“We could.”

“I made the cranberry salad yesterday before you arrived.” The salad, which was more of a dessert, was a longtime family favorite and served only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cranberries, gelatin and whipped topping were stirred together and placed in the freezer.

Seeing that her mother was about to speak, Emily interjected. “Instead of Brussels sprouts this year, I thought I’d make a broccoli casserole. I found a recipe on the Internet that looks absolutely delicious.”


“By my calculations, we should get the turkey in the oven around eight if we want to have dinner on the table by four this afternoon.” Emily knew she was rambling, but she couldn’t stop herself.

“Are you going to tell me what’s bothering you or are you going to make me guess?” her mother asked.

Emily closed her eyes, then abandoned the pretense and buried her face in her hands. She wasn’t someone who easily gave way to emotion. If she had been, the tears would’ve flowed nonstop.

Her mother rested her hand on Emily’s forearm. “There’s nothing you can’t tell me. You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course,” she whispered brokenly.

“I knew the minute I walked into the house that things weren’t right. Is it to do with the boys?”

Emily shook her head. “No, they’re fine.” She thanked God for that.

“Dave?” Her mother sounded hesitant, as if she didn’t really believe there could possibly be a problem. Everyone knew Dave Flemming was a good man. He was everything Emily had ever dreamed of finding in a husband—loving, responsible, caring, gentle and so much more. She’d fallen in love with him while they were in college, and her love had grown and matured in the years since. Not once had she even considered looking at another man. She’d been so sure he loved her just as much until recent events gave her cause to wonder.

“He’s working too hard, isn’t he?” Barbara asked.

Emily swallowed. She couldn’t deny that, although not for the reasons her mother assumed. “He’s gone a lot, yes.”

“It’s all those committee meetings, isn’t it?” Barbara pursed her lips. “Church duties can steal away family time if he lets them. He needs to take a stand.”

Emily straightened. “I don’t think that’s it. I…” She could barely utter the words. “I believe…I have reason to think that Dave—” she paused, hardly able to continue “—that he might be involved with another woman.”

Her mother’s eyes widened in shock before she categorically denied the possibility. “Not Dave, Em. He’s simply not the type. I’m sure you’re mistaken.”

“I used to assume that, too,” Emily said flatly. “Do you honestly think this is something I want to believe?”

“Well…no.” Her mother was suddenly speechless, and for Barbara Lewis, that was unusual indeed.

“The evidence had to practically hit me over the head before I recognized it for what it was,” she whispered.


Emily shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know and I don’t want to know.” She’d racked her mind in a futile effort to figure out who it could be. The only person she could remember him spending a lot of time with in the past year was Martha Evans. She was the elderly widow who’d died in September. Dave had gone to visit her every week. Visiting the sick and bedridden was one of his pastoral duties, of course, but he’d told her Martha was a friend, that they’d grown especially close.

Now that she thought about it, perhaps he hadn’t been with Martha all those times. Visiting Martha might’ve been a convenient excuse Dave had given her and others. Maybe he’d spent those afternoons—not to mention all the evenings he’d come home late—with someone else.

“The truth is I have no idea who it might be,” Emily confessed miserably, remembering the woman’s voice on the phone Monday night.

“Wait.” Her mother raised one hand, her expression thoughtful. “I’m getting ahead of myself. In the first place, what makes you think Dave’s involved with anyone?”

“He lied to me,” she whispered, keeping her voice low for fear another early riser might overhear.

“Out and out lied?” her mother asked.

Emily considered this. “I suppose it was more a sin of omission.” She explained about her chance meeting with the Beldons, when she’d learned that Dave was no longer meeting Bob for their regular golf game. “There’s plenty of other evidence, too,” she added sadly.

“Such as?”

“We don’t…we haven’t…” It was more than a little embarrassing to discuss her sex life with her mother. “We—you know…haven’t…in over a month.” Prior to this point, they’d enjoyed a satisfying sexual relationship. Emily missed her husband in every way. On the few nights he was home early, Dave was often asleep by the time she got into bed. The nights she went to bed first, he crept silently into the room and slid between the sheets, doing his best not to wake her. Only Emily wasn’t asleep. It troubled her to realize that if he had reached for her, she didn’t know how she would’ve responded.

“He isn’t as interested in you physically as he once was. Is that what you’re trying to say?”

With her cheeks warming, she nodded.

“Have you checked credit card receipts?” her mother suggested.

“No!” First of all, it hadn’t occurred to Emily, and secondly, she might have ended up with information she didn’t want, information she wasn’t ready to face.

“Em, it seems to me that you’ve blown a few minor details out of proportion,” Barbara continued. “That’s what happens when you keep your doubts buried. Ask him. Dave is your husband. He’ll probably be shocked when he finds out you think he’s got a woman on the side.”

“He’ll say it isn’t true, of course. What good would it do to ask?”

“It’ll clear the air. And his reaction will tell you if you actually have reason to worry.”

Emily had given the subject a great deal of thought. She wouldn’t, couldn’t, confront Dave. If she was right, he’d only deny it—and if she was wrong, her husband would be deeply hurt that she’d accused him of such a fundamental betrayal. As far as she was concerned, it was a lose-lose proposition.

“My guess is that you’ve allowed your suspicions to build up,” Barbara said. “A few unrelated events don’t necessarily equal an affair.”

“But, Mom—”

“I know Dave. It just isn’t in him to do this.”

Emily so badly wanted to believe that, and yet…

“Dave is a terrible liar,” her mother went on. “If something’s going on, I’m sure I’ll pick up on it.”

Emily grinned. True enough, her mother had a nose for anything suspicious. Emily and her brother had gotten away with very little while living under their mother’s watchful eye. “I certainly never managed to hide anything from you.”

“Darn right.” Barbara smiled back. “Now put this out of your mind—at least for today.”

“I’ll try,” Emily promised.

“You have a lot for which to be grateful,” her mother said. “This is your first Thanksgiving in your beautiful new home, and you have every reason to feel loved and cherished by your family. Don’t allow your suspicions to ruin Thanksgiving.”

Emily had to agree. Still…“You’ll tell me if you think something’s wrong with Dave?” she pressed.

“Of course, but I’m positive you’re imagining it. A week from now, you’ll be phoning me, embarrassed you’d ever suspected Dave of anything so out-of-character.”

For the rest of the day, Emily did as her mother had suggested and tried to put the doubts and fears completely out of her mind.

Just after two, Barbara helped her set the table. The formal dining room was one of Emily’s favorite things about this new house. She’d always wanted one. For the first time since she’d been cooking the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, they’d be able to eat someplace besides the kitchen.

She’d worked hard to make the dining room as festive as she could. The mahogany table, chairs and matching hutch came from a second-hand store and had been a real bargain. Emily had loved the dining set the moment she saw it. She’d shown it to Dave, although even second-hand, the price was well out of their range. Later—to her surprise and delight—it had been delivered to the house. Dave told her he’d talked to the dealer, who’d agreed to sell it to them at almost half the asking price.

Looking at it now, she still felt thrilled. She’d used a dark green linen tablecloth and spread an array of colorful maple leaves all around it. Then she’d created a cornucopia for a centerpiece, filling it with yellow, green and orange gourds, as well as miniature pumpkins. Lighted pale green candles provided the final touch.

The table hit exactly the right festive note, she thought. It could’ve appeared in one of those glossy home magazines—and she should know because they were one of the few extravagances she allowed herself. The china had been a wedding gift and was only used once or twice a year, so arranging it on a real dining room table was a special treat.

As she stood back to examine her handiwork, Dave stepped up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “You did a beautiful job,” he said, kissing her affectionately.

Her mother smiled at her and then, as Dave turned away, she mouthed, “I told you so.”

Emily rolled her eyes.

Once all the serving dishes were on the table and Dave had carved the turkey, it was nearly four. Everyone was hungry, since lunch had consisted of crackers and cheese.

“I get the wishbone this year,” Matthew called out.

“No, I do,” Mark insisted. Scowling, he protested, “Matthew got it last year.”

“Boys, don’t squabble.” Dave looked sternly in their direction. They both instantly went quiet.

“Shall we say grace?” Dave said.

They all joined hands around the table and bowed their heads as Dave offered up a simple, yet heartfelt prayer of gratitude. When he’d finished, everyone at the table murmured, “Amen.”

“Pass the stuffing,” Matthew said before Emily had even opened her eyes.

“Matthew, the dish will come to you soon enough,” Emily reminded her oldest son. “And it’s please pass the stuffing.”

“The stuffing’s my favorite,” he muttered.

“Mine, too,” Mark said. “I like it with lots of gravy.”

Soon the platter and bowls circled the table and everyone’s plate was heaped with turkey, dressing, two different potato dishes, special salads and more.

When they’d had dessert—the two pies, with whipped cream or ice cream—the family lingered at the table and chatted amicably, teasing one another, joking and sharing stories. This was Emily’s favorite part of the holiday.