Connor Franks arrived at tiny Municipal Airport in Owens Mill a day ahead of Thanksgiving. His trip from Syracuse University in New York had led him on a series of connecting flights and long bus rides. Fortunately he had found a little charter airline that would fly him over the mess of a snowstorm that had crippled the great plains and cancelled his scheduled landing in Wichita.
His parents had braved the weather to greet him. Margaret and Wilson 'Frank' Franks were not exactly the prototypical Kansas farmers. They looked nothing like their American Gothic counterparts and had in fact sold much of the farm to developers a few years ago to put Connor and his sister through school. Not that they could compete with the corporate farms much longer anyway.
"My little boy!" his mom shrieked as he scanned the tarmac. Connor couldn't see her, but she had seen him. She practically tackled him, it was a miracle he hadn't lost his footing on the slick pavement. "My baby." She covered his cold cheeks with kisses.
"Mother!" Connor pushed her away. The airport may have been small, but with the holiday it was brimming with activity.
"Welcome home buddy," his dad said. Connor embraced both parents in a hug. "We've really missed you."
"So I noticed." He hadn't made it home the past summer, opting for a study program in exotic Buffalo. He hadn't seen his family since Easter, that was the longest he'd ever been away. Something was still missing.
"Oh, new boyfriend," his mom said. "She's been spending all of her time with him."
"They're getting a little too serious if you ask me," his dad piped in. "She really should have been here."
"Oh don't worry about it," Connor gave a dismissive gesture, "you're only eighteen once."
On the ride home his folks gave Connor all of the latest family news, while he relayed all of what he had learned from the exciting world of structural engineering. It was a good thing he was driving, because after a few sentences he had put them both to sleep.
Home was a sight for sore eyes. Shortly after his parents sold all of their farmland Connor had earned a scholarship to Syracuse of all places. It was some kind of charity deal where neurotic New Yawkers donate their money to send some poor hick to a decent school. His tiny county high school was a long way from central New York but was somehow chosen and since he had the best grades he wound up the lucky winner. Anyway, it saved his parents enough money to pay off some old debts and refurbish the homestead. They had put much needed insulation in the old barn and remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms. Nothing fancy, they were still anything but rich.
Connor took advantage of one of those remodeled bathrooms. It was nice to use a shower stall that he could move around in without fear of grazing a wall that festered with God-knows-what. He toweled off in his room and dressed in a pair of jeans and an undershirt. His skin was still moist and tingling with that freshly scrubbed feeling when he heard a rumble outside.
A motor revved. Peeking from his upstairs window he saw an old Harley pull into the drive. What kind of schmuck drives a motorcycle in the snow? The kind of schmuck who lets a girl ride behind him sans helmet. Not just any girl, but Connor's baby sister Rebecca.
The guy pulled off his own helmet, revealing greasy black hair that stopped just above his shoulders. The couple hopped off the bike, then the guy pulled Rebecca to him. The couple tongue-kissed. The guy's hands fell to Rebecca's butt. This is too gross, Connor thought. Half of him wanted to throw up, the other half wanted to go outside and beat the hell out of the creep who was putting the moves on his little sis. He settled for closing his curtains. After a couple of minutes the Harley rumbled again growing fainter as it drove away.
Connor lay on his bed to recover from his trip. He must have dozed off. He awoke covered in an afghan and someone had turned the lamp off, his mother had been at work here. The clock radio's red digital face read 10:30. He had been awakened by something. He heard it again: a soft knock on his door.
"Connor?" a hushed voice asked through the barrier. He told Rebecca to come in. "God, I'm sorry. I totally forgot that you were coming home." She brushed a strand of ginger hair out of her eyes.
He was sure that dad had shamed her into the apology. "That's alright. Are we still on for tomorrow morning?"
"Same as always." She said no more just closed his door as quietly as possible.
The next morning Connor had fired up the console television, his folks had just bought a satellite. The reception was finally clear enough to use that video cassette recorder they bought a few years back, now if they could only find a place that still sold betas.
He sat on the couch stretching a long leg all the way to the other end.
"Move it or lose it," Rebecca said. She had a plate full of rolls and stuffing and a little of just about everything else that their mother had prepared for dinner. He pulled his leg off her side, resting it on the coffee table. "Did I miss anything?"
"No, it hasn't even started." Then as if on cue the ribbon was cut on screen and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade had begun. Sure it was for kids and sure it could get mind-numbingly boring after three straight hours, but hey, it was tradition. The siblings had sat on the same couch and watched the same parade every Thanksgiving all of their lives.
Rebecca took a hot roll and put it to her mouth. It must have been too warm as she immediately pursed her pink lips and blew. She took a bite, a few white flakes drifted to her thick blaze orange sweater. She brushed at her chest clearing the crumbs.
"Would you like a bib?" Connor asked. She stuck out her tongue in reply.
"I'm surprised you've never went in person, you go to school right in New York," Rebecca said as Kermit the Frog's balloon was dragged across 34th Street.
"New York City and New York State are just a little different. A farm boy from Kansas, who lacked the ability to duck in a phone booth and change into Superman, wouldn't last two minutes in that city."
"Still, it would probably be less stressful than coming back here every year."
"Yeah, but then I couldn't sit here with you." She smiled despite having a mouthful of mashed potatoes and batted her eyes teasingly. "You'd better slow down on the food or they'll be floating you through the streets of Manhattan." Her face soured and she flung a roll at him.
"Who would you suggest I take anyway?" Connor asked after they had both stopped laughing. "I'm not about to go to a parade by myself."
"Well, you could always go with one of your little girlfriends," she answered.
"I see, would that be the ones who won't give me the time of day or the ones I make up just to keep mom from meddling in my love life."
"I was thinking more along the lines of Courtney."
Courtney had been his sweetheart in high school. They had actually kept a relationship up through the first year of college, but then she wanted something more tangible.
"Only one problem sis, Courtney's married and it's not to me."
"Was married," Rebecca said. "She just got divorced. You must have some really convincing fake girlfriends for mom not to have relayed that piece of information."
The doorbell rang, it was their grandmother. She was their father's mother, but you'd never know it by the way she adored her daughter-in-law. True to character Grandma Jo went straight to the kitchen to offer what assistance she could.
The parade was almost over and the big appearance of Santa Claus was advertised as next. "I find it hard to believe," Rebecca said after a while.
"Well good, because quite frankly you're a little old for Santa."
"You dummy." She hit him with a throw pillow. "I mean about what you said." He had no idea what he had said, as far as he knew he hadn't said anything in more than an hour. "About the girls not giving you the time of day."
"Oh, they'll talk to me, but that's about it. They just love my 'Kansas accent.' Which is weird because if there is one race of people that speak bland accent-less English it's the Kansans. You should see it when I tell them I grew up halfway between Wichita and Dodge. They think we have card games in saloons and gunfights in the streets."
Rebecca had to cover her mouth she was giggling so badly. "Oh come on no one is that stupid."
So maybe he exaggerated a little, but he'd heard some pretty dumb stuff. "What about that boyfriend of yours?"
She averted her eyes. "What about him?"
"He's got to be pretty stupid."
She looked at him like he'd just told her the world was made of Jell-o. "Letting his girlfriend ride on his motorcycle without a helmet. All he needs to do is lose control once and that pretty little head of yours cracks open like--- you, remember that time you dropped Grandma's tray of deviled eggs?"
"Your such a dork," she said wielding that pillow again.
"I am not a dork," he said catching the pillow and tearing it from her grip.
She cocked an eyebrow. "You're a twenty-two year old engineering student with nothing better to do than spy on your little sister."
"Alright so I'm a dork," he conceded handing her back the pillow. "Whack away."
She smacked his face once again.
"Rebecca Julia Franks, leave your poor brother alone." Mom to the rescue. She had peeked in just long enough to catch the girl in the act.
"Well at least we know where you get it from," she said tossing the pillow to the floor.
"It's not spying when the person you're spying on is making out in the middle of the driveway. Next time he tries to make hot tongue love to you, I might just come out and kick his ass."
"I wouldn't advise it." She tried to look serious. "Russ is a black belt in jujitsu he could really mess you up."
"Hey I'm no pushover. I haven't lost a fight yet."
"You've never been in a fight in your life," Rebecca said.
She was right. He had played offensive lineman throughout high school, tall and big-boned. He never went out looking for trouble and at that size trouble just usually come looking for you. He'd lost a lot of weight since then, but still he figured he could take care of himself.
"Yeah, but I can get pretty nasty. Remember that time my football accidentally landed in Neal's flower garden and he stole it?" She nodded. "I taught him a lesson."
"Neal was like seventy. Besides, all you did was soap his windows."
"Yeah. And he had to buy new windows--- eventually."
"You're such a retard Connor. And I'm the one who got held back?"
Their older sister and her husband arrived next. Jan had gotten married a couple of years ago to Todd. Jan was actually closer in age, only two years older than Connor, but they were never very close, not like with Rebecca. Todd was a decent fellow, he used to help out around the farm. Connor didn't really know him but Rebecca seemed to like him and that was endorsement enough.
Their Dad had claimed his easy chair and their Grandma was in the recliner. Jan was pregnant, very much so, and squeezed into the loveseat.
Santa and his entourage of plaster reindeer were gliding across the screen. "You guys still watch this stuff?" Todd said plopping on the couch. Rebecca scooted close to Connor, because family rules state: when on a crowded sofa you crush the person more closely related.
The gathering was going to be rather intimate this year. Connor's maternal grandparents were visiting his Uncle Sandy in Denver. The oven timer went off, the nutmeg and cinnamon scent of pumpkin pies wafted into the living room. Dinner time at last.
Connor took a seat at the head of the table. Actually his father was at the head, carving the turkey, so maybe Connor was at the ass of the table. Either way it was better than being trapped at the ubiquitous kids' table. This was the first year he and Rebecca had avoided the folding card table that a few times a year donned a paper tablecloth and masqueraded as a dining table. He had lost more than one glass of soda to that rickety nightmare. Then there was the Christmas that Uncle Sandy decided to humor the kids by sitting with them while he drank a coffee. Connor was fairly certain he hadn't asked Santa for a second degree burn that year.
A half an hour and about ten-thousand calories later it was all over except the dishes.
Rebecca and Jan were washing and drying respectively. Connor came into the kitchen at the behest of their mom in a vain attempt to pack the refrigerator with leftovers.
"When is mom going to figure out she's feeding a family and not an army platoon?" Connor said to no one in particular.
"Hopefully before I stop trying to stuff my fat ass into these jeans." The two younger siblings tried to reassure their big sister that she was not that fat. "Oh God don't even try to cheer me up. Not that I ever had a perfect butt like Rebecca or anything." She spun the damp towel and snapped her little sister.
Connor chanced a glance at Rebecca's posterior. He had to admit it looked better than a butt in dark slacks had a right to. Especially when the slacks and butt belonged to his little sister. He looked up from the view, Jan had seen him.
"See, even Connor likes staring at your ass," his big sister said in that patronizing voice that big sister's have perfected through the years.
"Jan!" Rebecca shouted indignantly.
"I was not staring at it, I was just looking."
"Connor!" Rebecca shouted at him now.
Jan laughed so hard that Connor almost expected her water to break. "Wait till I tell Todd," she was in hysterics.
Connor took his big sister's place drying. "Sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you or anything." She didn't answer for a minute, she just kept dipping and scrubbing. "Rebecca?" He leaned in close, thinking he'd really weirded her out or something. She took a handful of soap bubbles and smeared them on his face. "Oh that's real mature."
She stretched on her toes to give him a kiss on the lips. He was expecting a quick peck, but her lips seemed to linger just a second too long. What was that? he wondered. It was a little more than a peck, a lot less than what she'd given her boyfriend. He grabbed a plate and started drying again.
She hadn't looked away like he had. The chocolate brown of her eyes fixed on him, burning. He thought leaving might be a good idea, getting the hell away from her. That might hurt her though, maybe he should give her a little kiss in return. He tentatively turned to face her again as he looked into those chocolate eyes he felt a sudden urge to bend that little butt over the counter and... He wondered where that had come from. He settled for a fourth, more big brotherly option. He stuck his hand in the sink and splashed soap and warm water in her direction.
She wrestled the towel from his grip, not that he would fight her very hard, and whipped it at him wildly.
"My eye," he said covering his face, baiting his trap.
"God, I'm sorry," Rebecca grabbed his wrists and tried to check on the injury she thought she had inflicted.
"You fool," he picked her up emitting a fake maniacal laugh. He found an empty space on the counter and sat her squirming, giggling body down. He tickled her in the usual spots like on her stomach and under her arms, but the thick sweater made a good shield. He reached under the damp, wool-blend and felt soft, bare skin. He tickled her midsection unmercifully starting at the ribs then working his hands inwards to meet at her navel.
She begged him to have mercy. "Never," he answered, slowing the tickles so that they were more like caresses.
"Never?" she asked able to breath again.
"Under one condition. Tell me you're sorry and that you love me."
"That's two conditions." she pointed out. He increased his tickling. "I'm sorry, and I do love you. Forgive me?" He nodded. "Good, now get your hands out of my shirt."
The phone rang.
He removed his hands, brushing that fascinating skin of hers on the way out. She hopped off the counter and grabbed the kitchen phone. "Hey Russ," she squeaked into it.
Every inch of her face and hands were flushed. Connor felt an odd sense of satisfaction over the fact that he had been responsible. "Of course I can come over, I'll just see if Connor will lend---" Connor shook his head no, "I guess you'll have to come and get me... Okay... see you."
"He'd better have a helmet for you," Connor said finishing the dishes.
"He just lives down the road. Don't be such a Hitler."
"Fine, let that little weasel crash and crack your skull open. I'll alert the Goodyear Blimp people so they can collect the hot air as it escapes from your head."
"I'm going to go change." She had completely ignored him.
She had barely emerged from her bedroom in a dry sweater when he heard the motorbike rumble outside. She stopped in the kitchen. "I hope I'll see you again before you leave tomorrow. What time is your flight?"
"Oh." Her bottom lip extended in a pout. "I'll be out kind of late, so I guess I'll see you Christmas break."
"Wait a sec. Out late? It's Thanksgiving, what on Earth would you be doing out late tonight?"
"Use your imagination Adolph," she said with a wink. He just had, he couldn't look at her. "Relax, we're driving to see the Plaza Lights. We're taking his step-dad's car so don't go all nuts."
"Can I at least have a hug goodbye?" Connor asked opening his arms wide.
She rolled her eyes just as a horn sounded in the drive. She bounced over, wrapping her arms around him. Just as she was about to release and step away he grabbed her again and planted a kiss on the tip of her nose.
"See you in a month. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," he said watching her rush out the door. Her butt moved hypnotically beneath the tight fabric of her trousers. Damn that Jan, he thought.
"I don't know why you have to wait until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping," Connor said as he and Rebecca navigated through the packed mall. "You're a girl, girls are genetically engineered to shop. By all rights you should have had all your gifts bought by September."
"Oh quit whining, you didn't have to come you know." Rebecca rolled her brown eyes. "So it's a little crowded."
"No Beck, the Wal-Mart Supercenter back in Owens Mill is a little crowded, this place is sardine central."
"Yeah, well there are some people too special for Wal-Mart gifts." Rebecca was small enough to traverse the crowd more easily than Connor. She was creating distance between them, he followed the bounce of her ginger hair to the window of a boutique.
It was a lingerie store. He was sure his face was barnyard red as he followed his little sister in. She went straight to a rack that had a lacy red babydoll and matching silk panties.
"Umm, I'm not sure who on your list would fit into that, but I'd like to meet her," Connor said.
"This is the wrapping not the present," she winked at Connor as she held it up in front of her. She placed it back on the rack.
His blush didn't leave until he was a safe distance from the lingerie store and his sister. He found his way to the Radio Hut and had made his way to the laptop computers. He was fiddling with one, thinking for the millionth time of how handy one of these would come in at school. The university had provided a PC in his dorm room, but it wasn't like he could stuff that into his backpack and haul it to class.
"So why don't you buy one already?" Rebecca's voice startled him. "You've only been asking mom and dad for one of those things forever. I doubt you'll find another that cheap."
He didn't have five-hundred, let alone the more than eight-hundred dollars it would take before rebates. "Maybe mom and dad finally got the hint this year," he said.