Marcus opened his eyes groggily, reaching up to rub them almost instantly, using the backs of his hands to wipe away the last vestiges of sleep as he let out a long, loud yawn. The room was far too bright for his liking, and he began to wonder if he had overslept. Shooting his eyes over to where his alarm clock should have been, and instead finding a wall, Marcus shot upright and swiftly turned to investigate his surroundings. There, along the opposite wall, laying just below the other window was another bed and the whole reason his room seemed far too bright.
Throwing his cover back, Marcus stood up and walked over to his dresser with a huff, allowing his feet to fall back to the carpeted floor a bit more heavily than he normally would, hoping—perhaps praying—that his footsteps would awaken his new stepbrother. That Marcus had already suffered the indignity of his mother remarrying was bad enough. That he had gotten stuffed into a bedroom with his new stepbrother was one step too far. Marcus was fourteen and needed his own space. The annoying twelve-year-old roommate that had been bestowed upon him by his mother and new stepfather was unacceptable. Maybe if he made Jacob’s life miserable, they would find a way to separate them.
Pulling his wooden dresser drawer open, Marcus reached in and pulled out a pair of bright yellow boxer shorts and a pair of jeans. Slamming the drawer closed, he walked over to the closet and pulled open the twin sliding doors, noticing that Jacob had already decided which half of the closet belonged to him. Marcus reached up and pulled out a red, long-sleeved shirt and then slid the doors roughly back into place.
Spinning around, he saw Jacob sitting on the edge of his bed, blue eyes wide, looking up at him. His medium-length blond hair was a mess of tangles, a few strands falling forward crossing his brow. “Mornin’,” Jacob said. “Happy Thanksgivin’.”
“What’s so happy about it?” Marcus asked as he opened their bedroom door and slammed it behind himself, turning and stomping his way to the bathroom for a shower. Maybe a nice, warm shower would make him feel better.
* * *
A loud bang sounded, instantly waking Jacob from his slumber. Looking over to the source of the noise, he saw Marcus walking angrily from his dresser over to the closet, pulling the twin doors open. He heard Marcus let out a long sigh as he looked at the clothes hanging within, and instantly Jacob knew he should have asked Marcus where to put his clothes. His dad had told him to pick a side and hang them up, but now, seeing Marcus’s reaction, he regretted not asking his big brother what side he wanted. For a moment, Jacob wondered how Sara was faring with Nia, but since Sara was the oldest in that room, Jacob imagined things with his younger sister were probably going a little bit better.
Jacob suddenly realized Marcus was staring at him, the anger in his expression completely obvious. Wanting nothing more than to start the day on a good note, Jacob tried to cut through the tension. “Mornin’,” he said meekly, hoping Marcus would respond kindly. He remembered what day it was though, and immediately followed up with “Happy Thanksgivin’!”
“What’s so happy about it?” Marcus asked, turning to stomp out of the room, slamming the door behind himself.
Jacob looked down at the tan carpeting and felt his heart sink a little. Thanksgiving had always been a happy holiday, at least up until the year his mother had suddenly left them. Jacob had tried to ask his dad several times about what had happened to her. His dad would only tell him that his mother had done something unforgivable and that she had decided that Jacob and Sara would be better off with him. Every time Jacob pressed for a real answer, his dad told him he would explain someday, when Jacob was older. Even with her gone, though, his dad had done his best to make Thanksgiving enjoyable, inviting Jacob’s grandparents over to celebrate with them.
This year would be different though! This year there would be more faces at the table, more people to join in the holiday festivities! He knew his new mother would be there. Jacob really liked Miss Martha. She had the friendliest smile and the smoothest bronze skin that seemed to glow in the sunlight. Her long, brown hair was always curled, falling gently over her shoulders. She loved his father, too. He could tell every time they were together, smiles and laughter filling the air whenever they were near each other. It was so unlike the fighting and arguing that his father and mother used to do all the time.
What to do about Marcus though? Jacob had been so excited to have a new brother, someone who might teach him about life, someone he could build bricks with, run around the park with, or play video games with. Someone who might be there for him, no matter what. He shook his head and hoped he could get through to his new brother.
In the meantime, he knew there would be Thanksgiving cinnamon rolls waiting for him—he could already smell them, a waft of cinnamon and sugary frosting floating through the air. Jacob smiled and walked across the room to his own dresser, pulling it open and gathering his clothes for the day. Something nice, he thought to himself as he pulled out a pair of khaki pants. I want to impress Miss Martha.
* * *
Marcus trudged his way slowly downstairs. The shower had not helped his mood at all. In fact, it had made it notably worse. As he had showered, he had started to get angry about the fact that his room had been given over to the girls because it had a larger closet and the girls needed a larger closet to share because they both had dresses and things that the boys didn’t have. It also meant the boys had gotten the smaller of the two rooms. It was the ugly off-white color that protected from crayon drawings on the wall because Nia was still young enough she was likely to use the wall for her next masterpiece. His mom had promised, with a kiss on his forehead, that they would paint the rooms by Christmas and that Marcus would get to choose the color as long as it was a color Jacob was okay with.
Why does it matter if Jacob likes the color? He asked himself as he reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to see the rest of the family sitting at the dining room table, all stuffing their mouths with large cinnamon rolls. Suddenly the scent that his anger had kept him from noticing filled his nose and his eyes locked on a large roll, the white frosting dripping over the sides, and a smile crossed his face. “Wait, what?” he asked as he hurried to the table.
“It’s kind of a family tradition we have,” Mr. Myers said with a smile, his green eyes twinkling from behind his thick, black-framed glasses. “I asked your mother, and she said you’d probably be okay if we added this to the Thanksgiving tradition.”
Marcus didn’t have to be told twice that he could expect this every year. He sat down at the open seat at the table—hardly noticing he’d been bumped to the other side of the table to sit down next to Jacob—and he reached out to take one of the cinnamon rolls. He smiled widely as his fingers made contact with the sugary treat.
“Thank you, Mr. Myers!” Marcus said as he picked up the roll and bypassed his plate completely, taking a giant bite out of the side, the mixture of cinnamon and sugar instantly brightening his mood. He chewed until his mouth had cleared enough that he could sneak a couple of words out, and tucked some away in his cheeks before saying, “Thethe are greath!”
“Marcus Payne,” Marcus heard his mother call out, causing a shiver to overtake his spine as he cringed upon hearing his middle name.
“Thawwy!” he called out, instantly regretting his choice to respond.
“Empty your mouth before you speak again, young man!” she scolded, wagging her finger at him.
Mr. Myers reached out and took her hand in his, giving it a light kiss. “Perhaps we can forgive him,” he said, winking at Marcus with the eye furthest from his mother. “It is a new tradition, and who can blame him for being excited about cinnamon rolls?”
His mom smiled and leaned over to give Mr. Myers a peck on the cheek. “Of course, you’re right, honey,” she said, and looked back at Marcus. “But mind your manners.”
Marcus nodded and went back to his cinnamon roll.
* * *
“Pppffffffffffoooooooooooooo!” Jacob mouthed with a rush of air as he flew the starfighter he had just built from blue and yellow bricks through the air above the small moon base he had built on the long plastic table. “Pew! Pew!” he added as his hand guided the small ship through a dive toward the base, turning it swiftly away as if evading enemy laser beams. “We’re under attack! We’re under attack!” he yelled as he knocked over one of the space men on the platform.
“Shut! Up!” Marcus cried out from a few feet away. “I can hardly concentrate on my game with you making all that noise over there!”
Jacob turned and saw Marcus guiding a tiny plumber across the television, jumping over pits and avoiding small turtles and strange walking mushrooms. “Whatcha playin’?” Jacob asked.
At that moment, the plumber jumped right into the mouth of an enormous plant, and Marcus threw the controller across the room. Hopping to his feet, he rushed over and got right into Jacob’s face. “Why you got to keep talkin’ like that? Can’t you see I’m playing my game?”
Jacob shied back a couple of paces and tried to think of how he could make Marcus happy again. Holding up his new ship, he held it out toward Marcus. “Do you want t’ play with me?”
Marcus slapped the ship out of Jacob’s hand. Almost in slow motion, Jacob watched it fly through the air and crash into the wood-tiled floor, disintegrating into dozens of smaller pieces. “No! I don’t want to play with you!” Marcus said angrily as Jacob looked down at his shattered toy. “I don’t want to play with you, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to live with you! I want you to leave me alone!”
From the corner of his eye, Jacob saw Marcus stomp off and sit back down to play his game again, but Jacob couldn’t take his eyes off of the blue and yellow pieces now scattered across the floor. He had spent a good hour or so building it and watching it destroyed so callously made him angry. Without even a second thought, he walked over to the entertainment center and reached out for the video game system. “What are you doing?” he heard Marcus ask, but Jacob refused to answer—or to be deterred. He pressed the power button and then walked back over, sitting down on the floor to pick up the pieces of his broken starfighter.
“What is wrong with you?” Marcus asked, his voice almost yelling. “I was almost at the end! You ruined it!”
Jacob turned around and snapped back, “Good! You ruined this!”
“I’m telling!” Marcus said as he stomped to the door leading up out of the basement.
“Go ahead!” Jacob called after him. “I’ll leave this here so they can see what you did!”
Marcus opened the door, took a couple of steps, and slammed the door behind himself. Jacob turned back to the bricks on the floor and took a deep breath. He wanted Marcus to be in trouble, but he wanted his ship to be back in one piece more, so he started to work on repairs.
* * *
Marcus sat down at the dinner table and noticed that there was so much more food than normal in front of him. The ham and macaroni pie were there, sweet potatoes and deviled eggs as well, but now there was a giant turkey waiting to be carved, some strange looking green been dish covered with brown crumbly things, and mashed potatoes with a bowl of gravy nearby. He was already salivating, hungry and ready to dive in for Thanksgiving dinner. He went to reach out for a nearby roll to butter up and instantly heard his middle name again.
“Marcus Payne, we do not eat before we say grace!” his mom called out.
“And before we get to grace,” Mr. Myers said, “We’re going to share what we’re thankful for this year.”
* * *
“Can I go next?” Jacob asked. His dad and Miss Martha had already shared how thankful they were for their new family and for each other, and Jacob wanted to share his now. Sara and Nia looked like they were still trying to think of what to say, and Jacob wanted to go before Marcus. He wasn’t trying to show his brother up. He just felt what he had to say was really important.
Miss Martha nodded with a smile and said, “Go ahead, Jacob.”
Jacob smiled and looked around the table. “First, I’m thankful for Miss Martha! She is so nice and she will be a great mom! I’m so happy she’s in our life now. And I’m happy I’m here with my sister and my father and get to welcome my new brother and sister to my life. But most of all, I’m thankful for Marcus.” He turned and looked at his new big brother and took a breath, slowly releasing it. “I don’t think he likes me very much, but I think he’s great, and I hope he lets me get to know him. I hope he’ll be my big brother and teach me everything he knows!”
* * *
Marcus felt his mother’s eyes on him, could even feel Mr. Myers staring at him. He wasn’t in trouble, but it sure felt like it. He stared down at his empty plate, looking at the blue floral pattern lining it, tracing it with his eyes as he tried to decide what to say. The last few days were flashing in his mind and he realized he had taken out his anger about his father on Jacob. It was stupid because his father had been drunk and abusive, and his mother deserved better, but now that his dad had actually been replaced, Marcus felt uncertain. Especially since his old family looked nothing like his new family. What would people think?
That clearly didn’t matter to Jacob though. That little blue-eyed snot was trying everything he could to get Marcus to like him. They would be sharing a room for some time, Marcus guessed, so it was either get used to having his new little brother around all the time—or be angry all the time. He was already upset enough that his own dad hadn’t cared enough to straighten out and be part of his life. He didn’t want to be angry anymore.
Looking up at his mother, he could see her waiting expectantly, her deep brown eyes staring at him with the slightest hint of disappointment. He turned and looked at Mr. Myers and realized that unlike his own dad, Mr. Myers really did love his mother, and loved him and his sister too because of his love for his mother. Finally, he turned to look at Jacob.
“I’m…” Marcus began to speak but found his voice failing him. He took a moment to compose himself. “I’m not used to saying what I’m thankful for, but, I guess I’m thankful I’ve got a new dad who really loves my mom. And I’m glad I’ve got a little brother who looks up to me even when I’m a jerk. I’m sorry, bud,” he said as he reached out and patted Jacob’s back. “I’ll try to be a better big brother.”
* * *
Jacob smiled as he looked around the table. So much food to enjoy, so many new tastes to try. Grace had been said and everything was as it should be. When dessert finally rolled around, Miss Martha brought out a pumpkin pie in one hand, and a different pie with orangish filling and crisscrossed lines of crust atop it in the other. Behind her came his dad with a large bowl of whipped cream.
“What’s that?” Jacob asked, pointing toward the unfamiliar pie.
“What’s that?” he heard Marcus ask and spun to face him. “What’s that?” Marcus repeated, a huge smile on his face. “Little brother, you’ve got a lot to learn! That there is peach cobbler!”
“Peach cobbler, please,” Jacob turned around and asked before Miss Martha even had a chance to ask. “With lots of whipped cream!”
“Oh no, not whipped cream,” Marcus said. “Iced cream!”
“What?” Jacob asked, and then saw his father place a second bowl down with vanilla ice cream in it. “All right!” He looked up at Miss Martha with a grin. “Peach cobbler, please, with lots of iced cream!”
“That’s my little brother,” Marcus said. He felt Marcus give him a hug from the side.
Jacob felt happy beyond words. This was how Thanksgiving was supposed to be.
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I really loved your writing style for this one...it was a pretty funny story, and I liked that because it was for kids. Really enjoyed it and I think you did such a great job!!
Thanks so much! I read the story to a friend last night who I often share my stories with, and she said, "That was so sweet! I loved it!" And I was like, "See, I don't always have to kill someone in my stories!" *grin*
Haha! I bet you're friend is as kind as you!
Nice story. You did well presenting each character and their personality. I really felt like I knew them. Great job! Would love for you to check out my two newest stories and to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Thanks so much! I appreciate it! (Heading off to check out your latest entries now...)