Morgan introduces Katrina to her family and crazy good times ensue!
|“Just take a deep breath and relax.” I told Katrina as we pulled up to my Aunt Sandie’s house. Although everyone in my family knew I was a lesbian, Katrina was the first girlfriend that I had ever brought to Thanksgiving dinner. Katrina-who was usually unflappable-was worried that our being together would not go over well.
“I don’t know if I can! Your family is so big! There’s got to be one of them who won’t like me.” said Katrina, turning red with frustration.
I found that hard to believe. Katrina was beautiful, inside and out. That evening, she was wearing a purple blouse over a conservative(for her) black skirt. I was still wondering where she got her purple patent leather pumps, but it was a secret I’d have to squeeze out of her another night. The wine-colored purple was a nice contrast to her complexion, which was either light tan or dark beige. She was playing with her loose curly hair nervously, and her full lips were trembling under her perky nose. Her big brown eyes were wide with equal parts excitement and fear. “If they’ve got a problem with you, then they’ve got a problem with me.” I said sternly.
She grinned at me. “You mean it?”
“Of course I do.” We leaned towards each other for a kiss. Before our lips could touch, I heard loud giggling from outside of the car. I looked and saw two skinny, cocoa skinned ten-year old girls with pigtails wearing the same outfits. They were Lisa and Leslie, my first cousin Daren’s identical twins. I opened my door to scold them. “What are y’all laughing at? Go on and stay out of grown folks’ business!” I scolded.
“Cousin Morgan’s got a girlfriend! Lets tell Grandma!” said Lisa. The only way you could tell them apart was that Lisa always spoke first.
“Yes!” Agreed Leslie. They both ran inside the house before I could stop them.
“Damn! Badass kids. It’s a good thing Aunt Tracy already knows.”
“Wow. I’m surprised they weren’t shocked.” noted Katrina.
I shrugged. “I’m sure they’ve seen Madonna and Britney Spears make out at least once in their lifetimes.”
Katrina just looked at me. “Are you serious?”
I smiled. “No. They’ve seen me with a friend or two. They asked.”
“And their dad doesn’t have a problem with you being around them?”
I squeezed Katrina’s hand. My poor sweetheart was just finding things to worry about. “Baby, it’s okay. We’re all family here. Until someone fucks up the turkey. Then it’s every man for themselves!” Katrina sighed. “Come on. Stop stalling and get out.”
Katrina reluctantly exited the Honda, and waited for me. We held hands as we walked to the front door. “I just can’t help feeling nervous! I mean, this means we’re an official couple.”
“Is this the same flirtatious creature who doesn’t give a shit if she wears underwear?” I whispered in her ear. Katrina giggled. “Re-lax. If they don’t like you, catch an attitude, and at least they’ll respect you. The worst thing you can be in my family is a wimp, and I know you’re not that.” I kissed her hand, remembering how she had really stepped her game up to get me. It had taken a lot of nerve to do what we did the first night…
“Whoa!” said someone from inside the house. I looked up at the living room window and saw a dark face peeking through the blinds. My cousin Neesha no doubt. The face disappeared as soon as I looked up, so I didn’t get a clear look.
“People need to grow up. For real.” I said, pressing my lips together.
“Who was that?” asked Katrina.
“I’m sure we’ll find out.” I muttered. I knocked on the door, which was more ritualistic than anything else. Everyone already knew we were outside.
My aunt Sandie answered the door. She was a short, compact caramel colored woman with a pleasant gap-tooth smile. “Come in! You know you don’t have to knock, Morgan.” She hugged me before hugging Katrina, looking her over. “Oh, you must be her friend! Come in!” We walked over the threshold and into the living room. My aunt Sandie’s house was built for entertaining. The five couches hunkered around the front door and big-screen HDTV were already filled to capacity with cousins, aunts, uncles, and their ‘friends’ and wives and husbands. The dozen or so children that ranged in age from four to twelve were sitting on the floor watching the Family Channel. Everyone was so preoccupied with conversation that no one looked up until Aunt Sandie announced us. “Morgan and Katrina are here!” called Aunt Sandie over the maelstrom.
All activity ceased. Even the kids looked away from the TV and looked at us.
“Morgan and who?” asked my older first cousin Ron from a crème-colored leather sofa. He slid off his shades and checked her out. “Damn girl! You got taste!” His two sisters, Catherine and Samantha who were sitting next him, thrashed him with throw pillows for me.
“Thanks y’all.” I grinned, holding Katrina’s hand. Me and Katrina snuck a gleeful glance at each other.
“You finally brought someone around. It’s about time.” said my Aunt Tracy, a woman who was the same complexion as Aunt Sadie, but looked completely different, with a tall, lean frame and big eyes and small teeth. She was a woman of few words other than ‘mm-hmm’ ‘no’ ‘and ‘you’d better not do that if you know what’s good for you’. She actually raised my eyebrows.
“You’d think you were ashamed of us or something, Morgan.” said my jovial Uncle Frank, turning around to look us over.
“I’m not ashamed of all of you. Just Colby.” I snickered.
“Ha ha. Whatever.” said my brother Colby, rolling his eyes. He was my complete opposite: More outgoing in any situation than I was-with a lighter complexion he inherited from our Dad’s side of the family-he to towered above me with his five inch height advantage. It was something he teased me about when I was younger, and still did from time to time. If not for the fact that we both needed contacts to see anything more than a foot away, I might have actually cared. “Don’t be mad because I got better game than you.” He waved at my girl. “Hey Kat.” He had seen Katrina several times before, at various times over the years. He wasn't surprised at all that Trina was now my girlfriend.
“Please. I came in second place last year. And I outscored you.”
“It’s a brand new year.” said Hector, as chocolate toned as Ron and flashing a gold grill. “This year I’m coming for that cash!”
Katrina wrinkled her eyebrow. “What are they talking about?”
“The Thanksgiving Gin Rummy Battle. Everyone who wants to play puts in ten dollars each. Whoever scores the most points wins all the cash.”
“And gloating rights for the rest of the year.”
“Yup. I’d rather be able to gloat that I beat everybody in here than have a cash prize.”
Katrina was a little surprised. “I didn’t know you were so competitive.”
“She usually isn’t.” interjected Uncle Frank. “It’s good to see her talk instead of just sitting in the game room playing Playstation.”
“I do not always play Playstation!”
“Yes you do!” answered everybody in the room.
“Well…damn…” I said, unable to think of a good comeback.
“It’s alright, baby.” said Katrina, rubbing my shoulder before I could stop her. I winced, doing a mental countdown in my head: 5, 4, 3, 2...
“She called her baby! They must be serious!” said seventeen year-old cousin Becky.
“I knew this girl had to be special! Morgan got secrets!” Neesha responded. The whole room was in an uproar. Even the older folks were coming out of their garage stronghold to see what was going on. Few of them liked the fact that I was out of the closet, but they were at least courteous enough to wave hello. It was about that time that my Mom came out of hiding to greet us. She looked a lot like me, bronze complexioned and curly haired, with a great smile that she displayed a lot more than I did. Sometimes I wondered how my mother could smile some days. But like me, she had secrets of her own.
“Hey you two!” she said cheerfully, hugging us both. “It’s good to see you! Don’t they make a cute couple, everybody?”
“Yes!” answered the room.
I beamed, unable to hide a grin. “Don’t just stand there, find some place to sit. The food’s almost ready.” said my Mom before going back into the kitchen. I squeezed us in next to cousin Terrance “Treble”, who was always writing music. He was pursuing a degree in music composition at the State University. Everyone was pretty proud of him.
“How’d the two of you meet?” asked Treble, adjusting his glasses.
“College. We became friends, and then it became more than that. Recently.” said Katrina, grinning that smile of hers.
“Oh! So you must know a lot about Morgan that we don’t know.” said Annie, Treble’s girlfriend since high school.
Katrina was baffled. “I guess so…”
“Morgan don’t tell us nothing, girl. She just keeps to herself.” noted Neesha.
“Well, I’m not going to tell you, Neesha. You ain’t even grown yet.” I teased.
“I am grown!” She protested, folding her arms.
“How long have you been together? As a couple?” asked Great-Aunt Christine.
“Since June.” Katrina answered, holding my hand.
“June!? And you didn’t tell nobody?” said Cousin Ron.
“Well, I didn’t want random visits from y’all trying to meet her before Thanksgiving…”
“Y’all live together?” half the room asked at once.
“Y’all are crazy.” I said, pressing my lips into a hard line. If they only knew we had purchased a house together. I was lucky most of my relatives lived out of state and were only in town for Thanksgiving. The rest I could fend off by visiting them at their houses.
“Food’s ready! Everybody line up and get a plate!” called my Mom from the kitchen.
“Perfect timing!” I said, watching the children scramble to get in line first. As an unspoken rule, the children and elders were served first, followed by everyone else. Me and Katrina didn’t rush to get in line, although I knew it would mean we wouldn’t eat for another twenty to thirty minutes.
I rested my chin on Katrina’s shoulder, since she was slightly taller. “So what do you think?”
“I think they care about you a lot.” she told me, smiling down on me.
“You don’t think they’re loud, or obnoxious-”
“I wish I had that on Thanksgiving.” I saw her drop her eyes and grow quiet. I knew she was thinking about her parents again.
“They still don’t know about us, do they?”
“They’ve suspected. They’ve been acting weird towards me lately. Like staring at me strangely when I come over. I think my mom even cleans up after I leave.” I could hear the pain in her voice.
“Baby, I’m sorry.” I sympathized, rubbing her arm. I hurt when she hurt. The fact that she still didn’t feel comfortable coming out to her parents was the only bad spot in our relationship. I just hoped it wouldn’t fester.
I felt a tug on my sleeve. “Morgan, do you have any candy?” asked six-year old Danny, looking up at me with his mournful eyes. I knew him well enough not to fall for his act.
“Get in line so you can get some real food, boy.” I scolded him.
Danny just moved on to Katrina. “Do you have any candy?”
“Boy, get over here!” called his mother, my cousin Eddy’s wife. She stared at us, with a mixture of uncertainty and fear before shooing her son back into line.
“I take it she doesn’t like lesbians.” whispered Katrina.
“I don’t really know. She’s always acted weird towards me. A few other family members are like that.” I shrugged, acting like it didn’t bother me. “That’s just how it is.”
Just then, the teenagers of the family came out of the game room to eat, marching in past myself and Katrina. They were sixteen year-old Winnie, fifteen-year old Darius and Rob, and my favorite cousin of them all, seventeen year-old Dalia(Dali for short). They all waved at me and suppressed a giggle when they saw Katrina, except Dali, who kind of froze up and walked away.
“What’s with that girl?” asked Katrina. “Is she someone else who doesn’t like lesbians?”
I frowned for the first time all evening. “She doesn’t care. That’s strange. Usually she’s the first one to give me a hug or whatever.”
“You two are close?”
“She’s always looked up to me.”
Katrina tried to comfort me by rubbing my arm. “Well, you know how teenagers are. Totally unpredictable. We were just like her not too long ago.”
“Yeah.” I rubbed my head. That wasn’t it at all. Dali never had mood swings. “We should get in line.”
I felt like my old self again. My old reserved, quiet self. If I wanted anyone to be happy for me, it was Dali. Maybe a part of me looked up to her. She was everything I had never been in high school: outgoing, popular, and somehow managing to pull off being tomboyish while still being pretty. She was more like a little sister to me than a cousin, since as long as I could remember. It really brought me down to see her reaction to Katrina.
I went through the motions of getting macaroni and cheese, cornbread, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, collard greens, yams, and turkey on my paper plate before retaking my seat on the couch next to Katrina.
“What’s wrong, More?” asked Katrina when I was half-way through my food.
“Hmm?” I replied, feigning ignorance. I wished I wasn’t so easy for her to read, especially not then. “Oh. I just bit my tongue a second ago.” I lied, wincing for effect. Katrina nodded sympathetically. I finished my food mechanically, barely tasting the meal I had been looking forward to all year. When I was finished, I offered to take up our plates.
As I was walking to the garbage can, I bumped into Dali, who spilled her drink on my brand new crème sport jacket. “Watch yourself, lesbian.” I heard her say. She didn’t even apologize. I quickly took off the jacket, trying to shake off as much liquid punch as I could.
“Thank God for Scotch Guard.” I whispered, glad I took care of all my clothing. I decided not to confront Dali. I didn’t know what was going on with her, and frankly, it wasn’t the time to find out with some forty odd people under the same roof. I folded my jacket up neatly and rejoined Katrina on the couch, where she was being grilled by my Aunt Georgia.
“So what do you do? What do you bring to the table?” asked Aunt Georgia. My aunt was a no nonsense, cut to the chase kind of woman. If she wanted to know something, she’d ask you first, and worry about your feelings later. Her hazel eyes seemed to look right into your mind for the truth. It was funny to watch her grill someone, as long as it wasn’t you.
Katrina looked to me for a rescue, and sure enough, I intervened. “Aunt Georgia, is all this really necessary?”
“It’s a simple question, Morgan. Unless she does something that she should be ashamed of…”
“I’m a stenographer for the court system.” said Katrina quickly.
“Oh.” That raised Aunt Georgia’s eyebrows. I guess she thought since Katrina was a lesbian she must be doing something shady, when actually nothing could have been further from the truth. I suppressed a smirk.
“Katrina, do you want some dessert? It’s in the other room.” I told her, trying to get her away from my aunt.
“I’d love some.” She beamed at me. I took her hand, and we got into a line that was already forming. “Why did you take off your jacket? Are you hot or something, baby?” She rubbed the back of my silk and sheepskin shirt.
I couldn’t suppress my grin. “Now I am.” I rubbed her hand, suddenly wishing we were somewhere else more private.
“Oops. My bad.” Dali’s voice suddenly broke through my mood. I looked over to see that Dali had smeared the side of Katrina’s blouse with strawberry-jam topped cheesecake. By ‘accident’.
Katrina put on a brave face. “It’s alright. More, I’ll be in the bathroom.” I gave Dali one of my rare I’m-going-to-eat-your-children looks. Then I followed my girl to the bathroom. “You don’t think she did that deliberately, do you?” asked Katrina as she furiously scrubbed her sleeve over the sink.
I sighed. I didn’t want Katrina to think the worst of Dali, but facts were facts. My favorite cousin was fucking with us. “She ‘accidentally’ spilled punch on my jacket earlier. I was going to let it go-”
“I’m not letting it go. She tries one more thing, and I’m calling her on it.” Katrina tried her bleach pen as a last resort, which worked well enough. She smiled at me bravely. “Still want desert?”
I pushed a strand of her hair off of her forehead and smiled back. “Yeah.”
By the time we left the bathroom, all of my favorite desserts were gone. Settling for my mom’s German Chocolate Cake wasn’t too bad though. I had barely chewed my first bite when everyone was trying to organize themselves into games. “Hey, Morgan. You still playin’ Rummy?” asked my cousin Ron.
“You know it. Katrina, do you want to join in?”
Ron slid down his shades and glared at me, furrowing his eyebrows. “Morgan, your girl is not going to like the way we play Rummy.”
“What makes you think that?” asked Katrina.
I gave Ron a look, even though I knew he was right. I really let loose when I played cards. I drank, and I had no problem smoking Blacks when it came down to it. I acted like one of the guys, and I was treated like one of the guys. I even talked like one of the guys. I had no idea how Katrina was going to react to that. “Trina, maybe it would be best if you-”
“I get it. You want to kick back. Let your hair down.” she scrunched up her face as she scratched what little fuzz I had on my head.
“Baby!” I protested, trying to fix it. Of course, everyone in the room catcalled and hooted at that.
“I so did that on purpose.” gloated Katrina with a big grin. “It’s alright though. I’ll find something to keep me occupied.”
“Girl, get over here and play Uno with us!” called Neesha, waving her over to the recently cleared desert table. Dali, who was sitting at the table, gave Katrina a sour look, but Katrina just gave her a patented ‘your-bitch-powers-are-useless-against-me’ grin.
“Be nice.” I whispered.
“Only if I can.” Katrina murmured back. She gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “See yah.”
“Alright.” We went our separate ways. I went through the patio and put a ten dollar bill into the paint can marked “Prize Money!!!” All of the older men played their hands of Rummy on the patio, while the younger people had to play outside. It was kind of annoying, but we were in the south where it didn’t get that cold in autumn. I could handle it. I sat down at my usual table, the round oak one that was chipped on the left side. I always sat on the chipped side across from Colby, with Ron on my right, and Hector on my left.
“Girl or no girl, you ain’t winning shit.” said Hector, already shuffling the cards.
“It’s too early in the night for you to be running your mouth, Hec.” I said. “But if you must know, I’m coming for it all tonight.”
Colby quickly counted all the other tables. “With a hundred-sixty dollar pot? Hell no! I’m getting it!”
“Whatever man. Deal already.” said Ron. We already knew the rules. You had to make as many sets of three or four matching number or face cards, or three or more cards in numerical order as possible in a given turn. Face cards were worth ten points each, with number cards worth five each. Aces were fifteen points each. Everyone started out with ten cards in their hands, and twelve in the discard pile. There were going to be five games played at our table. Whoever scored the most points at the end of the five games would move on to the last game with the winners from the other tables.
I was looking at a pretty good hand. I had an Ace, a 2, and a 3 all in the same suit. I also had three eights, with the rest being unmatchable deadwood. I took a swig of the Heineken that had been waiting for me on the table. “So Hec, how’s Lonnie?” I asked, referring to his on-and-off again girlfriend of two years.
Hec shook his head, rearranging his cards. “That girl is tripping! Her friends are always saying I’m trying to holla at ‘em. Single females ruin it for everybody.”
“So you think her friends wanna fuck you?” asked Colby, not looking up from his hand.
“Hell yes! She got this one fine friend, Alicia, who got an ass like Deelishus from Flavor Of Love, but she too crazy. Otherwise, I’d be all up in that!”
“You’d cheat on Lonnie? Just like that?” I asked, raising my eyebrow.
“What? You wouldn’t get a little something on the side if you could get away with it? You gone soft, Morgan. You letting that pussy blind you.” Colby discarded one card and drew another. We all did the same.
“Blind me to what? I’ve got a motherfucking dime man. Why would I settle for a seven?”
“Pussy is pussy.” said Ron.
“Apparently you haven’t had good pussy.” I said with a grin.
“Damn! I knew she had that good shit!” exclaimed Colby.
“She always been like that? You know.” asked Hec.
“What the fuck are you asking me?” I replied in annoyance.
“I’m saying, has she always been with just females?”
“Why do you care? She’s with me. That’s all you need to know.” I said defensively.
“Uh-oh! Morgan’s getting all mad! You worried she’s gonna find a nice big dick and run off?”
“My dick’s big enough…” I smirked.
“OH!” said everyone else at the table, leaning back in their chairs.
“Damn, I did not need to know that shit!” said Colby, burying his face in his cards.
“What, you think since I’m all quiet I can’t lay it down? I can lay it down.” I bragged.
“I should have known that shit. Katrina wears the lipstick.” said Ron, knocking.
“Fuck! Already?” said Colby.
“Why are you stressing? Don’t have any decent cards?” I teased my bro. When we all laid our cards on the table, he really didn’t. All he had was a set of three threes, and the rest of his cards were deadwood, leaving him in third place. I ended up being in first with my original run, eights, a trio of sixes with a deadwood five. All in all, it was not a bad start. Ron was fourth, and Hector was second. “After all that talk, you still can’t beat me.” I said, shuffling the cards for the next hand.
“That was the first round. Don’t think you’re the shit just because you have Katrina on your arm.” said Colby.
“I’d beat your ass anyway.”
“Bullshit. Last year you got lucky.”
“Hurry up and deal!” said Ron impatiently.
“Keep your pants on, man. I’m not giving anyone an unfair advantage.” I said. When I finally did shuffle the cards, the guys wanted to know more about Katrina.
“So you’ve known her since college, right?” asked Ron.
“I bet you’ve been hitting that this whole time. She’s probably been on your ass to make it official.” chuckled Ron. “Females are all the same. Commitment…love…all that shit. They’re not satisfied until they’ve got your nuts in a jar.”
“Women just want a guarantee. You wouldn’t buy a brand new car without a warranty, would you? Well, women want a man guarantee. Shit, a relationship is a fucking investment to a woman. If you decide to knock up a bitch and leave, all you got to do is pay child support. Meanwhile, the woman’s got saggy ass titties, stretch marks every damn where, and less men will want to fuck her because she’s got kids. Shit!” I looked at my hand and knocked immediately. My whole hand was deadwood.
“That’s what you get make for making all them damn speeches.” said Hec, laying out his cards. He had a five-card run, plus a set of face cards.
“Fuck!” I downed the last of my beer. It was going to take a lot to come back from this one. “You got any Blacks, Colby?”
“Yeah.” Colby slid me one with a lighter, and I lit up.
“This isn’t over.” I said, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
“Three more games left. I’m second now, and I’m taking it all.” said Colby. I heard yelling coming from the house, and in a few seconds, Lisa and Leslie were running to our table.
“Morgan! Your girlfriend’s gonna fight Dali!” said Lisa.
“Son of a bitch!” I put out my blunt and made a mad dash for the inside. I walked in on Dali and Katrina standing over the Uno table pointing at each other, with cards scattered everywhere like confetti.
“I know a cheat when I see one! You’ve been giving me the worst hand on purpose! I saw you do it!” said Katrina. My girl was emotional when it came to everything. Arguments were no exception. “And I know you smeared that strawberry jam on me on purpose!”
“You don’t have any proof of that!” said Dali, eyes narrowed.
“What is your problem? Is this how you treat the people I care about?” I asked Dali.
“Why do you have to be such a fucking queer? Why can’t you be normal like everyone else?!” yelled Dali.
“Language!” called out Aunt Sandie from the other room. The one thing you did not do in my auntie’s house was say anything worse than damn or hell around the kids. She wasted no time grabbing all three of us and shooing us into a spare room, which was already cleared out. “I don’t know what’s going on, but none of you are leaving until you work it out!” she closed the door behind her.
Katrina flopped onto the bed. “Great. I’m in time out, and I’m twenty-five.”
I sat down on a chair, and told Dali to do the same. “Tell me what the hell is going on with you! You never had a problem with me being gay before.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything.” she wouldn’t even look at me.
“Oh, you don’t do you? You don’t need to tell the cousin who taught you how to play basketball? Who showed you how to tie your shoes when no one else could? Who encouraged you to go out for class president, even though you didn’t think you had a chance in hell of winning-”
“And I wish you didn’t!” said Dali suddenly.
“Why? Is someone messing with you?”
Dali sighed, reluctantly sitting down. “No.”
“You know can tell me anything. Come on. Spill.” I told her.
“I don’t want to say it.”
“Well if you don’t say it, it’ll be a thousand times worse than if you did. You know that already, don’t you?”
Dali nodded and took a breath. “I think I’m a lesbian.”
“I totally forgive you then.” said Katrina, rolling her eyes from the bed.
“Trina, please…” I started, not wanting to make the situation any worse.
Katrina ignored me and talked to Dali directly. “If you think that gives you a free pass to abuse other people, you’ve got another thing coming. Listen sweetie, being homosexual does not make you dumber, more promiscuous, sicker, or any of the other shit you’ve heard from your little friends at school. You simply like women instead of men. It’s just that simple, even though people try to make it complicated. The sooner you accept it, the less miserable you’ll be.”
“How can I accept the fact that I’m in love with my best friend?” said Dali.
Me and Katrina gave each other a look. “How do you know she’s not into you?” I asked.
“Does she have a boyfriend?” asked Katrina.
Dali shrugged. “It’s not like she doesn’t go on dates. She does. But she always finds something wrong with them.”
Katrina nodded. “I used to be like that. A serial dater.”
“You used to date guys?”
“Yup. Until I started being honest with myself. Guys are fine, but I’ll never fall in love with one of them. That’s just how it is for me.”
Dali smiled a little. “Is that because you’re in love with More?”
Katrina blushed. “We’re talking about you!”
“I guess that’s a yes.” said Dali, grinning.
Katrina turned away, trying to return to a normal color. “Damn kid.”
“So...you think I should ask her out?” Asked Dali.
“Definitely not right now. You need to work out your own feelings and make sure that you’re a lesbian.” I told her.
“How do I do that?”
“Do you look at other girls instead of guys?”
“Well, yes.” she said looking at her feet with a smile. “I just can’t stop looking at the cheerleaders! Especially this one girl with a blonde ponytail-”
I held up my hand for her to stop. “I get it. Have you always been like this?”
Dali nodded. “Yeah. I just couldn’t tell anyone. No offense, but I thought I’d have to cut all my hair off and wear suits.”
I frowned at her. “None taken. My look is more personal choice than anything else, though. Even if I wasn’t a lesbian, I’d still dress like this.”
“Really?” asked Dali.
“Really. There’s no dress code for lesbians. Just look at Katrina.” I pointed at Katrina, and she waved, fluttering her fingers. “You can’t look to stereotypes to figure out how to live your life. You have to just live it.”
“Just don’t rush into coming out. You have to make sure you’re ready, and you have to make sure you’re really a lesbian. You could be bisexual. You might just be overreacting about a really close relationship. Whatever the case is, find out before you do anything or say anything to anyone else. People can be really cruel to lesbians, as you’ve just demonstrated.” noted Katrina.
Dali looked at her feet. “I don’t know why I did that. I was already angry at myself today for feeling the way I do about Joanie, and then I saw the two of you so happy together, I guess I just lost it. I shouldn’t have acted like such a baby.”
Katrina smiled. “Just don’t make it a habit, Miss President.”
“I won’t. It’s not really like me to be mean to people. Honestly. I gave you a really bad first impression, and I’m really sorry. Especially to you, More.” Dali actually looked like her eyes were tearing up.
I got up and hugged her. “You’ll always be my cuz. No matter what you decide to do.”
“Thanks. I know I don’t deserve a hug right now-”
“Save it you two. We’ve got games to finish.” Katrina got up and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “See you later baby. Go get that cash!” She gestured to Dali. “Let go of my girl. Come on!”
“Is she always this bossy?” asked Dali, wrinkling her eyebrow.
“Only when she needs to be.” I grinned. I left the room and went back outside to finish up the next few rounds of the game. As I predicted, I eventually scored the most points.
“I don’t believe this shit.” said Colby, slamming down his beer in disgust.
“Beaten by a girl.” added Ron.
“At least I’m not a straight girl.” I chuckled. “Could be worse.” Hector just stormed off without saying anything. “Is anyone going to watch me play the Final Game?”
“Naw. I’m going home.” said Colby out of irritation.
“You just don’t want to see all that cash in my hands. That’s all right. I’ll just come by your house tomorrow and wave it in your face then!” I laughed. The beer and Black and Mild’s had me feeling loose. I liked that feeling. I sat back in my chair, enjoying my buzz. I felt someone’s arms around my neck, and a soft, feathery kiss behind my ear. “Hey, baby. I won the first round.”
“I heard. Are you gonna win it all for me, baby?” asked Katrina.
“You know it.” I said with a lazy smile rubbing her arms.
“Good. Because there’s this cute new thingy I want to buy, and I don’t have the money until I get paid.”
I frowned, and Ron and Colby laughed. “Excuse me, what?”
“Well, you said you were going to win it all for me. Were you lying when you said that?” asked Katrina, taking her arms back.
“What I meant was, I’m winning for you, but I’m keeping the money.” I hoped that would clarify the situation.
“Unbelievable.” she walked away from me.
“I may have lost the game, but at least my girl isn’t mad at me today.” snickered Ron.
“I can’t believe you told her you were going to win it all for her. That’s a damn shame.” said Colby, shaking his head.
“That’s not what I said.”
“But that’s what she heard. And she isn’t going to let this go.” advised Ron.
“Nope. Not on Thanksgiving. It’s going to be stored in her little ‘Morgan has fucked up’ mental file. You better watch yourself.” Colby nodded.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here letting two dudes educate me on women! I’ve got a game to play.” I got up and leisurely strolled onto the patio.
“Took you long enough.” Said Cousin Mike, who immediately started to deal.
“Hurry up with this. I got work in the morning.” said my perpetually tired Great-Uncle Tomas. He was old enough to retire, but seemed perfectly happy running his lumberyard. Well, miserable was more like it. He was one of those people who perpetually complained about every little thing. “I’ve got to fire a few of my workers tomorrow. Can’t find no good help these days.”
“I don’t know of anyone who can work seven days a week. A man’s got to rest some time.” Said Uncle Frank.
I looked through the sliding glass door and saw Katrina. Our eyes met, and she gave an angry glare. “What did I do?” I mouthed silently.
“You know!” she mouthed back. I saw her motion for most of the younger women to come join her on the couch. I knew that could only mean one thing: Girl Talk. And girl talk about me, no doubt. I wanted to drop my hand and go into the living room immediately to defend myself, but of course I couldn’t. The only way I could get out of the situation was to win the game as quickly as possible. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I couldn’t just fold my hand like in a poker game. I had to think of something fast, Katrina and the ladies were already looking at me and suppressing their giggles.
“I think I have to use the bathroom.” I stated.
“You’ll have to hold it like everybody else. You wouldn’t want everyone to think you were trying to cheat.” said cousin Mike, eyeing me warily.
“I guess not.” I said, focusing on my cards. I had a great hand. A 5,6,7,8 run and a set of sevens. Maybe it would all be over with soon and I wouldn’t have to fold after all.
“Why are you out here playing with all the mens, anyway?” asked my Great-Uncle. “You should be in there with all the other women who like to run their mouths.” I didn’t answer, I just kept my eyes on my hand. “You hear me talking to you, girl.” he stated, pushing for an answer.
“I like playing Rummy. And I’m going to win this hand.” I looked him dead in the eye, and held his gaze until I felt confidant enough to look away.
“Young folk should have respect for their elders. But I guess you don’t think that applies to you, Miss Bull Dagger.”
His archaic term for a lesbian made me chuckle. “I got nothing but respect for my elders. But my elders should at least respect me enough not to call me out of my name.”
“Chill out, you two.” said Uncle Frank, playing mediator. “Let’s bring it back to the game.”
“I don’t have to listen to a thing you say, Frank.” replied my Great-Uncle. “I was grown when you couldn’t even tie your shoes.” Uncle Frank shut his mouth. Mike discarded a card and retrieved another one. Everyone else followed suit. “That’s the problem with you young folks today. No respect.”
I suppressed a grin. I had just picked up a nine to add to my four card run. I only had one deadwood card left. If someone got deadwood within the next hand, I’d be all set to win. I looked through the sliding glass door and looked at Katrina again. Everyone around her was laughing uncontrollably. I turned around and focused on my hand. If I could just hold on-
“I wonder what’s going on in there?” said Mike. “Why do they keep laughing at us?”
I shook my head in annoyance, trying to think about winning the game. “It’s me. I think Katrina is gossiping about me.”
“What did you do?”
“She thought I was winning this money for her, but I’m really not.”
“You’re going to be sleeping on the couch, right? You are the one that usually does, right?”
I sighed. “I don’t have to worry about that. Katrina's getting her revenge right now.”
Uncle Frank chuckled. “I guess that’s the best way.”
“I don’t see how y’all can even discuss that!” Spat Great-Uncle Tomas. “It’s sinful!” He slammed a card down, and my heart went into my throat when I picked up another. It was another deadwood card. I mentally cursed as everyone else drew a card without a reaction. It looked like it was going to be a long game. “I can’t even understand how you can do what you do.”
“It’s easy. I love her.” I said simply.
“You can’t love her. She’s another woman.”
“Tell that to my heart.” I replied.
“Humph. You young folk today have no idea what love is. You think anything with that smiles back at you is something you want.”
“Katrina is the most loving person I know. Even when we were friends, she would always look out for me. It’s more than her smile. But now that you mention it, she does have a great smile, doesn’t she?”
My Great-Uncle scowled at me, and drew another card. We all followed suit. “You’re an embarrassment to this family. You should have had enough shame not to bring her here!”
“I’ll never be ashamed of someone who makes me homemade soup when I’m sick, someone who makes me laugh when I’m sad, and someone who pushes me to be the best.” I looked through the glass at Katrina, who had the rest of the family’s attention. I recognized her facial expressions. She was telling a story about me in college and how I found out I was allergic to rutabagas…the hard way. She always made her face swell up when she told the story in a perfect imitation of me. I laughed. Katrina tried to frown when she saw me looking, but all she could manage was a pretty blush that highlighted her spontaneous grin. We laughed together for a moment.
“Damn, my wife won't even cook for me when I'm sick.” muttered Mike. Great-Uncle Tomas rewarded him with a glare.
“You’re going to hell. All I can do is pray for you.” Great-Uncle Tomas stated, casually drawing a card.
“I’ll do the same for you.” You old bastard! I added mentally. I picked up another card and inhaled quietly. It was another deadwood card. No one else showed any sign of folding. I was slowly losing my temper.
“What is wrong with you finding a man? All you have to do is grow your hair out some, and wear a skirt-”
“I’m gay. I don’t find men attractive.” Cousin Mike and Uncle Frank tried to bury themselves into their cards as much as they could. I had never come out and said those words to anyone in the family.
“You act like that’s a term to be proud of. Back in my day, they’d beat people like you.”
I narrowed my eyes to mere slits. “If you think you can beat me, old man, then by all means take the first swing!”
Again, Uncle Frank played mediator. “Enough. This is supposed to be a game. You two are making it ugly.”
“Shut up, Frank!” growled Great-Uncle. “Let me tell you all something. When I came up, people had respect for their elders. When they spoke they were listened to, and not spoken over. And women went with men. These are the two main reasons people don’t have sense anymore! Disrespect, and bull daggers and faggots everywhere!”
I slammed my cards facedown on the table. I was about to fold before I cursed him the fuck out. The sliding glass door opened unexpectedly, and I heard the familiar sound of Katrina’s heels clicking against the patio linoleum. “Is everything okay in here?” She asked me with concern. If there was one thing we had in common, it was our tempers, and knowing the best time to diffuse them.
“It’s just a little disagreement.” I told her, eyeing Grand-Uncle Tomas with distaste.
“What about?” She asked, folding her arms, and looking at everyone of us at the table. No one would look her in the eye. “Whatever it is, keep it down, okay? The kids are getting a little scared.” I looked through the glass, and sure enough, everyone in the living room was giving us strange looks and whispering. With another look, Katrina turned to leave.
“Trina.” I said. “I’m gonna win it all for you.”
Katrina turned back to me and smiled. “You already have. Thank you.” She blew me a kiss and winked before leaving.
We all remained quiet until Uncle Frank finally folded his deadwood hand. The points were tallied up, and in the end…I came in second for the second year in a row. I comforted myself with the fact that I came in second to Mike and not Great-Uncle Tomas. “Great game.” I lied, feeling I had put up with Tomas’s verbal abuse for nothing.
Katrina came out to the patio again. “Did you-”
“Nope. But I lost to a great cousin, so it’s no big deal.” I gave Cousin Mike some daps, but didn’t wait around for him to collect the money. Me and Katrina went back into the living room and took a seat on a sofa. “I’m sorry, baby. I really wanted to win the money for you.” I whispered.
“But you won the argument for me.” She said, winking.
“I guessed. That grumpy old man didn’t take too kindly to you bringing me here, did he?”
“Screw him.” I muttered. “I love you.” I said, hugging Katrina.
“Ah!” screamed Neesha, who was eavesdropping. “She’s hugging her!” The room gave a collective ‘Aw’.
“Damn kids.” Me and Katrina murmured in unison before releasing each other.
“Is it true that you’re allergic to rutabagas?” asked Dali, who plopped down on the sofa next to me.
“Yup. College cafeteria food is toxic anyway.” I said, wrinkling my nose.
“Did you fall off a boat?” asked Lisa.
I glared at Katrina for telling that story. “It was her fault. ‘Look at the pretty dolphin’, she tells me. As soon as I lean over to look, it surfaces and freaks me out, and I’m going overboard into the water.” I fold my arms in mock anger. It had been pretty funny at the time. At least the dolphin let me hold on to it’s fin until Katrina could get someone to get me back on board. “But do you know what else happened on that college trip in Europe?”
“What?” asked everyone in the room. Katrina turned a bright red, shaking her head.
“Katrina fell down in front of the Eifel Tower.”
Everyone erupted into laughter. “I can’t believe you told them that!” said Katrina, as bright red as she could manage.
I shrug. “Turnabout is fair play.”
“You are so going to pay for this.” She said, flipping her hair back in annoyance.
“Looking forward to it.” I whispered in her ear.
“All right everybody! It’s time for the Soul Train line!” announced Uncle Barry “Bass”, Aunt Sandie’s husband.
“You didn’t tell me your family does a Soul Train thing at Thanksgiving!” whispered Katrina.
I got off the couch. “It was a surprise.” Katrina got off and helped me shove the couch against the wall. Everyone else was shoving other pieces of furniture out of the way to make room.
“God, Morgan! I dance like a white girl!” she hissed at me.
I stared at her, suppressing a giggle. “Well, technically, you kind of are a white girl.” Katrina shot me a dirty look. “What? How black are you really?” I found it odd that we had never had that discussion before, but it had never come up. It simply hadn’t mattered to me.
“Are you serious? Both of my parents are black!”
“Really? I thought you were, you know, like a quarter black or something.”
“Like there’s such a thing as quarter black. Look around you. What’s she?” asked Katrina, pointing at my little cousin Alicia, a quiet little girl of seven years of age. Anyone outside the family would have assumed she was Latino.
“And what’s he?” asked Katrina again, pointing at my Uncle Dan, who had already lined up and was clapping his hands to ‘We Got The Funk’ by Positive Force. He could have easily passed for Greek or Italian, with his nearly-straight hair, and light brown eyes.
“There you go. I just happen to dance like a white girl.” sighed Katrina.
“I wouldn’t feel too dejected about dancing like a white girl.” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“Rule number one of The Soul Train Line: Dance However You Want.”
“Really! Now let’s get in line.” We got in line and watched everyone do their thing. Aunt Sandie and Uncle Bass danced together, doing some artistic strutting that had me clapping my hands and laughing. Next up was Colby who starting jooking his heart out, followed by Dali who was doing an old school break dance. Soon, the song changed to ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ by Parliament Funkadelic, and Katrina’s turn was coming up. With a nervous look in my direction, Katrina got on the floor and started moving to the beat naturally. “Go girl!” I yelled out, to get her confidence up, and after that she let loose, and let everyone have it. I wondered who had ever told her she danced like a white girl. By the time she got to end of the line she was grinning wider than she had all night. I took my turn, going old school seventies, shaking my hips, and doing quick steps. At the end of line, Katrina gave me a hug.
“You looked great out there!”
“So did you! Where did you learn to dance like that?”
Katrina shrugged. “I never did. That’s why I thought I danced kind of stiff, like a white girl.”
“You don’t and even if you did, it wouldn’t matter.” I told her. Suddenly, the music stopped, and everyone booed.
“Damn computer.” swore Uncle Bass, going into his office. After a few minutes he came back and announced it had crashed.
“Shoot. I was having so much fun, too.” said Katrina, dejected.
“It’s not over yet.” I grinned knowingly. “Hey Uncle Bass, do you still have your bass guitar?”
Uncle Bass looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Of course I still my bass! Can you still sing?”
“Of course I can still sing!” We shared a laugh.
“I’ll get my trumpet out of the car.” announced Cousin Treble.
Katrina looked confused. “Was this planned?”
“Nope. But where do you think I get my obsession with being prepared from?” In fifteen minutes, Uncle Bass and Cousin Treble had their instruments set up, Colby was setting up the family drum set, and Cousin Voss brought out his electric guitar. Aunt Sandie brought out her keyboard, and we were a ready made band.
“What do you want to sing?” asked Uncle Bass.
I thought for a moment. “How about some Luther?”
“ ‘She’s A Superlady’?”
I looked at Katrina, who was having a conversation with Annie. “Perfect.” I grinned. The Soul Train Line was reorganized, and my Uncle started the opening riff on his guitar. When I sang, I gave Katrina my undivided attention. I felt the whole song was about her. When Katrina went down the line, she lingered, dancing for me in return. It didn’t seem the night could get any more perfect than that, but everyone had great songs they wanted to hear, like Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, Brick’s ‘Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody’, The Cover Girl’s “Tell Me You Love Me’, and about a dozen more. I had a lot of fun, but I was worn out in an hour and a half.
“Let this be the last one.” Said Colby, who was starting to get off beat on Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’.
“Deal.” I said, finishing the song. Everyone cheered when it was all over.
“You have a family band, and you didn’t tell me?” Katrina exclaimed as I walked into the kitchen and got a drink of water.
“It’s not really a band. We’re all just the musical people in the family, and we’ve jammed together a few times. Tonight was a spur of the moment thing-”
“I didn’t know you could sing like that, girl!” exclaimed my cousin Stephanie who was getting a soda. “I’ve got to get you to sing at my wedding!”
“Uh…” I couldn’t think of a outright refusal quick enough.
“She’ll think about it.” Katrina said for me.
“Great! Call me in another week when you’ve made up your mind.” She gave me a hug. “And you better bring your girlfriend! You two look so cute together!” she said as she walked off with her soda.
“Katrina-” I started to growl.
“Do the wedding. Why do you always hide the fact that you can sing?”
I shrugged. My talent came from very unusual…training when I was younger. It killed me a little whenever I sang. I didn’t know what I had been thinking volunteering to sing, but it had been the first time I had sung without feeling the pain. Maybe I could do it again. “I’ll think about doing the wedding.”
“You’d do a really great job. Nothing to be scared of.”
“So says the woman who won’t be singing.” I said, a bit gruffly.
“Just think about it. Your cousin seems like a nice person. And I’m sure she wouldn’t have asked you if she thought your voice was mediocre.”
I nodded silently. “I’ll think about it.”
“Good.” Katrina watched me as I sipped my water.
“I think it’s time we started heading out.” I said, looking at my watch.
“Hmm. We’ll make it home by one if we hurry.” added Katrina.
“Why rush home? We don’t have work tomorrow.” I noted. Katrina bit her lip, letting her eyes play over my body. Then she ran her fingers through her hair and gave me the light, flirtatious chuckle that let me know she was thinking about something that would make my cheeks glow. I stepped in to her, lowering my voice. “How fast do you think I can drive?”
“With or without my hand on your thigh?” she whispered back. She leaned in to give me a kiss, but something stopped her.
“Whoa. That is not what the kitchen is made for, ladies.” noted my Uncle Vincent in a mildly chastising tone.
Katrina blushed. “We were just leaving.” I said, trying to save a little face.
“I bet you were.” He said with a conspiratorial grin.
Me and Katrina left the kitchen. A few other relatives were already going out the door. I managed to stop Dali before she left and give her a hug. “Good luck with everything, cuz.” I told her.
“Thanks. And good luck with you and your girlfriend. I hope when I get older, I’m half as lucky to find someone like that.”
Katrina hugged Dali unexpectedly. “Good luck.” Dali looked a little stunned, smiled shyly and then stepped away. As Dali was walking away, Katrina whispered to me, “Yup. She thinks I'm cute."
“Wow. I hope she can deal with it.”
“She’s a Richards. Aren’t you folks prepared for everything?” she said with a wink.
I felt two hugs on me from behind. “Sneak attack!” yelled Lisa and Leslie in unison for once.
“Hey, you two! Have a good night, alright?” I said, turning around and hugging them both.
“When are you coming up from The City again?” asked Lisa.
“We want you to teach us how to sing!” added Leslie.
Leslie’s comment made me freeze, but I maintained my composure. “Sure. The next time I see you, I’ll teach you ‘To Be Real’.”
“Really? Yay!” They both hugged me again. After that, it was a blur of hugs from everyone. It sucked that I hadn’t gotten the chance to speak to my Great-Aunt Christine, but I promised to make a special trip to her house over the weekend.
“And you better bring that girl of hers to.” she told me. “Georgia’s not the only one who can do some interrogating around here.” Her wink let us know she was only joking. My great-aunt had a killer sense of humor, not to mention the fact that she could make a pecan pie like nobody’s business.
The hugs and goodbyes seemed to be endless. “Bye everyone! We really have to go!” I said, finally taking Katrina’s hand and walking out the front door.
Katrina ran her fingers through her hair as we walked to my car. “That was so much fun!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah. I had really good time.” After we both got in, Katrina looked out of her window hurriedly. “What are you doing?”
“Making sure there are no children, teenagers, or adults are lurking around before I kiss you.” She leaned towards me, and we shared the kiss we had been trying for all night. “Mm.” she said, breaking it off. “I think that will tide me over for the next hour or two.”
I started up my engine and smirked. “An hour? We’ll see…”