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Talking Turkey

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"Jesse!" Billie cries out, running to her sister with a piece of paper and a box of stubby crayons and shoving them out to her. "Help me make turkeys." When Jesse doesn't acknowledge her right away, she tries to hand them to her again, this time with a very emphatic "please" and a pleading look.

Jesse turns away from her doll she's been playing with, and looks at her sister. "You wanna make more turkeys?"

"Yeah! For Mama!" The grin on her sister's face is infectious, and Jesse laughs. She's been told to keep Billie occupied this afternoon, while Sonny sings in the kitchen and makes what she's been told are going to become pie crusts for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. And she's a good listener, and an even better big sister, so she's going to do it.

"Mama is going to have a whole flock of turkeys on her desk at work at this rate," Jesse says, as they settle at the table to start drawing. She takes one of the brown crayons and carefully traces the outline of Billie's tiny, outstretched hand, before doing the same with her own.

Her art teacher at school taught her this trick last week, making handprint turkeys, and ever since showing it to Billie when she got home, her sister has been obsessed with making her own. They've only got each other – and Mama and Sonny, of course, who's the closest thing they have to a real dad, but they're so busy with their jobs that they don't get to see them as much as they'd want to. But her and Billie, they're a package deal.

Handprint turkeys and all.

Jesse pokes her tongue out of her mouth as she repeats the process of making the turkeys on her own paper, and watches as Billie takes the crayons and decorates her turkeys with an array of vibrant, beautiful colors. Jesse makes two slightly larger handprints, exaggerating the features of her own hand just a little to try to imitate what Mama and Sonny's hands look like.

She colors in with streaks of matching blonde hair for the two smallest turkeys and one of the larger ones, but none of the crayons she has look like Sonny's hair. She chooses, instead, to draw what kind of looks like a vest for turkeys on his, dark blue, similar to the one he wore when he picked her up from school last week. Pink for the Billie turkey, to match the shirt she's wearing, and light blue for her own, and she's not sure what Mama's wearing today, but yesterday she wore a dark green shirt and that's good enough for this.

She even makes a smaller fifth turkey, without tracing, and colors it as close to Frannie's fur as she can, although the crayon is a little brighter than their dog's fur.

It's not complete, not without all four of them there, and Frannie too. It's been a little over a year since Sonny's been coming over more and more, and she's almost forgotten what life was like before he was always there. Not that he wasn't there before, but something changed then, and Mama's seemed a lot happier and Sonny's always around now. Having sleepovers with Mama, he says, with a goofy smile that makes her smile too.

She likes it like this, the four of them. It seems perfect.

The latch on the door opens, and she hears her mother's footsteps enter the apartment. She's laughing about something, on the phone with someone – maybe Aunt Olivia? – and she sets the crayons down to run to her for a hug. "You're home!" Jesse exclaims.

"Yes, Jesse, I'm home," her mother says, ruffling her hair slightly. "I'm going to let you go, Liv, tell Noah and Elliot Happy Thanksgiving and I'll see you on Friday."

In the past, Amanda hasn't always had the most to be thankful for this time of year, but as she looks at her two little girls happily giggling and chattering away at the table, she knows that her life has changed quite a bit in the last year and a half.

Longer, really, because Jesse coming along upended everything for her, but especially the last year and a half, there's been a subtle joy that sparkles through her daily life. Maybe it's knowing that when she comes home, more often than not, Dominick is waiting there with her daughters – she's begun to think of them as their daughters, although he has no claim to them beyond the emotional, not yet, anyway – and is quite frequently making them dinner.

There's laughter and joy, peace and gratitude, and she never thought she'd be able to have anything like this in her life. Still has to pinch herself occasionally to make sure it's real, even though it's never been anything but.

"So, what are my girls doing today?" she asks, walking over to the table. Spotting the papers, she laughs. Ever since Jesse's art teacher taught them how to make handprint turkeys, and then Jesse taught Billie, they'd be able to wallpaper a good portion of their apartment in their drawings. "Looks like we got us more turkeys."

"Yeah!" Jesse exclaims. "This is you, and Sonny, and me, and Billie, and Frannie," she says, pointing to each of them in turn on her drawing. "It's our family."

Her heart wants to burst, seeing Jesse consider Dominick part of their family, even though he's been there more than either of their biological fathers ever have been. But knowing how important Dominick is to her is one thing; seeing how important he is to her girls is another thing entirely. And the little vest on the Dominick turkey is too perfect.

As if she can summon him by thoughts alone, he comes out from the bathroom, loping toward her gradually and pulling her in for a sweet kiss. "Hey there," he says, "didn't hear you get home."

"Yeah, I've only been home a few minutes," she says. She'd almost forgotten that he took the day off, to start making some of the side dishes they'd take to his parents' house tomorrow for the big Carisi family dinner. "Liv says Happy Thanksgiving, by the way. She's off tomorrow for the holiday, too."

"Good." His arms wrap around her tighter, and she arches back into the comfort of his embrace. "Our little artists have been busy at work all afternoon."

"I see that." She eyes Jesse's family portrait out of the corner of her gaze, and she smirks. "I think Jesse's missing a little something on hers, though."


"Turkeys lay eggs, right?"

"Yeah, 'course they do, they're birds." He looks at her, shaking his head slightly, and laughs. "What are you up to?"

"Right." She laughs, picking up a loose crayon and tracing a small oval between the two largest turkeys, and then adding a little heart inside it. "You think this looks right?"

"'Manda –"

She looks between Dominick, and Jesse, and Billie – the three most important people in her life - and she smiles, as they each look at her with their own inquisitive stares and expressions. "Next Thanksgiving, we're going to need another handprint," she says, gliding her own palm over her stomach and beaming. "Because turkeys might lay eggs, but moms don't."

"Are you saying –"

"Yeah, I'm saying," she says, and she takes his hand and rests it under hers. "There's going to be a baby turkey joining our little nest sometime next May. I don't know if it's going to be a boy or a girl yet, too early to tell, and I didn't want to say anything until I was out of the first trimester, but – surprise?" Her grin is a little sheepish, but excited – unlike her previous two pregnancies, she knows the father is definitely in it with her for the long haul, and that makes it different than before.

"I –" Whatever else Dominick wants to say is cut off by a flurry of excitement, as the four of them gather into an exuberant, energetic family hug. The excited squeals and yelps from the girls mix together with her laughter and Dominick's happy tears, and she's never felt happier or more grateful in all her life.