Considering how much Chris’s brother seems to like me, I wasn’t all that nervous about meeting his parents. I pictured two quiet and reserved people, much like the Barrett brothers. And anyway, parents usually loved me. I’m a nice girl with no visible tattoos, no excessive piercings, and I’m relatively well spoken and intelligent. What’s not to like?
I’m about to find out.
Mr. and Mrs. Barrett are in town from D.C. for the day. Mr. Barrett has some sort of business in the city that he has to take care of. I’m a little unclear on what he does for a living exactly, if he’s a politician or a spy or… I don’t know. Chris was fuzzy on the details, which makes me think he really is a spy.
I initially tell Chris that I’d like to cook for her parents, figuring that will impress them. Then he says to me, “You better not.” What does that mean? But I didn’t argue and we made reservations to meet them at a restaurant on the west side.
Chris is generally fairly laid back, but he’s nearly hysterical as we’re getting ready to leave from my apartment to meet his parents. Considering how much he pushed for this meeting, he really seems like he’s dreading it. He’s wearing a crisp white shirt that I’m fairly sure is brand new, and he’s paired it with a dark tie. His slacks are freshly pressed and I think he got his shoes shined. For a moment, I let myself fantasize about a shoe shiner bending over him in his wheelchair to polish his shoes, but he’s being so uptight that I can’t even let myself enjoy it.
First off, he insists on approving my outfit, which he has never done ever in the history of our relationship. I’m wearing a green dress that falls just above my knees, and I can tell by the way he’s squinting at me that he doesn’t like it. “Don’t you have something… longer?”
Not really. I mean, what’s the point of wearing a skirt if it isn’t short?
But Chris goes through all my drawers and finally pulls out this wool skirt that was a gift from my grandmother, which I don’t think I have ever worn but couldn’t bear to throw away because she died shortly after she gave it to me. It’s possibly the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. And then he pairs it with one of my white blouses that I wear to work.
“Why don’t you just dress me up in a nun’s habit and get it over with?” I grumble as I pull on the itchy woolen skirt.
“And could you maybe wear less make-up?” he asks.
I frown. “I’m just wearing lipstick.”
“So, like… can you wipe it off?”
I just stare at him.
“It’s not like you need it, Samantha.”
He isn’t satisfied until I’ve scrubbed every stitch of make-up off my face. It’s not that I mind going without make-up, but it disturbs me how weird he’s being about all this. Chris never seemed to care what I was wearing before, like when I was meeting his brother or his friends. For the first time that night, I start to feel the first inklings of anxiety.
Chris checks his watch like twenty times in the cab on the way to the restaurant. “We cannot be late,” he keeps saying.
“Calm down,” I finally say. “We have plenty of time. Why are you freaking out?”
“I just don’t want my mom to get upset,” he says.
We arrive at the restaurant ten minutes early but apparently, the Barretts have already arrived and are sitting at the bar. When the hostess tells us this, I hear Chris whisper “shit” under his breath. I try to touch his shoulder, but he shakes me off.
Chris’s dad looks a lot like he does. Same brown hair and eyes, same quiet and reserved manner. His mother, on the other hand, scares me instantly, and I can see why Chris has been so uptight this evening. Her strawberry blond hair is pulled into a severe bun, and her icy blue eyes have this cold, calculating stare that actually sends chills down my spine. I always thought that was just an expression until this moment.
“Christian,” she says, as we approach. She looks at her watch pointedly.
“I’m so sorry to make you wait,” he says. Even though we’re freaking ten minutes early!
She doesn’t stand up from her barstool, but looks her son up and down. “Christian, sit up straight, for God’s sake.”
He pushes his palms into his knees and straightens out his posture. Without meaning to, I find myself pulling my shoulders back and standing up a little straighter myself. In any case, I’m really glad I didn’t wear that short skirt.
“Mom, Dad,” Chris says. “This is Samantha.”
Now I get the full extent of her stare. She looks over every inch of me, and I can’t say what I see in her eyes is approval. I can’t help but wonder if she approved of Jenna.
“Hello, Samantha,” Mrs. Barrett says without even the slightest hint of warmth.
“Good to meet you, Samantha,” Mr. Barrett says, reaching out to clasp my hand in his. His wife offers me no such gesture.
“Hopefully they’ll still be holding our table,” Mrs. Barrett says. I feel like I’m going crazy here, because seriously, our reservation is for five minutes from now. We’re early. So how could they have given away our table? Is there something I’m missing?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris this nervous, even on our first date. It’s extremely weird, actually. Within one minute of being seated at our table, he manages to spill his water really spectacularly. It’s a nearly full glass, so it goes everywhere, drenching our napkins, and getting him pretty badly on the lap. It looks a little like he wet his pants. None of this does much to diffuse his anxiety.
“I’m so sorry,” Chris says to our waiter as she mops up the mess.
“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart,” she says in this super condescending voice.
Mrs. Barrett is shaking her head at him through all this. “You’re never careful, Christian,” she notes. Which is completely not true at all. Chris is not a klutz by any stretch of the imagination.
“Sorry,” he says again.
“So, Samantha,” Mrs. Barrett says, and I curse silently that she’s turned her attention on me. “It’s fascinating to finally meet you after hearing so much.”
I glance at Chris, whose ears are bright pink. “Oh. Good things, I hope.”
“Quite good,” she says. “We all know how young men are when they’re smitten. And I can certainly see why he likes you.”
Mrs. Barrett’s words sound like a compliment, but I don’t like her tone of voice. It’s almost like she’s accusing me of having seduced him for nefarious purposes. Which is maybe a little bit true, but I’m sure not in the way she’s thinking.
“I like him too,” I say, trying to keep the defensive tone out of my voice.
To that, Mrs. Barrett just says, “Hmm.”
“Samantha is an engineer,” Chris says. He actually sounds a touch proud. “She’s incredibly smart.”
“You like that work, Samantha?” Mr. Barrett speaks up.
“Yes, definitely,” I say. “I work mostly with airplanes and it’s very enjoyable. And the company is really good to us.”
“Better than working at an Apple store, I’d imagine,” Mrs. Barrett snorts.
Chris’s eyes lower. “Mom…”
“Honestly, Christian,” she says. “What a waste of your talents. Don’t you think so, Samantha?”
I freeze, not sure what to say. I don’t want to imply that Chris can’t do anything better than work in an Apple store, but I also don’t want him to feel like I’m ganging up against him. Finally, I mumble, “I’m sure something better will come along soon. And then he can quit.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Barrett says triumphantly. “Samantha agrees with us. You need to quit that Apple job and take that job we told you about. It’s the job you always wanted, and if you interview, it’s yours.”
I stare at Chris, who is dragging a fork around his empty plate. “You didn’t tell me you got a job offer! Why don’t you want it?”
He doesn’t look up at me. “It’s in D.C.”
My appetite disappears. Chris got a great job offer and he doesn’t want it, because it would involve moving. I’m sure he’s developed a connection to the city and to the apartment he owns, but I suspect his parents think he’s not taking the job for other reasons. Namely, me.
“You’re being a fool, Christian,” Mrs. Barrett snaps. “This is an incredible opportunity for you. You and your little girlfriend can still visit each other every other weekend.”
His little girlfriend. I guess she’s referring to me.
“I don’t want the job, Mom,” Chris says, speaking through his teeth. “I’ll find something on my own. Seriously.”
Considering how Chris seemed a little terrified of his mother when we first arrived, there’s a strange determination in his eyes as he stares her down right now. Although this is the first I’ve heard of this alleged job, it’s clear he’s given a lot of thought to the matter. God knows how many arguments he’s already had with his mother about it. And he’s made his decision clear. He doesn’t want to take a fantastic job in D.C. He wants to stay in New York and make out with his girlfriend.
The rest of the meal is tense, to say the least. We talk about a number of superficial topics, like movies, travel, or even the freaking weather, but it’s clear what’s on everyone’s minds. Mrs. Barrett is basically glaring at me the entire meal. At least, she’s glaring at me when she’s not picking on her son, asking him when the last time he went to the doctor was, if he’s taking care of himself, et cetera.
“You’re checking the skin on your feet every day, right?” she says to him at one point.
“Mom. Yes, I am.” He heaves a sigh. “Come on.”
“I don’t have a right to be worried?” she says. “You almost lost your foot that time.”
Chris’s eyes widen and he glances at me worriedly. “That didn’t actually happen.”
“It could have,” Mrs. Barrett insists. I have no idea what the truth is behind this story and I’m not sure I want to know.
As soon as I finish eating, I excuse myself and run to the bathroom in order to escape the tension. As I’m sitting in the stall, I feel like I just want to stay in here forever and not go back to that dinner. When I manage to stop myself from hyperventilating, I tell my cell phone to call Kate. And I try not to drop it in the toilet.
“Hey,” Kate says, answering on the second ring. “How’s Meet the Parents going?”
“Awful!” I wail.
“I’m surprised,” Kate says. “Parents always love you, right?”
“Chris apparently got some amazing job offer in D.C. and he turned it down. And his parents think it’s because of me.”
“Of course it’s because of you,” Kate says.
“Please, Sam,” Kate snorts. “I’ve never seen a guy so crazy about a girl. Even Patrick didn’t like you as much as Chris does. He doesn’t want to screw that up by moving far away.”
“You’re not making me feel better about this,” I groan.
Before I can get any more words of wisdom from my friend, Mrs. Barrett busts into the ladies room in a puff of expensive perfume. Ralph Lauren, I think. I hiss into the phone, “Gotta go!” Then I hang up without waiting for a response.
“Hi,” I say, my mouth suddenly very dry.
“Hello, Samantha,” she replies as she heads for the vanity mirror to check her make-up.
If it was bad being at the dinner table with Mrs. Barrett, this is about a hundred times worse. And it’s pretty clear that she came here just to find me. I appreciate that she’s making a show out of checking her make-up, but seriously, we know what you want, lady.
“I’m glad we have a chance to talk alone, Samantha,” she says to me.
No kidding. “Oh?”
Mrs. Barrett’s icy blue eyes meet mine in the mirror. “I just wanted to make it clear to you how fantastic a job opportunity this is for Christian.”
“Oh,” I say, because apparently that’s all I can say.
“Look,” she says. Here we go. “I know that Christian is very infatuated with you and I suppose you care for him as well. But we both know that you're not looking for a long term commitment with him. And I honestly don't think he realizes that."
I want to yell at her that I am looking for a long term commitment, but somehow the words aren't coming to my lips.
"I'm not saying you need to break up with him," she says. Because obviously, if she said that we had to break up, that's what we'd have to do. "But let him take the job in D.C. and then let things naturally take their course. It'll be a good way out for you."
"I'm not looking for a way out," I manage to say.
Mrs. Barrett looks at me like I said something laughable. Finally, she says, "Not yet."
"I really don't think—"
"Please, stop it, Samantha," she says, holding up her multi-ringed hand. "If you care at all about my son, you need to let him take that job. This is just ridiculous."
"It's just a job," I protest weakly. "I mean, won't there be others?"
"There aren't that many jobs in this economy," she says. "Not in his field. Samantha, relationships are fleeting. This is a great opportunity for him."
I look down at the sink, hoping she'll just leave the bathroom without requiring me to say I'll force Chris to go to D.C. But it's becoming obvious that won't happen. She's staring at me, her cold blue eyes practically boring into my soul.
"Well?" she finally says.
"What do you want me to do?" I say. "It's his decision. He decided not to go."
"If you tell him to go, I promise he'll go."
She’s probably right. If I told him I wanted him to move to D.C., it would be just like telling him I was breaking up with him.
I am not the kind of person who can stand up to a woman like Mrs. Barrett. I'm just not. She could crush me in one hand if she wanted to, even though she's shorter than I am. I can tell this is a woman who is really used to getting what she wants. And what she wants now is me out of her son's life.
"I'll talk to him," I say quietly.
She nods, taking this as a promise that I'm going to break up with him. But in reality, there's no way I'll do that. She may scare the shit out of me, but I've waited too long to meet Chris. No way I'm giving him up.
When we get back to the table, there's a lot of avoided eye contact. Mrs. Barrett looks markedly triumphant, and Chris looks worried. He does something which he never ever does, which is to put his hand on top of mine. Right on the table, where everyone can see us holding hands, rather than under the table in secret.
We grab a taxi back to my apartment, and this time he has me put his wheelchair in the trunk so he can sit next to me. The first thing Chris does when we're inside the taxi is hook his thumb into his tie to loosen it. His shoulders sag and I see the tension draining out of his body. Once again, he reaches over to take my hand.
"I'm so sorry," he says.
"It wasn't so bad," I lie. One thing I've learned over the years is you never, ever insult a guy's mother.
Chris squints at me through his glasses. "What did my mother say to you in the bathroom?"
"Nothing," I mumble.
He raises his eyebrows.
"She just really wants you to take that job," I admit.
"Did she tell you to break up with me?"
I hesitate for a second too long, and Chris knows the truth. I wasn't sure how I expected him to react, but I'm a little surprised by the string of explicatives he lets fly from his mouth. He looks incredibly pissed off. "She's been trying to convince me that this is just a fling," he says, almost seething with fury. "Or you're experimenting. Or you're just with me because you feel sorry for me. That you couldn't possibly really like me. That's what she always thinks about every girl I've ever dated." He sighs and adds, "Except Jenna. She trusted Jenna."
"This isn't a fling to me, Samantha," he says, glancing at the cab driver to see if he's listening in. I doubt he is, since I don't think the guy speaks a word of English. "I hope you feel the same way. But... sometimes I'm not sure."
My stomach ties in a little knot. "Why do you say that?"
"I don't know," he sighs. I feel his hand on top of mine sliding away a little bit. "Little things. Like that you don't seem to want to introduce me to your parents, for one thing."
"I do want to introduce you," I insist. I really, really don't. I'd rather stab myself in the eyeball.
"Whatever," he says. "Look, if this isn't serious, please just tell me now. And... I'll take that job in D.C."
Fuck. Are you kidding me? This is all going on my shoulders now? I'm going to have to be the one responsible for him taking or leaving his dream job? This is so, so unfair. I take a deep breath and realize I'm about to make the most important decision of my life.
"You really want that job?" I say.
Chris shakes his head. "No. I mean, I do, yes. It's an amazing opportunity. But I want you more, Samantha. If you want me. But... the way you're saying it, I'm thinking... you want me to take it. And leave."
"Yes," I say, "I do. I think you should take it. I can't be responsible for you giving up a great opportunity."
When I say those words, Chris abruptly pulls his hand away from mine. "I see," he says. I can almost hear him swallow.
"And also," I say, "I'd like to go with you."
Chris stares at me. He looks completely stunned. I'm not sure if it's good stunned or bad stunned, so I quickly add, "If you want me to, that is."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Chris says. "Of course I want you to!" He shakes his head. "I can't even believe that you want to... to give up everything just for..."
He doesn't even complete the thought before he leans across the seat and starts kissing me. Like I’ve said, he’s got this thing about PDAs, but by the time the cab stops in front of my apartment, he’s practically undressing me in the back seat. The cab driver seems completely shocked when he looks back at us, and he mutters something in a language I don’t understand. Chris pulls away from me breathlessly. “Get my wheelchair?”
I nod and grab his chair from the trunk. He actually lets me sit in his lap as he pushes us both into the elevator and up to my apartment. It’s so hot, I could die. Between kisses, he keeps whispering in my ear, “I love you so much, Samantha. I really love you.” And I whisper that I love him back.
He lets me off his lap so that I can unlock the door to my apartment with very shaking hands, but the second we’re inside, he immediately pulls me back down again. I’m amazed that he’s able to wheel us both so easily while simultaneously kissing me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
When we’re in my bedroom, he starts unbuttoning my Puritanical white blouse, his lips moving over my neck and collarbone. He gets stuck on the fourth button, and when he pauses and stops kissing me, I get so frustrated that I say to him, “Rip it.” He looks up at me, grins, and tears my blouse open. I’ll probably regret that decision tomorrow, when I’m searching for buttons on my hands and knees with my little sewing kit, but now all I know is that he cannot stop.
He lifts me into my bed without even grunting from the effort. He stays in his wheelchair as he spreads my legs apart and starts kissing the insides of my thighs. Holy shit, this is hot. In the past, he’s taken his time, teasing me, making me want it like crazy, but now he can’t hold back his eagerness. Yet somehow every touch of his tongue makes my body surge with electricity.
He proceeds to give me the most amazing oral sex I’ve ever experienced. As good as he always was, it’s almost like he was holding back before, or maybe it has something to do with how into it we both are. When I cum, I cum so hard that I feel like I’m going to go blind.
Then when I’m completely spent, he crawls into bed next to me, and we hold hands as we make plans for the future. I’m so excited but at the same time, I’m incredibly nervous. I’m actually going to make a commitment to this man.
And that means I’m probably going to have to tell my parents.
To be continued...