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Together at Last
I arrived an hour early, knowing he’d be home. He was expecting me. I knocked twice, and could already hear footsteps coming closer as I lowered my hand from the door. Max opened the shell-patterned glass front-door with a smile on his face, and his 5'7" body frame towered over me as he pulled me in for a hug. Butterflies rushed into my stomach as I tucked my head into his chest and breathed in. His smell is distinct -- not of cologne, but exactly the way he smelled when we were dating. Stepping back, he looked at me, took my hand and showed me into his home.
I love his parents’ house. There’s something about it that makes me feel as though I’ve stepped onto the set of a movie. As you walk through the door, you immediately enter the living room. Your taken in by wood paneled walls that fit in perfectly with their house.
This is the home of a loving family, you can sense it as you enter. Pictures of him and his sisters are on the wall directly to the right of the door, and you can tell that this room has witnessed kids grow from babies to young adults. The lights were off, and the bay window next to the front door didn’t allow more than a beam of light in through the shade of the tree that hovered over their front yard.
Max turned and smiled at me again as he walked me into the kitchen. I tried to think of something to say, but nothing sounded right in my head.
“My parents went out for groceries,” he blurted as he pulled out a chair for me. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a Diet Pepsi. “Do you want anything?”
“Mhmm,” I replied shyly, “Can I have some water?”
Max pulled a water bottle out as he let the door slam shut. He joined me at the table.
“So, how have you been?” Max asked me, touching his light brown hair with one hand as he handed me the water with the other. “It’s been awhile.”
After four years in separate schools, Max and I had a lot of catching up to do. When we were younger, we spent almost everyday together. There was never a dull moment when we were together, and the new awkward feeling wasn’t sitting well with me.
“I’ve been alright. It’s so great seeing you,” I said, wondering if he was feeling how I felt at the moment.
I thought about Max everyday that I was away at school. Our senior year in high school was one of the hardest years of my life. We decided to be friends that year for the first times in our lives. I resisted his attempts to get me back, because of my parents. At this point in my life, there is nothing I regret more. Even at 22, I was still afraid of their reactions. They didn’t know I was going to see Max that night.
“It’s good seeing you too, Mands.”
Even the way Max said my name gave me the chills. I hadn’t heard anyone call me “Mands” since I graduated high school. Sitting there again with so much to say but no where to start, I was too afraid to pick up my head. I stared down at the floor hoping he wasn’t looking at me.
“Well..” he said, trying to break the silence, “I’m really glad you’re here. My family is excited to see you, too. They were thinking barbeque for dinner tonight. You game?”
“Yeah, definitely,” I said. “I’m game.”
Max put his rough, calloused hand under my chin and lifted my face up. His hazel eyes looked straight into mine; I wanted to cry. Just then, the door opened.
“Amanda! How are you?” His mom had bustled through the door with an armful of groceries. Max and I stood up. He headed for the door as I went to help Mrs. Redmond who was carrying probably half her body weight in her arms. I grabbed some of the groceries, set them down, and Mrs. Redmond squeezed me in the kind of hug only a mother knows how to give. This greeting was surprising. Mrs. Redmond wasn’t a huge fan of me in high school. Max and I went through a lot, and she lived through the effects it had on him.
“How did U of I treat you? You dyed your hair? The auburn makes your blue eyes stand out. You look great, Amanda.”
“Thank you,” I blushed, “It was amazing. How have you been? I can’t believe I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“Oh, well, things happen. I’ve been good. Jen, Courtney, and I just got back from a cruise. We had no groceries and of course the boys are incapable of picking up any type of food that isn’t junk. Max asked you to stay for dinner, right? If he didn’t, I’ll kick his butt. We went out and bought a ton of food!”
“Haha, he did, thank you. Sounds awesome.”
Just then, Max and his dad entered the room. The same type of small talk went on with Mr. Redmond. I wish I had always felt this welcome in their home. In high school, I felt like I needed to earn a sense of belonging. Now, I felt as though I did. I wonder what changed since they last saw me?
When Max’s parents came in, the environment got more comfortable. There was more talking with them involved. It allowed more questions to be asked. Max and I helped with dinner while we waited for Courtney to get home. Jen moved out a couple years ago, and Courtney was home from her freshman year at college this summer.
“So you decided to go into nursing?” Mr. Redmond asked me as I cut up a cucumber for the salad.
“Yeah,” I replied, “I really love the ER. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. I’m thinking about transferring to the Pediatric floor, though. I’ve been interning on the ER floor and it’s been a great learning experience, but I really miss being around kids.”
“I remember you wanted to go into teaching,” Mrs. Redmond added.
“Haha, yeah I can’t believe you decided to be a nurse instead. You’ve always wanted to teach,” Max said as he opened the back door for his dad and they walked out.
The smell of marinated steaks grilling lingered in the air, greeting Courtney as she arrived home and washed up for dinner. As Max and I finished preparing the salad, Mr. Redmond grabbed the steaks off the grill and we sat down at the table.
The five of us talked and laughed for an hour, ending with Max and I offering to do the dishes. We stood at the kitchen sink side by side. My hands getting wrinkly from being immersed in water for so long, his gently reaching for each dish after I finished washing it. Every time his fingers touched mine, my heart dropped a little. We could hear the TV from where we were standing. The blue carpet of the living room stopped where the tile started, only four feet away from the sink; the two rooms only being divided by the fireplace in the middle. We stood quietly, not for lack of words, but out of the comfort that was starting to grow between us again.
“I want to take you somewhere after this,” he whispered.
I raised an eyebrow. “Where?” I wondered aloud.
“Don’t worry, it’s a surprise.”
Max still surprised me at moments like this. I couldn’t stand the suspense. We finished the dishes, and got ready to leave.
“Mom, we’re going out,” Max told his mom, who still was protective over her only son.
“Alright, I’ll leave the back door unlocked for you guys. Max, why don’t you give Amanda your bed, and you can take the couch,” she said as Max rolled his eyes. He always had a fit when he had to sleep on the couch. You’re staying the night, right, Amanda?”
“Umm, we’ll see what time we get back. Thanks for the offer, Mrs. Redmond!”
Max and I walked out the front door into the chilly night. He pulled over his Illinois State hooded sweatshirt. The sky was already dark, filled with bright stars. We started walking around his neighborhood, the same way we would when we were young.
“Where are we going?” I asked again.
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I do. Can you blame me for being a little curious?”
“You’ll see. Close your eyes,” he said as he covered my face with his hands.
I closed my eyes and Max swept me off my feet. He made me promise I’d keep my eyes closed, so I did. He carried me for what felt like forever as I repeatedly told him to put me down. I felt like I was too big to be carried that far, but at the same time, never wanted to leave his arms.
When we arrived at our destination, he told me to keep my eyes closed as he put me down. I felt the uneven terrain under my feet as he lowered me to the ground. He helped me sit down, then told me to lay on my back. The grass was itchy, but it didn’t matter. I missed being this close to him. Finally, when I felt his arm along mine, he told me to open my eyes.
“Only look up,” he told me. “Do you know where we are?”
I felt familiar with the area I was in, but I couldn’t point out exactly where we were. The stars he was having me stare at were gorgeous. I looked away for a moment, to see his face, lit up by the moonlight.
“I miss it out here,” I said, as I realized we were laying in the field outside of an elementary school by his house.
“I come out here once in awhile on the weekends I come home. It’s never felt the same though.”
My eyes swelled up, it was always hard on me when he said things like that in high school, and four years later it was no different.
I took a deep breath as I found the courage to tell him the truth. “I’ve thought about you everyday. Every party. Every sports game. Nothing has ever felt the same. I can’t even give anyone else a chance because I compare them to you.”
“I was excited to see you today, but I gotta admit I was dreading it at the same time. I knew as soon as I saw you, I’d miss everything about you even more.” Max said.
Max and I laid under the stars for three hours talking. Things finally felt like they were going right. I fell asleep on his shoulder, and around 11, he woke me up.
“Mands, we should probably be heading back,” he said gently as he touched my shoulder.
We got up and walked back to his house together, hand in hand. I didn’t know where this night was going to take us, but I was hoping it would turn out good. We quietly reentered his parents house, afraid of waking anyone up. The bedrooms were close together, but in a good way. We walked into his room. It wasn’t late, but I didn’t want to go home. He uncovered his bed for me, and got his stuff. He was about to leave and I stopped him.
“I miss you already. Stay with me tonight?”
Max stepped toward me, shutting the door behind him. We both laid down in his bed. He turned on the TV, as I fell asleep on his shoulder again. I missed how comfortable I used to feel with him, and I wanted to be close to him for as long as I could before I left in the morning.
We didn’t wake up until 11 the next morning, both of his parents already at work. It was time to say goodbye, and I knew it. I didn’t want it to end.
He walked me to my car, and pulled me close one more time.
“Don’t lose touch with me...” he said. “Please, don’t let your parents control this.”
I drove back to my parents house smiling the entire way. When I got home, something was up.
“Amanda, can we talk to you?” I heard my father shout from the living room as I walked in the door.
His Italian side was showing. You could see the anger in his eyes as he sat on the couch with my mom. And he wondered why I wanted to go away to college…
“We know you were with Max last night,” my mom said calmly.
“What?” I tried to play dumb with her.
“DON’T act like you don’t know what we’re talking about Amanda! Your brother saw you there,” my dad raised his voice at me.
“Are you serious?!” I raised my voice. “You had Chase follow me over there? Are you guys crazy? I’m 22 years old.”
“Amanda, just because you are back from college does not mean we have no say in your life,” he said, “You know we don’t want you seeing that boy.”
“I don’t care anymore…” I was trying hard to stay calm, “I’m not a little girl. If I want to be with him, you aren’t going to stop me.”
I left the room livid. It was ridiculous that they thought they could still control this. They were holding grudges on him from high school…grudges that I have let go of and they were still holding on to.
The night went by slowly. I couldn’t stop thinking about the night before. I had to think of a way to get my parents to be okay with us being together. Family is important to me, and there was nothing I wanted more than for them to like Max.
The next morning, I decided to take my parents out to breakfast. We ordered coffees from the waitress, and we started talking.
“Mom, Dad. This is really important to me. You guys didn’t like Max in high school and I understand that. I’m not in high school anymore though, you guys. I really want you to trust my judgment. Max is an amazing guy. I know we went through a lot, but I have went more than four years without talking to him and I still miss him.”
My parents weren’t happy. You could tell by their faces that they weren’t even feeling sorry. Their gazes felt like they were slicing right through me. I wanted a reaction, any reaction.
“Amanda…are you seriously still in love with this boy?” my mom asked.
“Yeah, Mom. I have been telling you for so long.”
“Well, you’re my daughter. I will always have your back as long as you trust in your decision.”
“I do, Mom. I really miss him. Dad…do you have anything to say?”
“Dad…come on. You’re making me feel like I’m making a bad choice. Please say something.”
“You know I don’t like him.”
“Will you give him a chance?”
“You know I don’t like him.”
“Dad, he wants to talk to you. He wants to put an effort towards a new relationship. Please give him a chance,” I begged him.
The rest of breakfast was silent. When we got the check, I said goodbye to my parents and headed straight for Max’s house. We talked it over, and he decided he would come with me to talk to my parents.
We planned a dinner for the next night. My dad was going to get a surprise when Max showed up, but my mom and I decided it was the only way we could make it work.
Around 6 p.m., we started to get dinner ready. Max was going to come at 6:30, just before we started serving dinner. I was nervous, but excited because I knew Max would leave a great impression with my dad. I was so proud of him…he had grown up so much since my dad had last seen him.
The doorbell rang, and we let my dad answer it. I heard the door open and Max begin to talk.
“Good evening, Mr. Nuport. How are you?” Max greeted my father.
“Hi, Max. I’m surprised to see you.”
“It’s been a long time, sir.”
I met Max and my Dad in the hallway, trying to relieve the tension.
My father pulled me aside as Max said hi to my mom.
“Amanda, I cannot believe you did this.”
“Dad, please just give him a chance.”
“This is his one chance. If he blows it, you will not get my blessing to even date this kid.
“Okay Dad. I promise, you’ll like him.”
Throughout dinner, I could tell my dad was trying to be stubborn. Max was trying hard, talking about sports, school, and me; even my dad couldn’t sit there rudely. They engaged in conversation for the rest of the night, and sat through a Cubs game together.
When I finally said goodbye to Max, I felt like we had accomplished something. I went to my dad after walking him to the door.
“So, Dad. What do you think?”
“He has come a long way,” my dad said through gritted teeth.
“I told ya. He’s amazing Dad. Thank you so so so so much for letting him come over for dinner. I really appreciate that youâ€˜re respecting my choice.”
“I didn’t know he was coming for dinner, Amanda.”
“I know. But you gave him another chance. And that means a lot to me.”
My parents finally decided it was time to give Max the benefit of their doubt. Many say that people don’t stay with their first love. We proved them wrong.