Meeting the Parents
David was true to his word. On Saturday, he and Lizzie went out on their second date to Central Park. David had this elaborate picnic laid out- plaid blanket, basket of fruits, wine, and cheeses, etc. Lizzie’s mouth dropped open in shock when he laid out, though with a bit of trouble, everything on a nice, grassy part of the park near “ The Lake”, where they could feed ducks if they wanted to. David brought bread and everything.
“Do you come here a lot?” Lizzie asked, grabbing another slice of cheese from the basket as she sat indian-style on the surprisingly comfortable blanket. They had already spent a wonderful hour going over what they both did for the rest of the week, with David going briefly over various criminal cases he had to prepare for and Lizzie speaking of the recent novel she was working on.
“I used to,” David said as he also reached into the basket for a slice of cheese, though it was rather a larger size than Lizzie’s and not that well cut. “ I would come with my parents a lot. But when you grow up here, life gets in the way and you just stop coming.”
“So I’m the first one you have gone to the park with in a long time?” A smile played on Lizzie’s lips. It excited her just to think that she gave such a good impression to David that he would plan this well-thought out date for her.
“Yeah,” he said, “ I have a very good feeling about you, so I want to make this really special.” He grinned, “You know, give as great of an impression of myself as much as possible. ”
Lizzie reached her hand and placed it on top of David’s on the blanket. As their skin touched, Lizzie looked deeply into David’s eyes. The last time they looked at each other this way was just a couple of days ago but the intensity and attraction was still there. On Lizzie’s part, the minute their hands physically connected, it was like a jolt of electricity coursed through her body. This told her that the attraction and chemistry she felt on their first date wasn’t a fluke. This was real.
She also knew he felt the same way. With her touch, he jumped back a little and it was hard to not focus on his mouth, which told a clear story on how she affected him. His breathing became labored, just like hers was on that fated first date.
“ Truth… you made a very good impression on me, David Gutierrez,” she whispered.
He gulped. “ I’m glad to hear it.”
He moved closer, his eyes focusing on her lips. “Can I kiss you?”
Lizzie smiled, loving how he gently asked her for permission. At this point, there were so many sparks oozing between the two of them that Lizzie didn’t know how she could control herself from not smashing his lips with hers. It was inevitable.
“Yeah,” she whispered. “You can.”
David closed the space between them. His lips on hers was simply…magical. It was the lightest, most innocent of kisses, as if he savored each second of the simple feel of her mouth against his. A fluttering and heat rose in Lizzie’s cheeks as David gently took her face in his hands. For a couple of seconds… or minutes… Lizzie didn’t know what, They kissed like that- their lips brushing against each other, until Lizzie initiated a deeper kiss, opening David’s mouth with her tongue, until they both connected.
It was just like in the movies where fireworks would go off or intense music would play as the romantic interests engaged in their first real kiss. It always was the turning point in the couple’s relationship on screen.
And looking back, it definitely was the turning point in Lizzie and David’s relationship.
“Girl, tell me everything!” Lizzie’s best friend Andrea said, as she plopped down on Lizzie’s queen size bed in her loft near Park Avenue. With Lizzie’s recent book deal, which landed her for the fifth time on the New York Times Bestseller’s list, she quickly bought her dream apartment on the coveted apartment complex.
Andrea was the first friend she told about her purchase and quickly planned a welcome home party extravaganza and invited all of their friends and families to celebrate. When anything good or bad happened in Lizzie’s life, she told Andrea.
And that definitely included Lizzie’s two dates with her potential future boyfriend.
“It…It was incredible,” Lizzie said, joining her best friend on the grand bed, laying down among the Egyptian cotton comforter, her hair fanning out on the various pillows. “He took me to Central Park and prepared a picnic and everything… He brought a blanket, cheese, wine, everything.”
Andrea laid her hand on Lizzie’s quickly, her eyes wide. “Is he gay?”
Lizzie threw a pillow at her best friend, while Andrea erupted into laughter. “No! Definitely not! We had total chemistry. The way he looked at me told me otherwise. Trust me, I know.”
Andrea held her hands up in defense. “Okay, okay. I just had to ask. You know men normally aren’t good with the romantic stuff.”
“Yeah, I know. But it really seemed as if he made the extra effort. He fumbled with laying out the blanket and had trouble cutting up the slices of cheese.. I wanted to ask him if he had someone help him, but I thought that would be too rude. I’ll save it for another time.”
“Girl, for your sake I hope so. But, come on, spill it. Did you kiss? I assume that’s why you called me last night all giddy,” Andrea said.
“Yes, we did kiss.” Lizzie laid back down on the bed again, closing her eyes briefly for a moment, recalling how it felt like to have his lips on hers. Pure magic.
“It was… all I can say is that it was like a fairy tale. The perfect kiss. I kind of wish that was my first kiss ever, to be honest.”
Andrea pressed her lips together. “Aww! How cute! I have to meet him.”
“Maybe,” Lizzie said. “ I don’t want to jump the gun here. I’m going to let him move our relationship along.”
Andrea nodded in agreement. “Good choice. Don’t scare him off right away. But if he’s as great as you’ve described, it seems like meeting the friends and the parents won’t be a problem.”
Lizzie sighed. “Yeah, I hope so.” She didn’t meet Andrea’s eye, but instead looked out the window, which held an excellent view of fifth avenue. When she’d stare out at the bustling city, Lizzie felt like she could do and accomplish anything. But sometimes, no matter how many times she felt like she was ready to face the world, thinking about situations that were beyond her control couldn't be helped by just staring out the window and repeating a mantra to herself of how she’d conquer anything.
She really did not want to think that far ahead with the parent situation. Meeting the parents was always nerve-wracking, even in her previous relationships. Some liked her, some didn’t. But what she figured out was that some of the parents come into meeting her with pre-conceived notions on who she is and if anyone is good enough for their son. And at this point, Lizzie definitely didn’t know enough about David’s parents to say how they would treat her.
After catching herself scrunching up a part of the comforter, Lizzie got up off the bed and made her way around to the door of her bedroom. “I’m going to make some afternoon coffee. Want any?”
Andrea immediately jumped off the bed and followed her friend to the kitchen. “Great way to change the subject, Liz. Steer away from tricky conversations and things that you can’t control like a puppet master,” she said, plopping herself down on one of the stools facing the kitchen island.
“That’s not it,” Lizzie lied, taking out her Nespresso machine from the cabinet and plugging it in. God, Andrea knew her too well. “I just want to savor our first few dates for a little while longer. That is, if he even stays interested.”
“Ha, I have a good feeling that you don’t need to worry about that,” Andrea said as she picked off an apple from a nearby bowl of fruits and bit into it hard.
Andrea was right. Two months later, as Lizzie rummaged through her closet to get ready to meet David’s parents at their favorite italian restaurant, Caravaggio, she remembered her long- ago conversation with her friend.
This was the only time that Lizzie ever tried on dress after dress in her bedroom, stressing out over what would be the best and most appropriate outfit for meeting David’s yuppie parents in one of the most luxurious restaurants in the UES. It wasn’t that she had nothing fancy. It was that based on David’s descriptions of his parents, it seemed that they were impressed with a conservative dressing girl. And out of her many dresses, she seemed to find something wrong with each one.
The length of the red Balenciaga dress was too short. The leopard print style of a Roberto Cavalli dress this season was too trendy. A sleeveless cotton dress from Prada with a sash in white and black tie-dye in the bottom was better, but maybe too hippie-like with the print.
“Ugh,” Lizzie sighed in frustration. She must have flipped through her closet for two minutes before coming across one of her favorites- a little black dress from Chanel. Everything on top was covered up and the dress reached to her knees while still remaining fitted and cute. Perfect. Sometimes, classics are the best. Especially when you're meeting the parents.
It was an excellent choice because the minute David’s parents saw her, their eyes lit up. She was nervous that by the time she walked over to the restaurant from her apartment- which was only about two minutes walking distance, she would be sweating bullets due to the intense summer heat. But from the approving glances from David’s parents, she knew she had nothing to worry about. His mother looked extremely elegant with a long, but simple black dress with see- through long sleeves, gold jewelry and studded pearl earrings. David resembles her with her gentle smile and same icy, clear blue eyes. was of average height, with shoulder length brown hair.
“Lizzie, May I present to you my mom, Ruthie,” David said, wrapping his arm around his mother. She patted his hand and smiled at him lovingly.
Lizzie’s heart melted. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Gutierrez.” She extended her hand in greeting and winced.
Damn, she forgot that David’s mother was remarried, so her last name would be completely different. She didn't think David ever told her what his mother’s last name was and she definitely didn’t ask. But instead of being offended, his mother enveloped her in a hug instead.
“Nice to meet you as well. Please, call me Ruthie.” She let go of her and eyed her from head to toe. “I’m so happy to finally meet the wonderful Lizzie that my son has been talking about almost every day. It is a love match for him.”
“Mom,” David protested, exasperated. His eyes were as round as saucers as he mouthed I’m sorry to Lizzie.
This new revelation made Lizzie’s heart flutter. David talked about her to his mother all the time? She could tell during their dates that he liked her, but that he would actually let his mother in on his love life? She didn’t know for sure if he was very close to his mother but still… for a man to let his parents in on a girl he was dating spoke a lot. Even though they never broached the subject of their true feelings for each other and if it was deeper than just liking her, it gave Lizzie hope and allowed her to confirm what she was feeling- she really liked David. If she wasn’t already, she was definitely on her way to falling in love with him.
“It’s okay,” Lizzie said, smirking. “I talk about him a lot with my parents as well.”
David flashed her a quizzical look and mouth really?
So cute, Lizzie thought. She didn’t respond, but just smiled back.
His stepfather, who was watching this entire exchange with curiosity, cleared his throat.
David shook his head as if shaking himself from a daze and said ,” Lizzie, may I introduce my step-father, Robert?”
Robert and Lizzie both extended their arms for a handshake at the same time. She matched his strong grip with her own. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” Robert said.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too,” she replied.
“Should we go in and sit?” David asked, leading the small party inside the restaurant. “I called ahead of time to make sure they have the usual table ready for us.”
As the party of four took their seats at a secluded section at the back of the restaurant, Ruth said,
“ Lizzie- I heard you are a writer?”
“Yes. I started off writing for The New York Times, but now I’ve written a couple of mystery novels,” she said as she placed her napkin on her lap.
“Lizzie is being too modest, ” David said, “She’s a New York Times bestselling author.”
“Wow, so you are more than very good with words, but a superstar,” Ruthie clapped her hands with delight. “What’s the name of some of the books so I can read them?”
“ The Man in Red, Train 242, and Agent Green.”
“Interesting. I’ll be sure to read all of those books.”
“David said you graduated college?” Robert asked.
She nodded. “Yes, I double majored in English and journalism at NYU.”
“Good, good. So much better than the last girlfriend,” Robert muttered.
Before Lizzie could respond or David could chastise, Robert raised his two fingers and a waiter immediately walked over to their table.
“Can I start everyone off with drinks?” he asked, smiling at all the occupants at the table.
“Yes,” Robert said, “We’ll have a bottle of your best wine... preferably red.” Robert quickly glanced at Lizzie. “ Do you drink red wine?” he asked her.
The waiter nodded and headed off to the kitchens.
“So,” Ruth cleared her throat and grinned nervously, obviously eager to change the subject from the awkward gaffe made by her husband. “How did you two meet?”
“Mom, I told you already,” David said.
“I know, I know, but I’d like to hear it from Lizzie.”
“Well, we met through a dating app.”
“You mean, through the computer?” Robert asked skeptically.
“Yes, your stepson was one of the few good ones I talked to. We hit it off right away and after meeting, our relationship just grew from there.” Lizzie turned to looked deeply into David’s eyes at that point.
Underneath the table, he reached his hand to touch hers, and lifted it up to place a light kiss. If Lizzie was a shy and awkward girl, she would be heavily embarrassed. But what was there to be ashamed about? She had the adoration of a wonderful man and from what she could tell from this first meeting, she had the approval of his parents. This was a girl’s biggest dream come true. Almost perfect.
So she felt no embarrassment in placing her head on his shoulder briefly in acknowledgement of their blossoming relationship.
“ How wonderful, “Ruth gushed. “ Lizzie, you must come to our home sometime and I’ll cook for you my famous risotto…with a cuban spin of course.”
Lizzie smiled, a feeling of pure elation coursing through her at this warm welcome and approval. “I’d love to.”
The rest of the dinner went rather well, with David’s parents telling her embarrassing but adorable stories from his childhood- including his hatred of eating tomatoes, the various scrapes he’d get himself into, and his shared love of football with his mother.
David and his mother immediately invited Lizzie to go to a Giants game once the season began and though Lizzie stated her lack of knowledge about sports, Ruth quickly pointed out how it was an event to welcome her to the family and that she would be a huge fan in no time.
At the end of the evening, David volunteered to take Lizzie home and after hugs and feather kisses were given, the young couple were finally alone.
“So, what did you think of them?” he asked, making a point to walk slowly.
Lizzie matched his pace. “They’re great, David. Your mom is so sweet and your step dad is nice.”
He smiled. “I’m glad you guys got along. I know that my dad will love you once he meets you.”
Though Lizzie thought she shouldn’t, Robert’s comment about David’s ex-girlfriend stuck with her, and she was eager for clarification on what he meant.
So she cleared her throat, her mind racing with how she can bring up the subject delicately. “ It’s so easy to get along with your mom. She’s a total sweetheart. She seemed totally impressed with what I do for a living and what I studied.”
“She sees that as a relief considering what happened in the past,” David said.
“Oh? “ Lizzie asked.
David stopped and turned to face her. “ You’re trying to find out about my ex, right?” He smirked. “I think I know you pretty well by now, Elizabeth Garcia, to know when you are trying to be slick and get information,” he joked.
Lizzie put up her hands in mock defense. “Yeah, you totally got me. Since your stepdad dropped that bomb at dinner, I’ve been curious. You just don’t talk about her much.”
“You don’t talk about your exes either.”
“It’s never really come up but I have no problem talking about them,” she said.
David turned and continued walking. “It’s your lucky day, ‘cause I have no problem talking about her either.”
Lizzie didn’t respond.
Taking that as a cue to continue, David said, “ I dated my ex for about three years. Mom didn’t like her the minute she met her. She thought that she was… ugh, too low-class and uneducated. She didn’t come from a good family and had a hard childhood growing up. Mom never approved of the clothes she wore, saying they were too low cut so my mom never invited her to any of our favorite restaurants and always hated when I took her as my date for family weddings because of the clothing she chose.”
“Ok… was she a bad person?” Lizzie asked, hoping that there was a deeper reason for Ruth’s dislike rather than her looks.
“ I didn’t think so. We always had a good time together and I think I was attracted to her because she was a bad girl of sorts. When I was younger, I kind of liked that. You know… breaking away from the mold, trying to piss off my parents because I was stupid, young, and rebellious. I thought I was over that, but for some reason, I was twenty- five years old and attracted to her.” He sighed and ran a hand over his face, shaking his head. “ I was so taken in with her that I even asked her to move in with me after only six months. I was crazy.”
Lizzie grabbed his hand. “ We’ve all done crazy things sometimes.” Though secretly, she wondered how this nice, down-to-Earth, professional guy with intelligence and so many similarities to her can fall for someone like the person that he just described. But she had to remember, that opposites attract.
“Yeah, but I should’ve known better. I started to see her for what she really was two years later. ” He shoved his hands into his pockets and shook his head. “ She tried to pit me against my mom, saying that my mom treated her like a child behind my back, which I thought she did, but it turned out to be a lie after I confronted my mom about it. I had never gotten into fights with my mom about anything until I met her. I even stopped speaking to her because of Jessica for two months. My whole family was against my ex but I didn’t listen. I was completely blinded. She was so convincing and knew how to play me well.”
Lizzie nodded, trying her best to be as quiet and supportive as possible. It wasn’t difficult to do since she could obviously see the pain that talking about her caused him.
“ Jessica didn’t trust me. She always thought I was cheating on her when it was the last thing I’d do.” His hands immediately came out of his pockets and he made a slashing motion with his hands, as if cutting out the bullshit of Jessica’s accusations away and reiterating how ridiculous it all sounded.
Though Lizzie wanted to believe and trust David, there was always an inkling of doubt whenever a man presented that topic as a main reason for a breakup. She needed to dig deeper. “ Why would she think that, though? Did she make something up out of thin air?”
Instead of David taking the question as an insult and a signal of Lizzie’s doubts, he merely continued on with his story, “ I ran into a REALLY old girlfriend from college at the grocery store once with Jessica and afterwards, she completely flipped out, saying she saw signs of flirting which really weren’t there. That girl was married, for God’s sake, and was showing us pics of her kids.” He sighed in frustration. “ After that, I broke up with her. She completely embarrassed me in that supermarket and I was tired of being accused of something that was so off-base. I really saw that she was seeing whatever she wanted to see and after that and me breaking up with her, I reevaluated all the crap she was saying about my mother.”
He chuckled. “ The minute she was out of my life, I rebuilt my relationship back with my mom.”
By this time, the couple stopped walking as Lizzie’s apartment complex loomed over them. David turned to face her and took her hands in his. “ I didn’t want to talk about this so soon, especially after you and my parents got along so well.” He brushed his hand over her cheek. “ I was nervous, to be honest. You are so different than Jessica and I knew there was a high chance you’d get along with my mother and she would like you…but there is always that doubt.”
Lizzie smiled, leaning into his touch. “ To be honest, I was nervous too, scared actually. I…really wanted your mom to like me.”
“I did too,” he said. “And you know what?” David leaned in closer and whispered in her ear, “ I don’t even have to call my mom later to know that she adores you.”
Lizzie felt nothing less than elation at his words. Between the combination of his breath tickling her ear and the relief and completeness she felt at being accepted by who was obviously the most important person in David’s life, she felt as if she was on Cloud Nine.
“And I really like her,” she said, “ I would love to see more of her and maybe meet the rest of your family.” It was bold for her to say that, but she felt so comfortable with David and they fit so well together that anything she learned before from stupid relationship advice books about “playing the game” and “not letting him know about your feelings too soon” flew out the window with her and seemed like such shallow, stupid advice.
David was above that crap and he was a grown and mature man who knew exactly what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to show it. So how could she not respond to that by showing him the same? That girl Jessica was a fool to mess things up with David like that… but in the end, it was her gain.
David’s eyes sparkled with excitement and he finally leaned in to kiss her. It was a good and proper kiss, just like at the park on their second date, and Lizzie moaned softly as he deepenedit, making her arms travel around his neck as if the intensity of the kiss was keeping her from standing up straight.
It almost was. Lizzie didn’t know if she could ever last days, weeks, or years without kissing David. It was the most exhilarating experience she ever had. Finally, when David pulled away from their embrace, it was to take her face in his hands and say, “ I’m so happy to hear you say that. I definitely can’t wait to show you off to my family. But I’d also love to meet yours, to find out everything about you. I can’t get enough of you, Lizzie.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, opening them only once he exhaled. “I’ve fallen in love with you. I know it’s too soon but I’ve never felt this way before. Not with Jessica, not with anyone.”
Lizzie was floored. The ground almost fell from under her with the weight of David’s words. He loved her. There. He said it. It was out there. Looking deeply into his eyes, she knew that David wasn’t one to throw out that word casually. This was a declaration, just like in the countless romance novels and movies she’d seen. This was a huge step. He made a commitment with those words and Lizzie couldn’t do less than give him the same commitment.
“I love you too, David,” she breathed, standing on her tiptoes to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. “ I don’t think I’ve ever loved any man as much as I love you right now.”
Lizzie knew she would remember that moment forever, as her and the future love of her life stood facing each other in the emptying streets of the city, staring into each other’s eyes with so much love as the brightly lit New York City skyline shone all around them.