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Chapter Forty-two
The Diamond Ring Incident

Charity "is not easily provoked."
~ 1 Corinthians 13:5 ~

Charlie had been dreading Thanksgiving Day for over a week, and now the day was upon her. Even with Adam's assurance that Shirley would at least be civil, the nervous knot in her stomach refused to leave. The Thanksgiving meal was scheduled for that afternoon, and was to be the first family get-together that would include Charlie as an accepted member of the Garner-Clark family circle. Just how "accepted" she would be, the young woman had yet to find out.

Shirley Garner put the finishing touches on the elaborate cornucopia centerpiece and stepped back to see the overall effect it had on the dining room. The caterers that she had hired for the Christmas party last year, were back in full force, this time to help her prepare for Thanksgiving. An elaborate autumn garland of nuts, with brightly colored dried leaves, hay twists, and tiny pumpkins, festooned the stair banister while flower arrangements accented with miniature gourds dotted the house, lending a festive atmosphere to the Garner house. Mike's wife, Sandra, had been at the house all morning, helping to prepare place cards, and in general, keeping her mother-in-law company with light conversation.

Mike, who had only been married since late February of that year, watched and got under foot as he tried to be helpful. Seeing this, Thomas jokingly warned Sandra that "he'll act differently when the honeymoon is over." Shirley gave her husband a sober glance, which he pretended not to notice.

After a while, Mike joined his father outside with Chad, who were both playing with the fancy new barbecue Thomas had purchased in Portland the week before.

"Thomas!" shouted Shirley from the front steps, "I told you, we are not going to barbecue the Thanksgiving turkey!"

"Come on, honey," he coaxed, "it could be a new Garner family tradition!"

Shirley sighed and adamantly shook her head 'no.'

In the living room, Shirley's delicate porcelain Pilgrims and Indians came out of storage, and were carefully placed on the display table near the window. A small paper turkey Mike had made when he was little, decorated Thomas' desk in the study, while a poster Chad had drawn adorned the kitchen refrigerator door. In her best calligraphy, Sandra penned the place cards, and asked Shirley where she wanted everyone to sit.

"Thomas sits at the head of the table, of course," began Shirley, "and I'm at the other end. Mike sits to my right, and you sit next to him. Your parents sit next to you, and your sister, Becky, can sit with Chad at the children's table. Bill sits at the end of the table, to the left of Thomas. Adam will be to my left, then Vera, Jerome, and Charlie."

Sandra gave her mother-in-law a hesitant glance.

"Oh, all right, I suppose Adam and Charlie should sit together," sighed Shirley. "But, where on earth do I seat the bodyguard-- at the children's table?"

Shirley wasn't the happiest about inviting not only her brother's personal manager, but also the bodyguard. This was supposed to be a family occasion, but since Bill had remained in Twin Yucca, Shirley thought it would be impolite not to include him in the invitation. As for the bodyguard, Shirley figured she HAD to invite him, or else endure someone standing in the corner of the room behind Charlie, waiting to pounce on anyone who came too near. Shirley had no idea what to expect. No one in the family had ever required a bodyguard, before!

Back at the Overholt house, Charlie spent the morning in front of her mirror, trying on clothes while Maggie and Jeff sat in the living room, talking over their future life together in hushed voices.

"Grandma?" asked Charlie emerging from her room to talk to Vera who was in the kitchen, preparing an ornate tin of homemade cookies to give to Shirley.

continued on next page...
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