The following week Art came by my work to drop off lunch, and then pick me up after work to explore the city. He'd call every day to say good morning and then at night he would ask about my family, and my lifestyle and just tried to get to know me better.
One Saturday afternoon, we went to dinner at my dad's place. For once I wasn't dreading to be amongst all the smiling couples. My dad,a balding sixty-four year old man, greeted me at the door as soon as my car pulled into the drive way. I was his only daughter and I felt a special closeness with my dad. I hugged him and then introduced him to Art, who shook my dad's hand firmly and tried to keep eye contact with his without bowing his head. My dad was a "respectable five foot six, and Art was indeed six foot two inches.
My brother Alex and his very pregnant wife Sarah, came to greet us next. They'd met online and were coming up on their second year of marriage. We all walked into the house and made our way out back to the spacious deck. My dad's wife Julie had wanted one so that they could have an adult space when the grandchildren played out in the huge back yard. The pool was right below the deck next to the grilling area. Just as my dad handed us drinks, my brother Sebastian and his soon to be wife, Maya came up to the deck and were soaking wet.
"What happened to you?" my dad asked.
"Mom wasn't watching Stella and she fell into the pool!" Maya said angrily.
Art looked alarmed at the news and quickly jumped up. I put a hand on his arm and said.
"Stella is Maya's dog."
"Oh." he said and looked embarrassed. I laughed and gave his hand a squeeze.
"And a stupid one at that." My brother Alex muttered to Art.
"I heard that!" came Julie's voice from the stairs.
"Not you mom, the dog!" Sebastian called.
"Don't be mean to my baby." Maya scoffed.
The wet couple went into change, and my dad led us down to the yard where my step-mom was drying off a soaking Pomeranian.
"Hey Charlotte!" Julie called to me as the dog proceeded to run into the grass.
My stepmother wasn't what fairy tales made them out to be. She was a red head with brown eyes and she had naturally tanned skin. She did yoga every day, and loved gardening even though nothing really grew, she loved to do it any way.
"Hi Julie." I smiled and gave her a hug.
"This must be Art," she said looking over my shoulder as we released.
"Now don't be no stranger give us a hug." she said to him.
Art bent to hug her and she looked from him to me and smiled," He's a handsome one, but I got my eye on you buddy."
Art's smile never left his face throughout the night, and he bonded with my brother and talked with my dad, and teased my step-mom and sister-in-laws. Like me, my dad had a habit of talking too much, and right when dessert was served my most embarrassing childhood stories were told as if being painted on a canvas. I wanted to cringed and kick my dad under the table, but Art simply smiled and put his arm around me.Towards the end of the night, Art and I sat down my family, and asked if we could begin courtship. I guess they were surprised we'd not done anything, and were taking our relationship seriously, but they did give us their "blessing" and I smiled.
As we drove back to my house, I laughed to my self catching Art's attention.
"Oh nothing." I said laughing even harder.
"You thought they were going to say no?"
"No, but this was just the easy part." I said no longer laughing.
"Well, what's the hard part?" he asked.
"You have to meet my mom." I said in all seriousness.
"And you're afraid?"
I nodded and turned my eyes back to the road.
"Why are you afraid?"
"It's silly, I don't even know why I'm upset about it."
Art pulled the car over a block from my house and turned off the car.
"Charlie, I won't move until you tell me. Silly or not I want to make sure you're okay."
Lord!! He was just so perfect!!!
"I'm afraid they'll scare you away. See I told you it was silly." I said after several minutes of silence.
"My family isn't all that normal, and I know lots of family's have quirks and such, but mine they just pushed me into dating and I really like you and I just don't want you to think that if they don't like you t hat I have to stop seeing you because I-" I literally choked on my words and tears began to stream down my face.
"I'm such a mess, I'm sorry."
Art unbuckled his seat belt and wrapped his arm around me and he let me cry, and I don't even know why I was crying. I guess the emotions of the past I'd been bottling up for so long had finally decided to burst and in the form of tears stain my face.
"You are not a mess, and you are silly but in the most adorable way." he said, as soon as I finished crying. "You are silly but in the most adorable way. Charlie, it will take more than a crazy family to scare me away. I have strong feelings for you, and believe it or not I intend to be with you whether your family like it or not. And really I don't give a damn because I only care about what you think."
I would have kissed him right there and then, but my crying made my make up run down my face, and that was not a pretty picture.