I felt like I had chased down a dragonfly and had found, at the end of the chase, a treasure chest of jewels. Jewels disguised as a girl’s twinkling eyes. We nearly made it back when Alicia turned to me and said “I hope your parents are happy to hear about us! My parents have been waiting weeks for me to finally ask you out. They said they saw this coming for years. That I looked at you like you were the best thing since the iPod.”
This was where we hit a wall. I turned to her, abruptly stopped us. “Alicia, my parents–they aren’t like yours. I don’t think I can tell them.”
“They just wouldn’t understand,” I looked at her, “and you should know that by now.”
Her face darkened and she let go of my hand. “I guess I should.”
She began to walk again, her back to me. We walked a few steps in awkward silence before she turned to me. “But you’re going to tell them eventually, right? I mean, in a few weeks or so?”
“My family isn’t like yours, we tend not to share too much information that we don’t absolutely have to. I don’t know if it would ever actually come up. And I’m not sure if I can answer the inevitable ‘do you have a boyfriend yet?’ question with ‘no, but I have a girlfriend!’ It’s just not like that.”
Alicia nodded, “I guess it’s not that important.” She took my hand again, but walked ahead of me.
We continued that way until my parents were almost within sight. I let go of her hand. “Hey. You’re not retracting your offer, are you?”
“No, of course not.” She was solemn, but I could tell that she was struggling to muster up the blacksmith-strength fire inside her. I wondered how to operate the bellows.
We returned to the picnic site and my parents were upset. They asked us why we were gone so long and we lied and said we had gotten lost. In the backseat of my parents’ car, on the way home, I surreptitiously stroked the back of her hand. It turned over and we hid our clasped hands by putting our sweaters between us. I wonder whether my parents ever noticed. They wouldn’t have said anything even if they had.
When we hugged goodbye in front of her house that day, I held on a little longer and tighter than usual. She asked me if I wanted to stay over; she could ask her mom to drive me home later.
I wanted to. I really wanted to. But I said no, that I should go home. I didn’t want to have to explain to my parents why I wanted to stay over after we’d already spent all day “lost” in the woods together.
It was hard for me to fully grasp why being honest with my parents would be so important to her. I suppose it was because she was used to charging ahead, being herself, whatever the consequences. I was never able to decide whether her parents accepted us because they were just accepting people or because Alicia was so innocently exuberant that they couldn’t help it. Maybe it was just that Alicia was so confident in their love that they simply couldn’t dream of disappointing her. She had that effect on people; she certainly had it on me.
How different our relationships with our parents were. How different we were.