're here!"

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Asli wasn't sure about Sam's idea for a big Thanksgiving dinner. Asli had been planning something more like turkey sandwiches and a big salad; but now her roommate had cooked stuffing and bought a pie and was talking about a meal with more than two people. At the same time, Sam was so excited about having a big, traditional meal that Asli didn't want to speak up about it; she knew how much it hurt to go from a loving family to nothing, and she could only imagine with the other woman had missed while living on the streets. If Sam wanted to have a big, complicated dinner, Asli wasn't going to be the one to rain on her parade.

 

She wasn't going in there alone, though. After clearing the idea with Sam she had dropped a line to Joe. She wasn't sure if they were at a 'spend holidays together' point in their relationship, but he had agreed to come. She had suggested he pick up some wine for the occasion. She had baked several rings of simit and had done some shopping the week before, picking up marmalade and raspberry jam and cinnamon-apple jelly. Sam had assured her that their host was taking care of the things that required a big oven, so Asli felt comfortable just bringing the dessert.

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Joe's mother had insisted. When talking to his family about the fact that he might need to leave Thanksgiving dinner early for a meal with a girl he'd been seeing for a few months, they were very accepting. Andy had been the one to toast the idea first, but his parents had been extremely happy to go along with it. Which explained why he was walking down the street, toting enough stuffing to fill a trashcan and two entire sheets of cornbread. 

 

If any crime breaks out right now, I am going to break ****.

 

Fortunately, the world had better timing than that, and Joe managed to make it to Silberman's with his bounty unmolested. He knocked on the door - well, kicked at it; he could easily carry the food, but it was a matter of balancing it that kept him from wanting to free a hand. As it opened, he made his way up. "Hope everyone's ready for a goddamn mountain of carbs." 

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Upstairs, Lynn had been trying last minute changes to her living room furniture; almost every table, chair and cushion in her apartment was conjured out of glamour, which meant she saved a ton of money on cleaning and maintainance, and could redecorate with a wave of her hand, which was totally awesome.

 

Unless she had new guests coming over and couldn't make up her mind. Rubbing her chin thoughtfully, she called over her shoulder toward the kitchen, where her assistant Gretchen was pulling a tray of drop biscuits out of the oven.

 

"Hey Gretch, what do you think of Contemporary Southwestern?"

 

The snarky barista sighed and shook her head as she used a spatula to slide the biscuits into a small towel-lined basket. "I think you're overthinking things, as usual; just pick a style and move on!"

 

The changeling groaned and vigorously rubbed her face. "You're right, you're right..." Peering through her fingers, she decided it looked fine and left it at that. Then her pointed ears twitched as someone unlocked the front door, and she heard Sam and a vaguely familiar voice calling out.

 

"Oh s###, they're here!"

 

Gretchen sauntered into the room, a wry smirk on her face as she wiped her hands on a towel. "Heavens, what will we do."

 

Lynn quickly checked herself in a mirror near the door. "How do I look?"

 

Her sidekick could only shake her head and sigh. "Stunning, as usual. Open the door already."

 

The door opened, and Lynn's grinning elfin face, framed by curly, shoulder-length brown hair, appeared over the railing. "Hi guys, c'mon up! You need help with anything?"

 

The smells that wafted down into the entry hall were positively mouth-watering!

Edited by Heritage

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"I think we got it, thanks," called up Sam. Now that they were safely inside and away from any prying eyes, she was able to use her shadows to carry her burden, leaving her hands free. Ever since discovering this new side to her ordinarily light-based powers, she had found they made her everyday life far easier. A few extra hands were always helpful, especially when they also happened to be made of solid darkness and strong enough to carry an eighteen-wheeler.

 

She turned at the sound of the door and nodded to the newcomer. "Hey there," she said, the toothpick bobbing in her mouth. "Looks like we're all here. And between the three of us, we've got enough food to choke a blue whale." She gave a rare half-grin. "And we haven't even seen what Lynn has up there. I think we're going to be taking some leftovers home tonight."

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Asli followed behind Sam, letting the door closed behind her. Before she could take the first step up the staircase someone started knocking at the door. Well, knocking -- it sounded a bit angrier than that. She rolled her eyes and turned, balancing the simit on top of the salad. "I'll get the door," she called up. She opened the door and found herself staring straight at Joe. She felt a lot of things all at once -- happy that he had come, a tightness in her chest, butterflies in her stomach, and embarrassment  that someone could make her feel that way when she was in her thirties.

 

She swallowed and stepped back, giving him room to walk in. "Hi there," she said. "I'm glad you came. Um, we're eating on the top floor, so... yeah." She made her way up the stairs in front of Joe. Sam's comment made her consider. "You know, I don't think i've ever had the traditional Black Friday turkey sandwich."

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Joe made his way in, giving Asli a peck on the cheek as he did. "Hell of a place for Thanksgiving," he said. Joe knew of Silberman's Books - everyone who spent enough time in the West End did. He'd occasionally come by here on patrols, once or twice situating himself on the roof for a view of the neighborhood at large. But he'd never actually deigned to stop in. For all that he was a student of history, he'd never really gotten into antique books - and there were whispers that this place had ties to the occult, and that was an area he really didn't like to get involved in. It wasn't that he hated it; it just... wasn't his department. 

 

"I'd be up for helping with those sandwiches," he said. "Maybe not the cranberry sauce, but everything else, yeah." He waves to Sam. "Joe Macayle. Glad to meet ya." 

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"C'mon in! Food is almost ready." Lynn gestured for them to enter. "May my home be your home." The changeling did indeed look stunning; tonight she was wearing a sleeveless cranberry blouse, black Capri pants and white tabi socks. Her curly brown hair was up, revealing her pointed ears to the world.

 

Inside the apartment, the living room had two tan leather sofas flanking a coffee table, and a seven-branched menorah sat on the mantlepiece over a cheerful fire. The walls bore several bookshelves, as well as vintage movie and magic show posters. Here and there, colorful bits of bric-a-brac could be spotted, some of which were Southwestern crafts, and others that looked like they were designed by Jules Verne.

 

Just beyond the living room, one could see the dining area, with a cherry wood table and five matching chairs; candles glowed softly over what looked to be quite a savory spread, but there was still room for more dishes.

 

"Hey." Gretchen raised a hand in greeting and offered a half-smile. She was keeping it simple tonight: black, low-heeled ankle boots, black jeans and a black blouse with the sleeves rolled up, revealing tattooes of musical staves on her forearms. As usual,  she wore dark eye shadow and several earrings, and a silver ring with a large ruby was on her left index finger, which along with the three other fingers was also tattooed. Her brown hair was worn loose, cascading down to her shoulders.

 

The eager hostess clasped her hands and beamed at her guests. "I'm so glad you all could make it! I'm Lynn, and this is Gretchen. Can I take your coats?"

Edited by Heritage

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Asli followed Sam and Lynn up and stepped through over the threshold and stopped cold. Her senses were overwhelmed -- at least, her magical ones were. It was like being under a hundred heat lamps, or getting pins and needles over her entire body, or being wrapped tight in scratchy wool. Having a thick coat on didn't help. She managed to stumble forward and put her food mostly on the table. She stepped back, focusing on breathing deeply and getting back out the door. "I have to... I left something on the... Out in the car." She backed away from the table and could only watch as the salad and bread overbalanced, the tupperware tumbling onto the floor.

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Reflexively, Sam thrust out a hand towards the falling food. The shadows under the table lashed out in snakelike ribbons, catching the dishes and placing them neatly back on the tabletop before dissipating. She didn't have time to congratulate herself, though, upon seeing her roommate's distress. "Asli?" She stepped towards her, one hand upraised in concern. "What's up? You okay?" A thought struck her. "Oh s---, is this that magic thing again?" The thought that entering Lynn's home might have an adverse effect on her friend had never occurred to her.

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Lynn's cheerful face quickly shifted to one of concern as something was clearly affecting Asli. "Oh my God, are you okay? Do you need to lie down?"

 

But then Sam spoke up, and things became more clear. "It's the glamour," Gretchen offered tersely. "She's got some kind of magical allergy, and It's all over the f###ing place."

 

The changeling cover her mouth in horror; to be surrounded by glamour all the time was nothing to her, so it never occurred to her someone might have a bad reaction. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry! We can, we can fix this! Quick, get her back out into the hall; other than a couple small pieces, everything's real out there. In fact, everyone else wait out there, too. Give me and Gretch ten minutes, and we'll have this all sorted out."

 

Once they had everyone out in the hallway, the crime-fighting duo switched to mental communication to speed things up.


 

Quote

 

-Okay, we need real things, stat!-

 

-You should buy some real furniture. Reality isn't so bad, you know.-

 

-Yes, okay, good point, but no time right now; what do you have back at your place?-

 

-Uh, we have a sofa and a small kitchen table. Two kitchen chairs. And an Army surplus ammo box as a coffee table.-

 

-Great, we'll snag it all. I can grab some folding chairs and a card table from my parents' house. Do you have anything I made you back at your place?-

 

-The stuffed Eeyore you gave me when I went to the hospital. It's on my bed.-

 

-Aww! Okay, Vault, teleport, Vault, teleport, Vault, teleport. Got it?-

 

-I hate going into your stupid Vault.-

 

-Oh, bitch, bitch, bitch.-

 

 

Seven minutes later, Lynn opened the door back up and grinned sheepishly at her three guests. "Hi! Okay, the world's fastest movers are done; should be safe now!" She allowed the door to swing open onto a very different space; there was a well-worn sleeper sofa, two folding chairs and an ammo box in the living room, and wildly mismatched furniture in the dining room, the folding card table being a good three inches higher than Gretchen's hijacked kitchen table. Lynn was also wearing an old No Doubt T-shirt that barely fit her (and looked like it had been washed a thousand times), a leather motorcycle jacket and sleepy pants; it was pretty clear these were clothes she'd left back at home before her transformation.

 

Gretchen looked the same, though she had unbuttoned her blouse to reveal a Clash T-shirt in solidarity with her dressed-down boss. "Sorry about the cat hair on the- oh wow, we brought a cat back with us. Sorry, Commander Catso!" Indeed a thoroughly disorientated feline was in the middle of the sofa, tail poofed, ears back and clinging to the cushions for dear life.

Edited by Heritage

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Joe moved for the dishes at the same time he moved for Asli... only to see the shadowy tendrils whip out from under the table and lift them back up. At the same time, he recognized something in Lynn's voice - and realized that, without a mask, she could very well be a close ringer for Grimalkin. The mention of "magic allergy" backed it all up. Ah. Yeah, it's one of those situations. I knew there was a reason I didn't handle this kind of stuff.

 

"C'mon," he said to Asli, helping her up, "we'll get you out --" Before he could even finish the sentence, he could feel a change in the air. He couldn't quite describe it - it was like if somebody had sucked some indistinct scent out of the air - but he knew something had happened. And, soon after, Asli was breathing easily again, standing on her own weight. 

 

"You okay? I, uh... I didn't know that was a thing." 

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Asli was stopped from leaving by Joe's strong arms. She could focus on that and calm herself down, center herself; and then there was a feeling like a cool breeze traveling through the entire building and suddenly the cloying suffocating presence was gone. She took a deep, shaky breath and took a step on her own; standing tall if a bit shakily. "It's not an allergy," she said. "Not really. I just... I feel magic, and there was a lot of magic around here." She looked around the hastily redecorated apartment and stifled a laugh. "That's a, um, a hell of a redecorating job." She walked over and tried to pet the cat on the head. "I'm sorry you had to do all of that just for me, though."

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Sam walked a slow circuit of the room, inspecting the new - and far more casual - furnishings. Now this is more my speed. A faded sofa, a card table, and leather jackets made for a far more familiar environment for her. She let out a laugh. "Gretch, Lynn, I think you two are in the wrong line of work. Screw books, you'd make a killing one on of those interior-decorating reality shows. If nothing else, I don't think anybody else would be able to pull it off quite so fast." She finished her circuit, bringing her back to Asli. "Uh, anyway...sorry about that, Asli. I probably shoulda warned you that they have a lot magic stuff around here." She shook her head. "It never even occurred to me that it might be a problem for you."

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Joe was just happy that Asli was okay. "Got it," he said. "Not an allergy, more like... walking into a rock concert at full blare. The kind where the bass knocks you on your ass." Joe noted that there was a good chance that he would need to be a lot more familiar with the occult. 

 

But that would come another time. Right now, he was looking around the apartment, taking everything in after the quick "paint job." He actually felt a bit more comfortable here - it wasn't like he was going to scuff the furniture, but now he didn't have to dread that happening so much. "I like it," he said. "Reminds me of my brother's place. Real homey." He waved to Lynn. "Still, if I had that kinda talent, it'd be easier to keep my place clean." 

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Lynn waved her hands, shook her head and chuckled. "No, it's me who should apologize. As a fae entity, my whole world is glamour; I eat it, drink it, hell my whole body is made of it!" She held out one arm,and the hand melted away into vapor, a thin stream of it trailing from the empty sleeve of her jacket; it then just as quickly reformed. "See? I'm not even real, and least in a physical sense; I am what I say I am." She shrugged. "And sometimes I forget that what's normal for me isn't normal for everyone else. Whatever, let's finish getting dinner ready." The hostess called over her shoulder as she headed down the long hallway back to the kitchen. "Does anyone need a drink? I got wine, I got beer, I got booze; I've also got water and a few different fruit juices."

 

At first Commander Catso flinched at Asli's touch, but he soon relaxed a bit and allowed her to scratch; after the shock he had, it looked like he needed it. "I'll take a Blue Moon, please." Gretchen sat on the arm of the sofa, and joined in with some fuzzy belly scratching. "You just have to remember that she's not really human anymore, though she plays one on TV." She sighed as she focused more intently on the Commander. "It's not just for our benefit, though. Being connected to our world is what keeps her from going insane."

 

"Hey, I heard that and I resent that!" Lynn called from the kitchen; clearly those pointed ears just weren't for show! "Mario Kart is what keeps me sane! That and Game of Thrones!"

 

Gretchen rolled her eyes. "I stand corrected. Or sit, actually." Then she crisply rose to her feet, once again back in assistant mode. "Here, let me take your coats and wraps." Once she had them, she turned to blink at the blank space by the door, where a large armoire stood a few minutes before. "Uh, these are just going to go on bed in the guest room...yeah."

Edited by Heritage

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Sam handed over her jacket obediently to Gretchen, inwardly wondering what it was like being made of glamour. There had been more than a few times when she had found herself envying her employer's ability to conjure objects seemingly out of thin air, but still, not being human, or even physically real, was bound to have its disadvantages. Like, eating glamour? Sam wasn't even sure how that worked, but it sounded inconvenient. Hell, she herself wasn't quite what you would call fully human anymore, but at least she was pretty sure she was real.

 

She wandered over to Asli and joined in on petting the cat. She had always liked cats. "I'll just take cider if you have it," she called to Lynn. There was no point in wasting good booze on herself, since she was, thanks to her new state of being, physically incapable of becoming drunk. Which was almost certainly for the best, all things considered.

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Joe wanted as Lynn's hand faded in and out of existence. He realized the core of what she was saying - there was a core to her consciousness that didn't flicker, around which she could shape her form to whatever she liked - but the superstitious part of him, the part that really did not get the fineries of this whole occult thing, thought that it might be very easy to flicker away when you existed in that state...

 

"Yeah," he said. "I could use a drink. Blue Moon, Guinness, Strongbow - I'm open." He didn't wish to pet the cat - well, not yet; everyone seemed to be crowding the cat, and while he saw sure he loved the attention, he didn't want to shove in there. "So, what's it like dealing with fae stuff? I, uh, kinda have only fleeting experience there, involving a bunch of elves trying to dress up and play Victorian robber barons." 

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Gretchen dutifully accepted the coats and took them to the guest room as Lynn prepared the drinks in the kitchen. 

 

"Oh, it sucks!  The Fae are like spoiled, psychopathic children with superpowers; like that kid in the Twilight Zone movie." She strolled back into the living room with two Angry Orchards, a Blue Moon with a slice of orange, a bottle of Guinness and a proper pint glass expertly grasped in her slender fingers as she made her way to one of the folding chairs by the fire. "Here we are! Asli, can I get you anything? I wasn't sure if you drank or not, so I got lots of non-alcoholic options." She opened one of the ciders, which seemed to be real.

 

Meanwhile Gretchen reappeared with a tray of cheese, crackers and cold cuts, which she placed on the ammo box, and then stood beside her boss, who passed her the Blue Moon. "Thanks." She indicated the tray with a wave of her bottle. "Last chance to ruin your appetite before dinner, " she said with a smirk as she snagged a few tasty morsels for herself.

Edited by Heritage

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Asli scratched the cat's head gently, smiling as it purred contentedly under her fingers -- and then it abruptly batted her hand away and sauntered off to do cat things. She was feeling better, now that she had taken a moment to prepare herself and there were more physical things around her. "I'll just have some water, thanks." She considered for a moment and added, "You know, this is the first Thanksgiving I've had in a long, long time." She flashed a smile at the room. "It's nice to know people in the city who can cook."

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"My thoughts exactly," said Sam, taking the toothpick out of her mouth and stowing it in her pocket. Now that the cat had lost interest in them, as cats did, she helped herself to a few crackers and cheese. "I haven't celebrated much of anything in a long damn time. Least of all Thanksgiving." She moved to lean her back casually against the wall. "Thanksgiving on the streets wasn't too festive an occasion, and Thanksgiving in prison wasn't much better." She put a cracker in her mouth and crunched it audibly. "It's...it's been a while since I've had something to be thankful for, is what I guess I'm saying."

 

She realized only as she said it that that sounded more like self-pity than a 'thank you.' She opened her mouth to try to elaborate further, shut it, then said instead, "Uh, Lynn, Gretch, you guys still need any help in the kitchen or anything? I can handle very hot things." And that, she realized, sounded like some kind of dirty double entendre.

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Joe sat there, realizing that he had taken the holidays for granted, a little bit. His family had a tight belt at times, he hadn't exactly had the luxury of college right out of high school, and he'd always wondered why they didn't have as many things under the tree come Christmas - but they did have each other. And he could never deny the glory of a Macayle family Thanksgiving. So, to hear the others talk about their experiences really did throw things into perspective. He raised his glass high. "To us, then," he said. "May nothing catch fire today, may no random fae ****s barge in to be assholes, and may we fill ourselves with turkey and other stuff. And, if we've got nowhere else to go next year, may we all gather back here to enjoy some warmth from the cold, some great food, and some good tidings." 

 

He took a sip at the Guinness, nibbling lightly at the cheese. He didn't exactly nibble at anything, and didn't lightly much, but it was a good idea not to devour everything. Besides, he'd already had one dinner today. "Working on the cooking, myself," he said to Asli. "Trying to master some of the old family recipes, do better than grabbing stuff from the bodega. Tried making my own stuffing for today's thing, but, uh... less said about that, the better." 

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Lynn laughed and raised her cider. "L'chaim!" Then she took a swig and wiped her mouth with her hand. "Mmmmm! Yeah, good stuffing is truly an art form; it's almost as hard as cooking the bird! And I cook kosher, so there are all kinds of gravy issues without the blood, and I have to use olive oil instead of butter, but that gives it a really intersting, almost Greek taste. I think you guys will really like it."

 

Grechen took a sip of her beer, then pointed both fingers at Asli and started to back into the kitchen. "I'll just grab that water for you." She turned to go, then came to stop, slowly turned back and returned to the group, nervously fiddling with her bottle as she paced aimlessly about.

 

"While we're on the top of things were thankful for, I...turned twenty-four this month. Which really isn't such a great achievement in the grand scheme of things, except last November I was shot-" She stopped abruptly and looked down at her boots. "Not thirty feet from this spot. I should have died." She clicked her heels three times like Dorothy Gale, then smiled shyly and looked up at a speechless Lynn through damp eyes. "But my boss saved my life, because that's what she does. So I'm thankful...for all the Novembers to come."

 

She stood there blinking for a few seconds, then abruptly spun on her heel and headed robotically back down the long hallway to the kitchen; after a few seconds, a clearly-emotional Lynn went after her, mumbling an 'excuse me' under her breath. The two could be seen in silhouette, nodding and talking softly before sharing a fierce hug and getting back to putting the finishing touches on the meal.

 

"Uh, thanks for the offer, Sam, but I think...I think we've got it; you guys can all take a seat. Just bring your drinks to the table, we'll be right there!"

Edited by Heritage

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Asli shared a glance with Sam. Gretchen had nearly gotten shot just outside of this bookstore? And now she was part of whatever little social circle Lynn was building here. Asli didn't judge, she just filed it away as another facet of life around Silberman's.

 

She broke the seal on the tupperware containers, dishing the salad and bread out onto the provided plates. "Simit's best when it's warm," she said, "but it's always good, so enjoy it." She took a seat, still wearing her heavy jacket. "You know, I think I remember Silberman's books from when I was in college, but I don't remember anyone like you being around, Lynn. Have you been in town for long?"

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"Well after my grandpa died in 2003, my Aunt Deb ran the store for a few years before his lawyers made her close it," Lynn offered from the kitchen.  "She was disputing the terms of his last will, where he left it to me on my twenty-second birthday. So yeah, depending on when you went to school, it might have been open."

 

"Dum dum dee dum, dum dee dum, dum dee dum." To the tune of 'The Emperor's March', Gretchen majestically floated the impressive bird into the dining area with her Ring of Power; there was no glow of energy or any other visible signs of magic, just a twenty-four pound turkey riding a floating vintage china platter. She made whooshing noises as she slowly spun It around and executed a perfect landing in the middle of the card table. 

 

Then Lynn returned, carefully balancing six dishes and a basket of biscuits in her arms, a truly impressive feat that seemed like no big deal to her. "As for me, I've been offworld for three years; just got back in May 2014 and reopened the store. Mmm, those smell delicious! I'll have to try a bite."  

 

With everyone's help, she laid out the rest of the food: fluffy mashed potatoes, bread and sausage stuffing, thick gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beens and cranberry chutney. Along with everything everyone else brought, it was truly a mouthwatering spread. Lynn beamed as she looked around the table and spread a paper napkin over her lap.

 

"I'm so happy you all could make it, and to have you as guests in my home. Does anyone want to say grace, or any other prayers?"

Edited by Heritage

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