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Charlie was pleasantly surprised at Maggie's ability to follow instructions. When left to herself, Maggie lacked direction, but when shown how to go about a task, she did better than Charlie had thought was probable.

While the cooking turkey's aroma filled the house, Maggie took a mop to the kitchen floor. Under Charlie's supervision, Maggie carefully made the stuffing, and prepared the cranberry sauce. Next, she cleaned the walls of the kitchen. Instead of the cheese ball, the sliced sausage would just be served with plain crackers. Charlie reminded Maggie to rotate the turkey pan in the oven every hour, so that it would be evenly cooked. The iced tea, cranberry juice, and decaffeinated coffee were prepared and put into pitchers. The butter cookies Charlie had baked two days earlier were arranged by Maggie onto plates and set aside with the apple and pumpkin pies for dessert. The fold out table in the living room, which usually stood unused in the corner of the room, was brought out, and additional leaves put in place. Vera's good linen table cloth which Charlie had ironed that morning was draped over the table, and chairs were placed around it.

Maggie was enthusiastic. She was doing something important and doing it correctly!

Maggie's clothes had come out of the dryer, so she quickly dressed, returning Charlie's bathrobe to the bedroom.

At twelve o' clock, Vera and Chuck arrived home, remarking how good the house smelled with all the food aromas wafting in from the kitchen. Maggie and Charlie were too busy to pay much attention to any compliments, however, for it was time to take the turkey out of the oven. Carefully, Maggie placed the turkey pan on the counter, and set about to make the mashed potatoes, gravy and the hot rolls. Vera offered to assist Maggie, but was quickly shooed out of the kitchen by Charlie. Maggie was doing just fine, she told Vera.

Next, casserole dishes Charlie had prepared the day before, went into the oven to be warmed. Maggie set the table using Vera's good silverware, (which Charlie had polished that morning), and even set out a paper turkey as a centerpiece, something Maggie herself had bought earlier-- just for today.

It was then that Vera counted the places set at the table.

"Pumpkin," Vera said, addressing her granddaughter, "you're one plate short."

"What?" asked Charlie. "There's you, Daddy, Jeff and his daughter, Maggie and her two parents, and myself. That makes eight."

"What about your uncle?" asked Vera, hurt that Charlie could forget Jerome.

Charlie had assumed Jerome wasn't coming. He was hardly ever at the house, unless it was to pick her up or drop her off from school.

"Maggie," called Charlie, "set another place at the table!"

Chuck and Vera went into the living room and waited for the guests to arrive.

Charlie went down her mental checklist. She couldn't think of anything that had not already been done. Even the kitchen looked clean!

"Am I forgetting anything?" asked Maggie.

"Nope," replied Charlie, smiling. "You did a wonderful job, Maggie! I think this dinner is going to be a success, after all!"

"You already did most of the work," replied Maggie, humbly. "And I only did what I was told."

Just then, Jeff and his eight year old daughter, Debbie, arrived at the front door. Maggie timidly watched from the kitchen as Vera greeted the Ericksons and showed them inside. Jeff had brought a bottle of apple cider which Vera took to the kitchen.

"Thank you for inviting us," Jeff said, shaking Chuck's hand. "This is my daughter, Debbie."

"Please, sit down," said Chuck. "I've been told that some snacks will be here shortly."

In the kitchen, Charlie was putting Maggie's hair up into an attractive French twist.

"Your guests are starting to arrive, Pumpkin," announced Vera, handing the bottle of apple cider to Charlie. "I wish you would go out there and entertain them."

"But Grandma, I still have work to do in here," protested Charlie, not wanting to leave Maggie alone in the kitchen, with a room full of hungry people waiting in the living room.

"But I don't know them!" exclaimed Vera. "You invited them, so you go out there and behave like a hostess should!"

Vera was a little terse with her granddaughter. She had had a rough day with Arnold and was in no humor to sit and make small talk with a bunch of perfect strangers.
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