**In honor of Thanksgiving next week, this week’s challenge includes the holiday…and tofu and a reunion.**
The house was full to bursting with relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews; everyone had gathered for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It was a controlled chaos of noise and joy. Jesse both loved and hated it. He adored his family, they were really a great group of people, but he wasn’t used to so much noise and it was wearing on him. He tucked himself in the back corner of the living room where the bookcases muffled a little of the noise, and just observed.
“Jess, honey,” his mother’s voice rang out above the din. “Can you come help me for a minute?”
“Sure,” he called back even as he started to move in the direction of the kitchen. As soon as he pushed through the swinging door, the worst of the noise cut off and he breathed a sigh of relief.
His mom gave him a knowing smile. “I figured you could use a break.”
Jesse grinned back. “What can I help with?” He figured that if she was nice enough to give him refuge in the kitchen, the least he could do was help her out. Mom usually preferred to do everything herself. It was a source of pride for her. He expected her to turn him down, but her smile just grew.
“You can be my fetch and carry boy. Then I don’t have to get up as much.” She resumed chopping vegetables. After a moment, she asked, “Can you grab the tofu out of the fridge?”
Jesse started, surprised. Then he shook his head as he crossed to the fridge. “Tofu? What the hell?” He retrieved the container from the fridge and brought to her.
His mom just laughed. “Well he’s a vegetarian, so I wanted to make him something more filling that I was certain he could eat. I’ll do a tofu stir fry.”
Jesse’s eyes narrowed. “Who is?”
She just kept chopping and pointedly ignoring him. Jesse let the silence stretch out for a couple of minutes before he leaned on the table. “Who, Mom?”
Just then, the doorbell rang. Several young voices chorused out that they would get it, but Jesse’s mom cut that off with a shout. “Jesse will get the door!”
Jesse’s glared at his mother suspiciously. “What did you do?”
“Answer the door, Jess,” she said placidly.
He took one more moment to glare, then did as she asked. He made it to the front door just as the bell rang again. Pulling it open, Jesse froze. On his porch was the man that Jesse was sure he would never see again. Not after he’d walked out of Jesse’s life ten years ago.
Andrew looked good. It was clear the years had been kind to him. His dark hair was still as short as it used to be, but his blue eyes were clear and bright, even if his features were a little more creased than they had once been. He smiled warmly, and all Jesse could do was stare.
“Hi,” Andrew said, his deep voice exactly how Jesse remembered.
“What are you doing here?”
Andrew gave a small laugh. “Your mom invited me.”
Jesse frowned. “I meant–”
“I moved back,” Andrew interrupted. The smile he offered was a little sad. “I saw your mom at the grocery store last week and she invited me for dinner since I had no other plans. But if you don’t want me here, I’ll leave.”
Jesse stepped out onto the porch and shut the door softly behind him. He didn’t know what he wanted. He let his gaze wander the neighborhood as he hugged his sweater a little closer against the chill.
“I take it she didn’t tell you I was coming,” Andrew said softly.
Jesse shook his head, then blew out a harsh breath. He still couldn’t make himself look at Andrew. “I never blamed you for leaving. Or even for making a clean break. I was proud of you. I just never thought I’d see you again.” Jesse went quiet and let that sit there for a moment, before he chanced a sideways glance at Andrew. “You’re a vegetarian now?”
“I left to get clean. I’ve been sober for 9 years and 3 months. Along the way, I adopted some healthier lifestyle choices as well.” Andrew gave a little shrug, and a self deprecating smile. “I left because I loved you and I couldn’t keep hurting you with my drinking. You were the reason I saw that I needed to change, to get better. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point in my life. I came because I’m clean and healthy, and I wanted to make amends.”
Jesse considered that for a long moment. Then he turned to give Andrew his entire attention. He looked good, he sounded sincere, and Jesse knew he was seeing the man he fell in love with all those years ago, instead of the man he’d been at the end of their relationship. Jesse took a deep breath, and then one step towards the door. He tilted his head, and then smiled.
“Come on in.”