#53 Meeting the future in-laws
I’m so nervous that I’m shaking. I’m pretty certain Thomas’ parents are going to hate me. They don’t even like their own son, apparently, and they think Dylan is an abomination, so why the fuck would they think I’m different? I know it won’t change anything between me and Thom, but it’ll still suck.
Thomas doesn’t want to admit it, but he misses his family. He’s been talking to his dad a lot over the phone, and he texted them a picture of me in front of the new house, which is officially ours now. We’re not living there yet, but we’ve started the remodel, which we’re mostly doing ourselves. Peter has arranged with my landlord that he will take over my old apartment, because he wants to live closer to us and help out with the animals. And the kids. Not that we have kids yet, but I suppose we all know that’s only a matter of time, and it means the world to me that Peter wants to step in and take on the role of their grandfather.
Peter has even been talking about relocating his vet clinic so we’ll both live closer to it, since it’s on the opposite side town right now. That makes sense with him living two blocks away from it, but Delilah and I both live pretty far, and if Peter moves to this side of town as well, it would be logical to relocate. I’ve already offered him a part of the land we now own, since there’s plenty of space to build a brand-new clinic there. Living so close to work would be awesome, and having Peter close means the world to me.
“In case Thom hasn’t warned you properly, our mother is a dickhead,” Charlie says as we all stand in front of the Riley’s family home. He’s got his arm around his wife Jolene as he gives me a pointed look. “I’m pretty sure we’re half devil, half human.”
“Oh yeah, Thomas showed me pictures of your family vacations, and I did notice the horns on your mom’s head,” I comment dryly, refusing to let my nerves get the better of me. “Does she always bedazzle them with pink rhinestones, or is that just something she does during holidays?”
Charlie laughs and winks at me. “Please ask her that when we get in.”
“Please don’t,” Jolene says, hitting her husband on the back of his head. “She’s has no sense of humor, that horrible woman.” She flushes and looks at Charlie, then at Thomas. “Sorry, I know she’s your mother.”
“We all know you didn’t hit the family-in-law jackpot, Jolene,” Thom grumbles, looking like he’s about to be sick. “No need to apologize for it.” He takes a deep breath and pulls me with him as he walks up the steps to the front porch and rings the doorbell.
“It’ll be okay,” I whisper to him, rubbing his back. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about, babe.” He kisses the top of my head. “You’re perfect.”
The door swings open to reveal a large man with blue eyes exactly like Thomas and Charlie, although he doesn’t share much of a resemblance to them otherwise. “Thomas,” he says in a gruff, deep voice. “I’m so happy you came.” He pulls his son in for a hug, and I can tell it catches Thomas completely off-guard.
“Who is that man and what did he do to my father?” Charlie murmurs behind me, followed by a pained grunt. Jolene probably hit him again. They’ve been helping out at the new house a lot, and I’ve come to learn that Jolene shows her love by flicking or smacking Charlie every single time he makes a comment she disapproves off, which is every five minutes or so. They’re really good together, and I think it’s nice that Charlie took a stand with his family, telling his parents that he is with Thom on this whole issue. Charlie has still been coming over for dinner with his wife once a month, not wanting to fall out with his mom and dad the way Thomas did, but he did make it clear to his mother that he thinks she’s the one in the wrong here.
“You must be Tracy,” Thomas’ father says, beaming at me. “The fiancée. I almost can’t believe my son is settling down. I honestly wasn’t sure this day would ever come. I’m so glad he met you.” He grabs my hands and holds them, looking down on me with a sweet smile.
Okay, he’s not so bad.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” I say softly, smiling back.
“Where’s Mom?” Thomas asks as we walk into the house. The living room is empty, and so is the large open kitchen.
“Sit down,” his father says, his face falling. “Tea? Coffee? Beer?”
“Dad, what’s going on?” Charlie asks, sounding concerned.
“Scotch,” Mr. Riley decides, grabbing himself a glass and pouring amber liquid into it. “What do you guys want?”
“Dad, you’re freaking me out,” Thomas says, sitting down on the edge of the couch and staring at his father, who is gulping down his booze. “Where is Mom?”
“She’s not here,” Mr. Riley replies, casting his eyes down. “She’ll be here in half an hour or so, because she does want to see you guys, but we agreed that I should get a moment alone with you guys before she visits.”
“Visits?” Charlie repeats. “How can she visit her own house?”
Oh no. I know what’s happening. Sinking down onto the couch next to Thomas, I put an arm around him. Jolene and I lock eyes, and I know she just realized the same thing I did. The guys don’t seem to be catching on, though.
“I filed for divorce earlier this month,” Thomas’ father says gruffly. “Your mother moved out last week. I’m looking at apartments nearby as well. We’re selling the house.”
“What?!” Thomas exclaims, leaning against me for support. “Tell me you’re kidding, Dad!”
“I’m not.” He drinks some more scotch and winces as it burns down his throat. “Your mother and I are getting a divorce. We agree on pretty much everything when it comes to deviding stuff up, so we should be done with all the paperwork soon enough.”
“Oh, Dad…” Charlie walks over and puts a hand on his dad’s shoulder. “I had no idea.”
Thomas is dragging a hand across his face, trying to make sense of it all. “Please tell me this isn’t because of me,” he says after a long stretch of silence. “Maybe I overreacted last Christmas. It’s been almost a year. Surely Mom and I can make things right, and you don’t have to get divorced.”
“Son, our marriage has been a nightmare for years,” his father says with a sigh. “I’ve been unhappy for a long time now. The past year was an eye-opener for me. I will always love your mother, because she gave me you guys, but it’s never going to be the way it was back when we got married. I love her, but I don’t like her anymore. Not even a little. It’s torture living with her.” He grunts and pours himself another drink. “I don’t want to poison you boys against her or anything. She’s not a bad person. And she loves you. I just can’t be with her anymore. It’s killing me.”
“But Dad…” Charlie trails off, and he shakes his head. “Yeah, no, okay. I get it. It sucks, but if you’ll be happier apart, I guess that’s for the best.”
Thomas doesn’t say anything, he just sits there, staring at the wall. I wrap my arms around him and pull his face down to mine so I can kiss him. He responds almost mechanically, but the longer I hold him, the more his body relaxes. After a while, he pulls away and gets up to hug his father.
“I’m sorry,” Thomas says, choking up a little.
“You didn’t do anything wrong, son,” his father assures him. “I should have said something last year as Christmas, when she was so horrible to Dylan. I called Dylan this morning to apologize and told him that I’d love to spend dinner with him and his family again this December, but that I understand if he doesn’t want to see me ever again. He said he had to talk to you first. He’s a good egg, that one. I’m sorry that I made him feel like shit.”
“That was all Mom,” Thomas assures him, sitting back down next to me and grabbing my hand.
“Nah, I should have stood up to her,” Mr. Riley says with a sigh. “I’m very proud of the way you handled things, son. In fact, I’m proud of the whole life you’ve built for yourself.”
Thomas inhales sharply and pulls a shaking hand through his hair. I know this means the world to him. He told me before that his parents disapprove of ever single thing he does, everything he is, and that he always felt like Charlie was the golden boy and that he was nothing but a huge disappointment. It must be nice to finally hear his father tell him that he’s proud of him.
“Do you want to see pictures of the house?” I ask him, sensing that both Charlie and Thomas need a moment to wrap their heads around all of this. When Mr. Riley nods, I get up and sit on the armrest of his large chair, scrolling through pictures on my phone. I tell him about all the animals, show him pictures of the apartment we’re still living in, of Thomas with all the cats sitting on him that time he fell asleep on the couch, and I talk to Mr. Riley about our wedding plans as well, showing him the chapel we found – with an Elvis impersonator and horrible décor, of course – and a picture of the rings we ordered.
“Getting married in Vegas…” Mr. Riley laughs. “That is exactly what I thought Thomas would do. Although I always expected him to do it without planning it, drunk or stoned, and to come home with some girl he met in the casino the night before or something.”
“Dad!” Thom exclaims, giving him a dark look.
“I’m just saying I’m happy you’re getting married to this one instead,” he says, smiling at me. “I like her. Marrying a vet tech, living in an old barn at the edge of the woods… It makes sense for you, son. It fits.”
Thomas winks at me. “Yeah, it does.”
Before I can say anything, the back door opens and closes behind us, and we all turn to see a small round woman with long blonde hair with grey streaks in it. She looks a little sullen, and she shrugs off her coat, putting it over a chair.
“I know I don’t live here anymore, but I’m not gonna ring the doorbell like a common peasant,” she tells Mr. Riley with a scowl. “You told them, right?”
“Yes,” her almost-ex-husband says, taking a gulp of his scotch. “I told them.”
“I’m sorry about the divorce, Mom,” Charlie says, walking over to pull his mother in for a hug.
“You’re a good boy,” his mother says softly, rubbing her youngest son’s back. When they break apart, her eyes go to Thomas, and then they move to me, still sitting next to Mr. Riley with my phone in my hand. “You came,” she says simply, walking over to shake my hand. “I’m Debrah. You must be Tracy.”
“Hi, nice to meet you.” I get up and smile politely, not sure if she’ll think I’m a good fit for Thomas.
“Do you have tattoos?” she asks, eyeing me up and down while she keeps a firm grip on my hand.
“Piercings other than the ones in your ears?”
I motion to my abdomen. “Belly button.”
“Hmm.” Debrah Riley looks at my hair now, reaching out and pulling at a strand. “Is this your natural color?”
“Yeah, I’m all natural,” I say, not sure what to do with this weird-ass woman. Thomas wasn’t kidding when he said she’d be intense.”
“How long have you been with my son?”
She frowns. “And you’re getting married in a month? Why? Did he knock you up?”
“Mom!” Thomas exclaims, getting up to pull me away from her. “Don’t be a bitch to my fiancée.”
“Don’t call your mother a bitch,” she bites back. “Well, did you?”
“No, I didn’t get her pregnant,” Thomas sighs. “We’re getting married because we’re in love. And if she dies her hair black tomorrow, gets fifty tattoos, and pierces every single part of her body, I will still marry her.”
His mother nods. “Okay. I’m coming to the wedding.”
“Did you apologize to Dylan?” Thomas asks, his voice tight.
“Then you’re not coming to the wedding.”
“I’m your mother!” she exclaims, putting her hand son her hips. “I’m coming. Oh my God, Thomas, did you get another tattoo?” Her eyes go to his wrist, where he indeed has a new tattoo. It’s an arrow knot, the Celtic symbol for brotherhood.
“Yeah, it’s a symbol of Dylan being my brother for life, even though he’s not my blood,” Thomas says, rolling up his sleeves so even more of his tats are on display. “Dylan has the same one.”
“Oh.” Debrah looks defeated, and she sinks down onto a chair. “Okay. I will call him and apologize. I want to be at your wedding.”
“Great.” Thomas takes out his phones and calls his best friend right away, putting him on speaker. “Let’s do it right now.”
“Thomas!” Debrah complains, scowling.
“Hi Dylan,” Thomas says cheerfully. “I understand my dad called you this morning to apologize?”
“Yeah, he did,” Dylan replies, and then he laughs, and his voice sounds a little further away. “Mila, stop it, I’m gonna kick you ass so hard if you keep tickling me.”
“Focus,” Thomas says, rolling his eyes at us. “Kick her ass later. My mother has something to say to you.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Dylan asks, sounding excited. “After a year you seriously got that cunt to agree to apologize? Hah! It’s because of the wedding, right? She’s probably scared she will never get to meet all the grandbabies you are gonna put into Tracy’s belly. Real soon too, I bet, with the way you two fuck like horny bunnies.”
“Hi Dylan,” I say, my cheeks flushing. “You’re on speaker. I’m meeting my future in-laws for the first time.”
He laughs loudly. “Oh God, I’m helping you make a great first impression, aren’t I? Be grateful I didn’t made a joke about threeso-”
“Shut up!” Thomas and I both yell right over him. Yeah, putting Dylan on speaker was a bad idea for sure. I kinda get why Debrah is looking so judgmental right now. Not our finest moment.
“Mom,” Thom says, motioning for his mother to talk. “Don’t you have something to say to Dylan?”
Debrah purses her lips. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Thom presses, still not satisfied.
“I’m sorry for calling you an abomination and making you feel bad about who you are,” she rushes out. It’s obvious she still stands by what she said back then, but she wants to make things right so she can watch her oldest son get married. That’s something, at least.
“Good. Now you can come to the wedding.” Thomas tells Dylan goodbye and hangs up.
“Well, that was awkward as fuck,” Charlie says when no one speaks up. “Coffee, anyone?”
“Yes please,” I say, getting up to join him in the kitchen. Anything to get away from the tension in the living room right now.
“You’ll get used to this,” Charlie assures me while we lean against the kitchen counter together, waiting for the coffee to finish. “Mom is always like this. Still, she’s my mother, so I kinda have to love her. Dad is okay though, and he really seems to like you, so that’s good.”
“Yeah,” I agree with a small smile. “That’s good.”
“Welcome to the family, Tracy,” Charlie says, putting his arm around my shoulder. “I bet you wish you’d have picked a different one to marry into, huh?”
“No way,” I say right away. “It’s this one or none at all.” This one has Thomas in it, after all.