“Yeah, you too.”
Her voice was a little subdued as we hung up the phone. She felt sorry for me. Whatever. I better get going.
I delayed leaving for as long as I could, but I knew Mom would be furious if I showed up in the afternoon without helping her cook anything. As I drove down the freeway, I tried to practice what I would say to them. Maybe I should say that he wasn’t feeling well. I stamped my foot on the carpeted floor. No! I need to just rip it off like a Band-Aid.
All thoughts of my parents’ reaction disappeared when I pulled into the long driveway and saw an expensive car already parked there next to my Dad’s Subaru. I know that car.
My heels clicked on the cement, the air catching in my throat as I walked around the sleek Audi and opened the gate to enter in the kitchen. A tall, dark-haired man wearing a beautiful suit stood in my kitchen as my parents flocked around him. He came.
My mother spotted me standing outside, and I backed away in horror, hoping that I could escape back to my car.
She opened the sliding glass door and beamed. “Natalie! Your boyfriend just got here. Come inside, already!”
I never saw my mother look so happy. Tremulous, I entered the kitchen and swallowed hard as Will turned around, looking immaculate and gorgeous. He gave me a sad smile behind my parents’ backs.
“Look at what he brought us!”
My father gave me a one-armed side hug as my mother gestured excitedly towards the giant bouquet of flowers sitting on our dining room table. I lifted my arm, which held flowers that I bought from Safeway. My mother waved them off with a look of disgust.
“Oh, Natalie, why did you buy those? They won’t look good on the table.” She frowned as she took them from me and searched around the house to find a suitable vase.
How the hell did he find out where they lived? I shot Will a seething look. “You couldn’t tell me you were coming?”
“I tried calling,” he hissed back. “Many, many times!” His face shone with a bright smile as my mother came back into the kitchen. He looked good, as though everything in the past weeks had never happened.
“Natalie, why do you look so depressed? Do you hate coming here that much?”
I blinked. “No, Mom. Sorry, I just—”
“She’s been busy with her new job, that’s all,” said Will.
My eyes narrowed. Thanks. “Yeah, they really liked my designs at Pardini Worldwide so they hired me.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” said Dad, clearly not listening to a word I said. “So, Will. Tell me more about your job.”
They talked as I moved into the kitchen and began to help Mom with the cooking. I couldn’t believe he showed up. I took the boiled potatoes out of the pot and mashed them with more force than was necessary. Looking over my shoulder, I snorted in disgust as they hung on every word Will said.
“Want to take a ride in my car?”
I watched as Dad’s face lit up with transports of delight. “Sure! If it’s not too much trouble.”
The kitchen door slid open again as they both left and soon I heard the roar of Will’s car. The potatoes splattered on my dress as I slammed them with the masher.
“Natalie, you’re making a mess!”
I looked at her thin face and wanted to cry. He had them both eating out of his hand and it had only been thirty minutes. For twenty-six years, all I wanted was their approval. I wanted them to look at me the way they looked at him. The smell of baking turkey and yams made my stomach growl in hunger, but I felt no desire to sit down and eat with my family. I thought of my apartment with longing.
Why did he come here?
Did he feel bad about how he treated me, or did he just feel pity for me? I grabbed the bottle of Port and poured myself a small glass. It was going to be a long day. Twenty minutes later, they both returned to the kitchen. My dad talked loudly about how fast the car was, and did Will have any other cars and what about his father? Will listed off the cars in his family’s garage and I heard my parents’ gasps when he told them he only had one.
“I don’t like excess.”
“Well, neither do we!” My dad boomed.
I met Will’s gaze and grimaced. I hated them both and their disgusting, almost worshipful attention to my “boyfriend.” This is so much worse than Ben. Most of all, I hated the pride I felt for having him. We’re not together! This isn’t real!
After hours of this, all my desire for the food evaporated and I only wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. In my opinion, it was all Will’s fault. He shouldn’t have come here. The pangs of jealousy made it impossible for me to enjoy anything. Finally, we sat down at the table as Dad carved the turkey. Mom beamed as she looked at Will, who sat across from me.
“You’re so handsome. Isn’t he handsome, Natalie?”
“Mom, stop it.”
Will grinned, looking picture-perfect over the decorated table. “So I’ve been told.”
“He’s much better looking than her last boyfriend.”
“Natalie, don’t yell!”
I clenched my fists on the table, my fingernails scouring my palms. Even Will looked a little uncomfortable.
“I need to go to the bathroom.” I excused myself to the bathroom, breathing rapidly as I locked myself inside. I shook with rage as I saw the flowers I brought, which my mother found suitable for the bathroom. I wanted to smash them. They weren’t even that different from Will’s, they were just smaller. The injustice of it raged inside my blood.
You’re not going to blow up at the dinner table.
I took deep, shuddering breaths to calm myself down. This was what I wanted, after all. I begged Will to come here.
“What took you so long? The food is getting cold!” Mom scolded.
“Sorry, Mom,” I said as I sat down.
We began loading our plates with food: turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, baked yams, string beans, Brussels sprouts, and garlic mashed potatoes. As we ate, William kept heaping praise on my mother’s cooking. I rolled my eyes.
All they wanted to talk about was William. They listened to him describe his job and gasped at his achievements.
“Natalie, are you listening? Will got to where he was all on his own with no help from his parents. I wish you followed the same route. Who knows, we might have had another VP in the family!”
I looked up from my plate and glowered at her. William winced.
“Well, listen. I would be lying if I said I had no help from my parents. I was born into wealth and I went to the best schools. I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for my dad.”