"Are the potatoes peeled?” my mom asks.
“Yeah, I got them all. Do I have to stay for dinner, it’s so boring?” I say.
“Yes, Dad wants Dean to meet the whole family, welcome him to the company and make him feel like a part of it. It’s not what you want but sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do.”
“Ok, but can I go to my room after we eat, I have homework?” I say.
I push a hair out of my eyes and smell the starchy potatoes on my fingers as they move through the air. I did not want to sit around with adults who are more than twice my age and listen to them try to have small talk when there is really nothing interesting to say to each other. And why would this guy care to meet me anyway, it’s just about appearances and keeping my dad happy.
The doorbell rings, “He’s here, put on a happy face,” Mom nearly sings, pats my hand, and walks out of the kitchen to meet our guest. Great, let the show begin.
I stay in the kitchen and listen to the muffled talk and fake laughs, then I hear their footsteps behind me, my mother says, “And, this is our daughter, Em.J.”
I turn around and see him, “Hi, nice to meet you.” But I don’t just see him, I feel him, deep inside me.
Dean is silent as he studies my face, making me feel uncomfortable and turning my cheeks pink. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he finally says and he sticks out his hand. It’s warm and as I hold it in my own a thought pops into my head that I’ve known him before, in a past life. The silly idea makes my lips perk up into an amused smile from the fake one that I had prepared for meeting this stranger. I try to stop my reaction from changing so suddenly but he sees the difference and he smiles back in the same way, making me feel like he knows what I am thinking. My cheeks get hot again. We are still holding hands and I feel mine getting moist in his, or was it the other way around?
My mom is too preoccupied looking for wine glasses to notice the inappropriate exchange. Dean comes closer to me and says “Ah, potatoes, are we having mashed, au gratin-“
“We’re having mashed potatoes, steak, and salad.” Mom cuts him off and he steps away from me. But not before I could smell him, his cologne, but underneath that, his masculine scent that feels familiar.
“We’ll get you a drink first and you and Michael can go talk shop. Leave the cooking to the women.”
She leads him out and just like that it is over and I am confused. I’d never felt that for anyone, not even for the only boyfriend I’ve had and thought I loved.
The connection was instant, natural, intimate, yet exciting and new. It was everything all at once and it was overwhelming. I wonder if he felt it also.
How am I going to sit across from him during dinner without my face on fire and sounding like a bumbling idiot if I have to speak. Maybe I can get away with just sitting quietly and not talking, unless my mother tries to get me to join in on the conversation.
This is going to be a rough night.
“Ok, Dearie, let’s get to cooking those potatoes,” my mom says when she returns.