47. Telling parents
"Mom! Dad! I’m dating my high school French teacher!"
This might have been the simplest approach, but Marcy felt it wouldn’t be the best one to take.
Essentially though that was what she was going to have to tell them. There was no real way to break this gently, but she did her best. She thought it would help to start with her mom rather than face an entire family conference.
They were in the kitchen and Marcy was helping her mother bake some Christmas treats. Every year she took a basket of pies, cookies and other goodies to an old people’s home in Springdale.
"I kind of have something to tell you," Marcy said. Seeing the look on her mother’s face she quickly continued: "I’m not pregnant, nothing like that. Or in trouble with the police or anything."
Her mother laughed. "I somewhat doubted you would be."
"I’m seeing someone. He’s in Springdale right now, but he’s moving to New York soon."
"Well, if you end up going to NYU, you two won’t have to be long distance for too many months," her mother said, thinking that this was the issue. "So, do we get to meet him before he goes?"
Marcy took a deep breath. "You’ve already met him as it happens. He’s at - he was at - Springdale High."
"Oh? You don’t meant Josh, surely? I thought you were long over him. I can’t think which other boys we’ve met."
"That’s the thing. You remember Guys & Dolls?"
"I’ve hardly forgotten it, Marcy, it was only a few weeks ago." Her mother put another tray of cookies into the oven.
"You remember the guy who played Sky?"
"Opposite Cora Helberg? That nice young man who teaches French at Springdale?"
Marcy couldn’t meet her mother’s eyes. She tried to focus on some silver balls she was sticking on snowman cookies.
"He won’t be teaching French any more. He got a job acting in New York. Some producer guy saw him and auditioned him."
Marcy’s mom looked momentarily confused. "That’s very exciting for him. But I don’t see…"
And then she did see. And went slightly pale.
"Marcy, you don’t mean…? Not your teacher, surely?"
"He’s not my teacher any more though. And he’s only a couple of years older than me." Six was kind of "a couple", she figured. In terms of significance anyway. "And you said you thought he was really nice."
"Nice as your teacher, Marcy! Not as your boyfriend! How on earth did this happen?"
Marcy had decided it was best to edit this part of the story slightly. In years to come, if she was still with Gray, or if she was forty or something and twice divorced with three kids and her mother no longer cared about this stuff, she could reveal the exact truth.
"We just became friends through theatre. And then I bumped into him in a party in New York. And he told me he wasn’t going to be at Springdale any more. And then you know, mistletoe and everything…"
If Marcy’s mother guessed that something had happened before, or that it was somewhat too much of a coincidence for Marcy to have randomly bumped into her teacher at the same New York party, she perhaps decided it was wiser to say nothing.
"I don’t know what your father will say. Still, I suppose you are eighteen. At least if he’s a long way away in New York it will give you both time to think about things and have some perspective."
Marcy flung her arms around her mom, sending up a cloud of powdered sugar.
"Thank you for not being mad! Honesty you will like him even more when you meet him again. He’s really kind and responsible." And totally sexy and hot and a brilliant kisser, but Marcy figured her mother didn’t need to be acquainted with that side of him.
Later that week Gray came round for dinner. Marcy’s mother had insisted. "If you’re dating him and it’s serious enough that you plan to keep seeing him when he leaves for New York, then I think we should meet him, Marcy."
This wasn’t the real reason of course. The real reason was that Marcy’s mother was still freaked out that Marcy was dating her former teacher, and wanted a closer look at him. To check he wasn’t some kind of predator.
"I hope you’re ready for this," Marcy told Gray in a hushed voice when she opened the door to him. "My father hasn’t got his gun out but he may as well have."
"Your father has a gun?" Gray was mock alarmed.
"No, actually. He’s not really the gun type. He’s pretty cool, but they’re both a bit on edge."
Fortunately Gray was just as charming, polite and open as when Marcy’s parents had met him at the photography exhibition.
The meal started off with some tension, as everyone was careful what to say. The million dollar question was of course: "did anything happen while you were Marcy’s teacher?" but fortunately neither of her parents asked it.
Instead they decided to take things from the present situation and see how they felt about Gray for themselves. As it turned out, they liked him very much.
"I just hope you’ll both take things slowly," her mom said when they were in the kitchen preparing to take the dessert course out. "He does seem to be a very nice young man but he is a lot older than you. He may have expectations that you’re not ready for."
Marcy assumed her mother meant sex and wanted to die of embarrassment.
"And I don’t mean sleeping together," Marcy’s mother continued, to Marcy’s surprise. "I mean expectations about a more serious relationship. You need to think about what you’re ready for. He’s already graduated college, he’s underway with his career. Don’t be rushed, however much you like him. If he really likes you, he’ll wait until you’re ready."
Marcy hugged her mom. "I’m so glad you don’t hate him."
"We could hardly hate him, Marcy. We raised you with sound judgement, I hope, so I wouldn’t expect you to make terrible choices about whom you date. I just wish you were a little older, or he was a little less serious."
"About you," her mother explained. "You can tell from how he looks at you. He’s what we’d call a keeper in my day. But you’re far too young to be thinking about anything like that."
Not according to Great Aunt Esme, Marcy thought. She really should introduce her to Gray. She had a feeling he would be exactly Esme’s type.
Marcy hoped Gray’s ears hadn’t been burning too much when she arrived back at the table. But everything seemed fine. He’d been holding a conversation with Marcy’s father about classic cinema. Marcy’s father wasn’t really a buff, but had had a passion for John Wayne films in his youth. It turned out that Grey liked them too. Marcy was just relieved they’d managed to bond over something.
Her parents stayed tactfully out of sight when Marcy said goodbye to Gray at the door. She was seeing him again the next day, he was taking her on a surprise date. They both would have loved to spend the night together but for her parents’ sake it was best to show they were taking things carefully.
"Your parents are great, I’m glad I got to meet them properly. Thank you for having me over."
"Thank you for coming," Marcy said.
He kissed her. Their breath was frosting in the wintry December air.
"Sleep well. I love you."
"I love you too."
"Until tomorrow. Good night." He left, and Marcy started counting the hours until their date the next day.