Into the Unknown
Part IV: Family time
“What are you all doing here?” I asked, feeling a little overwhelmed. I kind of wanted to cry but also explode with joy.
“Visiting you.” My grandfather signed.
“I know. Everyone’s here. The other’s parents are here too” I signed back.
“The schooled planned this early.” My grandmother answered, also in ASL. “And said to keep it a secret.”
“You left without saying goodbye.” Jenna signed a playful pout on her lips.
“Not my fault your lazy butt stays in bed until noon.” I said, a grin forming on my lips. “But it’s good to see you.” I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight. Even though Jenna was technically my aunt, she was only older than I was by a few months being the youngest of seven children and a last chance baby by my grandparents.
“You should thank me, I’m the one who cares for Holly.” She declared.
“How is she?”
“She was sad at first. She’s feeling better, spends all her time cuddling Jackson.”
That made me smile to know she was okay. I’d received the odd video of her but after having begged my mom for a pet goat only to abandon her because of Ravenhold felt wrong… Jackson was Jenna’s own pet goat, a neutered male known as a wither.
We didn’t have any more time to talk among ourselves as Charlie came our way, flanked by Ian who had little Jason tucked between his legs.
“Hello.” Ian signed before presenting himself with a unique sign name rather than merely finger spelling his name. Funnily enough his ASL name sign was a descriptive one, calling him a little bird.
“You know how to sign?” I asked out loud.
“Just a little,” he smiled. “I used to date a guy who was deaf a few years back, he gave me the name and thought me some basics. If I’d known you did, I would’ve signed to you earlier.”
“Used to?” My mom asked.
“Brand new kid and work didn’t leave much time, we split amicably.”
“I know the feeling.” My mom said with a grin, putting a hand on my shoulder. Although my mom had always insisted it wasn’t the case, I knew how being a single mom of a disabled trans kid could get in the way.
“Hello again Colleen.” Charlie said, waving to my mom.
“Charlie. Good to see you again.” My mom answered. By Charlie’s expression, she wasn’t convinced.
“Colleen, this is my dad Ian. Ian this is Caroline’s mom Colleen.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He said with a smile. “I’ve heard quite a lot about you.”
“Likewise on both parts.” She said, returning the smile.
“And the little guy hiding behind me is Jason.” Ian said, taking half a step to better show Jason who was hiding behind his dad. “He’s shier than usual.”
“Careful. He’s cute but terrible.” I signed to my mom.
In the past month I’d seen the true face of Jason; behind the occasional bouts of cuteness was this terror of a spoiled brat. Charlie too could show signs of it. As much as Ian tried to be a good father he did accommodate their every need and wants a little more than was healthy.
The conversation went on for a few minutes until my grandma brought the subject back on me.
“How have you been Caroline?”
“I’ve been well…” I bit my lip. “Mom? Gramp, Gran? There’s something I wanted to tell you.” I began, feeling a little tight in my chest.
“What is it peanut?” Mom asked.
“Well…” I took a deep breath before taking Charlie’s hand. “Charlie and I… We’re dating.” I put a quick kiss on her cheek.
“When did that happen?”
“About three weeks ago?” I mumbled, wanting to hide.
“Oh, faster than I thought it would then.” My mom answered.
“Faster than you thought?”
“I can spot a queer girl with a crush from a mile away.” She said, her eyes falling on Charlie. “And this girl couldn’t be more obvious even if she was wrapped in the pride flag.”
“Guilty as charged.”
An alarm on my phone rang, I’d set it for the brisket just in case Allen would forget or get hung up on something.
“Oh crap, dinner!”
I skipped to the kitchen and the rest of my party followed me. I checked the brisket and it was ready.
“Everything alright?” My grandpa asked.
“Yes and no.” I looked around and counted the number of heads. “We made dinner for sixteen and we’re like triple that now. We’re fine on brisket, thank god Allen wanted leftovers, but we’re going to need a lot more sides.”
“I sense a mission for the Campbell clan.” Jenna declared. “I’m up for it.”
I grinned. “Everyone up for helping?”
They all agreed, even Ian. So I divided the tasks among the group; peeling and boiling potatoes for a salad, grating veg for coleslaw, preparing baked beans, baking cornbread, cooking a pasta salad, a rice pilaf, roasting corn cobs, and a few more. In addition to the sides, I prepared a salmon dish for Ahti and their family.
Speaking of them, I did a quick tour of the place, quickly checking for food allergies and diet restrictions, getting to quickly meet everyone’s families. Ahti and their family predictably were pescetarian, Sanjay’s family was all vegetarian save for his baby sister who was pescetarian too, Allison’s dad didn’t eat pork but his kids did, apparently Annabelle and her sister were allergic to pineapples and Jaime’s cousin had to inform me really, really hated coconut, which was nowhere near my menu.
When I came back to the kitchen, I noticed that Charlie was gone. A quick look around and I found her with Ahti and their clutchmate Kulaat, talking. I joined her and nudged her.
“Ahti needed a pudding delivery.” She said. Ever since she’d introduced them to pudding, they had become hooked, but only on the butterscotch variant. Even at that moment Ahti and Kulaat shared a cup, the two of wunning with happiness very loudly.
“Why don’t you just give them in bulk?” I asked, lowly.
“Remember when Ahti got sick?” She whispered back.
“Ate a whole twelve pack in one sitting. Almost did it again next time I tried that, I had to stop them.”
By Kulaat’s reaction, I had a feeling it was an Itharii thing.
“Ready to get back to work?”
“Oh uh, sure.”
“So…” Charlie asked, in a hushed tone as we walked to the kitchen. “You hadn’t told you mom you and I were dating?”
“No, it’s not like I was ashamed or anything, I was a little too jittery to say it over the phone or text.”
“Oh okay. She seems to have taken it well. To be fair, she did say I could date you, just that she’d break me if I hurt you. It was very supervillainy the way she’d said it.”
“When was that?”
“Remember when you went to dinner?”
“Oh.” My mom had never explained what exactly had happened.
“Saw through me in like a second.” She said with a nervous chuckle. “Said something about having been that girl.”
“My mom’s bi. She’s dated or seen casually a few women since I was little and before I was born. Always been open about it.”
She nodded and we went back to work to finish Dinner before we had a potential riot of hungry people on our hand. Thankfully with all seven of us, it went along swimmingly even if Ian, Charlie couldn’t cook or prep to save their lives, they could use a potato peeler and a cheese grater.
Soon enough we found ourselves with one massive family-style feast almost ready to deliver out.