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“Hey, mom, dad, this Alyssa!” Eric said with an uncharacteristically excited tone. He was standing in his dad’s living room, holding a bottle of wine and wearing his best blazer and a nervous smile on his face. It was the smile of a man knowing he was going into a war zone and just praying for the best. The smile of someone walking through a minefield. It was more of a grimace, really.
He hugged his mom and dad and felt his mind race as they introduced themselves to his girlfriend. “What’s the minimum amount of time we can spend at this dinner before we can plausibly leave without being rude?” His eyes darted around the room, picking up clues like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. “Wine glass halfway filled with white wine. Mom has started drinking. Fresh pile of chopped wood in the backyard. Dad was taking out some frustration this morning.” He cocked his head, keying into a subtle noise on the edge of his hearing. “Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack. My brother has been in his room playing video games all morning.” His eyes glazed over as he pieced all the information together, and widened as he predicted the future. “Conflict imminent.”
“…oh, isn’t that sweet of you! Thank you so much. Mmm, it looks delicious. Honey, did you see Alyssa brought a homemade casserole. That’s lovely.”
Eric tuned back in to see his mother holding the dish Alyssa had been slaving over for the past four hours. His dad turned to him and glanced at the wine in his left hand before smirking.
“And what did you bring? Did that take you a long time to make?” He asked sarcastically, as Eric playfully pushed past him.
“Yes, mom. I saw the casserole, it looks amazing. Alyssa’s a great cook!” He winked at his girlfriend as he took the casserole and the wine to the kitchen, calling over his shoulder as he walked.
“So what time are we eating? I know it’s early, but I’m hungry. Are there snacks for –“ His attempt to start the meal, and therefore the timer before they had to leave, was cut off by his dad bellowing up the stairs.
“JOSH STOP PLAYING YOUR VIDEO GAME AND COME DOWNSTAIRS TO BE WITH YOUR FAMILY!”
Immediately, Eric’s mom chimed in. “Ow, Steve, you don’t have to yell so loudly. You’re going to scare poor Alyssa half to death.”
Alyssa smiled as they heard the thudding of footsteps down the stairs. “Oh, don’t worry, guys. I grew up in an Italian family. If loud noises scared me I would have had a heart attack by now.” Eric watched as his parents burst out laughing as Alyssa extended a hand to his little brother, who had come down the stairs wearing sweatpants and a sullen expression. “Hey! I’m Alyssa. What game were you playing?”
Eric stared from the kitchen, mouth agape at the scene unfolding in front of him. “This girl has fucking ice water in her veins. Unbelievable performance. She just stopped a mom and dad argument before it began and is now…talking to my brother about video games? I know for a fact she’s never played RDR2 in her life. Did she do research for just this scenario? This dinner might just not be that bad.”
His mom smiled slyly at him as she walked into the kitchen. “Well, your girlfriend is just adorable. Could you hand me a wineglass? She wanted to try some of the Pinot I’m drinking because she ‘knew I had good taste in wine.’ Isn’t that nice? It would be nice to finally have someone to drink wine with. Maybe she would even be interested in coming on that wine train I could never get you to go on with me…”
“Okay, mom.” Eric chuckled as he grabbed a couple beers from the fridge. “Let’s not get carried away. We’ve only been dating six months, don’t start planning on any long trips with her before I’ve even taken any trips with her.”
His mom smiled as she “topped off” her nearly full wine glass. Without meeting his eyes, she spoke in a hushed tone. “Well it’s just nice seeing you with someone after you and Rachel ended things. I was worried you wouldn’t find someone else, but here you are with a great girl. Maybe even…The girl? Have you thought about –“
Eric cut his mother off as they walked back to the living room. “Mom. What did I just say about getting carried away? We just started dating. And what do you mean you were worried? I was single for, like, a few…hey babe! What are you guys talking about?”
Alyssa smiled at him from the couch where she was sitting with his dad and brother. His dad extended his hand to receive the cold Budweiser from Eric’s hand and spoke.
“Alyssa was just telling us some horror stories from nursing school and trying to make me lose my lunch.” He grinned as he gestured with his beer. “This girl must have an iron stomach to put up with this stuff.”
Eric’s brother looked up from his phone and spoke up. “Hey dad, speaking of lunch, are we eating soon? And why does it smell like smoke?”
Everyone’s head whipped around to see smoke pouring out of the oven. “MY TURKEY!” His dad yelled, knocking his beer over as he ran towards the kitchen. His mom followed almost immediately, although without spilling a drop of her wine. “See, I told you you were going to leave it in for too long! This is why it’s always dry!”
Eric’s dad paused from fanning smoke and pulling on oven mitts to stare daggers at his mom. “Too dry?! You know what Shelly…”
“Aaand, there it is. You can delay the inevitable, but you can’t stop it.” Eric thought as he grabbed a stunned Alyssa by the arm. “Why don’t we let them handle this? I’ll give you a tour of the backyard.” .