DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Trial By Jury and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Takes place one month after "A Halloween Tale." Also, I have no idea where Kelly grew up or if her parents are still living so I plead 'creative license' if I've changed her past. Edited for Passion and Perfection in 2009. Thanks to the wonderfully talented FlyingPeanuts for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Culinary Experiment
Tracey Kibre stared down at the smooth, dark grains of wood that ran across the length of her desk and scowled. She'd never really paid attention to that particular detail before as the surface was usually cluttered with stacks and stacks of files. This week, however, only a few folders sat before her, paper-thin and looking lost on the large executive desk.
The criminal docket was practically non-existent: every judge had significantly cut the number of cases due to Thanksgiving. She'd never understood why everything had to come to a trickle during Thanksgiving week. The holiday wasn't until Thursday, so why waste a perfectly good Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with Mickey Mouse types of cases?
What made things even worse for the ADA was that her assistant and lover, Kelly Gaffney, adored Thanksgiving - adored all holidays, in fact. Kelly was so excited to be traveling upstate to see her parents, even though she was miffed at Tracey for refusing to accompany her. Tracey had claimed that it was bad enough that Kelly's parents were aware that their daughter and Tracey were partners and that they hated Tracey based solely on the fact that she was a woman, but if they found out the age difference between the two, Tracey was certain she'd be accused of robbing the cradle and, frankly, she just didn't need that aggravation on top of everything else she'd had to deal with this past month.
After the near Halloween fiasco, she'd tried to be more cheerful for the Thanksgiving holidays, but her plan had failed the moment Sally and Joan had decided to decorate the office with pumpkins and turkeys. Granted, the decorations had been mild when compared to those the two women had used at Halloween, but Tracey was fairly certain that she'd hurt their feelings when she'd punched and kicked their blow-up turkey all the way down the hall and into the stairwell. She had no idea that it would continue to roll its way down to the bottom floor.
It had taken her an entire week of being overly pleasant to the two ladies before they'd speak to her; she even went so far as to buy them both roses and candy, but the turning point had come when Kelly had talked to them on Tracey's behalf. Of course, Tracey had had to wine and dine her lover, too, and had sacrificed three straight nights of sleep to make love to Kelly until the wee hours of the morning. She'd been exhausted for days after, but it had been worth it in more ways than one. Tracey felt sure that her special efforts were what had put her over the top.
Movement in the doorway caught Tracey's attention as the object of her thoughts walked into the office. Tracey offered a smile to her lover.
"Hey, Tracey. I'm just about ready to head out to my folks. Sure you won't change your mind? We'd still have enough time to swing by the apartment and pack you a bag," Kelly said sweetly, her tone and expression filled with hope.
Tracey bit down on her tongue to keep from responding with the 'hell no' that was floating around in her head and instead managed to give one of her pat answers. "No, there's no sense in both of us missing work tomorrow. There're things that need to be done and someone needs to be responsible."
Kelly's expression hardened and her body stiffened, her body language screaming that perhaps Tracy should have pondered a little longer on her reply; Tracey didn't see anything wrong with what she'd said and wondered if maybe the 'hell no' would have been appropriate after all.
"Tracy, not everyone believes that holidays are evil. First Halloween and now Thanksgiving; I'm almost afraid to see how you'll feel about Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge will probably be a sweetheart when compared to you," Kelly answered in a not so pleasant tone.
Lifting a hand to stop Tracey from another feeble attempt to explain herself, Kelly said, "Save it, Tracey. I just wanted to let you know I'm on my way out. I'll be home around eight Thursday night."
Without another word, Kelly turned on her heels and walked out, leaving Tracey alone in the large room. Tracey cursed under her breath. She'd done it again and, this time, not even her Halloween hillbilly costume would be able to get her out of her latest jam.
Around midnight, Tracey finally made her way home, sighing tiredly when she put her key in the door. Kelly had phoned to let her know that she'd arrived safely, but that had been the extent of their conversation; she excused herself to go help her mother in the kitchen and hadn't allowed Tracey a chance to make any attempts at an apology.
Turning her mind to figuring out a way to get back in Kelly's good graces, inspiration struck Tracey around three a.m.: she needed to cook a good old fashioned Thanksgiving dinner complete with trimmings. She'd seen Emeril cook dozens of times on the Food Network; how hard could it possibly be?
Awake earlier than usual and without the aid of an alarm, Tracey decided she needed time to shop and prepare, so she called her office around eight and Sally answered in her usual professional tone.
"Ms. Kibre's office. How many I help you?"
"Sally, this is Tracey. I know that you and Joan are probably the only secretaries in the office today, especially since you work for that 'bitch' I've heard so much about. Well, I'm going to work from home today, so why don't you two take the day off?"
"Really?" Sally asked in disbelief and glanced around the office for hidden cameras.
"Really, Sally. Now, go home and have a nice week and weekend because, come Monday, the bitch is back," Tracey replied with a smile in her voice. She could just see the stunned expression on her receptionist's face.
The next sound Tracey heard was a dial tone: evidently, Sally had taken her at her word. Either that or Sally was afraid her boss would call back and change her mind, something that Tracey was quite famous for doing.
With the phone call out of her way, Tracey moved to the computer to begin her search of Thanksgiving meals and narrowed down the possibilities very quickly. Some sounded too hard and others took too long, so she settled on those she thought were doable and quickly printed out her choices. Grabbing her coat, she headed for the door. She hadn't stepped foot in a grocery store in years.
"Dear Lord," Tracey grumbled as she placed another item in her basket. She hadn't realized food cost so much. "No wonder restaurants ask for such exorbitant prices." With one final check of her recipes, Tracey pulled out her credit card and paid the clerk. She just hoped she could carry all her purchases back to her apartment without dropping something or getting a hernia in the process.
With an exaggerated grunt, Tracey pulled her turkey from one of her many grocery bags and placed it in the sink. She couldn't help but marvel at its size and still couldn't believe a twelve pound turkey was the smallest the store had to offer. It was a good thing she'd complained so much about it to the manager or else she'd have never discovered that she needed to keep the turkey out for several hours to thaw before putting it in the refrigerator. She had planned to put the bird in the freezer until morning: what a fiasco that would have been.
Lining up ingredients on the counter, Tracey checked her recipe for the pie she'd planned to make. She'd decided that it would be a good idea to bake it this afternoon so that it would free up some of her cooking time the next day, and since Kelly wouldn't be back until evening, Tracey would have plenty of time to get everything prepared. Rolling up her sleeves, she readied to make her first creation of her inaugural Thanksgiving feast.
Four hours later, Tracey was covered in flour from head to toe and her pumpkin pie looked completely inedible. She realized her mistake immediately when she spotted two eggs and a can of evaporated milk hiding behind the flour canister. The ingredients must have somehow been pushed behind the container when Tracey had struggled to form the pie crust into the bottom of her pie pan. She'd poked a hole in the dough so often that she'd lost count of the number of times she'd had to roll it out and start over again.
Tracey glared at the misshapen, horrid looking dessert, snatched it from the counter and headed directly for the garbage can. She dumped the pie into the plastic liner and walked away. Who needed dessert anyway?
With dishes piled high in the sink, Tracey put the turkey in the refrigerator and made her way to the master bathroom for a long, hot soak. Adjusting the temperature, she poured a generous amount of bubble bath into the water and watched as the bubbles began to rise. A quick thought had her hurrying to the kitchen for a glass of wine, and she returned just in time to keep the water from escaping once she climbed in.
"Ahhh," Tracey uttered contently as she slipped into the tub and leaned back against its edge. Taking a few sips of wine, she closed her eyes and mentally planned for the next day: sleep until ten, make sure to put the turkey in the oven around four thirty in case Kelly came home early, chop the onions and celery Tracey paused. She hated to chop vegetables. It always took so long, but the dressing wouldn't taste very good with huge chunks of onions and celery. She'd just have to take care and not cut herself like she usually did whenever she tried to help Kelly in the kitchen.
Satisfied with her timetable, Tracey finished her wine and rose from the tub. She quickly toweled off and headed for bed in hopes of finding a good movie on television. A few flicks of the remote and she stopped on a familiar movie one of her favorites. Propping her pillows against the headboard, she settled down in the middle of the bed and watched the credits roll.
Tracey stood in front of the mirror and moaned pitifully. She had a headache from hell and her eyes were puffy and swollen from her late night crying jag.
"What the hell was I thinking? Beaches makes me cry every time I see it." Her voice sounded raw and gravelly as if she had a cold. "Get your act in gear, Kibre, it's time to make the ambrosia salad." The corners of her lips turned up in a smug grin at the thought of what she'd always considered as her ambrosia and it wasn't the salad she planned to make.
Shaking her head to rid her libidinous thoughts, Tracey headed for the kitchen and for the cans of fruit lining the cabinet. She snatched up her opener and quickly removed the lids before moving to the refrigerator for the cherries and grapes she'd washed the day before. One plump-looking red cherry caught her eye and, once again, her mind took a trip down "Gutter Central" and quickly picked up speed as she imagined the perfect dip for her fruit.
Somehow, amidst her lovely daydreams, Tracey was able to complete her tasks and prepare a decent looking salad. Spooning it into a crystal bowl, she sealed it with plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator. Next up: the stuffing.
This time, Tracey made sure to place her ingredients on the counter before she began to avoid accidentally leaving one out. She picked up a sharp knife and starting chopping onions and celery into small pieces, but minutes later, she cursed and grabbed the nearest towel to wrap around her bleeding fingers. Her last two eggs hit the floor with a splat when the ringing of the phone startled her half to death. "Great," she muttered grumpily. "Now we won't have dressing either."
"Hello," she'd growled at the idiot who'd had the audacity to call and interrupt preparations for her evening feast. She attempted to scoop egg from the floor with her uninjured hand while holding the receiver with her towel-clad one.
"Tracey? Are you okay?" Kelly asked, her voice filled with concern.
Jerking up at the sound of her lover's voice, Tracey hit the edge of the counter with the back of her head and then reflexively reached up with her good hand to rub the sore spot. It was just too bad that she hadn't realized she still held the egg-filled paper towel in her helpful hand. She briefly wondered if egg yolks and egg whites would make her hair shinier.
"Hey, how are your folks?" she asked, not able to keep equal parts of pain and disgust out of her voice.
"Tracy, what's going on?"
Quickly gaining control of her emotions, Tracey tried for a bit of distraction. "What? Oh, nothing. Nothing's going on. I just wanted to know how your mom and dad were doing."
"Okay, you just sounded a little weird there. They're both fine and keep asking when they're finally going to meet you," Kelly replied.
How about the twelfth of never? Tracey thought, sarcasm running freely inside her head. Instead, she answered in much more subdued voice, "Someday, Kelly, but let's not worry about that now. Happy Thanksgiving, sweetie."
Tracey's attempt to deflect the conversation away from meeting Kelley's parents worked beautifully and Kelly launched into an epic story about her drive upstate. Sighing, Tracey leaned against the counter and politely listened to her lover while shifting the towel to keep the blood from running down her arm.
Thirty minutes later, Tracey stood in the shower and tried to wash the dried egg out of her hair. Finally, she just dropped her chin toward her chest and let the water beat down on the tense muscles of her neck. Her hand was sporting several band-aids and her fingers had begun to throb. Thanksgiving had officially overtaken Halloween as Tracey's least favorite holiday.
Freshly showered and feeling somewhat more human, Tracey removed the turkey from the refrigerator and prepared the cooking bag with onions, celery, and flour. She wrestled the bird inside the plastic container and made the required slits to its top. Reading the directions carefully, she turned the oven dial to the stated recommended temperature but decided at the last minute to add a hundred degrees since the turkey had been a little on the frozen side when she slid him into the cooking bag.
With Mr. Bird now tucked safely in the oven, Tracey turned her attention to the candied sweet potatoes. She'd purposely chosen a recipe that included bourbon so that she could enjoy a glass while she prepared the dish. She also figured she might need a little something to take the edge off just in case her cooking experiment might become too much to handle.
One glass turned into two when her fingers started to throb following her rather poor attempt to cut up the potatoes and parsley; she'd rationalized it was okay to overindulge on the strong drink given that it was purely for medicinal purposes.
Placing the dish into the second oven, Tracey set the time and decided to take a nap before starting on the high-rise biscuits. She now understood why Kelly had insisted on an apartment with two ovens. Tracey had thought it was a pure waste of space but decided that, since she wouldn't be doing any of the cooking, she'd go along with her lover.
Tracey peeked at the turkey and double checked the temperature for the potatoes before retiring to the den. She melted into the couch and closed her eyes, falling asleep in seconds.
A short time later, the timer sounded from the kitchen and pulled Tracey from her alcohol induced slumber and, in her current groggy state, she rolled off the edge of the couch and landed on her injured hand. 'Son of a bitch, that hurt," she muttered as she cradled her hand to her chest.
The annoying bell continued to ring and she forced herself to her feet and headed for the kitchen and her sweet potatoes. Grabbing a pair of oven mitts, she carefully slipped them over her injured fingers and opened the oven door to peer inside. She frowned at the dry looking spuds and figured they needed moisture. The nearby bottle of bourbon was emptied on top of the potatoes and she reset the timer for fifteen more minutes.
A quick glance at the clock drew another curse from Tracey and she hurried to start on the biscuits. They needed time to rise before baking, time that she hadn't factored into her plans. Organizing her ingredients, she opened the refrigerator for the unsalted butter and Half-and-Half. The broccoli spears sat alone on the top shelf, but Tracey ignored them, figuring their meal would just have to be short one vegetable. Besides, she didn't want to chance adding to her other injuries by burning herself with steam.
At straight up seven, Tracey sat at the kitchen table drinking another glass of bourbon. She'd opened another bottle when she'd discovered that her turkey was ruined. The burnt bird sat on the stove still in its bag. She'd refused to even attempt to salvage any of it when she spotted the paper and odd pieces sticking out of its neck and ass; she didn't know the damn thing had stuff packed inside that she was supposed to remove before roasting. The store manager hadn't said anything about that.
The sweet potatoes were so full of liquor that they may as well drink them rather than eat them; she'd really thought the extra liquid would help add more flavor, but, apparently, she was wrong. The high-rise biscuits never made it to the oven; they never rose and looked more like run down first floor tenements than the reputed high rises they were supposed to emulate.
The only thing Tracey was going to be able to offer her lover was the ambrosia salad and, somehow, she didn't think Kelly would be impressed. She was just glad Kelly had seemed cordial with her during their phone conversation; otherwise, Tracey would be up shit creek.
Completely exhausted, Tracey looked over the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and decided to rest for just a minute before tackling the clean up part of her fiasco. She folded her arms and rested them on the table, pillowing her head on her forearms. Once again, she was asleep within seconds of closing her eyes.
Tracey smiled and moved her head into the crook of her elbow, wanting to be more comfortable when her dream girl appeared. She wondered if Kelly would be wearing the same strategically placed whipped cream like she had in Tracey's last dream.
Tracey frowned in confusion. Why did Kelly keep calling her name? Where the hell was she? Was she going to pop out of a cake or something?
Tracey's head jerked up and she saw Kelly standing in the doorway. She moved to get up but she fell from the chair and landed on her ass hard. Kelly immediately rushed forward and knelt down beside her lover.
"Are you hurt?" She asked as she ran her fingers lovingly through Tracey's hair.
Still in a stupor, Tracey looked up at her lover. "Huh?"
Kelly's fingers eased to the back of Tracey's head. "Tracey, how did you get a knot on your head when you just fell on your ass?"
Tracey was tempted to refer to all the times Kelly had told her to get her head out of her ass, but she refrained from that particular comment and confessed, "I hit my head on the counter earlier today."
Looking around at the complete and utter mess, Kelly replied, "Well, you've certainly been busy today. Let's get you up, and you can tell me all about it."
Allowing her lover to help her to her feet and then to a nearby chair, Tracey began to recount her cooking failure, starting with her ruined pie. By the time she got to the turkey and biscuits, Kelly was wiping tears from her eyes and trying very hard to control her laughter. Tracey wasn't amused. She had practically cut off her fingers and nearly given herself a concussion and Kelly thought it was funny?
"Oh, I'm sorry, honey. It was a wonderful idea but promise me you'll never try to cook anything ever again without proper supervision," Kelly said as she reached out and carefully took Tracey's hand into her own.
Uncharacteristically, Tracey pouted. "The ambrosia salad survived."
"Really?" Kelly asked in amazement and pushed to her feet to check on Tracey's claim. She opened the refrigerator, pulled out the crystal bowl and removed the plastic cover as she looked down at the fruit salad. Tracey was right; it looked good enough to eat, and so she did.
Tracey watched mesmerized as Kelly dipped her finger into the bowl and slowly lifted it to her mouth. She almost fell from her chair again when Kelly licked and sucked on her finger before finally removing the digit from its warm haven.
"You're right, Tracey. It's excellent."
Wiping the drool from the corner of my mouth, Tracey managed a whispered reply. "Thanks."
"C'mon, let's go eat this in bed," Kelly suggested as she returned to the table, salad in hand, and reached for Tracey's hand.
"But what about this mess?" Tracey asked as she gestured to the pile of dishes.
Smiling, Kelly scooped another fingerful of the salad and offered it to Tracey, who didn't hesitate to take the offering into her mouth digit and all.
"Hey this stuff is good," Tracey said in amazement. She wasn't just talking about the salad either. She'd barely had time to swallow when Kelly purred a new suggestion.
"Seeing that it's Thanksgiving, I'd like to show you how thankful I am that you're all mine."
Tracey swallowed hard and jumped up from the table. She took Kelly's hand and together they walked, hand-in-hand, to the master bedroom. Kelly winked as she dropped her lover's hand and placed the crystal bowl down on the nightstand.
Reaching for the bottom of her shirt, Kelly turned toward Tracey and began to slowly disrobe. Tracey stood there like a horn dog, watching until there was nothing left for Kelly to remove. Wearing nothing but a smile, Kelly pulled back the covers and gestured for Tracey to join her.
Clothes took flight as Tracey made her way to Kelly's side and was completely naked by the time she reached her destination. She couldn't wait to compare her two ambrosias, but she was willing to bet that she knew which one would be more flavorful.
As Tracey leaned down to kiss her lover, she made a mental note to try several taste tests to prove her hypothesis. She was nothing if not thorough.
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