So I do.
I kiss him, and when I pull back, I add, “Your happiness matters, Joshua. It may not matter to your dad, but it does to so many other people. You’re not less than anyone, so you need to get that out of your head.”
“You’re very convincing, Miss Fox.” Appearing impressed, he looms back with a wry smile. “It’s not too late to go into law.”
“Not interested in law. Only interested in you.” Squeezing my arms around him, I savor this moment that feels stolen on a busy street. “I hope it will be like this forever.”
“It will.” His response comes quick and firm as if he already sees our future together.
I hold onto the same faith. “Nothing can touch us.”
We slip deeper into October and like the weather, the change in Joshua and me, as a couple, is evident. Our lives are lived in a bubble of our own making.
I didn’t realize how tenuous that bubble could be until I received a text last night.
“I’m the one who should be stressing, so why are you worried?” Joshua asks, running his hand through his hair for like the tenth time since he parked around the corner.
“I’ve never introduced someone I love to my mom before.” I halt on the sidewalk and turn to him. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful. Be honest, Chloe.” He fidgets with the hem of my sweater. “How is she going to feel about meeting me? I’m not some fancy Newport . . .” His hand waves aimlessly between us. “Whatever fancy people are in Newport. I’m from the wrong side of New Haven, and it’s going to show.”
Lifting up, I cup his face, my anxiety turning into excitement. “You earned your spot at Yale, so you don’t owe any explanations. As for my mom, she’s going to love what makes you different.”
“Your thoughtfulness and most importantly to her, how well you treat me.”
When he kisses me, it feels like more than Sunday brunch is on his mind. Unlike the weather, we get steamier the more time that passes. And I’m here for it, kissing him right back and deepening it.
A clearing of the throat draws our attention. When I see my mom standing not ten feet away, clutching her black YSL purse, I clear my own throat in response, take two steps back, and nervously tuck my hair behind my ear. “Mom,” I say, internally beating myself up for sounding like a ten-year-old who got caught playing dress up in her jewels.
“Hi.” The twinkle in her eyes reveal she absolutely caught everything. Coming forward with her hand out, she says, “You must be Joshua?”
“I am, ma’am,” he replies. A crack in his tone has me restraining a laugh. Poor guy. I’ve never seen him nervous before this morning. I take his free hand, not afraid to show support for him in front of my mom. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Fox.”
“It’s Ms. Since the divorce, but you can call me Cat.”
I’m quick to add, “She insists on ‘Cat Fox’ these days.”
Shrugging unapologetically, she says, “I was Catherine Fox for more than twenty years of marriage back in Rhode Island. Now that I’m in Manhattan, I feel more like Cat.”
I think we got the point without the claws. “She’s gotten very sassy since she moved to the city.” The fact she hasn’t ventured far from her St. John’s wardrobe still makes me giggle, though. Always a classic despite the change in name and location.
“It’s not sass.” She caresses my cheek. I have a feeling she’s admiring her work—me. “It’s freedom, darling, and it tastes divine.”
Joshua tries to suppress his laughter, failing miserably while I embrace her. “It’s good to see you, Mom.”
“You, too.” Then she whispers, “He’s cute,” but I have an inkling not low enough when I see him smugly smiling as he brushes his nails across his shirt.
Now it’s me struggling not to laugh. “Forgive my mom. The single life agrees with her.”
“No apologies necessary. We only have one life. We should live the best one we can,” he says.
“Oh, I like him, Chloe.” My mom thumbs toward him before looping her arm with his. As they walk toward the café, she asks, “Isn’t my daughter beautiful? And so smart.”
They seem to forget I’m here, but that’s okay because it appears, she approves. When he holds the door open, I poke his hard abs as I dash into the restaurant. I feel guilty for not eating at Patty’s, but Joshua didn’t want that either. He said his mom would probably run home to grab the baby photos if we let her.
Out on the patio, time flows into another hour, and we’ve put a good dent into a second pitcher of mimosas without my mom saying a word about me drinking the champagne cocktail. Laughing over shared stories of Joshua’s and my childhoods, and her adventures in New York. I could have done without the mention of my “awkward stage” junior year in high school, though. “In my defense—” I start.