A Mornelly Thanksgiving: Part Five
To read the previous sections of this story, click the links below:
Bran woke up early that morning. Something important is supposed to happen today. What was it?
He tried to remember. It was strange to wake up with such a thought. His first thought in the morning was usually about coffee, but today was different. Something was supposed to happen, and it meant a lot to everyone…
Oh bother, why can’t I remember?
He slid out of his bed and headed for the kitchen, coffee taking over his thinking. I’ll figure it out later.
When he walked into the kitchen, though, he stopped in his tracks to see Aichear already there and the pot made. Aichear was leaning against the counter, mug in hand, and staring thoughtfully outside.
“Good morning, big brother.”
Aichear glanced away from the window and nodded to Bran. “Good morning, Bran.” He gestured to the coffee. “Not as good as yours but my best attempt at creating a satisfying substance.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.” Bran poured himself a mug. Aichear is in a contemplative mood today.
Not that he ever wasn’t in such a mood, it was just more noticeable today than usual. Bran came to stand next to him and sipped out of his mug, following his older brother’s posture and leaning against the counter.
“Anything on the mind today?”
“A lot,” Aichear responded. He continued to stare out the window.
“Such as…?” Bran swirled his coffee a bit to get the creamer to mix in better.
Aichear sighed. He turned his gaze from the window over to Bran, his normally alert and piercing gaze somewhat dull. Bran wasn’t sure if it was the morning or something else.
“What do you think Mother and Father would think of us now?” he asked softly.
Bran stiffened. Mother and… father?
A subject neither one broached. Something all of the Mornellys never discussed, with the exception of Aileen who didn’t remember their parents. None of them liked to remember. None of them wanted to talk about it.
For Aichear to bring it up now meant something was bothering him deeply. Deep enough he was letting his emotions take over his logical thinking, which was rare as seeing an albino moose. Aichear never let his shield down, the guard that kept all his emotions invisible to everyone around him. In the recent years, Bran could count on one hand such a thing happened.
This was not to be taken lightly.
“Why do you think such thoughts?” he asked at last. He stared down at his coffee, for the first time in a long time not feeling up to drinking it. He set it on the counter and crossed his arms. “Anything in particular trigger this?”
Aichear shrugged slightly. Already Bran could see the guard was going back up. This moment wasn’t going to last long. “Today, in particular, has left me thinking. Mother would have liked a holiday specifically for giving thanks.”
Oh, stupid, that’s what today is! It was Thanksgiving. The dinner they’d been planning for the last couple of days. He could kick himself for forgetting that.
“You forgot, didn’t you?” a slight smirk played at the corners of Aichear’s mouth.
“So much for your kind and contemplative mood,” Bran muttered. He picked his coffee back up and took a large gulp. “Everyone thinks you’re so nice. Don’t forget that I grew up with you and remember all those jerkish things you did to me and Breandan. Plus let’s not forget your longstanding rivalry with Filip.”
“Good times.” Aichear let a full smile cross his face. He chuckled a bit, then took another sip from his own mug. “Good times. Full of memories.”
They both grew silent again. Bran wasn’t sure what else needed to be said. He finished his coffee and straightened, heading to the pot for a refill. “Do you know what time Aileen has the dinner planned for?”
“Oh, three o’clock I believe,” Aichear responded. He set his mug down, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Our guest should be here by then as well.”
“Yeah, that will make everything dandy,” Bran growled. He shook his head. “Did we have to invite him?”
“The voting committee has overridden our rule, not much we could do about it.” He put his glasses back on. “Besides, I suppose it is only of logical consequence that he is invited. Afterall, we are the only family he has and it isn’t quite fair for us to guard our holiday in such a selfish manner from his less than appealing antics.”
“I suppose you are correct.” Bran smiled to himself. Only with Aichear could they talk in formal and courteous tones without the younger siblings teasing them about speaking a foreign language. “Let’s hope he’s not on the list for Christmas invites as well.”
“Oh, I’m sure between Damhán, Ciarán and Aileen he will be,” Aichear replied. “I suppose we should give him grace and acknowledge that he isn’t as bad we put on.”
“Just overbearingly annoying in more ways than one?” Bran turned to Aichear and smirked.
“Quite. But I believe the same could be said of us from different parties of opposite personalities,” Aichear pointed out.
“That wasn’t necessary to voice. You could have left the mood with that tinge of superiority and maturity,” Bran teased.
“Realistically it isn’t the case, is it? When the facts are examined we are the ones at fault for not putting up with a little wildness and fun, aren’t we?”
He always had to be right. He always had to bring the other side in, to look at things fairly. Sometimes it was annoying. Other times, Bran had to admit, it helped him think past himself and look at what needed to be done for someone else.
“Ah, I suppose.” He leaned against the opposite counter and observed his older brother by three years. Aichear met his gaze head on, both of them silent and taking in every slight movement that could give an edge as to what the other was thinking.
Finally Bran sighed and took a drink from his second cup of coffee. “Mother would be proud of you, Aichear. Father as well. You have become everything they ever wanted from us. You lead our family, take care of them, and treat us all fairly. You would have made them proud. So very proud.” He looked away, his words a little embarrassing to hear come from his own mouth. He wasn’t used to giving praises.
The next instant there was a hand on his shoulder. He looked up, having to when Aichear was standing next to him, being a good six inches taller.
“Both of us, Bran, both of us,” he said quietly. “They would have been proud of you as well. I could never ask for a better brother. All of you. Aileen is right. Today is a day where we give thanks for what we have. And thank the Lord we have each other. There is nothing I’m more thankful for than that. Our parents would have been proud of us all.”
Bran lifted his mug. “I’ll drink to that.”
By the time the rest of the siblings were up and milling about, the thoughtful and yet special moment the two oldest Mornellys had shared had long since passed. But the feelings remained, for both knew that the celebration at hand would only serve to remind them of what a special family they had.
Breandan and Aileen were busy all morning cooking the rest of the food, the turkey and keeping Damhán out of the kitchen. At one point Aichear was called in for backup to drag the youngest Mornelly boy out of the kitchen. That proved to be a challenge, because Damhán was almost as big as he was. But Aichear was more experienced than his younger brother and was able to out maneuver him and shove him out. Damhán took it as a big game and tried to get Aichear to tussle with him. Aichear politely declined.
Dinner was to be served at three. Aichear suspected- and was right- that Gerhard would arrive around two or two-thirty. He was in the door at two-thirteen, Ruslan and Pancake trailing behind him.
“Come in,” Bran greeted, somewhat grudgingly. He raised an eyebrow at the two extra guests. “Good to see you, Pancake. Ruslan.”
“Good to see you too, Bran,” Ruslan greeted cheerfully, placing a massive hand on Bran’s shoulder. He grinned his usual freak-ish grinned and walked in.
“Hola Señor Bran! Hola Señor Aichear!” Pancake exclaimed, shaking their hand. The short, redheaded Spaniard smiled from ear to ear. “Gracias for inviting us, you are very kind!”
“You’re welcome,” Aichear replied dryly. “Always room for others.”
“I know, right?” Gerhard slapped a hand on Aichear’s shoulder and laughed. The blonde German was only about five foot eight, but his grip was strong. Aichear refrained from the urge of shrugging his hand off. “I figured none of you vould mind so I brought zem along because zey veren’t doing anything.”
“Of course we don’t mind,” Bran growled. “We just have an open door to anyone who wants to come in.”
If any of the three heard his resentful tone, they didn’t show it. Aichear motioned Bran over and waited until the three oddball friends had gone to the kitchen to talk to the other Mornellys.
“Let’s… try to remain courteous in spite of this unexpected surprise,” Aichear advised. “I suppose it isn’t that bad. Pancake isn’t a problem, he’s an easy guest.”
“Our big Russian friend on the other hand will probably eat us out of the house,” Bran muttered under his breath.
“Hmmm quite. But this is a special day. Let’s try not to ruin it.”
He meant it, too. They did have a lot to be thankful for- even for Gerhard, Ruslan and Pancake. Irritating as Ruslan and Gerhard were, they were friends, not enemies. He supposed they could be grateful for that.
Three o’clock came around and the table was set. Everyone pitched in to bring the food to the table, laughing and talking away. Damhán and Gerhard were going on about explosives they wanted to use the next time they got together, Ruslan pitching in here and there by adding some morbid fact or another as to what worked best. Pancake helped Breandan with the dishes and asked all kinds of questions as to what spices he’d used on the turkey and what he suggested for a ham. Ciarán and Bran conversed quietly about something. From the glances in Ruslan's direction, it no doubt had something to do with an idea Bran had about how to defeat him in the next war game they played. Aileen came to stand next to Aichear, putting her hand into his. She said something, but Aichear had to lean down to hear what she was talking about.
“I’m so happy you invited Ruslan and Pancake, too,” she said in his ear above the noise. “That was so nice of you.”
That doesn’t make me feel guilty or anything. He cupped one hand and said back, “I didn’t invite them. Gerhard did. But thank you for your kindness all the same.” He gestured to the table. “And thank you for doing this, Aileen. This will be a very special dinner.”
Aileen beamed. “Thanks to Breandan. I didn’t do much cooking, actually. I just helped pick the recipes.”
“Ah, but celebrating Thanksgiving was your idea, therefore I thank you for suggesting it.” He patted her shoulder.
Aileen leaned against him and he put arm around her. This is what it’s about.
He looked from Bran, Breandan, Damhán, Ciarán, Gerhard, Ruslan and Pancake, then down at Aileen. “Let’s sit down,” he announced.
Everyone took their seats, and surprisingly grew quiet.
Yes, this is what today is about.
“It is traditional and of course respectful to offer a prayer of thanks up before we begin eating,” Aichear began. He looked from one to another. “I would like to give whomever would like the opportunity to do so.”
The Mornellys all looked at him expectantly. Gerhard opened his mouth to say something, got a sharp jab from Ciarán, and shut his mouth. Ruslan and Pancake glanced over at Aichear.
“I’m assuming you’re electing me.” He sat back.
“Go ahead, Aichear. You’re the head of this family,” Breandan encouraged. “Plus you’re the oldest.”
“I beg to differ.” Ruslan chuckled.
“Perhaps not in how long he’s been banished here, but the oldest if we were to count our age back in Asieopia,” Bran pointed out.
Aichear nodded. He took Aileen’s hand on his left and Bran’s hand on his right. Everyone held hands, and Aichear bowed his head.
“Dear Lord, thank you that we can come together today and celebrate this Thanksgiving. A time where we give thanks for our family, our friends, and everything we have. But also a time where we say thanks to you. The whole point of his holiday is to praise you for the blessings you have bestowed on us, and that includes hardships. Everything you give us is for a reason and for our good. I thank you for each member of our family that is here, including Gerhard, Ruslan and Pancake.” He tried to ignore the thought in his mind about how strange it was to say thanks for someone named Pancake. “Thank you for this wonderful meal we’re about to eat, and most importantly we thank you. Thank you for what you have done for us here and on the cross. In Jesus’ name,” he paused and waited.
“Amen,” everyone said at the same time.
“Amen,” Aichear agreed.
Within seconds the conversation resumed, just as loud as ever. Aichear picked up a slice of turkey and set it on Aileen’s plate.
“Here you are,” he said.
Aileen looked up at him, her eyes shining. She reached over and gave him a hug. “Happy Thanksgiving, Aichear. Thank you for being you.”
The rest of the day was a breeze to get through, even with Gerhard and Ruslan around. All Aichear had to do was think back on what Aileen said and it put him in a better mood.
He had a lot to be thankful for.