Romeo’s Thanksgiving: Book Excerpt

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A lot’s happened in the past couple months, writing wise. I entered Pitchwars where I received a full request (though I ultimately wasn’t picked.) I also received a full request for my last manuscript, The Bug Collector’s Bucket List, from both an editor and another literary agent. I wrote the first chapter of a brand new sci-fi romance novel. And I’m now working on revisions for Romeo and the Scarlett Letter again based off some beta reader and Pitchwars mentor feedback. On top of all the writing stuff, I also started another long-term sub job, so I’ve been pretty busy to say the least!

I haven’t had time to come up with any clever blog post ideas, but since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought I’d share a holiday scene from Romeo and The Scarlett Letter. This particular scene is from Romeo’s POV, and he’s just traveled from Texas to California to see family, including the grandma he adores so much.


 

Aunt Rosa and Uncle Eduardo’s house smells exactly the way I remember it. Like vanilla candles and fruity-scented dog shampoo. Their two Shih Tzus greet us with high-pitched yaps as we let ourselves in through the front door. Of course, the dogs are no match for all the voices clashing together at the other end of the house. Hence the no-knocking thing. There’s really no use at holiday gatherings here. 

“Molly! Maverick!” Nina kneels to let the dogs smother her face in kisses. I like dogs and all, but I’ll pass on the slobber. 

“Hector, is that you?” My grandma’s velvet voice rises above the rest. 

“It’s us, Mama.” We start down the hallway, only to be stopped by an onslaught of family. 

“Hector! Romeo! Nina!” 

I’m passed from one embrace to another, finally reaching Grandma at the end of the line.  Her ever-present white apron covers a flowery dress, and one cheek is smudged with flour. She stands on her tiptoes to kiss my cheek. “Romeo, mijo. How you’ve grown!”

We were here last Christmas, but maybe I’ve added another inch since then. And I’ve definitely put on some muscle this school year. “Hi Grandma.” 

Once everyone’s been properly greeted, we shuffle to the large living room, Molly and Maverick barking at our feet. A soccer game plays on the television, so the guys settle into any available space to continue watching. The women return to the adjoining kitchen where they’ve probably been cooking all morning. It’s the usual scene and one Mom always complains about when she comes.

“I’m going out back with Olivia,” Nina says, skipping after our eleven-year-old cousin. The good thing about Southern Cali is that it’s nice all year long. Perfect for playing outside. And here, Nina has plenty of cousins to entertain her so it’s always a nice break for me.

I squeeze in between my Uncle Miguel and cousin, Roberto, who’s a couple years older than me. 

“What’s up, Romeo?” Roberto nods toward my knee. “Healing up any?”

Of course Dad would have told Eduardo, so the whole family likely knows the story. 

“It’s getting better. Should be out of the brace in a couple weeks.”

“No!” Uncle Eduardo yells at the TV, interrupting our conversation. “What the hell is Hernandez doing?”

“I don’t think he knows,” Uncle Miguel scoffs. “They better get it together.”

My eyes flick to the screen which shows two players from the same team talking with lots of hand gestures. But soccer’s never been my thing, so I’m not really sure what’s going on.

“Tina,” Miguel calls toward the kitchen. “Lunch about ready?” 

“Almost,” my aunt calls.

“Be back in a minute,” I tell Roberto, pushing up to my feet. As expected, the kitchen is crazy busy. Aunt Tina and Rosa stand before a sandwich making station set up on the kitchen table while my oldest cousins, Jennifer and Marcia, work on some kind of mashed potato casserole. Aunt Jamie chops carrots while Aunt Sofia stirs gravy at the stove. They’re all laughing and carrying on and no one seems to notice my entrance. I sneak up behind Grandma as she’s rolling out dough.

“Apple pie?” I ask, though the bowl of apples pretty much gives it away. Plus, it’s one of the few Mexican desserts that also happens to be an American dessert, so Grandma religiously makes it every Thanksgiving. 

“Romeo!” Her eyes crinkle around the edges as she turns to hug me again. 

“Can I help with something?” 

“Romeo! Get out of my kitchen!” Aunt Rosa scolds with a smile. 

I hold up my hands in a show of innocence. “Hey! No need to be worried, ladies. I didn’t come in here to show you up.” Though I’ve endured plenty of teasing over the years for liking to cook, it’s always been in good fun. At least from the female side of the family. The only person it’s ever seemed to bother is Uncle Miguel, but he quit giving me crap after Dad got pissed and told him off a couple years ago. 

Grandma pushes the bowl of apples my way and nods toward the peeler. “Wash your hands first.”

“Yes ma’am.” 

***

The sun fades into the horizon as I sit in a porch chair, watching Nina and several of our younger cousins play a game of hacky sack on the front lawn. I’m not sure how they can even move after that meal. I feel like a stack of bricks has settled inside my stomach. Totally worth it though. 

“Dang it!” Nina squeals as she misses the hacky sack again. She retrieves it from the ground and serves toward Olivia. The soft thwack, thwack, thwack continues a record five times this round before flopping past Alexander’s outstretched foot.

Back inside the house, most of the adults are crowded in front of the television again where it’s third quarter of the 49ers versus the Rams. I only watched a little of the first half. Now that I can’t play football and probably never will again, I’m just not in the mood. Plus, Scarlett’s been on my mind more than I care to admit. Sometimes, it’s just easier being alone with my chaotic thoughts. I told Dad I wanted to keep an eye on the kids out here. Ever since the whole baseball bat incident in my own front yard, I figure one can never be too careful. 

“Romeo, wanna play?” Alexander asks.

I point to my knee. “Probably shouldn’t. But thanks, bud.”

“Oh yeah. I keep forgetting,” he says with a frown. “That must suck.”

Suck, it does indeed. 

The front door creaks open and Grandma’s small, round form appears, white apron splattered with various stains from today’s meal prep and cleanup. The woman hardly ever sits down. But she crosses to the chair beside me and eases down into it. 

“I was wondering where you went off to. Don’t want to watch the football game?”

“Nah. It’s a nice evening.” 

“Mmm,” Grandma says, and I can’t tell if it’s an agreement or something else.

Nina squeals as she drops the hacky sack again. “Ugh. This game’s too hard. Let’s go swing before it gets dark.”

“We have a floodlight in the back yard,” Olivia informs her as the four of them walk toward the side gate. “It lights everything up so I can swing until midnight if I want to.”

“Cool,” Nina says. “I’m gonna make my dad get one of those. And a new swing set. My last one broke.” 

The kids disappear around the corner of the house, leaving Grandma and me alone. 

 

(I’ll stop there so as not to give away any big spoilers!)

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