“Why can’t we be like normal families?” escaped from her lips as a desperate lonely plea as she turned and balled up the paper and then tossed it into the trash. The useless piece of paper held a name that burned clean through onto her palm. It was the name of her guest for tonight’s dinner. The paper no longer served its purpose. The invite was complete. Lidia glanced over to the clock on the nightstand. The glaring numbers displayed she had less than three hours before the yearly festivities would begin. But in her mind, she had already relabeled the yearly festivities to the ‘Yearly Torture’. It was when the family came together for Thanksgiving.
Once all of the hugging, kissing, small talk and giggles were complete, the arguments would begin. It always started with an innocent question, “So tell me, what dish did you bring?” That one, single question opened the floodgates of Hell. But no matter how wide the gates were open, her father would step in as an extension to the chaos and the game would officially begin. For you see, he had been the winner of the family’s tradition to ‘Bring-a-Dish’ for the last 18 years. As the winner, his dish was selected and he held the bragging rights for the whole year, but it had been 18 years of continuous bragging.
What was the old saying? “No one likes a loser.” Well, another saying which holds true is, “No one likes an 18 year in a row winner either.” Lidia didn’t need a therapist to tell her why because it falls along the lines of ‘No one likes a winner because there’s no fun in admitting you were the loser.’
That envy or hatred caused the unthinkable, an alliance between Lidia and her brother John. They thought, maybe if they worked together on a dish and presented it together they had a chance in claiming the title this year.
John and Lidia started their alliance at the beginning of summer. They did their secret blood handshake to seal the deal. The brother and sister team researched together for the picture-perfect dish. They knew way-back in the early months of summer that this was their year to win. Who could deny the youngest family members from winning? They were the perfect combination, two grandchildren working together, who had obviously completed a ton of research as they prepared their dish and presented it to the family. They were sure to be showstoppers.
For weeks they sat and compiled names and their history. Finally one name floated to the top like foam on top of a latte, Lance Willington the III.
Lance single handily made her brother’s four years of high school a living hell. Every single day of school whether it be in the classroom, hallways or the football field, Lance bullied her brother John.
Lidia recalled the heavy family debate over what to do with the bully. Naturally, her father and John wanted to kill the simple-minded mortal, but mother had always reminded them to ignore the bully. Because in the grand scheme of things, a child’s death would not go unsolved. Lance’s disappearance or accidental death would raise too many questions and potentially draw unwanted attention to their immortal blood loving ways. So it was reluctantly decided to allow young Willington to live.
But time had moved on and ten years had past. Mr. Lance Willington could disappear or meet an untimely death with few to no questions being asked. He would make a fine dish for the family’s tradition of Bloodgivings.
Bloodgivings was their family’s tradition for Thanksgiving. It was something like the Pilgrims and the Indians relationship, a peace offering for one night. Instead of killing all year round from the local town, each family member would select one mortal for dinner. Before the mortal came to dinner a family member would present the reasons why their victim should be the family’s main dinner dish. Sometimes this presentation would go on for forty minutes delving into the candidate’s background that led them to the invite. Once all the presentations were completed and brief meetings of the candidates were done, the family would take a vote. This year the stakes were high and her father’s bragging reign had to end.
It was a simple plan; Lidia was supposed to follow Lance around and collect new information. What had Mr. Willington been up to for the last ten years to make him a good Bloodgivings candidate? She had watched him from a distance for weeks, but it wasn’t enough. Lidia hadn’t seen any new persuasive evidence. There was no dog kicking, no yelling at the trash collectors because the cans were left turned over. Lidia needed more compelling and more current evidence to seal the deal; a bully story from an angry teenager wouldn’t be good enough for a win. So Lidia entered into a friend-enemy relationship with Lance. That was where the simple plan deviated.
One night she appeared from the shadows and what was supposed to be a fake friendship grew into a real relationship. During the span of two months, Lidia found out the backstory of Lance Willington. He admitted to being a jerk during his high school years. He was strung out on alcohol and steroids. His father had pumped him up to be the next messiah in football and he believed it all. It was both of their dreams to get a full ride through college and off to the NFL. Well, after spending two years at Michigan State with roughly a total fifty minutes of game time, he had no offers or special looks, but he did have two torn ACLs. It was easy to see the plan was changing rapidly. The dream was over and reality settled in. It wasn’t his dream as much as it was his father’s, but more importantly now that football wasn’t his life what would take its place haunted his thoughts daily.
One night Lance finally broke down and shared the final pieces of his life, and on that night something shifted inside of Lidia. She saw him in a new light. Lance wasn’t a bully as he was an extension of his family and circumstances. That night she saw him as a simple man trying navigate through life. Lance worked 40-50 hours a week and went to the gym to keep fit. He wasn’t married not because he wasn’t good-looking or had Peter-Pan Syndrome, but because he hadn’t found the right woman and he was still haunted with trying to find worth within himself.
That night their relationship changed, much like the way summer had changed to autumn. The two of them aged with an understanding when a simple kiss was shared. A bond was created when the kiss developed into something more. Lidia wanted to call it love, but it wasn’t love nor was it lust. It was the humble emotion of understanding. It was an evening of Sorry for Sorry; a Misbehavior for a Misbehavior.
Lidia saw herself in his eyes. She knew then that she was an extension of her family following traditions. The only thing that fueled her over the summer was shutting down her father’s victory bragging rights.
Now what was she do? Lidia looked back that the clock, she had less than an hour before her family would arrive. Even if she went to her brother and begged him to not present Lance, could she really trust her brother not to go forth with the plan? Could she heal her brother’s wounds? But how could she face her family without a dish?
Decisions, decisions, decisions…. Happy Bloodgivings.