Alecia gripped my arm, just above the elbow, nails digging. I thought she was going to rip through my shirt.
“Mom, Dad. This is Justin.”
“Hi Justin.” Her father bolted across the room with a board meeting smile. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Luckily, I’d been prepped for his vice-grip handshake. I braced myself, maintaining his eyes and my grip. We shook vigorously. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Garner.”
“Yes, it is,” he said still pumping the well. “Very nice.”
As he went on, my gaze drifted to the Mrs., who like Alecia had a pair of stunning emerald eyes, only hers were more hooded, glazed and cynical. Mr. Garner released me.
I nodded, lowered my voice. “Hello Mrs. Garner.”
She gave me a sly curve of the lips. Alecia had mentioned how her mother was having an affair with Poet. I could see it, she wore her detachment like a spritz of perfume, applied at pulse points yet not overdone.
Mr. Garner changed gears. “So Alecia tells me you play ball, huh?” He crouched low, gesturing a few punches my way, happy to have some testosterone in the house.
Alecia kept glancing back towards the window. Not that her Dad noticed. “All district, not bad. You know, I played golf in high school. We went states.”
Golf. In high school. Mr. Garner is the type of guy who was born with his Polo tucked into his jeans. “So, where are you headed?”
A clap on my back. This guy. “Ha, no. I mean college.”
“Oh, well. It’s between…”
Hmm, this hadn’t come up. I don’t want to shoot too high, it needs to be believable. But it was funny, maybe sad, Mr. Garner’s focus on my college plans instead of what I plan on doing with his daughter tonight.
I shrugged. “It’s between Woodberry College or State.”
“Ah, solid choices. Well, either one will be lucky to have you,” he said, as though our four and a half minute relationship was a lifetime bond.
For a while we stood in silence, nodding like idiots and waiting for something to happen. It appeared that Mrs. Garner had had enough. “Well, you kids have fun.”
A lazy wave and she slipped back to the den. Mr. Garner put on his Dad hat and things got awkward fast. “Well, Justin, I don’t think I have to tell you that we’re trusting you with our only daughter.”
He adjusted his belt and puffed out his chest. “Eleven means eleven, not eleven fifteen or eleven thirty, clear?”
I nodded, but I had to take a quick look around, to be sure we weren’t on the set of some black and white sitcom. “Of course sir, I just want to—”
“No parties, got it. You’re going to a movie, is that right?”
I honestly couldn’t tell if Alecia’s fidgeting is real or part of the act. She huffed like a ten-year old. “Yes Dad, one that starts in fifteen minutes.”
Mr. Garner nodded, bent down, and kissed her forehead. “Well, I guess you guys ought to get to it.”
With that, I’m yanked out the door, into the cold night. Alecia was muttering about her father’s lameness, speed walking to my Xterra, where I opened her door and she stopped, cocked her eyebrow at me, then took her seat and waited for Father Knows Best to wave and then shut the door.
I was pulling out when Kris popped her head out from the back seat. “Well, we’re good?”
“My dad totally bought the basketball thing.”
Kris busted out laughing, I adjusted the rear view. “Hey, come on, now.”
Alecia tousled my hair. “Oh, and that he’s going to State. That he’s just a fine gentleman all around.”
“Well, that part is true, I guess.”
“Thank you Krissie.”
“Oh, and he thought that Justin was straight. Don’t you just love theater?”
Kris with the applause. “Bravo.”
Alecia kissed my cheek, then leaped into the backseat and kissed her girlfriend.
“Driver, to the show.”
I adjusted the rearview. “Yes Darling.”