David drove down Barbur Boulevard away from the Downtown area, toward Tigard. Chloe would hold his hand for about twenty feet before bringing her left ring finger close enough to see the sparkling amethyst surrounded by the tiny diamonds. There was an excitement in her she never felt before. And it was intoxicating!
“You didn’t ask my mom before this, did you?” Chloe asked with uncharacteristic mirth in her voice.
“God no! Are you kidding? I’d rather wash my eyes with glass.”
Chloe chuckled and nodded. “You know I have to tell her eventually, right?
“Yeah, but does it have to be tonight?” David asked. His hand slid into hers easily without him having to take his eyes off the road.
“How about this: let’s tell Nathaniel and he can help break the news to her.”
David sat silent for several minutes until they passed the exit sign for Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. “I guess that would be fine. But if your mom is there, or if she shows up, I’m running; every man for themselves.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The scenery passed by quickly, lights twinkling in the moonlight. The forested part of Barbur Boulevard transformed into the stretch of densely-populated business. Grocery stores, restaurants, pot shops—a lot of pot shops—all stretching out in front of the gently winding road to the other end of Washington County. There were two dozen ways to get to her home from here, but the traffic was still so light they could stick to the main road until they passed Gaarde Road.
Chloe’s house was in the new development across from the cemetery. She really wished she could say it was the home she grew up in, but it wasn’t. The house she grew up in belonged to her maternal grandparents. They were doting, loving people, but they couldn’t understand their daughter. Chloe remembered the fights, the tears, the fear in those grade-school-days. Eventually, her mother got just the right job at the right time so they were able to move out on their own. Neither had done that before. There were several scary times when Chloe was left at school through a lapse in time-management skills, but they made it. And when Nathaniel came into the picture, everything got so much better.
And they bought a house.
It was after moving into that house that Chloe’s confidence grew a little bit here and a little bit there. That was when David started talking to her. They never dated in high school—that came last year when they found each other again—but they became close until he graduated a couple years ahead of her and he started college. They were closer than ever now.
“Well?” David said as he killed the engine in front of her house. “You ready?”
“Yes. But you know we don’t have to tell everyone right now. We can start with just a few people at first. Like Nathaniel, and your parents. And our friends.”
David only nodded before getting out of the car. He opened Chloe’s door and offered his arm to her once again, escorting her to the front door. When they entered, the scent of Nathaniel’s home cooked meal still lingered in the air. A few lights were left on, casting their shadows against the walls.
Nathaniel stepped into the hall, drying his hands on a dishtowel. “You’re home earlier than I thought.” He disappeared into the kitchen again. They followed. David hung back, leaning against the counter. Nathaniel was finishing the dishes at the other end of the kitchen as Chloe sauntered to his side.
There were a million different ways to break the news of an engagement to family or friends. YouTube was full of them! No matter what method one used, it was always critical to keep the recipient of the news in mind. The relationship between Nathaniel and Chloe had always been rather casual. Not really a parent-child relationship (for obvious reasons), but it was different than friends, too, in a weird way.
Chloe lifted her left hand to show off the ring in the light. And Nathaniel stopped what he was doing to embrace her. “I’m so happy for you,” he whispered in her ear. When he pulled away, hands on her shoulders, he had the same pride one’s parent might shower them with. “I thought that was coming up soon.” Nathaniel shook hands with David to congratulate him, too.
“Is Mom upstairs?” Chloe finally asked.
The men fell silent for a moment, the tension in that single question palpable. Chloe knew her mother wasn’t always easy to talk to, but this was something she needed to tell her. Anita was her mother and she wasn’t going to get another one, so she had to do her best with what she had, right?
“Yeah. I’m sure she’s still up. Do you want to tell her now?”
At first, Chloe nodded. It seemed the nice, respectful thing to do. But just the thought of having to tell her mother that she intended on marrying the man her mother disliked the most…that was a step too many. Perhaps she could find a way to ease into it? Or perhaps in a few days, once they’ve told some others, her mother would be easier to talk to?
“How about this,” David took her hand in his. “We’ll wait it out, be super annoying and happy and stuff for a few days, and then we will tell your mother together. At least when she murders me, there’ll be a witness.”
Chloe chuckled sadly. “Until she decides not to leave witnesses.” She sighed. “Okay. Let’s wait it out a few days and see how it goes. We can tell your parents and see how they take it.”
“I already told them. They’re super excited. And my mom wants to take you to lunch at some point.”
They kept chatting until David finally started yawning. “I have a lot of homework already, so I’m gonna go. But we’ll see each soon, right?”
David kissed Chloe quickly before slipping out of the house, leaving Chloe and Nathaniel alone.
“Would it be better if I talked to your mom first?” Nathaniel asked. “I know you and your mom don’t always get along. I could at least get her warmed up to the idea.”
“I highly doubt she could ever be ‘warmed up’ to the idea of me getting engaged to David.” She looked down to her ring.
“No, probably not. But if you really love each other it doesn’t matter what she thinks.”
“I guess so.”
“Chloe,” Nathaniel poked her forehead to get her attention, “It doesn’t matter at all what she thinks, no matter how much of a temper tantrum she throws.”
Smiling gently, Chloe nodded. “I guess I’m just worried she won’t want to be there, you know?”
“I know exactly how that feels. But you shouldn’t worry right now. Remember when we got married? It was just me, your mom, you, and some of our close friends at the courthouse. It wasn’t anything fancy. And that’s okay. Maybe that’s all you’ll want. Or maybe you’ll want a giant wedding with a thousand people?”
They laughed together at the thought. Chloe wasn’t an antisocial person or even one with social anxiety. She was just a simple girl who didn’t like to make a fuss.
“My point is this: right now, the only thing you have to do is tell your mom and his parents you’re getting married. The details can come later. So just rest tonight and you will tell her when you feel ready.”
“What if I never feel ready to tell her?”
“Then I’ll tell her.”
Chloe nodded. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was something. “Thank you, Nathaniel.”
“You’re welcome, Chloe.” Nathaniel stood from the table. “Come ‘ere.” He pulled her by the hand to stand before hugging her again. It was warm and soothing. And always so brief. Nathaniel kissed her forehead as he pulled away. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Chloe stayed downstairs for a while longer. She didn’t sleep well that night.