Updated: Oct 8, 2021
(Beauty And The Beast 2)
Content and cover photo © Rosalie Thorne
Editor: Kathryn Maurer
Be Our Guest is a continuation of and takes place after the events in the novel Something There.
Please look to the earlier work, Something There, so you won't be lost in this story!
Keep an eye out for the next installment in the story of Isabelle and Adam, the novel: Enchanted Christmas.
Be Our Guest
By Rosalie Thorne
“And who’d have guessed
they’d come together on their own?”
- Beauty And The Beast (1991)
BE OUR GUEST
A 36 Hour Novella
Thanksgiving week is finally upon the little town and Kingsbury High students couldn’t be more excited. Finally, more than three days off from school! A whole nine and a half days, in fact. Not only that, but friends who have graduated and older siblings are returning (so a lot of dates and times for parties have been flying around).
After the first snowfall, the weekend of the Homecoming game and dance, things warmed considerably and it seemed Autumn rallied for a fight. On Wednesday the 21st of November, whether it will or won’t snow on Thanksgiving is the big question everyone is asking – not sure if they should add extra time for the commute to their relatives, not sure if a trip to the store for more beer will be worth it, not sure what the weather means for Black Friday shopping, etcetera.
And for the first time in a long time, Tony and Isabelle O’Hara actually have to pay attention to such worries because for the first time in a long time they will not be having Thanksgiving at home. After completing the home of Jim and Rosalie Moseley, the husband and wife were not only so excited but so impressed with the work of the father and daughter team that they became insistent that they join them for Thanksgiving!
“Come! Enjoy your work; be able to experience what joy you bring to others,” Rosalie had said in her final argument.
But really it was the unspoken thought of how nice it would be for Tony and Isabelle. This year, it would not just be the two of them, like always; not just them with a very small meal, eating at the coffee table in front of the fire, like every year; not another night where Tony fills the void with TV while Isabelle sticks to her books and the absence of one person is a deafening silence. The thought of a traditional feast, with conversation and laughter, of distraction simultaneous with making memories was too appealing. So, finally, they said ‘yes’ to Rosalie realizing it might not be such an inconvenience on her after all.
“What time are we expected over there, again?” Isabelle asks her father from across the table, looking up from her Chromebook and the various recipes for pies she is narrowing down.
“Mmm, she said we could come as early as noon, if we wanted, but she won’t be plating dinner until four.”
Curious, Belle’s eyebrows rise, “Is four in the afternoon normal for Thanksgiving dinner?”
Her father chuckles softly. “I suppose so! I remember back when your mother would drag me to your late grandparents’ house… she always wanted to help your grandmother cook, you see. So, we’d go bright and early and I’d end up falling asleep on the couch right next to your grandfather and we’d take a nap until the rest of the family caused too much of a ruckus.”
“And what time did you all usually eat?”
“Well, see, that’s the thing… it varied every year. I suppose it’s whenever food was ready or whenever the majority of the family was there. It’s a shame your cousins live in Japan and France… everyone’s just so far away.”
This is something Isabelle has thought to herself quite a few times. Of course, she’s reached out to her extended family on social media or by email but her grandparents’ death a few years before her mother’s and then when that happened…. Well, ‘family’ became a rather loose term, didn’t it?
“It is really nice of the Moseleys to extend such an invitation to us. I know we’ve been working for them for almost, what, nine months in the end? But –”
“Well, I don’t think we’re exactly strangers now are we,” her father looks at her over his reading glasses. “Come now, Isabelle… it’s a good thing to connect with new people. That’s how you and Adam got together, is it not?”
Her eyes may have rolled but she is smiling. “All right, all right… maybe I’m just a little nervous.”
Stifling laughter, his head shakes slowly, “You have impressed them more than any adult ever has. There’s nothing you could possibly do that would make them think any less of you.”
Isabelle takes her father’s words in, logically they make sense, but her heart is still twitching. Quick to text Adam, she knows he will instantly make her feel better.
Hey, babe, you busy?
The gang just left,
And all the excitement tired Bitty out.
I’m just nervous about tomorrow.
With the Moseleys?
It’s all just so…
Different’s not all bad, you know.
You can still come though, right?
After the church thing for Bitty,
I’ll be right over.
I can’t wait to try Jim’s micro-brew.
I won’t lie,
It’s so funny but so weird to me
How great of friends you guys are.
Says the girl who’s totally BFF’s
Laughing now, Isabelle is feeling much better about it. It may be new, it may be different, but once she can look past that, she’s knows it won’t be bad at all. After all the time spent on the renovation, that residence feels just as much as a second home as Adam’s house does. Plus, Adam’s right to say that she and Rosalie have become such good friends. Maybe because she’s not actually that much older – only ten years her senior – Rosalie feels almost like a sister.
Even though fewer than two hours have passed since they were all together (which makes every day since they all got back), their group chat is blowing up. Jerry, David, Angie, and Adam found out how much they had really missed each other on their first night home and now there’s such an urgency to hang out, joke around, laugh, and reconnect.
Jerry is an only child so he instantly viewed David and Adam as brothers and Angie as a sister. (Due to his bi-sexual nature, those three have really been the only people he’s not hit on at least once.) Perhaps because he is their only son, a son his parents were not anticipating and who came as quite a shock given their rather mature age, they parents always had a hard time connecting with him. Treating him as more of a friend or even a colleague… well, that kind of pushed him to be more reckless and fun-loving (or rather, fun-seeking). Getting to move to California for college was a dream come true and having spent so many months there already has only enhanced those qualities in his personality. Rolling into town with his (proudly) antique VW van, curly hair blonder than they’ve ever seen, and a LED vape pen that he uses for more than flavored nicotine, the rest of his friends weren’t even shocked and joked that all college did for him was concentrate his ridiculousness.
David, who took a while to really let down his walls around Jerry and Adam while in their shared sixth grade class, is one of those people who seem to stay exactly the same no matter how much they’ve grown. With older and younger sisters, he ‘speaks Angie’ and will stand his ground when David and Adam are being assholes. Reliable to the point of going to a state university, stable enough to have his own car and a part time job while being a full time student, always on time, great note-taker, good at ‘wrangling the cats’ as they say, he is happy to keep everyone’s schedule for the week and remind them when there are things to do.
Angie, on the other hand, is a bit more like organized chaos. Really, she is a world of her own. The eldest sister of seven, the only blood child of her parents, she was basically a second mom to the six foster-turned-adopted kids in her family (ages currently ranging from fifteen to seven). Even though she stayed in New England for school, it was hard to move any sort of distance away her family. Homesick within hours, she was surprised how quickly she wanted an escape after being back for the weekend. Yes, she absolutely adores her family but she will take any chance she can get to get out, relax, and have some fun. Even if it’s just sitting on Jerry’s bed watching the boys play Super Smash Brothers, because ‘oh my gosh, let me just veg… just for a little bit.’ Though, she does always seem to keep the snack situation under control.
Adam, even though he’s been plenty distracted and happy with Isabelle, has been looking forward to their homecoming since they all left in August. For weeks all he could think about was how amazing it would be for them to be back. Going to their usual haunts, keeping their traditions going (no matter how big or small, serious or silly), and having Bitty see her (actual) favorite people. A few weeks after that, after everything changed thanks to Misses Beaumont, a new fascination was added: his friends meeting Belle, but more importantly Belle meeting his friends.
Weirdly enough, though, Saturday night through Wednesday night and they still haven’t all gotten together. Sure, there were a few pocket moments here and there where the best friends met the girlfriend but it was more in passing rather than the event he wanted it to be. Seeing Jerry at the grocery store, seeing David at Bookends, seeing Angie at Café Andromeda, but never all five of them in one place at one time for the sole purpose of hanging out.
Families and other friends, parties and things in the city are blame enough, but Adam really is excited for Thanksgiving itself. It’s a bit of a surprise for Belle, but he’s made sure Jerry, David, and Angie are all coming over to the Moseley’s for dessert, to which Rosalie and Jim were thrilled, to say the least.
“The more the merrier, please!” were the exact words from Misses Moseley.
Reminding everyone again, Adam messages:
You’re all set to be there tomorrow, right?
J: Of course, man! Can’t wait to drink and play pool with Jimbo!
D: Yes, 6:30 at the earliest, 7:15 at the latest. And I’m happy to be DD (Looking at you Jerry)
A: I just got off the phone with Belle, I’ll be going over tomorrow to help with her pie. She has no idea I’ll be there in the evening though! Can’t wait for the surprise. She’s just so sweet, Adam! Well done.
J: Seriously, dude. Keep treating her right, Or I’ll have to sweep her away! Lol
D: I’m really glad, as well. You two have built such a strong foundation.
Though Belle is obviously just as much a part of the relationship as he is, Adam can’t help but feel proud about it all. Hearing her laughter, feeling her touch, seeing her wear his mother’s necklace every single day without fail… it really makes him feel, down to his very core, accomplished and satisfied.
With it being almost blindingly sunny, the blue skies are as vibrant as a robin’s egg, with scarce thin clouds floating at random. A chill in the air threatens snow but frost is nowhere to be seen, leaving this Thanksgiving morning exceedingly beautiful. The breeze is almost nonexistent, only the loosest of leaves twitching on their branches (parents and children and animals alike take a moment after stepping outside to appreciate nature, appreciate life). Even though the sun will be setting around five o’clock, darkness is a far-off thought – there’s simply too much to do, there’s so many places to go in so little time, there’s too many people to see, and there’s too much food to enjoy.
Having already been awake for two hours and forty-five minutes, Isabelle has helped her papa with the animals, eaten a decent breakfast of eggs and bacon, taken a shower and done her hair and makeup, setting aside her clothes for later. She’s getting everything ready to make the apple pie for the Moseleys later, so busy in fact she misses a call from Angie. Twenty minutes after the missed call, there’s a knocking at the farmhouse’s front door, startling Isabelle and the resident Husky.
Tucking Chippy behind her leg, Belle opens the door slowly and then throws it aside once she sees Angie. Long, dyed-grey hair sits in a knot at the top of her head, her makeup on-pointe and ready for a runway, and her clothes are far from the traditional overly comfy choice for Thanksgiving, rather a pair of lavender skinny jeans with a flouncy white blouse and a bright pink tank-top underneath.
“Isabelle!” she squeals and goes straight for a hug. After they part, she still holds on to her hands. “How are you, my dear?”
“I’m very well, thank you! And you! Look at you,” she guides her arms side to side. “You look amazing!”
Her laugh is billowy and genuine, “I just have way too much time on my hands, that’s all. The littlest ones are just as excited for today as Christmas – God only knows why – so I’ve been up since seven… maybe even six.”
Walking side by side to the kitchen, Belle nudges her a little, “Com’on though, you love having a big family.”
Her smile is a bit dreamy, “I do!”
Angie slides onto a stool next to the almost-too-small island in the middle of the kitchen. Belle wraps around to the other side and finishes arranging everything. “I must confess, I’m not the greatest at baking. It’s like chemistry… also something I’m not the greatest at.”
“I think Adam would beg to differ,” she teases before biting in to half an apple slice.
Belle blushes and points a finger, “You, miss, are about just as bad as the boys, you know that?”
“Trust me, darling, I’m much worse,” and she winks.
The church bell echoes through the center of the little town, marking the end of their special Thanksgiving service. Families of all shapes and sizes, individuals from all stages of life, slowly file out of the building into the courtyard with the picnic tables. Though the forecast called for snow later in the evening, everyone is giving thanks for how beautiful the morning has been. Even Adam, who goes to church for Bitty and Bitty alone, can admire how nice it is when they get outside.
Bitty, who is already running with a group of kids from her daycare, is having the time of her life and Adam couldn’t be happier. Having such a smart, caring, and pure-hearted sister can be a blessing… sometimes her optimism and rose-sighted-ness rubs off on him and he gets to see the world from a whole new perspective.
She comes over to him quickly, her blonde pigtails swish back and forth. “Adam!”
A little bit excited to see what she might have to say, since she’s usually a very talkative and thoughtful girl after service, he settles her into his lap. “Yes, Bitty?”
Her eyes the same color blue as his stare back at her, she’s squinting a little. “I got a ques’ion.”
“And what’s that?”
“I know that… that Mommy went to help God, in Heaven, but – well, but, where are her parents? Daddy says they alive but they never come see us.”
And that’s exactly how it can be a curse, too. For now, she’s living her best life, only seeing the beauty in the world and in people. But, little ‘ques’ions’ pop up like this that can easily make her castle in the sky come crashing down. Easy to explain some things away (for now), but that leaves Adam worried about the later… the later when she realizes how not-great things can be and how awful things can happen for no good reason at all.
“Well, Bitty, you know how we talked about how the world is a very big place?”
She nods slowly, “Yes.”
“Well, sometimes it’s so big that people can’t travel across it.”
“Mmm, sometimes people are really tired. You know how I have to carry you to bed sometimes?”
“My legs get heavy.”
“Well, the world is much bigger than our house.”
Some sort of understanding flashes across her eyes. “Oh, okay.” After a moment she looks back at the kids, “Can I go play now?”
He checks his phone behind her back. “Just for a little bit longer. We need to have lunch with Dad before he goes to work.”
She perks up at this, but quickly says “And then I get sleep-over at aun’ Molly’s!”
Not actually her aunt, but the purple-hair co-worker Adam and Isabelle share at Bookends, her apartment is a kid’s dream because of her nerd tendencies and Wicca practices and fluffy cat. She is going to school for early childhood education and absolutely loves to babysit Bitty, referring to her as ‘fae.’
“Yes, and then you get to stay with aunt Molly and Luna.”
Already off his lap, she turns from running towards the other kids. A huge smile and a little clap, she says, “La-luna! I love la-Luna. She is the best cat ever!”
The knot in Adam’s chest eases as he watches Bitty play. At least, for now, the moment has passed and she has nothing more to worry about than a game of tag.
Standing in front of the refurbished French-doors Isabelle is oh-so-familiar with, she clutching the edge of the pie tin nervously. Angie says the pie turned out perfectly, her papa reminded her there was nothing to be nervous about, Adam texted that he’d be there as soon as he could and yet there’s something…. Something that tickles at Belle’s mind, something that squishes her stomach, something that makes the hair on the back of her neck stand.
Maybe because she’s been spending more time with Molly, since she loves to babysit Bitty, but Isabelle is learning to listen to her instinct. (Maybe not to go as far as call it her intuition, but somewhere in the same ball park.) Trusting that sub-conscious, or fundamentally biological, response has led her to make better choices and to second-guess less. And right now, as she waits for the door to be answered, all she can think is ‘this is something big.’
Her thoughts cannot go down that rabbit hole though, because Misses Moseley opens the door with a huge smile and a rather excited, “Hello!”
With her short black hair in its usual bob, the only thing different for the holidays are her bangs pulled to one side with branch-looking clips. Her usual pastel wardrobe is replaced with an emerald, scoop-neck blouse tucked into a burnt orange corduroy pencil skirt. Bangles jingle on her wrist, a ‘statement’ necklace flutters on her chest, and even in her own home – because it completes the look, of course – she’s rocking knee-high brown leather boots. Fashion forward yet timeless, Belle never questions the fact she works in media.
As she gives Belle a huge, tight hug, Tony slips in the entryway and shakes Jim’s hand. “How are you, son?”
Jim smiles his crooked smile, “Great, and yourself? Enjoying that post-renovation vacation?”
Tony only laughs and goes on to say, “That work’s never really done, is it.” The farm, the maintenance of some of the places he owns in town, working on his truck… it’s all just a carousel of jobs.
Jim understands; being a hard-working laborer himself, having grown up working for his parents who breed horses in Scotland. But after all the time and effort Tony put into their home, he wishes the old man would take a break.
Belle likes Jim for that, thinking he has the right idea. So, she gives him a smile when they all head towards the kitchen. Rosalie had already taken the pie from Belle and is gushing about how thoughtful she is.
“Really, Belle, I wouldn’t know what I’d do without you!”
Around the humongous white marble island with dark grey cupboards on one side and a lip for stool-seating on the other, Rosalie gives Tony a pointed look. “Can I tell her?”
Belle’s head whips towards her papa, “Tell me what?”
His knowing look turns into a broad smile and he gestures to Rosalie, “Go ahead, then.”
“Well,” she draws out slowly while putting the uncovered pie on her ornate cake stand. “One of the magazines I work for, Inside Out, absolutely loves what you did in the formal living room and wants to do a small spread about it!”
Air knocked out of her, Belle’s mouth gapes a little. Trying to recover she just stutters, “I’m-m sorry?”
“After you helped me decorate for Christmas, I sent Jessica pictures. Well, Jess forwarded those pictures to Amy and Amy sent them to Susan,” she waves a perfectly manicured hand, “Anyway! The picture with the arm chair and then the wreath and garland over the fireplace and then the tree went viral in the office and they want to put it in the December issue!”
“Isn’t that amazing, Isabelle?” Tony asks his daughter with wide eyes and a goofy smile. “Your work in a magazine!”
Voice a little shaky, Belle doesn’t look to anyone in particular, “But Inside Out is huge…. Like, the biggest interior design magazine in the South right now! With the monthly print, their website, their Instagram – so many people love it.”
“And they’re going to love you, sweetie!” Rosalie has a hand over her chest. “If it’s okay with you and your father, they’d like me to ask a couple questions about all the work you did here. And they’d really like us to get a picture tonight, of us hanging out in front of the fire.”
Feeling like a five-year-old who’s shocked into muteness, Isabelle looks to her papa. She opens her mouth but doesn’t even know what or how to ask. Of freakin’ course this would be something she’d love to do. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes of fame, it’s still a reference she can put down in her resume or portfolio!
She could already picture it now, when her issue arrives in the mail, cutting out the page and framing it. She’d probably put in next to her vision board, under the picture of her and Adam from the Homecoming dance.
“That seems like a ‘yes’ to me, huh kiddo?” and he reaches over to hug her.
Finally finding her voice, she nods her head over her papa’s shoulders and replies “Yes! Yes of course!”
Bitty safe and sound and distracted at Molly’s, Dad long gone for work, Adam enjoys the few moments of silence and stillness in their tiny house as he gets ready. A three-bedroom, one bath, with a galley kitchen, and a living room/dining room/office mix has already been outgrown by the three of them and Bitty isn’t even five. So, on this rare occasion when Adam is alone and has free rein on the house, he revels in every second of it.
A shower without someone barging in to pee, tumbling his clothes in the dryer just because he can, able to style his hair without a million questions ‘why,’ and able to make a cup of coffee without having to multi-task… really, it’s the little things.
On their concrete slab of a back porch, coffee mug in one hand, a cigarette in the other, Adam looks across the thinly frozen lake and the gaggle of geese on the far end. Asshole birds too stubborn to leave the frozen north… reminds him of his father and his secrets.
How one day, in the middle of Adam’s third grade school year, he said they needed to move. One weekend later they left the safety and stability of their Southern home and they came to find themselves in this little town in the middle of the North. And then, again, some random time after Lindy died, he said they need to move. Infant and all, one weekend later, and they moved across town to this hovel of a house. Sure, he’s fixed it up as best he could over those first few months, but why?
Also, why did he never let Adam have a cell phone – to the point where Adam had to buy a burner phone for years until he was eighteen? And why did he get into Adam’s head that social media is dangerous and the last thing you want to do is be so accessible to strangers? Because it’s a misguided way to protect him? Adam isn’t so sure anymore.
Bitty’s question scratches at the back of his mind and he can’t help but analyze the very minimal information he has. His father has always told Adam that his mom’s parents hated him. Which, after living with him and sharing parental responsibilities with him, he can understand why – even if his father only claims it’s because he’s poor and her family is rich. He also says that because of their hatred of him, after Adam and Bitty’s mother died, they wanted nothing to do with him, and therefore nothing to do with them. Knowing how prejudice can genuinely cause hate, even if it’s your own blood, Adam’s always taken those answers at face value.
But, after feeling the unconditional love he has for Bitty and the new-found selfless love he has for Belle and the loyal and affectionate love for his friends, Adam is having trouble believing his own grandparents would abandon him.
Before they moved in third grade, they would see his grandparents almost every weekend. Adam doesn’t really remember them complaining or being rude… he doesn’t really remember anything negative at all about them. Until, that is, his mom died and his dad moved them again. Then, the whole image of his grandparents turns dark and negative and resentful.
But is that really their fault?
… or someone else’s?
Lost in thought, his coffee goes cold and his cigarette dies. Lost in thought, he doesn’t hear the knocking on the front door and he’s aggressively startled when Jerry comes around the corner of the house.
“Yo! I was knocking on the door for, like, five minutes! What gives?”
Setting down his coffee on the patio table, he stands with arms up ready for a hug, “Hey! Didn’t expect to see you for another couple hours.”
After the hug, Jerry pushes a few curls out of his eyes. Taking the comfort aesthetic of Thanksgiving rather seriously, he stands in tattered tan moccasins, gold and red elephant print sweatpants (he’d stolen from his girlfriend), and a plain white tee sticking out from a cheap (and therefore rather thin) dark yellow hoodie. His skin tanner than anyone in town, his white teeth seem whiter when he gives his charming smile. “Apparently, my parents didn’t really believe I was going to be here for Thanksgiving and had to catch a red-eye this morning to New York for some conference.” After a deep drag from his vape pen, he shrugs, “I rolled out of bed about twenty minutes ago.”
“Helen and Rob aren’t bad people…”
“Just bad parents,” they say together with a laugh.
Plan going a little crooked because of Jerry showing up with Adam instead of with David and Angie later, Adam decided to text Isabelle when he parked and let her know he had a stow-away. A bit surprised, very pleased and excited, Isabelle opened the door with gusto and welcomed them in quickly.
Isabelle hadn’t called or texted Adam about the news at all, not wanting to interrupt his time with Bitty but also because this news is so huge, she wanted to do it in person. In person, now she is bursting at the seams to tell him.
As comfortable and confident as ever, Jerry slips into the house and finds the kitchen and starts a conversation with Jim without any hesitation, leaving Isabelle and Adam alone in the entryway. His coat off and hung, but still seated to take off his shoes, Belle can’t stand it anymore.
“Babe!” she squeals.
He laughs a little and stops, holding his shoe mid-pull. “What?” he asks, matching her enthusiasm.
Adam can tell something truly great is about to come out of her mouth by the way her freckled cheeks are so high in a velvet-lipped smile that little wrinkles fan out from the corner of her eyes, by the way those hazel eyes are sparkling, and by the way her chest is fluttering with a fast heart and shallow breath. Shoeless, he stands and places his hands on her shoulders, “Tell me!”
“Misses Moseley – Rosalie – she said Inside Out – the magazine – she said they want take a picture of the work I did in the living room for the December issue!” Her little hands reach up to grab his arms. “They want to do like a mini interview and me be in the picture! Rosalie said they might even post it on Instagram, tagging me and everything!” completely breathless she takes a huge inhale, “Isn’t that amazing?” she whisper-screams.
Adam only vaguely recognizes the name from a stack of design magazines that Belle keeps in her bedroom. If she has it though, it must be good, and so if they want her, that’s bloody brilliant. “I’m so proud of you,” he kisses her forehead softly. “I told you, you are amazing at this! This’ll be the first of many times your name will be in print, just you wait.”
Belle looks up into Adam’s face and finally feels a bit of stability since her arrival. His unruly dirty blond hair that always has a few strands hanging across his forehead; his icy blue eyes that show his strength and the passion of his heart; his strong jaw that’s maybe a bit mature looking for his age, but the little shadow of stubble compliments; and his soft lips that form a smirk – that smirk easily becoming one of Belle’s favorite things. It’s his presence alone that grounds her in the best way.
“I knew today was going to result in something big .” she confesses. “I just didn’t expect it to be this.”
He kisses her softly then wraps her in a hug. He’d actually had that same sort of gut feeling and he’s glad it is for something good (rather than bad, which it always was before he met her). If he’s honest with himself, actually, everything really had been on the up-and-up something is since they met. Not necessarily all because of her but because of the new perspective she brings to the table.
“I like you,” he murmurs in her ear, saying it the way he would say the other words he wishes to tell her.
Though they both fell head-over-heels so quickly, they have been careful with their progress. After one particularly intense night alone in her room, they ended up discussing that ‘love’ doesn’t have to mean ‘in love’ and they both only want to say it if it’s true. They’ve gotten into the habit of saying ‘I like you’ instead in moments of dearest affection.
Belle squeezes his waist and replies, “I like you, too.”
Formal cherry wood dining table long enough to seat ten has been the setting for this Thanksgiving dinner for over two hours. With a modern interpretation of a traditional ‘chandelier’ overhead, the fabric table runner displays the ever so perfect cornucopia of flowers. Parallel, picture-perfect table settings of white and gold, textbook in their preparation, held copious amounts of food for the seven of them and only now are mostly cleared with impossible-to-eat-anymore helpings or even just piles of assorted crumbs. Instead, the attention of the group has turned to their drinks and conversation (stomachs not yet ready for anything sweet).
The sun has set, the sky gone dark, the expected snow only just starting to fall, when there comes a knock at the front door. Even Jerry and Adam, who are so wrapped up in the present gathering, look back with confusion. A snap realization then Adam jumps up and says, “Be right back,” before anyone else can move. There’s a rather loud greeting, some familiar voices and laughter, and then David and Angie come sauntering in behind Adam carrying a plate of cookies and brownies.
So very pleased to see the people she now considers her own friends, (especially Angie who saved her butt while making that pie), Isabelle is quick to jump from the table and run over to hug them both. “I didn’t know you guys were coming!” She looks between them and back to Jerry. “This is so wonderful!”
Rosalie is walking towards them now, too, offering hugs even though they’ve just met. “It really is so, so very wonderful! I’ve always wanted a house full of happy people. Thank you so much for coming,” she squeezes Angie’s hands.
David gives thanks rather properly - which matches his brown slacks and tucked in dark blue button down, and adjustment of his glasses – and then heads to a seat next to Jerry. Rosalie, on the other hand, takes her time with Angie, chatting about each other’s fashion.
Still standing under the arch from the hall to the dining room, Isabelle’s hand finds Adam’s and she takes a moment to pause and reflect. She takes a moment to really be present, to really see everything before her.
Even though Misses Moseley had been the one to open her home and her heart to all these people, Belle shares in the feeling. If today (and the past couple of days) have taught her anything, family doesn’t always have to mean blood relatives. Instead, and more importantly, family can be those you choose to keep in your life, those you choose to love and cherish.
And so, she looks at her now rather big family and can’t imagine being anywhere else with anyone else.
“Okay everyone, it’s time!” Rosalie calls to all her houseguests.
She had just spent the past thirty minutes or so with just Isabelle, asking her some questions and taking down her answers. (She asked simple things like, “Who are some of your inspirations,” “What is it about design that you love,” “When’s the first time you helped your father on a renovation,” but also some harder questions like, “What is some advice you’d give to the readers,” “Does a specific era or place influence you,” and, “If so, how do you want to make this a part of your career?”) Now it was time for the pictures and she and Isabelle agreed it might actually be better to have everyone in the room rather than just her.
“That’s really what the holidays are about right?” Belle had asked. “And that’s what decorations should be for as well… to welcome, to evoke a sense of gathering – of togetherness, to have a special place in the home that people are drawn to for comfort.”
Tripod tall and DSLR on a timer, everyone’s in place.
Belle and Adam are staged sitting in front of the dazzling tree; Tony is on the edge of the bench that’s in front of the large wood burning fireplace, his hand on Belle’s shoulder; Jim and Rosalie have romantically squished to the other side of the bench so the lit fire is visible; David has taken the armchair, with Angie posing elegantly on the arm, and Jerry trying to be all suave on the floor in front of their feet.
Regardless of how it turns out or if it even makes it into the magazine, Belle knows she wants a digital copy of this for all her social media and a physical copy to frame for the cottage’s living room.
Once everything’s all said and done and there are a few shots to choose from, Belle finds herself next to Rosalie.
“Everything turn out like you hoped?” Belle asks.
In the middle of packing up the camera bag, Rosalie stops. She stands and looks wistfully at the mess of furniture and people in front of her. “Well, Belle, if I can speak candidly…. This Thanksgiving has really meant more to me than anyone can imagine.
“I said earlier that I always wanted a house full of happy people, and that’s true. All my life I wanted to be married, to have a big family of my own, to have all sorts of fun and unique traditions….
“But… well, Jimmy and I found out early on that we can’t have kids. We still talk about adoption here and there - nothing really sticks. Right now, though, as I look out at this funky and silly group of people, I finally feel like everything turned out okay – turned out like I had hoped for. Even if it’s just for tonight.”
Not wanting to but definitely crying, Belle can’t stop herself from hugging Rosalie. Not sure why she’s so overcome with feelings she can’t quite understand, all she knows is that that’s not true. “It’s not just for tonight, Rose. As long as you’ll have us, we’ll be here.” After wiping her own cheek, she gestures to the boys, “Jim and Adam are thick as thieves and Jerry will now consider this another home whether you like it or not. And I know David seems a little stand-off-ish but he’s just a bit wound, like, all the time. And com’on, with Angie? You two hit it off instantly, don’t even.” Her voice slows a little and she gently places her hand on Rosalie’s shoulder. “And Papa and I love you guys, I promise.”
Laughing through tears, Rosalie throws a hand over Belle’s shoulders. “You have such a big heart, Isabelle. You are so genuine and authentic, it’s amazing – you’re amazing. I can see why your father spoke so highly of you in the beginning. And I can see why that boy over there looks at you the way he does.”
Blushing, eyes on Adam, she giggles, “And what way is that?”
“As if you’re the moon and stars, dear, as if he has no doubt that you’re the most magnificent thing in the universe.”
Obsidian skies overhead showcase a brilliant display of stars, the silvery full moon so breathtakingly big and bright, leaves Isabelle and Adam sitting comfortably in the backyard with a fire pit roaring in front of them. Her papa had long since gone to bed just after their arrival home. David and Jerry and Angie hung out for a little bit but made their departure around the hour. The snow that had fallen over the evening didn’t stick and wasn’t due back for another day or so.
In comfortable layers and under a heavy blanket, Belle and Adam snuggle together and finally let their body rest after all the excitement of the day.
Call it instinct, call it intuition, call it impulse, all of a sudden Belle feels an emotion she doesn’t want to deny. “Hey Adam?”
She can hear the smile in his voice, “Hey Belle?”
Heart quickening, breathing a little quaky, she continues with, “I know we haven’t been dating very long.”
“Almost two months,” he adds softly.
A lot less time than it feels in their hearts. But if they feel it, they feel it. Such a deep connection, so much conversation, no judgment, endless support, hearty laughter, and cute silliness. It all adds up to happiness, in the end. Happiness that, logically and emotionally, seems like it could last forever.
“I know we haven’t been dating for very long,” she repeats a little softer. Her fingers delicately move her pendent from side to side on the chain. Her eyes watching the sparks from the fire fly into the air, as if little stars are being born. “But, I love you.”
“And I love you, Belle,” he responds without hesitation, wrapping his arms a little tighter around her, kissing the side of her hair. “I love you and I like you,” he smiles.
For just one moment, everything is perfect for Adam. Not just perfect, but excellent. At this moment, he is someone he’s never been before, the most excellent version of himself living the most excellent version of his life. And tomorrow is a brand new day, another chance to wake up and give it everything he has to give. That little seed of hope he had almost two months ago has grown into a full-fledged garden and it’s moments like these that blossom into another rose.