My five words for today:
I brush my palm on my skirt for the twentieth time, my body taut with nerves. It's just meeting his parents, Kacey. And it's not like Dean's waiting for their approval before deciding whether or not we're going to date. Geez, we're not the Duggars or anything.
I turn and stare at him as he drives. Polo shirt, jeans, grey Chuck Taylors. I glance down at my navy skirt swirled with polka dots and wonder if I've overdressed. Or underdressed.
Oh gosh, who cares.
Dean pulls into an older neighborhood, dotted with ranch houses and actual yards. "Here we are," he says as he pulls into the driveway of a cute little brick house. I smooth my skirt as I stand, and Dean leads us up the walkway.
The door opens, and Dean-thirty-years-down-the-road opens the door. Dean's dad smiles at us: same nose, same smile, same build as Dean. He throws his arms around his son and I wonder if I'm looking at my future - if Dean and I will still be together thirty years from now, and this is the receding hairline and smile wrinkles I'll wake up to each morning.
Dean's dad smiles at me. "Well, hello Kacey. We've heard so much about you."
I smile and extend my hand, which Dean's dad promptly ignores and wraps me in a hug instead. "Come in, come in. Sue has lunch all ready out back."
Dean holds the door open while I walk through the front door and follow his dad out back to the patio, where his mom has set up lunch. No china plates, or crystal goblets, thank goodness. Instead, the table is set with brightly colored Fiestaware. My kind of woman. Though the food itself looks like something out of a Pioneer Woman cookbook, and that is definitely something I and Dean's mom do not have in common.
"Hi, Kacey. I'm Sue." She shakes my hand, her cream blouse so neatly pressed and nice that I nearly forget to smile.
"It's so nice to meet you," I tell her.
Soon we're all seated, including Dean's little sister Ali. Twenty one. Heavy eyeliner and a glittered top, but sarcasm as deeply rooted as Dean's. Must be a family trait. Spring breezes blow past as we eat.
Dean's family is normal. Of course. Unlike my family. My dad grilled Dean for half an hour on his job and it's potential for growth, as well as his background when Dean met my parents last month. This is much more casual. I get asked about my time at college, and my English major - with no mention of how I don't use that degree I'm still in debt for. (So unlike my family). I watch Dean talk to his dad, and carry plates into the kitchen for his mom. Simple things. He teases Ali, who feigns being annoyed, when I know all too well, she adores him.
The day passes so fast, and soon we're on our way back to Dean's apartment. "I told you not to be nervous," he tells me with a smug grin.
"You were right. I think they like me."
"They love you, Kace."
I laugh. "You know this already?"
"I knew it before today."
"They love you because I do."
And it's as simple as that. How did I once think life was so complicated? With Dean it's so simple. I swear, women need more testosterone to even us out.
I change into a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt as soon as we're back at his apartment. Yesterday was an exhausting drive, but at least it's a long weekend and I don't drive back until Monday. I come out of the bathroom and find Dean sitting on the couch with a box in his lap.
He smiles up at me. "I have something for you."
"Oh yeah?" I sink into the couch beside him. "Is it a baby koala bear?"
"Nope." He hands the box to me. It's a cardboard shoebox. No gift wrap. The edges aren't even taped. I take it from him and open it.
"I thought you could use your own pair," Dean says.
I push the tissue back and stare at a pair of yellow Chuck Taylors. Not jewelry or flowers, or some adorable thing off Etsy. Instead it's shoes. To match his, in yellow because he knows it's my favorite color.
A million times better than jewelry.
"You like them?" he asks, and his face is so vulnerable and hopeful I think I fall a little more in love with him. I climb into his lap and kiss him. "I love them."
"Really? I didn't know if Chucks were your thing."
I laugh and kiss his cheek. "I love them because you do."
And it's as simple as that.