As the couple emerged into the lounge Emilia formally introduced Matt to her parents for the first time. Matt’s initial impression of Emilia’s father was of a man who considered appearance to be highly important. Athletic in build from working out daily his entire life and dressed in designer slacks and shirt, although Matt knew the father was in his early seventies, if he hadn’t known he would have estimated him ten years younger. When they shook hands, the father offered a strong firm grip to Matt subtly twisting the younger man’s hand subordinately to his own in an attempt to show who was the alpha male. But rather than accomplishing the intended effect, it only left Matt amused by the unspoken attempt.
When Emilia’s mother stood to greet Matt, unlike the father she only offered the weakest of hands, as if uncomfortable touching someone she didn’t know and hadn’t yet swabbed for germs. Just like her husband, it was clear Emilia’s mother kept herself in shape, and Matt suspected by her posture and slim physique she had formal dance training. Yet, Matt couldn’t help gaining the impression that there was a coldness to the woman, a harshness of personality which seeped through to hide an otherwise beautiful woman.
“We were starting to have our doubts you were real, by how Emilia has been hiding you from us.” Emilia’s mother announced with all seriousness once the formal introductions had been made.
“Well, that’s Emilia for you,” Matt replied. “She prefers to keep me locked up in the flat and only brought out on the occasions for her own pleasure.” As he said this he looked across at Emilia and gave her a wink, to which she nervously giggled, not only for the intended innuendo he’d manage to slip in but also for her parents uncomfortable silence which followed the comment, meaning it had either gone over their heads or they were choosing to ignore it.
“Shall I put on some more coffee?” Matt asked breaking the awkwardness of the atmosphere.
“Thank you, that would be appreciated! Proper coffee, this time I hope?” Emilia’s mother replied stoney faced.
“Oh of course! We never serve instant around here unless we really dislike you!” Matt replied, not fully appreciating the mother’s remark and wondering why Emilia was shooting a look of disdain across the room towards him, only comprehending his mistake when he picked up the untouched mugs of coffee which Emilia had made for her parents and mouthing ‘sorry’ as an apology as he passed her making his way back into the kitchen.
“The place seems very nice, Emilia.” Her father declared out of the blue as soon as Matt had made his way through to the kitchen. “You have done up the place very nicely.”
“Thank you, Pater,” Emilia replied proudly. “Matt did most of the main work himself, and I did the majority of the interior design.”
“Well, you did a very good job.” He complimented looking around the room nodding his head in approval.
“Yeah, the kitchen and living room used to be two separate areas, but Matt knocked through the wall to give us more space. He also did the entire bathroom himself. He’s quite the handyman Pater, just like you.” That was one thing about her father she could certainly compliment him on. The man might be a busy cardiac surgeon, but he was just as capable of rewiring the house or plastering a wall.
“Shall I show both of you around while Matt makes the coffee?” Emilia asked, thankful she’d found a topic of conversation that at least one of her parents were interested in.
“Yes, I would like that!” Emilia’s mother immediately stood up waiting for her daughter to start the tour.
As Emilia showed her parents around Matt finished making the coffee, and as he was placing a tray with a freshly brewed cafetière and four mugs on the coffee table Emilia and her parents re-emerged.
“So Matt, Emilia has never told us what you do?” Emilia’s mother posed the question as Matt passed her a mug of coffee, and for the first time, she smiled in acceptance, slightly confusing Matt as he couldn’t tell if she was being genuine or leading him into a false sense of security. Since initially meeting Emilia’s parents he was rapidly coming to the same conclusion as his girlfriend. There was a growing possibility that Emilia’s mother was indeed a witch.
“Nothing exciting like your husband I’m afraid. I’m a graphic designer.”
“Does that pay well? How are your future prospects?”
“Wow that’s direct and to the point having just met you!” Matt replied to the abruptness of the mother’s questions. “My work pays enough for us to live on if that’s what you’re referring to.”
“We always saw Emilia marrying a doctor or a lawyer! You know, one of those professions where her husband could support her properly!” Emilia’s mother continued ignoring what Matt had just said as if it was irrelevant to her train of thought.
“Well, I must be quite the disappointment for you then. Good thing I’m dating Emilia, and that she is a strong independent woman who can support herself and make her own life choices.” He smiled purposely across at the mother refusing to take the bait.
“And what do your parents do? Are they wealthy?” She smiled back thinly looking Matt directly in the eyes unblinking.
“I’m sorry, I don’t really see the relevance of my parents’ state of affairs and how it concerns you getting to know me?”
“Well we wish our Emilia to be happy, that’s all.”
“Really, is that all! Interesting! However, I still don’t see how Emilia’s happiness is directly related to the wealth of my parents. Forgive me for my apparent ignorance, but when I look to the potential compatibility of a partner, how much money their parents earn isn’t really on my list of priorities.”
“Is it not? Then maybe it should be, Matt!” The mother stared contemptuously back.
“It’s about stability Matt.” Emilia’s father quickly intervened. “You must understand that a potential partner coming from ‘good stock’ means there is a greater chance of stability for our daughter. It’s only her happiness that concerns us.”
“Good stock! That’s a phrase I thought had been retired to only the equestrian world, but good to see I can be proven wrong in this day and age.” Matt mocked growing agitated by the line of questioning and the inference possibly being made. “However, I have been brought up to believe that happiness does not stem from financial or material wealth, or even breeding come to mention it. It comes from those who are around you and the love and support they bring you.”
“You sound just like her grandfather.” Emilia’s mother replied. “He used to say such whimsical things as well.”
“Yes, from what Emilia has told me he was a great man. It’s a shame I never got to know him. I think I would have liked him.” Matt responded choosing to ignore the continual quips from Emilia’s mother.
Neither parent replied to this leaving the conversation in an awkward pause once again.
“So…, do you like what Emilia has done with the place?” Matt asked wanting to change the direction of the conversation sensing if he was to continue it would only become a battle of wills and he wanted to avoid that for Emilia’s sake.
“Yes, indeed.” Emilia’s father replied. “Thank you, Emilia, for showing us around. It’s nice to see where our daughter lives, especially with her being so far away.”
“I’m not that far Pater, only a couple of hours away by plane,” Emilia said defensively. “But I’m pleased you like what Matt and I have done.”
“You said you did the interior design Emilia?” Her mother unexpectedly asked, directing the conversation back onto the flat.
“Yes, Mamma,” Emilia replied and only then followed her mother’s gaze to the top shelf of the bookcase, at which point her heart sank as she realised what her mother had focused on.
When Emilia had first moved in with Matt she’d privately despaired when he’d taken out of one his many storage boxes a model of the ‘Millennium Falcon’ and proudly placed it right in the middle of the bookcase prominently overlooking the whole of their open plan living area. For her the idea of toys had been limited to the few dolls she’d possessed as a child and her parents had drummed into her that such things needed to be discarded at an appropriate age. Therefore, the concept of a grown man holding onto such an object from his childhood was as alien a concept as she could think of.
At the time she nearly said something, but when Emilia saw the sparkle of mischievousness in his eyes, she couldn’t resist allowing him to place it where he wished. Over the months she’d come to love the toy for what it represented to Matt - not only an object from one of Matt’s favourite childhood films, but she came to learn that he was only ten when he’d built it, and grasped the many months it must have taken him to complete.
The model had remained in its prominent position right up until the phone message from her father to say they’d be visiting, at which point Emilia had negotiated with Matt for it to be temporarily placed on the top of the bookcase, hoping that at least there her parents wouldn’t notice it. Yet, typical of her mother, it hadn’t taken her long to find something to use as a point of potential criticism against her daughter.
“You have a very interesting choice of objects on display. What is this?” Her mother disapprovingly asked, posing the question purposely in Swedish as a clear snub to Matt.
Before Emilia could even muster a reply, her mother stood and stretched up taking down the model and turning it over with great theatrics in close examination. Yet, for Emilia, the final insult in her mother’s exhibition came when she watched hopelessly as the woman’s fingers lightly glided across the plastic surface producing a faint line in the thin layer of dust that had settled over the model since it’s newly found position. The sound of a disapproving ‘tut’ and gleam in the woman’s eye which accompanied the gesture cemented in Emilia’s mind one thing as she looked on horrified. It simply reconfirmed to her the immense dislike she had for this woman standing before her. Emilia’s mother had gained the ammunition she’d been seeking since her arrival.
“It’s called the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship!” Matt had sat watching the spectacle unfold with some amusement but seeing the look of horror on Emilia’s face he felt impelled to reply even though he hadn’t understood the question.
“And who is he supposed to be?” Emilia’s mother responded once again in Swedish ignoring Matt’s intervention, directing her question back towards her daughter.
“He’s a character in Star Wars. You know the films, Mamma!” Emilia replied in English, her face becoming steadily redder with fury at her mother’s continued rudeness and something which was not lost on Matt as he now placed his arm around Emilia purposely, in so much to show his moral support as to prevent his girlfriend from jumping up and potentially throttling her mother. One thing he’d learnt was that it took a great deal to push Emilia, but clearly, her mother knew how to hit all the correct buttons. He also observed that Emilia’s father during this conversation had remained on the sofa, perhaps sensing it better to remain quiet, and from what Matt could tell, slightly bemused by the entire conversation.
“You know as well as I do Emilia that I’ve never seen these films.” Emilia’s mother continued again in Swedish, her response dismissive yet angered, as if she was offended at her daughter’s suggestion that she might have some vague concept of what the films were about.
“Mamma, Matt is not fluent in Swedish, so I am sure he would appreciate you using English.” She snapped, infuriated by her mother’s continued rudeness. “I fully appreciate that you haven’t seen the films, however as they are an embedded part of youth culture, I was hoping you would have at least the minutest understanding of what they were about. Obviously, I was wrong on that, but there again why should you. I never once remember you showing any interest in ‘childish things’ when I was growing up. For your information the model was an important part of Matt’s childhood, so we both decided to keep hold of it!”
If Emilia was hoping this would bring an end to this topic of conversation, she was very wrong as her mother had latched on to what she saw as a weakness and had no intention of letting go.
“Toys are for children Emilia! Are you shacking up with a man or a boy?” Emilia’s mother snapped back in Swedish, emphasising the word ‘shacking’ making it very clear to Emilia what she genuinely thought of her daughter’s relationship with Matt.
“Jag gifter mig med en man, mamma!” Emilia blurted out of nowhere and only until it had rolled off her tongue, did she even comprehend what she’d just spurted out. In the sudden silence which followed you could have heard a pin drop from her parents, and only Matt was left without a comprehension of what his girlfriend had just said.
“Did I just miss something?” He asked seeing the look of shock written across the faces of both Emilia’s parents.
“Yes, sorry Matt. I said to my mother that ‘I am marrying a man.’” She turned to face Matt desperately searching into his eyes for how he felt appreciating this was not the ideal way she envisaged them proposing to each other, regretting immediately her loss of temper and weakness at being so easily wound up by her mother. “Would that be ok?”
“Well… that’s good to know! Should I say yes now, or keep you on tenterhooks for a little while?” Matt looked back at Emilia smiling. “Of course, the answer’s yes!” He replied as he kissed her on the forehead, at which point they both burst out laughing at the absurdity of the entire situation, and all Emilia could do was hug him.
“I’m sorry, what just happened?” Emilia’s father asked perplexed, as his wife looked on at the couple in shocked silence.
“Your daughter proposed to me Mr. Jakobsson, and unfortunately for you and your lovely wife here, I accepted.”
“No, I’m sorry this is not acceptable. We have just met you today and we virtually know nothing about you. I’m sorry Emilia, but your mother and I cannot approve of this. This is not acceptable behaviour for a daughter of ours!”
“And what would be acceptable behaviour I wonder? Mr. Jakobsson, your daughter is quite capable of making decisions of her own. I believe as a fully-fledged adult she no longer needs your approval for the decisions she makes in life.”
“Emilia, are you going to allow this man to speak to us like this and show such disrespect? You never used to be like this! He has changed you!” Her father had stood as he’d spoken pointing an accusing finger at Matt before placing a hand on his wife’s shoulder staring at his daughter waiting for her reply.
Matt was just about to respond when Emilia put her hand on his leg to stop him. “It’s fine Matt, I’ve got this.”
She stared back at her father contemplating the man who’d played such a dominant role in her life and shaped her for better or for worse. Yet, sat next to Matt, sat with the one man she knew would stand by her side for the rest of her life, Emilia no longer felt intimidated by her parents.
“Well, what have you got to say?” Her father demanded agitated by his daughter’s lack of response.
Emilia felt powerful by keeping her parents waiting, released in those moments from the shackles which held her back for so long. She used the silence to gather her thoughts, and for the first time in her life felt the confidence to make her parents wait until she was ready.
“Pater, you are indeed correct, I am a changed woman since I’ve met Matt.” Her voice was calm and steady, and Matt could only look on in admiration knowing his future wife had at last found her voice. “I am sorry that you don’t approve of Matt, but I am truly at a loss as to why. If it’s partially a result of my decision to keep him from you, then it is me you need to disapprove of, not him. That was my decision, and mine alone. Yet, sadly I fear your opinion of him would have been the same no matter what. Both of you have always held some ridiculous predefined notion as to whom I should marry, but never once have either of you asked what I want.
I am no longer a child and believe it or not I haven’t been for some time. I am a woman with my own needs, wants, and desires. I cannot live my life by your dreams, I can only live it by mine, and Matt is central to that dream.
“But…,” it was Emilia’s mother who attempted to intervene until Emilia raised her hand to silence her.
“Mamma, please let me finish.” The mother’s jaw almost dropped at the audaciousness of her daughter, but void of the appropriate words for a response continued to sit in rigid silence at her daughter’s instruction.
“Matt has given me something that’s always been missing in my life. He’s allowed me to experience the true definition of love. Every day he demonstrates respect, trust, honesty, integrity, intimacy, chemistry, and partnership, and in turn has given me the confidence to show these things mutually back to him. My love for Matt goes far deeper than any attraction or lust, he’s become my rock and to that rock, I will cling.
Yet, the sad truth for you Pater, is that because of this I have found the confidence to speak the voice which has always been inside me yet until this time has been suffocated and hidden. You and Mother simply chose not to allow that voice to be heard.
Grandpapa always told me when I was little that I had it within me and that one day it would appear. He said I only had to believe. Well, today I do believe. Pater, Mamma, I’m going to marry Matt, with or without your blessing. I love him, and I know he loves me. Please accept this truth… or leave.”
Emilia took Matt’s hands in hers, squeezing them tightly out of fear her power would suddenly evaporate and she’d collapse in the realisation of the defiance shown. Both parents remained speechless at the ultimatum, unable to comprehend seeing their daughter stand up against their will.
“Nils, I think it’s time to leave now!” It was Emilia’s mother who was the first to speak. Her husband stared down at her for a second still rooted to the spot, not knowing if she was serious or not.
“Nils, I would like to leave now!” She frustratingly repeated, sensing his confusion. “I will not be spoken to by anybody like this, especially my own daughter!”
With that, Emilia’s parents rose, and her father suddenly propelled into action scurried to fetch their jackets from the coat hooks by the front entrance.
“Well, I hope the two of you will be very happy.” Emilia’s mother stated as she made her way to the front door, her husband following behind.
“Mamma, Pater, you do realise that I love you!” Emilia’s voice remained calm as her mother went to open the door. “All I want is to be happy, and I have found that.”
“I’m sure Emilia.” Her mother replied in Swedish, and with that walked out of the front door.
“Bye Emilia.” Her father turned to his daughter and sheepishly muttered before following his wife out and closing the door behind him.
The young couple remained in disbelief holding each other’s hands as a calm instantly descended upon the flat.
“So…” Matt began but then found himself stopping not knowing truly what to say.
“So what?” Emilia sheepishly asked, partially fearful and embarrassed at the scene Matt had just witnessed.
“Well… that was rather intense!”
Emilia burst out laughing at his understatement, suddenly thankful that the intensity of the quiet was broken.
“When you said your mother was a witch, I didn’t realise that you meant it literally, with a broom and pointy hat!”
“Yeah, sorry about that, but I did warn you!” Emilia grinned, enjoying how Matt could instantly make light of any situation, something she was now desperate for.
“Yeah, next time I say to you that someone will be ‘like putty in my hands,’ remind me of this moment.” Matt joked as he kissed her on the cheek before starting to clear away the now cold mugs of coffee. Emilia remained seated, studying him affectionately as he rinsed the mugs before coming back to join her and putting his arms around her.
“However, just one thing to clear up!” Matt said after a moment.
“Did you mean what you said? You want to marry me?”
“Yes, Matt. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than marrying you.”
“Thank you.” Was all the reply he could muster as they embraced.
“But…, before anything else can begin, there is just one thing I need to do,” Emilia said after a few moments, releasing herself from his arms and smiling. Matt could only watch her bewildered until it dawned on him what she was doing. Emilia had picked up the model which had been abandoned on the coffee table by her mother, moved over to the bookcase and started to rearrange the middle shelf before placing the model in the centre so it could be seen immediately once again by anyone when they first walked into the room.
“Are you sure you want it there?” Matt asked.
“Yes, I think it belongs right here for everyone to see.”
Emilia stood back from the bookcase to admire the model’s position. For her the model had this morning become far more than just a reminder of Matt’s past. It now stood as a symbol of her relationship with Matt and her newly found confidence to speak out. He had been prepared to fight for her, and there was something inherently comforting with he had been there for her. This morning they’d become forever entwined in each other’s future, the rebel alliance standing up against the evil empire. She had felt the force today, and she smiled knowing that the force would be with her, always.
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