Part IX: Family
“So, what did I miss?”
“Nothing important really.”
Caroline gave me a look and she must have seen that I was a little tense as she just glared at her mom, making a few signs with her hands.
The two of them started talking in what I presumed was sign language. Since I didn’t know how to understand it, I felt a little awkward just watching the exchange.
“You guys want me to leave? Because I feel like I shouldn’t be part of this conversation…” I asked.
“No, it’s alright.” Caroline answered, giving me a kind smile. “Just some sensitive mother-daughter talk.”
“Oh okay.” I answered, not very reassured by it. I would have paid a million dollar to know just what they’d discussed…
Our dinner arrived just then and it put a stop to the rather uncomfortable moment as we dug in. Caroline seemed absolutely delighted by her Halibut, devouring it at record speed. To be nice, I also shared bits of my own plate.
On her side, Colleen seemed a little remorseful about the conversation that had transpired and whenever she talked, it was for small talks.
Once dessert was served Caroline and I enjoyed the in-house made gelato while her mom simply sipped a coffee.
Alright, I better get you back to your dorm.” Colleen said once we were all done.
“I think we can find our way back.” Caroline answered, getting up and dragging me by the hand toward the exit.
“Caroline…” Her mom began, but her she wouldn’t listen.
I quickly paid the tab using my credit card before following Caroline outside. Rather than go for her mom’s SUV, she walked across the street to the miniature park there. To call it a park was generous; being the size of the dorm’s backyard, it had some flowers, a few benches and trees.
“What was that about?” I asked.
“My mom couldn’t resist acting like a mother hen, and I just can’t stand it anymore…”
Had her mom told her? The thought terrified me… She’d said that she wouldn’t but I didn’t know if she’d told the truth.
“I’m so sorry.” She said, taking my hands. “She shouldn’t have threatened you.”
“It’s okay, I know it’s because she care about you.”
“No, it’s so not okay!” She almost yelled. “Sorry, sorry. I’m just so fucking angry. She does this all the time; whenever I brought a friend home, she’d invariably scare them away in a misguided attempt to protect me… And it’s just so frustrating; I’m a big girl, I can protect myself from idiots…” I could see that venting wasn’t making it any better, instead just making her more visibly upset.
“I’m sorry.” I said, giving her a hug.
She hugged back, wrapping her arms around me tightly. We spent a good minute like that just quietly hugging in the moonlight until I felt her untense.
“But she doesn’t scare me, I’m here to stay.”
“Thank you.” She said, raising her head.
Our eyes met and I just lost myself in her beautiful green eyes. She gave me a smile and my heart melted. I wanted to tell her, to scream from the roof; I love you Caroline! All I could think about was how beautiful she was and how much I wanted to kiss those soft strawberry glossed lips…
“How about we go home?” She said.
“Sure.” I said, my heart feeling a little heavy. The moment was gone.
“So in hindsight, saying no to getting a lift wasn’t the best of ideas.” She said with a chuckle.
“It’s okay, I’ll just call my dad. He can pick us up.”
“Mind if we get some snacks first?”
I reached out and took her hand in mine. Which made her smile. Together we went for the nearby corner store I knew was just a few streets away and had the best collection of snacks and candies in town. As we walked, I noticed that she had a bit of a limp.
“Are you okay? You’re walking a bit weird.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “I’m due my weekly calibration on my leg. Well, I was due two days ago but I’ve kinda been busy.”
“Oh. Well, there’s a mech on campus, I can go there with you if you want.”
“That’d be really nice.”
Once we arrived at the corner store, I raided the shelves for all manners of snacks; including my favorites such as gummy candies, cakes and cookies. For good measure I decided to take some extra for the others; dried sausages for Rowan, some shrimp crackers for Ahti, ketchup chips for Allison, among other things.
“Are you going to eat all of that?” Caroline said, wide-eyed at the pile of food I’d selected.
“No, I’m getting some for everyone.”
“Good, because I don’t want you to explode.”
“Hey, I’m a growing girl, I need all of the food.”
That made her laugh and it warmed my heart to see her less upset.
I paid for everything, the Cashier not seemingly even mildly surprised at the size of my purchase. I was kind of a regular and when it came to snacks, I could always eat more. That done, we went out and I called my dad.
“Want some white chocolate?” I offered.
“Sure.” She said. I broke a piece and give it to her. “You really like sweets do you?”
“Considering you just had a huge ass lobster and a steak that’s impressive.”
“As I said, I’m a growing girl.”
“I dunno, you don’t seem to have grown that much.” She said, putting a hand on my head and lording her height of seven inches over me. Didn’t help she had heels and I was wearing sneakers.
“Just wait, I’ll catch up to all of you soon enough.”
“Keep dreaming pipsqueak.” She said sticking her tongue out.
“That’s it, you’re now on my vendetta list.”
“No! What can I ever do to be forgiven?”
“I can think of a few things…” I said.
“I’m not telling you.”
“That’s not fair!” She said, giving me a miniature shove.
In answer, I stuck my tongue out.
“You’ll have to stick around to learn.”
“That, I can do.”
A few minutes later, Ian drove up to us in the family car. When he stopped I could see little Jason sitting in the back seat, looking grumpy that he had his evening interrupted.
“Good evening Charlie. Late night snack run?”
“Actually we were having dinner with Caroline’s mom and ran into car troubles.” I said, it was technically true if ‘not accepting to get in said car’ counted as car trouble.
“Alright, well hop in and I’ll get you home.”
I got in the back and let Caroline take the front seat.
“Hello Mist- Ian.” Caroline said, stopping herself halfway through the Mr. as she took her seat.
“We’re halfway there.” Ian said with a laugh. “A few letters fewer and you’re good.” He teased her.
“Oh, Caroline meet Jason.”
“Hey, little guy.”
“I’m not little…” He pouted.
Caroline gave me a look and I just dismissively waved my hand.
“What’s in the bag?” Jason asked after a moment.
“I want some.”
Of course he did, even though home was already packed with food. Still, it was easier to just give in and so I scrounged through it until I found caramel popcorn and gave it to him.
I sighed and gave him the gummy worms too.
“So, how did dinner go?” Ian asked.
“It was alright. We went to Harborside. I’m surprise you weren’t there.”
“I got some Thai delivered, busy evening with Ravenhold stuff.”
Although my dad wasn’t technically part of the Ravenhold staff, he was the coordinator between them, the Legion and the mundane authorities; handling things like paroles or students who’d run into problems before joining the school.
“It was really good.” Caroline said. “Charlie recommended the Halibut, saying it’s your favorite.”
“That and the salmon are the best entree on the menu.”
“I guess I’ll try that next time. If there’s a next time, it’s a bit above my allowance.”
“I’ll take you again.” I offered.
Next to me, I could see Jason’s eyes light up in understanding. He was about to open his mouth but I covered it with a hand.
“You say anything and I’m taking my snacks back.” I whispered.
He shut up. I was not going to repeat the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song incident. To bitter regret, Jason was fully aware of how gay I was and had zero compulsion against telling my crushes. I opened the bag and found some Twinkies, which I shoved in his arm, sealing the deal.
“Everything okay back there?”
“Yeah, I’m just in a sharing mood.”
Against all odds, Jason actually behaved himself for the duration of the ride. Ian dropped us off at the Gate and drove off.
“He must think I’m a dummy.” Caroline said. She kept fumbling my dad’s name, adding the Mrs. and Sirs.
“Nah, he likes you. Are you going to be okay walking home?” I asked.
“I dunno. It’s going to be a pain.” She took a step with her broken leg, limping heavily.
“Guess I better carry you then.” She smirked at the idea, but almost panicked when I lifted her off her feet. She hadn’t expected that from me.
“See? I’m strong for a pipsqueak.” I said with a grin.
“That you are.” She wrapped her arms around my neck.
“Ready to get home?” I asked.
She nodded and I marched on.