The weekend and the subsequent week flew by faster than I wanted. Where last week crept by slower than a damn snail because I was so excited to spend my weekend with Noah, this week zoomed by faster than the Flash. It’s because I’m dreading taking Noah to meet my sister and mother.
He’s been cool about the whole thing, but I can tell he’s nervous too. It’s not like he’s had a ton of experience meeting parents. Of course, Kendra’s parents liked him, they’re the ones that told Kendra to do what she did.
My mom would say the same because she’s a status climber like Kendra. This is exactly why I won’t be telling them who Noah really is. I don’t want them saying anything that could hurt him. He hasn’t said as much, but I know it’s a big deal that people like him for who he is, not the family he was born into.
“Avery, chill. It can’t be that bad,” Noah says from the bedroom as he sifts through his closet.
He wanted to wear one of his band t-shirts with the grey jeans that fit him oh so well. I want to let him because that is the real Noah Whittier, but I also want him to make a good impression on my mom and sister, so I insist on a button-down with his jeans instead.
I’m sitting on his bathroom counter with my feet in the sink as I meticulously apply my makeup. My hair is done. It took hours, but I straightened it into submission and it looks sleek reaching my shoulder blades. Noah comes into the bathroom, buttoning his shirt as he walks. He looks up at me in the reflection in the mirror. He frowns at me and my heart beats faster.
Noah wraps his arms around my middle and lays his chin on my shoulder. We gaze at each other in the mirror and I’ve completely forgotten what I was doing.
“I like your hair curly,” he whispers into my ear and the words make me shiver all the way down to my toes.
“My mom wishes my hair was straight like hers and Harper’s,” I reply, sounding embarrassingly out of breath.
“You shouldn’t change yourself to appease them. You’re beautiful exactly as you are.”
I smile and turn halfway so I can kiss him. How does he always say the exact right thing? Rich agreed with my mom that my hair is better straight and for several years I chemically straightened it and kept it long for him. It fried my hair and weighed so much; I had headaches all the damn time.
“Thank you for saying that. I know you’re right, but it’s already straight, and it took a lot of time so I’m going to leave it tonight,” I say pushing back so I’m leaning heavily against his chest.
Noah kisses the side of my neck before pulling back so I can get down once I finish my makeup. He helps me off the counter, then I go pull down the dress I bought for tonight. It’s a knee-length royal purple halter top dress. It’s got an asymmetrical hemline with the back being longer than the front. Flowery lace is overlaid on the top. I love this dress even though it isn’t really me. I’m much more comfortable in my t-shirts and ripped jeans. I wanted to wear a pair of Converse. Noah said I should, but I ended up with some black flats.
Noah helped me pick out the dress when we went shopping together last night before going to some restaurant near the mall to eat dinner. It was a nice date but I don’t think anything is going to be able to top our first date even with, or maybe because, of the hurricane.
I put on the dress and position my bra, though I don’t know why I wear one. My boobs are small and no more than a handful in Noah’s hands. They are a lot smaller than both my mom’s and sister’s and they almost never let me forget it. On the flip side, Noah doesn’t let me forget how much he loves them.
It’s weird living my life with everyone in it telling me all the things they don’t like about me and what they would change to having one person tell me as often as he can how he likes everything about me just the way it is.
I’m smiling at that thought as Noah zips me up. He kisses the top of my head, then holds his arm out for me as we exit the house and get into his car. I give him directions to Harper’s house. I half expect him to be as weirded out at the size of her house as I am, but he doesn’t even acknowledge it. I stare at him as he turns off the car, not even attempting to move.
“What?” he asks when he catches my expression.
“You don’t think this house is ridiculous?” I ask. Am I the only one that thinks so?
“Not really. You haven’t seen the places I’ve grown up in yet. This is kinda normal compared to what I’m used to,” he replies trying to suppress a smile… or is that a grimace.
“I’m going to die when I see your parent’s house, aren’t I?” I ask. Oh my God! Bold of me to assume he even wants me to meet his parents. My cheeks flare red and warm, and the car fills with Noah’s deep chuckles.
“Yes, you just might. I’ll wait until you can’t live without me before introducing you to them and what my life used to be like. Then you won’t run,” he says, giving me no time to respond before he’s out of the door and opening mine.
I take a deep breath as I take Noah’s hand in mine and lead him up to the front door. I lift my hand to knock and I hesitate. I glance at Noah and he gives me an encouraging smile and a slight nod. I knock and the door instantly opens.
“I wondered how long it would take you to knock,” Drew says upon answering.
“You were totally creeping out the window watching, weren’t you?” I ask with a smile.
“You know it, Aves,” he starts, then leans towards me and whispers loudly, “I noticed he opened the car door for you. Definite improvement.”
Noah snorts when he hears. He must agree with Drew. Noah thrusts his hand out in Drew’s direction for a handshake. Drew smiles widely and takes it with gusto.
“I’m Noah. You must be Drew,” Noah says with a smile.
“Oh, she talks about me?” Drew asks throwing me eyebrows.,
“Says all the time she wishes you were her brother,” Noah replies and I have to work to suppress a smile.
“I’m an only child and I wished I had a sister growing up. I was so thrilled to gain one when I married Harper. Welcome to our home, Noah. We’re pleased to have you,” Drew answers as he motions for us to come inside.
Drew leads Noah and me towards the dining room where the table is set up with Harper’s finest china. I roll my eyes at it all. She’s posturing because she doesn’t know who Noah is.
Mom and Harper come out of the kitchen with a bottle of fancy wine. Mom’s smiling until Noah turns around to greet her. She halts, causing Harper to run into her. Mom stares at the piercings in Noah’s face and his shaggy hair. I can tell she notices the tattoos poking out of his shirt collar as well as the ones on full display from wrist to elbow.
“You must be Avery’s mom. Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Jones,” Noah says as he walks forward to shake Mom’s hand.
“Pleasure,” Mom responds, making it embarrassingly obvious she doesn’t want Noah to touch her.
Noah seems unperturbed by her behavior and I wonder how many times he’s had to win over people despite his appearance or do people not care what he looks like because of who he is? They wouldn’t dare disrespect the son of Clarence Whittier. Yeah, I Googled his family after he told me who he is.
“Hi Noah, I’m Harper.” Of course, my sister can’t be forgotten.
“It’s nice to meet you all. Thank you for inviting me over for dinner,” Noah says, walking back towards me and putting his arms around my shoulder. I feel better instantly.
“Should we eat?” Drew asks, sensing the tension when Mom stares at Noah’s arm around me.
Harper sits next to Drew while Noah sits next to me with Mom at the head of the table. We don’t talk as we pour wine and pass food around. Noah throws me smiles every once in a while as Mom watches his every move like a hawk. She’s looking for him to do something undignified.
“So, Noah, what is it you do for a living?” Mom asks, starting the inquisition.
“I’m a music producer,” he answers.
“Oh. You enjoy that?”
“I love it. It’s been my dream job for a while. I play a lot of instruments and I hope to one day make an album of my own.”
“You want to be a singer?” Harper asks.
“Not necessarily. Avery tells me I have a decent voice, but mostly I just want to do to say I did. I don’t really care if it sells or not,” Noah explains.
“I would buy your album just to listen to your voice sing me to sleep,” I say, nudging his shoulder with a smile.
Mom kicks my leg so hard under the table I think it’s going to bruise. I look at her furiously, wondering what the hell I said to deserve that. She stares me down in such a way I can tell she’s pissed at me. Ugh!
“Do you make good money producing music?” Mom asks.
“I do okay for myself.”
“It sounds like an interesting job. Do you work with anyone I might know?” Drew asks, trying to smooth over this disastrous conversation.
“Maybe,” Noah starts as he lists off all the bands he’s been working with. “I only moved here last September.”
“Where did you live before?” Harper asks.
“Orlando since I graduated from college and Manhattan before that.”
“Where did you go to college?” Mom wonders.
“Yale. My best friend and I went there together. He moved back to New York while I came to Florida to be with my parents. They still live in Orlando,” Noah answers, giving as much of the truth as possible without actually telling them who he is.
“Yale, wow. That must have been expensive,” Mom says, and I want to kick her back. How presumptuous can she be? Noah just shrugs. He probably never thought about how much an Ivy League school like that costs.
“I guess. My parents paid for my college,” he says.
“What did you major in?” Drew asks.
“Business. That’s what my father expected, and since he was paying for it, I couldn’t really argue. You?”
“Same. I went to Dartmouth, though. My father wants me to work with him,” Drew answers and Noah nods like he gets it. Because he does.
Drew and Noah go back and forth talking business and about Drew’s family. I can tell Noah’s heard of his family when Drew tells him their last name. Drew Montgomery’s dad owns a hedge fund company.
After dinner, Drew takes Noah outside to see the rest of the house and to give him a break from my mom and sister. Actually, Harper’s been pretty harmless tonight, which means I have her condensation to look forward to now that Noah’s out of earshot.
“You need to break up with Noah immediately,” Mom says, cutting right to the chase when she’s sure the men are outside.
“Uh, I don’t think so,” I reply.
“I am your mother and I just want what’s best for you. You will not have a good life with someone like that. He went through the trouble of getting a business degree and he chooses to produce music. Where’s the money in that? I don’t want you taking care of him,” Mom explains.
“So, we’re just going to ignore the fact that he’s a nice guy? That he does things like bring me lunch at work and opens car doors for me. That he likes me for me and doesn’t want to change me the way everyone else in my life seems to want to!”
“You’re being dramatic, Avery. You need to marry someone like Drew. He’s all those things, but he also has a future. He has the means to provide for me so I can run the house and raise our kids,” Harper says, and there it is.
“Whoever said I want to stay home, Harper? I like my job.”
“You want a nanny raising your children?” Harper asks like it’s a disgusting notion. I roll my eyes. And I’m dramatic?
“I don’t know, Harper! I’m twenty-four years old and kids aren’t really on my mind right now. Marriage isn’t even on my mind right now after the shit that happened with Rich,” I say.
“Watch your mouth, Avery!” Mom exclaims like I’m a teenager. That’s another thing she wouldn’t like about Noah! He’s got such a potty mouth and I love it. He’s been careful not to cuss tonight for the sake of good first impressions, but I don’t want him to change. I like him how he is, potty mouth and all.
“How old is he, anyway?” Harper asks.
“Almost twenty-six. He’s not too old for me if that’s what you’re asking,” I say with another eye roll.
“Those tattoos and piercings. How will anyone in our family think he belongs?” Mom laments.
“You’re talking about Drew’s family?”
“Who else?” Mom snaps.
“Well, I like him and I’m going to keep dating him,” I say.
“No, you won’t. He’ll never be good enough for you,” Mom says, folding her arms over her chest.
“Guess what, Mom? I’m the one who’s not good enough for him. Do you know who his father is? No, I don’t think you do or you wouldn’t be putting him down. That is Noah Whittier, son of Clarence Whittier. Member of the “Big Four” and one of the richest men in America. Still don’t think he’s good enough for me?”
Shit! I wasn’t going to go there. I was not going to name-drop. Noah is enough for me, regardless of who his family is. I just can’t stand Mom and Harper disparaging him. So, I did what I told myself I was not going to. I told them exactly who he is and threw it in their face. Now my mom’s smile sickens me, and she no longer has the same thoughts about Noah. This is exactly what he doesn’t like or want. What did I do?