“You doing okay?” Dave wrapped his arms around me from behind and kissed my neck.
I rested my hands on top of his and leaned back into his embrace. “You sure it’s not too late to cancel?”
Dave chuckled, his breath ghosting over my skin. “It’s going to be fine, I promise. You’ll have me there, as well as Josh and some of your other cousins.”
“I know. But”—I struggled to keep my tone even—“it’s your parents.”
“I know.” He tightened his arms around me. “But they’re not like yours. They’re looking forward to meeting you.”
I nodded. He’d told me the same thing repeatedly, but I couldn’t help being nervous. Even Josh had been reassuring me, having already met Dave’s parents multiple times throughout the years. I hoped they were both right. I’d hate for Dave to have to deal with the crap that I had since coming out. Sure, Dave said they had come around and were good about his sexuality now, but knowing and seeing the proof of it were two different things.
“Just relax.” Dave pulled his arms from around me and set his hands on my shoulders briefly before releasing me completely. “What do you need me to do?”
“I think we’re as ready as we’re going to get.” I looked around the room. I’d already cleaned the entire house, the drinks were in a cooler, salads were in the fridge, and we’d start the grill as soon as people started to arrive. I turned and looked at Dave. “What time are your parents supposed to be here?”
“We still have a little over a half hour. What about your cousins?”
“Most of them should get here about the same time as your parents. Josh was planning to come a little early.” I knew why Josh was coming before everyone else. He knew me and understood I’d be a nervous wreck. Knowing him, he was hoping to help keep me calm. I wasn’t sure that was even possible. I was meeting Dave’s parents for the first time. I think most people would be having at least a small freak out.
The sound of the doorbell nearly made me jump.
“Want me to get it?”
“Nah, I got it.” I headed for the front door. It would give me something to do and it was just Josh. When it got time for his parents to arrive, Dave could get the door. I opened the door and froze, the greeting died on my lips. It wasn’t Josh.
The woman in front of me, I assumed Dave’s mother, smiled. “You must be Reece. Josh has told me so much about you. I’m Lynn and this”–she waved at the man next to her–“is my husband, Scott.” Lynn closed the distance between us and pulled me into a hug. She released me and her husband held out his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you.” I wasn’t sure how I managed to get the words out, but I did. I shook Scott’s hand and stepped back from the door to allow them inside. Now I just needed to get Dave. I didn’t want to be alone with his parents any longer than necessary. I led them into the kitchen, but Dave was no longer there. I turned to Lynn and Scott. “He must be in the backyard.” At least, I hoped he was. Luck apparently wasn’t on my side. Dave wasn’t outside either. I motioned to the chairs spread out around the yard. “Can I get you both something to drink?” I motioned to the cooler.
“We’ll help ourselves, dear.” Lynn glanced around. “Where’s Dave?”
“I’m not sure. Make yourselves comfortable and I’ll go find him.” I escaped into the house and nearly ran into him outside of the bathroom.
He grabbed my arms to steady me. “Where’s the fire?”
I pointed the backyard. “No fire, but your parents are here.”
“Really?” Dave glanced at the clock and then back to me. “Huh. They’re early.” He shrugged and let go of my arms.
“So I noticed.” I wasn’t sure what he saw in my face, but it apparently was enough to worry him.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to meet them on your own. Everything go okay?”
I nodded, thought about it, shook my head, thought about it some more, and finally I shrugged. How could I explain to him that I didn’t know what to make of his mom? Or of the fact that she’d hugged me instantly upon meeting me.
“Well, that tells me a lot.” Dave bent his head and kissed me. He looked around and quirked an eyebrow at me. “Where are they?”
“I took them out to the backyard while I came to find you.” I motioned him ahead of me. “I’ll be out in a minute.” There had to be something that needed doing before I joined them. I realized the extent I was going to avoid his parents. Fuck. I was being a coward and I knew it.
“Or you could come out with me.” Dave laced his fingers with mine and all but dragged me towards the backyard. “I promise, they’re not going to bite.”
I nodded and steeled myself for more time with Lynn and Scott. Even dealing with my parents was nothing compared to meeting Dave’s. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if it turned out his parents didn’t like me. Or even worse, if they weren’t as accepting as Dave believed they were. Though, surely his mom wouldn’t have hugged me if that were the case.
I shook my head to clear it. On top of being a coward, I was being an idiot as well. My nerves were making me behave completely out of character and if I kept going the way I was, I was going to make a horrible impression on them. That’s the last thing I wanted to do, and I definitely needed to straighten myself out and make up for my behavior when I’d answered the door. I followed Dave out back and fought against the urge to stay inside. The only thing that kept me moving in the right direction was the reminder that not all parents were like mine. Dave swore his weren’t.
“There he is.” Scott stood–beer in hand–as we came through the door and moved to embrace Dave. Dave released my hand as he hugged his father. Lynn had risen as well and took Scott’s place as soon as he moved back.
“You guys are early.” Dave stepped back and once again laced his fingers with mine.
“Your mother wanted some time with both of you before everyone else got here.” Scott shrugged. He turned to me. “I think it was more that Lynn couldn’t wait any longer to meet you.”
“Understandable.” I nodded, even though I couldn’t say the same. “It must have been a surprise to you when I moved in with Dave.”
“Not really.” Lynn smiled at me and sat back down. She picked up her wine cooler and took a sip. “Dave talked about you enough that, honestly, I was more surprised that it took as long as it did.”
I could feel my face heating. “We’ve only been together a couple months.”
“True, but when it’s right, it’s right. Now”–she made a shooing motion at Dave and his dad—“why don’t you two go and start the grill and give me some time with my new son-in-law.”
I about choked on her word choice.
Dave turned to me and whispered in my ear. “Want me to grab you a beer?”
“How about something stronger?” I whispered back. Liquid courage would hopefully help me relax and keep me from making an ass out of myself. Or a fool.
Dave snorted. “I’ll get you a beer.” I glared at him but was ignored as Dave looked to his mom. “Did you need another wine cooler, Mom?”
“I’m good, honey.”
Dave nodded. I sat down in a chair across from Lynn as Dave headed for the house. I hoped this wasn’t when things changed and I heard about how she wanted me out of her son’s life. My thoughts were interrupted when Dave reappeared and handed me a beer. He brushed his lips lightly over mine. Dave must have seen my surprise and whispered in my ear. “I’m not going to hide how I feel about you. I don’t care who it is.”
I darted a glance at Lynn and Scott, but they were both smiling at the two of us. I smiled back, my anxiety easing slightly, despite Dave moving over to the grill with his dad.
“So, tell me a little more about you.” Lynn leaned back in her chair.
I did as she ordered, telling her about my work and my schooling. Only once did I mention my parents and Dave’s mom quickly waved me off.
“I don’t want to hear about your sorry excuse for parents.” She sighed. “I’ll admit that Scott and I had a hard time at first. We simply didn’t understand, but Dave is still our son and we just want him to be happy, which you seem to make him.” She eyed me critically. “Are you going to break his heart?”
I gasped at her forwardness and promptly shook my head as I thought about how to word what I wanted to say. Maybe I should have expected such a question, especially seeing as how she was so different from my own mother. My own mom would have probably begged Dave to break my heart, hoping it would change who I was. I forced myself to meet her gaze as I answered. “I don’t plan on it.” I glanced over at Dave and saw him watching me with a smile on his face. I grinned back and then focused once more on his mom. “I don’t think there’s ever any guarantees, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
“I don’t suppose we can ask for better than that.”
I ducked my head and thought about her response. Maybe that wasn’t the answer she wanted me to give, but it was the truth. I’d do everything I could to make it work between Dave and myself, but I couldn’t promise that nothing would ever happen.
I heard the sound of a car door shutting and stood. “If you’ll excuse me. That’s probably Josh.” I waited for Lynn to nod. “I’ll be right back.”
I hurried into the house, eager to escape the one on one time. Lynn seemed like a wonderful lady, but I wasn’t sure how to act around her. Hopefully the arrival of my cousin would help take some of the spotlight off of me. I didn’t mind visiting—now that the first meeting was out of the way—but I hated feeling like I was under a microscope.
I had the door open before Josh even knocked.
“Talk about service.” Josh stepped aside and let his wife, Maryanne, enter before him.
I kissed her on the cheek and took the bowl of fruit she carried. “You didn’t have to bring anything.”
“I know.” She smiled gently. “I wanted to.”
“Thank you.” I was so glad Josh had found someone like her. Not only did Maryanne help keep him grounded, but she made him happy.
“Everything okay?” Josh looked worried.
I laughed and wondered how many times I was going to get asked that today. “Your timing was perfect. You saved me from even more of a grilling by Dave’s mom.”
“Lynn and Scott are already here?”
I nodded and pointed towards the backyard. “Go on out.” I held up the bowl of fruit. “Tell Dave I’ll be back out in a minute, I’m just going to stash this in the fridge until it’s time to eat.”
I got the fruit put away and decided to put a sign on the front door for everyone to come on in and that we were in the back. It seemed easier than running to the door each time one of my cousins and their families showed up. I didn’t get a chance to make it back outside before Scott came in. Scott perched against the counter. I swallowed hard. Apparently the inquisition wasn’t over yet. Maybe I was overreacting since it hadn’t been that, but they still had time.
“Anything I can do to help?”
“Thank you, but I’ve got it covered.” I suspected that Dave’s dad was just being polite.
He nodded. “I see you survived.” He must have seen my confusion. “Lynn has been beside herself waiting to meet you. She’d have been over here as soon as Dave told her about you, but he asked her to wait. I think he was afraid she’d scare you off.”
I shook my head. “I’m not that easy to scare away.” Not that I would have been comfortable meeting his parents so quickly, but I’d have dealt with it.
“That’s good to know.” He motioned towards the backyard with his hand. “Lynn can come across a little strong, and I suppose I can to, but Dave is her baby boy.” He grinned. “Don’t tell him I said that. He keeps telling his mother he’s too old to be called that, but for Lynn, he’ll always be her baby.” He glanced at me and had a contemplative look on his face. “I can ask her to back off if you’d like.”
“No. I appreciate the offer, but it’s okay.” I smiled. “It’s understandable. She doesn’t want him to get his heart broken.”
Scott grinned. I must have given him the answer he wanted. “Both Lynn and I are looking forward to getting to know you better. You seem like a good guy and I can only hope you don’t prove us wrong.” Scott smiled and headed back out with the others, leaving me with his parting words.
I felt weighted down by expectation and hoped I could live up to them.
By the time I returned to the backyard, Josh was sitting talking to Lynn and Scott like he’d known them his whole life. I envied him his relaxed nature, but then again, he was in a different position than I was. Not only wasn’t he Dave’s boyfriend, but he’d met them before. I walked over to where Dave was manning the grill and slid an arm around his waist. He turned his head and kissed my cheek.
“How are you holding up? Still nervous?”
I thought about my interactions with his parents and smiled. I bumped my hip against his. “Not as much as before. You were right, your mom and dad are nice.” A bit intimidating, but nice nonetheless. Dave grinned at me and I could tell he was pleased at being told he was right. “Yes, I said it, but don’t let it go to your head. It won’t happen very often.” I thought about Lynn’s question to me and knew that I hadn’t given her the full truth. While I definitely had no plans to break his heart, I’d do anything I could to prevent it from happening. I didn’t know how anyone could hurt him and I counted myself as damn lucky to have met him.
“Good, I’m glad.” Dave wrapped an arm around me and pulled me closer, turning the ribs one handed. “And don’t worry, I know how much it pains you to admit to me being right.” Dave dipped his head down and kissed me briefly.
I felt like someone was watching us and turned to look at those who’d already arrived. Dave’s dad met my gaze and grinned. I was surprised I didn’t feel more self-conscious about the public displays of affection Dave and I displayed. But despite the little one-on-one with Lynn, neither of Dave’s parents had done anything to cause me grief. If Dave wasn’t going to temper his affectionate nature, why should I? We had nothing to hide. In the end, seeing us behave as we normally did probably even laid some of Dave’s parents’ concerns to rest.
We had a nice afternoon and evening. More of my cousins showed up and were introduced to Lynn and Scott. Everybody seemed to hit it off and by the time everyone left, I felt a little sheepish at how much I’d worried about meeting Dave’s parents. Not that I hadn’t had reason to be, but they were so personable that it was almost impossible to remain uncomfortable.
We were laying together on the couch after everyone was gone and I thought back to the day. “I think it went good.”
“It did.” Dave kissed the back of my neck.
“What did your mom say to you when they were leaving? Or is it private?” Lynn had pulled Dave aside for a few minutes right before she and Scott left.
“It wasn’t really private.” Dave grew quiet for a minute and I didn’t think he was going to answer. “She just told me it lightened her heart to see me so happy and that I’d better not let you get away.” He tightened his hold on me. “Just so you know…I have no intention of letting you go.”
“Good, because you’d have a hard time getting rid of me.”
Dave didn’t answer, he just held me. His breathing had evened out and I figured he’d fallen asleep. I’d have been wrong.
“I’m sorry things aren’t better with your mom and dad.” Dave laced his fingers with mine and squeezed. “You know if you ever decide you want to start going to your family dinners again, I can stay home. I won’t be upset.”
He wouldn’t? He’d made it horribly clear he wouldn’t be a secret. If I even thought about going to the Sunday dinners, I’d be making him into a secret and be pretending to be something I wasn’t. I didn’t want to go back there and I refused to go without him. But, I also wasn’t about to submit him to the ridicule that we would both face. I shook my head.
“I won’t, I promise.” Dave sighed. “I talked to Dad about it a bit and I understand why you don’t want to go, but eventually you might. I don’t want to hold you back.”
I pulled my hand free and turned in his arms so I could look at him. I wanted him to see that I meant every word I was about to say.
“You don’t hold me back.” I smiled to let him know I was serious. “Except for my cousins, the rest of the people that go to those dinners are the ones who tried to keep me from living my life. If I ever decide I want to go, we’ll talk about it, but unless attitudes change and they accept you as a part of my life, I’m perfectly happy where I am.” I pressed as close to him as I could get and kissed him lightly, my tongue tracing the seam of his lips. They opened and I put every bit of what I was feeling into my kiss. By the end of it, we were both breathing hard.
I knew, most likely, we’d visit the subject of my family again, but for now I just wanted to enjoy being with Dave. I knew our relationship had progressed rather quickly and some people might not understand, but they weren’t the ones who really mattered. Ultimately, as long as we were happy together, I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Would we get to spend the rest of our lives together? I hoped so, but only time would tell.
For once, I was perfectly content…with Dave.
Well, that's it, the final chapter of Reece's Choice. I hope everyone enjoyed the story and I'd love to hear what you think on this chapter and/or the story as a whole. Thanks for reading!