Hurdles

Our relationship. It wasn't sonnet inspiring, the story of it won't make thousands want to listen. But it was complicated and it was special to us. It was certainly more than I bargained for from just seeing a boy with a football helmet across the room.

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74. Seventy four

"Am I ever going to meet your parents?" Freddie asks me one day when we're hanging out at his house. 

I don't know how to reply. I don't know why but I'm kind of scared for him to meet my parents. Not because of his personality or anything but because I think they're kind of loyal to Harry. Harry's parents are their best friends, they're very fond of him and they liked me with Harry, I just feel like they might act a little cold towards Freddie and I don't want that.

"Am I ever going to meet your family?" I ask back and he laughs. 

"Sure, when do you want to do it?" 

I raise an eyebrow at him, smiling. "Seriously?" 

"Seriously." he grins. "Come to dinner this Friday. And then next week, I can come to dinner at your house." I groan, burying my head in his neck, and he imitates me. "What is your problem?" 

"They're so obsessed with my ex!" I say and laugh at myself when I realise how silly it sounds. "I just don't want them to compare you to him."

"I can handle it." he grins at me. "Please?" 

I reluctantly agree and I spend the entire week talking about him positively to my parents and I don't mention Harry once and whenever they do, I try not to get involved in the conversation. I just want this to be a completely fresh start, I don't want them to compare him to Harry because what I had with him was completely different. 

I spend so much time worrying about Freddie meeting my parents that I forget I'm meeting his family too. Every time I've been to his house nobody's been home but now I keep picturing me spilling a drink at dinner onto the white carpet or eating messily or just saying something stupid.

As we walk up the drive, Freddie takes my hand and chuckles. "You're shaking."

"I'm scared." 

"You have nothing to be scared of, silly. Relax." 

We walk through the door and he takes his jacket off before taking my hand again. "Mum?"

"She's in the kitchen." says a guy who I'm guessing is Freddie's older brother Jake. He grins at me, jumping off the last step. "You must be Alice. I've heard a lot about you."

"Jake, shut up." Freddie says and it's kind of cute to see him all embarrassed about his older brother. 

"Seriously." Jake says to me. "Never shuts up about you."

I laugh. "That's good to know."

"You can shut up too." Freddie nudges me in the ribs making me laugh as we follow Jake into the kitchen. 

The first thing I notice is that his mum is pretty much perfect. She's stood at the stove, stirring something in a pan, in this pretty apron with her hair and makeup perfect and she does not look old enough to have two sons the ages that they are. And then she smiles at me and I can already tell she's probably the kindest person ever.

"Alice! I'm Susanna." she says, pulling me into a hug, and I relax a little. "What a pleasure to finally meet you!" 

"It's nice to meet you too!" I say, smiling at her and her eyes widen as she sighs all wistfully. 

"My god, aren't you just beautiful!" she says and I blush, laughing. "Look at those eyelashes!" 

"Oh, thank you." I say and Freddie rolls his eyes. 

"Mum, stop being weird."

"Hey, don't be mean." I nudge him and Susanna laughs.  

"I like her." she tells Freddie and I relax. This is going to be fine. 

I don't spill anything at dinner, I don't drop anything, I don't think I ever sound stupid and thankfully there's a lot to talk about. I learn that Susanna owns a successful wedding dress boutique and that Jake is training to become a doctor. They ask about me too and Susanna's particularly interested in the fact that I lived in Austin. 

"Oh!" she perks up. "The boys' dad was from Texas!" 

I haven't ever asked Freddie much about his dad. All I know is that he was American and that he passed away when Freddie was nine but I've never liked to ask too much about him in case it upset him.

"Oh yeah, Freddie told me!" I say. "That's really cool."

"I love it in Texas, especially Austin." she smiles like she's almost in another place and then it's like something occurs to her. "Actually, we recently got in touch with some of the family on David's side that we've never met, you know, second cousins, things like that. We're flying them out here for a big gathering with both sides of the family in a couple of weeks, I'd love for you to come along."

I hesitate, not wanting to intrude. "I wouldn't want to be a pain."

"Alice, you're not going to be a pain." Jake smiles at me. "It might actually make Fred hate the idea less."

So I agree and in the car on the way home, I ask Freddie what Jake meant by him hating the idea. He shrugs, exasperated. 

"I just don't like talking about Dad, it's just upsetting. I don't want to be around a bunch of people that we only have links to because of him who are all going to be talking about him and I just don't want to be there." 

"Well I'm going to be there." I say hopefully and he smiles a little, resting his hand on my leg. 

"I know. I'm happy about that. That makes it better."

I like the fact that I'm meeting his family and he's meeting mine and I'm going to some family event. It makes us feel like we're serious and I wasn't really aiming for that but now that it's happening, I like it.

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