Before we got out of the car, Michael grabbed my hand and squeezed tightly. I looked at him with concern and asked what was on his mind.
“What if they don’t like me? What if they want you to leave me or something?” He cast his eyes in the direction of the front door, fearing that stepping through the threshold would change the course of our paths forever. I put my hand over his heart, and then I grabbed his to put over mine. Michael was letting his wild assumptions and every worst case scenario he’d created to get the best of him. He wouldn’t even look at me. With my free hand, I lifted his chin and finally found his eyes. Trying my best to reassure him, I spoke softly and said, “Hey, it’s me and you. We’re in this together, no one else. It’ll always be just us, okay? I love you. I really, really love you, Michael.”
Still not sure about the evening, he dropped his hand and sat back in his seat looking defeated without even having gone into battle. I didn’t know him to be this way. I made light of the situation and threatened, “If you don’t say that you love me back right now, I’ll give you wet willies while you’re sleeping every day for the next week.” The car immediately filled up with the sound of his boisterous laughter, and then the brightness of my smile.
“You think I won’t? I totally will, like I swear. Every single day.” I jokingly put my finger in his ear and made it seem as if I was going to give him one right then.
He continued to laugh and then pulled me into him. “You’re insane.” We kissed for a few seconds, and then finally stepped out into the brisk air.
Walking on the cobble stone pathway leading to the red painted door of my parents’ house, it’s safe to say that my energy had shifted. Now, I was the one who probably needed some consoling. Not having been there in a while, I admired the tree swing that hung from the huge oak tree in their front yard. Flashbacks of my childhood bombarded me and all I could see were visions of my sister and me running all across the yard. We’d take turns pushing each other on the swing and chase each other endlessly for reasons unknown to me after all these years. I couldn’t help my notice that my mother had done some gardening, and from the looks of it, my father trimmed the hedges. Forty-five years of marriage and they still did everything together. Right before we got to the door, I swept the front yard with my eyes once more and breathed in the pine scented air. Then finally, I rang the doorbell.
“You ready?” Michael asked. I looped my arm through his and winked at him. I was as ready as I could be.
About five seconds later, the door swung wide open and my parents stood there standing with their arms outstretched and smiles so big it couldn’t fit on their faces.
“Lysseeeeeee!” they shouted in unison.
My mom immediately began to squeal, grabbing me and touching my everywhere. She spewed the same line she always did about me abandoning her for the big city, and as I always did, I told her we only lived thirty minutes away from each other. She’s very dramatic, my mother. My dad swooped me up into a big hug and kissed my cheek. He pushed me away and gave me a once over only to pull me back in for a bigger hug. Every time I saw my parents, they acted as if I didn’t come by at least once a month. Michael stood there smiling awkwardly until I could introduce him. When I was finally set free, I put my arm around Michael and said, “Guys, this is my boyfriend Michael.”
He extended his hand to my father for a handshake and leaned into my mother to kiss her on the cheek. Pleasant smiles were exchanged, and with words dripping in sincerity, Michael said, “Please, just call me Mike. It’s so nice to finally meet you guys. Alyssa has told me so much about how great you are.”
Before they spoke, they stared at him. They ushered us inside, and my mom laughed awkwardly, but they actually really just stared at him.
“We’re glad to meet you too, Mike. What is that you like to drink? I’m not sure I have any Vodka or anything else that’s hip.”
I looked at Michael and prayed to baby Jesus that this evening wouldn’t crash and burn before the main course. Before I could interject, Michael laughed and said, “I’ll just have whatever you’re drinking.”
“Good man, Mike.” My dad clapped him on the back and began to pour him a drink.
As they talked, my mother pulled me aside and said, “Honey, why didn’t you fill us in on your friend?”
This couldn’t be happening.
I gave her a warning look with my eyes and said, “Mom…don’t.”
“No, honey, it’s fine. It just would’ve been nice to know, is all.”
Trying to keep our voices down, I harshly whispered to her, “What does it matter? Mom, seriously, don’t bring this up again. Be. Nice.”
She put her arms up in defense and walked away from me to finish preparing things in the kitchen.
While walking toward the guys, assuming that Michael needed some saving, my mom called out to us from the kitchen and said, “I hope you don’t mind Michael, but I made rack of lamb. I could whip up some chicken if you’d like, though!”
I cringed. I cringed deeply and wanted to set the entire house on fire, with my parents inside. Michael, again, laughed and I had to love him for it. I slid my hand into his and squeezed, silently apologizing for the last ten minutes and everything else that would transpire after that.
Very kindly, Michael called back, “I guess Alyssa didn’t tell you guys I’m a vegetarian.”