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Shirley handed the phone back to Charlie. Since Adam didn't know Charlie was back on the line, he hung up. Realizing that the call was over, Charlie slid the phone back into her purse.

"We might as well eat now," sighed Shirley, leading her guests into the dining room.

"What a lovely Thanksgiving garland!" commented Millie as everyone found their place at the table.

Charlie looked at the vacant seat beside her, and struggled to hide her disappointment. The only part about today that she had actually looked forward to, was Adam's company-- and he was not here. Everyone joined hands while Thomas said a prayer over the meal. Then he carved the turkey.

"White meat or dark?" asked Thomas, until everyone at the table had a helping of the fowl. Perfectly seasoned stuffing, mash potatoes and gravy, hot rolls with melted butter and cranberry sauce, steamed vegetables and many other dishes of Thanksgiving fare blanketed the linened table.

Except for complimentary remarks about the food, little was said during the meal. Shirley tried to conceal her displeasure at what she considered to be a failure of a Thanksgiving. First she was angry with Adam for doing the interview at such a time, and then she was angry with Charlie-- whom she figured was responsible for it in the first place.

Jerome paid little attention to the drama unfolding before him. The meal was free, and that was all he cared to know. Vera was unusually quiet. A sadness pervaded her soul as she watched Charlie bravely trying to hold up under all the pressure.

The Westons were silently hoping that they could find a way to excuse themselves from next year's Garner family Thanksgiving meal, while Mike and Sandra hoped they could spend it alone, together.

When the meal was finally over, the dessert was brought out. Half the people at the table would have just as soon skip the pumpkin pie and go straight home, but that would have been rude. After the last bite of pie and the last drop of cranberry juice had been consumed, Shirley started to clear away the dishes as the guests slowly began to disperse.

"I'll help," volunteered Charlie, as she gathered a small stack of fine china and headed off to the kitchen.

Seeing that volunteers were needed for the cleanup, Vera, Millie, and Sandra gathered in the kitchen to help.

"You really don't have to do this," insisted Shirley. "The caterers will be back tomorrow, and they'll clean this up."

"Nonsense!" replied Millie, rolling up her sleeves. "Why, between the five of us, we'll have this kitchen clean in no time!"

Vera gathered the leftovers and placed them into plastic containers, while Millie brought the rest of the dirty dishes in from the dining room. Charlie took off her engagement ring and placed it on the small jewelry tray beside the sink, so she could wash the dishes before placing them into the dishwasher. Shirley was removing the last of the meat from the turkey, when Chad shouted from the living room,

"Uncle Adam is here!"

Smiling, Charlie quickly dried her hands and ran outside to meet him. Without a word, Adam hugged Charlie and gazed into her brilliantly flashing eyes. Shirley watched them from the front door. It was as though they were one, the man and the woman. In that moment, Shirley caught a glimpse of the happiness Charlie had brought into her brother's life. But, something held her back from accepting this pending marriage. Maybe it was something in her own life that made her envy Charlie, or maybe it was her pride in not wanting to have to admit that she was wrong. Whatever the reason, Shirley was going against her own conscience, for she could see how God had matched Adam with Charlie. With an unyielding heart, Shirley returned to the kitchen to finish the dishes that Charlie had not yet washed.

Adam and Charlie joined the rest of the guests in the house. The men were waiting on the women, and the women were trying to hurry up and finish the dishes so they and their husbands could leave. By all the somber faces, Adam could see the day had not gone well. As Charlie was about to return to the kitchen sink, Shirley appeared in the living room doorway, her face blanched with shock.

"What is it?" asked Thomas, as his wife struggled to get words out of her mouth.

"Down the drain..." she muttered, her speech almost incoherent.

"What's down the drain?" asked Adam.

"Charlie's engagement (gulp!) ring," Shirley replied in horror.
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