Chapter 16 Meet the Parents
I grabbed a knitted blanket and a pair of Billy's sneakers I that were sitting on the stairs and threw them into the hall closet. I straightened my skirt. "They're here!"
"Then answer the door!" my mom called.
I checked myself in the hallway mirror. I was pleased with my reflection.Oh my! I thought.Reflection! I immediately unhooked the mirror and carefully placed it in the closet.
The doorbell rang again.
"Answer the door, Raven/' my mother called. "They'll think we're not home!"
I smoothed out my skirt again and opened the door. Alexander looked gorgeous in a gray silk shirt and black jeans. Mrs. Sterling was packed into a tight black dress and dark knee-high boots, and she held a black lace parasol. Her attire was a fabulous combination of sixties andgoth .
Mr. Sterling sported an impressive silk suit, lavender tie, and brooding half cape.
"Welcome to our home," I said.
My mom rushed over to us, wiping her hands off with a kitchen towel.
My dad came over and did his best to conceal his shock.
Mrs. Sterling collapsed her umbrella. "Mom, Dad, this is Mr. and Mrs. Sterling." My mom extended her hand. "It's lovely to meet you both."
"Hello. I'm Cassandra," Alexander's mom said. "I'm Paul, and this is Sarah," my dad responded.
"Constantine Sterling. Nice to meet you," Alexander's dad said.
"Here, let me take that," my dad said, taking the umbrella. "I didn't know it was raining"
"It isn't," she said evenly. Her violet eyelashes sparkled.
"Well, I guess you are prepared when it does."
"Come in and make yourselves at home. I'm just finishing up." My mom darted into the kitchen.
My father stuck the umbrella in the closet. "What's this doing in here?" he muttered, noticing the hall mirror lying against his tennis racket.
Dinner at theMadisons might have been theSterlings ' first time slumming it. Our house was nice, but it wasn't a monster-sizemegamansion .
My father led us into the living room.
"Your house is gorgeous," Mrs. Sterling remarked.
I clutched Alexander's hand for security. Now I could see why he had waited to introduce me to his family. The pressure was enormous. What would my mother say? What did they really think of my house?
Our house wasn't tidy, but my mom did clean it. At least the sight of a few cobwebs would make them feel comfortable.
"Can I get you something; to drink?" I asked. "Dinner's almost ready."
"Raven, I need you," I heard my mother bellow.
Of course she did. Now that I had company my mom was getting all demanding. I wanted to keep my eyes and ears on my father and our guests. How could I edit embarrassing conversation if I was out of earshot?
"Can I be of any assistance?" Mrs. Sterling kindly offered.
TheSterlings were aristocrats. I couldn't imagine Mrs. Sterling serving her own food. Her fingernails were so long, I wouldn't want them to break off carrying salad bowls.
"That's all right. W r hat would you like to drink?" I asked.
"I am so bloody thirsty," Mrs. Sterling said, "I could drink a horse."
My dad laughed. "I like your sense of humor."
"How about water?"Alexander answered.
"Perfect," I said, and exited before they could change his mind. In the kitchen I tried to pick up on their conversation. I was moving quickly and the ice dropped out of my hand, I returned with three waters. The drinks shook as I brought them out on a tray.
As soon as I entered the living room, the drinks clanking together, my dad and Alexander jumped up to assist me. "I'm not sure you have a future in the restaurant biz," my dad joked,
" Isee Raven as the owner of a fashionable boutique,"Mrs ,Sterling said.
"Really?" my dad asked. "I was hoping she'd bea tennis pro, but as you see, she doesn't like to wear white."
Great.Thiswhole evening was going to be my dad's chance at his comedy act-with me as the source of his material,
"Dad's embarrassing me already," I said to my mom, back in the kitchen.
"He's just having fun. Maybe he's a bit nervous, TheSterlings are very interesting people/'
I placed the rolls, butter, pasta, sauce, and salad on the table in record time.
"Dinner's on," my mom hollered as if she were Mrs. Walton ringing a dinner bell.
Alexander and I sat on one side and theSterlings on the other, while my parents were at the head of the table. Our dining-room table was a third of the size of Alexander's. We all were in arm's reach of one another,
I noticed my mom staring at the wounds onMrs - Sterling's neck, Mrs. Sterling must have sensed it, too as she turned to my mom.
"Just a small bite I received last night, Don't worry- it's not contagious."
"I didn't mean to-," my mom said apologetically,
"I thought it was a tattoo," my dad said, and we all laughed.
I caught my reflection in the glass curio cabinet. I couldn't help notice the lack of our company's shadows.
I knew my parents were now distracted with conversation, but once the wine flowed and thecarb coma hit-it might be more obvious.
"Excuse me," I said,
I dimmed the lights so the glare wasn't so noticeable,
"Good idea. This is much cozier," my mom complimented me,
"I hope pasta is okay," I whispered to Alexander,
'This dinner looks delicious," Mrs. Sterling said.
"Thank you," my mom replied. "I bet you are glad to be settled here."
"Well, we will be off again soon," Mrs. Sterling said.
"Really?" my dad said curiously, "You travel a lot."
"We're going back toRomania ," Alexander's dad stated.
"So soon?You just got here," my mom noted,
"For business or pleasure?" my father wondered.
"Both," Mr. Sterling answered.
"Alexander has told us that you are an art dealer," my dad said. "What is your specialty?"
We all laughed at his honesty.
"I have several galleries and showcase up-and-coming artists as well as the masters," he explained.
"Our country club is having an auction next month," my mom chimed in. "Mrs. Mitchell is organizing it. Have you met her? "
Alexander's parents shook their heads.
"They're auctioning paintings from professional artists," my dad said. "I'm sure you might find some wonderful additions to your collection."
"I don't think you'd find a Picasso in this town. Unless, of course, Alexander was selling his work," I said proudly,
"I'm sure you could fill several galleries with Alexander's art/' my mom said. "We haven't seen his paintings yet, but Raven has told us he is quite talented."
"I thought he'd need schooling, but he has refused," Mr. Sterling said.
"He's a natural, then," my dad concluded. "My sister, Raven's aunt Libby, saw one of his paintings when Raven visited her. Libby said that Alexander's technique was extraordinary. She should know. She's in the arts."
"Well, he must take after my mother. She was very talented," Mr. Sterling said.
Alexander seemed uncomfortable. It appeared to me that Mr. Sterling didn't think Alexander was serious about his art.
"So Cassandra, what did you do today?" my mom asked.
"We mostly slept. And you?"
"I love days like those," my mom admitted. "I bet you are still adjusting to jet lag. Sometimes that can take awhile to shake off."
"I must say that Alexander has been such a changed young man since meeting Raven," his mother said.
"That is wonderful to hear." my mom said, touched. "Alexander is so mature for his age.And always a true gentleman."
"Thank you," Mrs. Sterling responded, upbeat. "Yes, Alexander is an old soul."
"You sure raised him right," my mom continued. "Whatever you've been feeding him all these years, I think some other mothers should follow your lead."
I nudged Alexander underneath the table.
"I do keep him on a strictdiet,"Mrs . Sterling said in between sips of wine.
"SoConstantine , do you play golf or tennis?" my dad interjected.
I thought I was going to die. But then again, Alice Cooper was an amateur golfer.
"I haven't played in years."
"So what do you do to unwind?"
"You are a pilot?"
"No, I- "
"My dad likes to travel," I jumped to say.
"We are hoping to take a vacation soon. It's just one day flows into another and then soon the kids are grown and the last trip we've taken was to Disney," my dad said.
"Raven tells us you like vampires?" Mrs. Sterling said directly to my father.
"We used to watch monster movies when she was a kid. I hope it didn't scar her."
"Raven's obsessed with them, if you haven't noticed," my mom teased.
"I think we have," Alexander's mom said. "It's something we share."
"You should come toRomania ," Mr. Sterling suggested. "You could tour Dracula's castle."
"That sounds like a fun and very different family vacation," my dad said.
"Thank you again for inviting us, Mrs. Madison. You are a wonderful cook," Alexander blurted.
"We have plenty more pasta," my mother encouraged.
"I'm stuffed," Mr. Sterling said.
"Yes, me, too," Mrs. Sterling agreed.
"Would you like a cigar?" my dad asked Mr. Sterling.
I hated when my dad smoked cigars-though he rarely did. It smelled good for about five seconds until I began wearing it on my clothes and hair. My mother despised it as much as I did, which is odd since they spent most of their college years smoking things with all sorts of bad smells. I shooed them out to the patio as my mom and Mrs. Sterling disappeared into the kitchen.
"They seem to be hitting it off," I said to Alexander.
"This really was nice for them; they needed to get out. I think they were feeling isolated in the Mansion. Maybe if they made more friends they wouldn't want to..." Alexander trailed off.
We heard a dish break in the kitchen.
"I am so sorry" my mom said,
"No- it was me," Mrs. Sterling said as we joined them in the kitchen. A china plate was broken on the floor. "We were talking aboutRomania and I just asked Sarah if she believed in vampires."
"I think it's time that we were going, Mom," Alexander said.
"What's all the commotion?" my dad asked as he came in.
"Nothing.A dish just slipped through my fingers," my mom explained, discarding the broken Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter,dinnerware into the trash.
"I'd like to pay for that," Mrs. Sterling offered.
"Yes, we'll buy you a new set," Mr. Sterling said. "We insist."
"Please, it's no trouble," my mom stated with a laugh.
"It gives me an excuse to go shopping."
"I had a wonderful time, Sarah," Mrs. Sterling said. "I hope we can see each other again."
"You don't have to leave yet." My mom's voice was sad, as if she was not ready for her party to end.
"Constantine, we must be going," Alexander's mother said. "We've kept theMadisons up far too long"
"We stay up late, too," my mom tried to assure her.
They stay up until at least six,I wanted to say.
"We'll have to get together again. Next time at our | home," Mrs. Sterling stated.
My parents were thrilled.
"Then it's a date. This Saturday we'll have a cocktail party. Just the four of us" said Mrs. Sterling.
"You aren't inviting us?" Alexander asked. "I think we should be there, too."
"For cocktails? "Mrs. Sterling wondered.
"And Cokes," Alexander suggested.
"Well... of course, darling.We'd never leave you out.
"What can we bring?" my mother asked.
Mrs.Sterling leaned in and said, "Your appetite."