Going Under Page 28

I felt so relieved and triumphant. This was actually happening and unexpectedly going well at the same time. I got up from the couch and went over to hug my mom. “Thank you, mom. I feel so much better now.”

My dad walked in and said, “Did you miss us that much while we were gone?”

I walked over to my dad to hug him. “I missed you, too.”

While I hugged my dad, my mother said, “Don’t be fooled, sweetheart, because that isn’t what this is about. Your daughter just told me she has broken up with Forbes and has a new guy in her life. Just like you said, so you were right.”

“Aren’t I always right, DeeDee?” my dad asked, calling my mom by his pet name for her.

“Not the times when I am right,” she playfully argued.

“Okay, I’ll let you have that one,” my dad conceded.

My mom and dad decided to get the unpacking done instead of putting it off and I waited until they were gone from the room to start jumping up and down with joy. “I can’t believe how easy that was.”

“You’re so lucky your parents are cool like that. I wish mine were more like yours.”

“I know. I have great parents, even better than I thought and I can’t wait for Jessie to meet them.”

* * *

The week at school went just as I thought it would-Jessie and I were the talk of the school, but I didn’t care. I no longer had to hide my feelings for him and I proudly showed him affection every opportunity I had, letting the world know he was mine.

Saturday evening arrived and my confidence about Jessie meeting my parents had progressed into full blown certainty. I had talked with my mom throughout the week, giving her little tidbits of information about Jessie and my apparent happiness with him seem to make her happy.

Seven o’clock arrived and I waited anxiously for Jessie to arrive. I stood by the window in the living room watching for his truck, nervously pulling the curtains back every few seconds.

“Claire, you’re going to jerk the drapes off the rods if you don’t leave them alone,” my mom warned.

“Sorry. I’m just really excited and anxious and nervous. I really want you to like Jessie because he means a lot to me,” I admitted.

My mom smiled and gave me a reassuring hug. “I know, Claire. Stop worrying. If you like him, I’m sure your dad and I will like him,” my mom said, trying to put my mind at rest.

I heard his loud truck in the front of the house and my heart was beating a million miles a minute.

“He’s here,” I said as looked out the window. “Will you let me bring him in the kitchen to meet you so it doesn’t feel so formal?”

“Kitchen it is,” my mom laughed because she thought I was being silly.

“Where’s dad?” I panicked.

“His office.”

I straightened my dress and stood at the door waiting for his knock. When I heard the three thumps, I casually opened the door to find Jessie standing there not quite looking like my Jessie.

He was wearing a checked button up shirt with the sleeves rolled just below his elbows and khaki cargo pants. I knew the longer sleeves were to hide his tattoos and my heart leapt because I knew his choice of attire was all in an attempt to gain my parent’s approval although I never wanted him to pretend he was something he wasn’t.

“Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?” I whispered.

He smiled and held out his hands. “Does this pass inspection?”

I stepped outside the door and gave him a quick kiss and said, “You always pass inspection.” I reached up to wipe the evidence of our kiss from his lips and asked, “So, are you ready for this?”

He swallowed hard. “Ready as I’m ever gonna be, Princess.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes, telling me he wasn’t so sure.

“Don’t worry. You’ve got this,” I encouraged. “I love you, so there’s no way they won’t love you.”

I opened the door and took his hand in mine, pulling him inside. His resistance made me feel like I was dragging the sacrifice to the alter, but everything would be fine in a minute and then he could relax.

26 Lamb to the Slaughter


I was a coward. I wanted to turn tail and run, but I didn’t because this wasn’t about me. This was about making Claire happy. If it required me doing the parent thing, there would be no debate-I would do it for her.

If I was going to meet her parents, I wanted to win their approval. Nothing would suck worse than Claire’s parents hating me, so I admit I wore the shirt to hide my tattoos. I wasn’t ashamed of them, but I thought they might distract them from getting to know me if they became fixated on that part of me.

She looped her arm through mine and squeezed my upper arm as we walked through they foyer. “You didn’t have to hide them.”

I cupped my hand over hers around my bicep. “I know, but I wanted them to see me, not the ink. I guess I was afraid they might not be able to see the forest for the trees.”

She nodded. “I get it, but please know it isn’t necessary.”

Her father entered the living room as we did. “Dad, you remember meeting Jessie at the hospital?”

“I certainly do. It’s good to see you again, Jessie,” he said as he walked across the room.

Claire let go of my arm and I reached to shake her father’s hand. “It’s good to see you again, Dr. Deveraux.”

“I made it to the game last night since my wife worked late. It didn’t appear that you were having any problems throwing with your arm.”

“No, sir. I haven’t had any problems with it since the feeling returned,” I gladly answered.

He gestured toward the couch and said, “Have a seat,” then continued, “you are an extremely talented young man. College scouts are definitely going to be looking at you.”

I began to relax a little after I saw the direction the conversation was taking because I could talk football with anyone. “I hope so, sir. I’m hoping for a scholarship.”

“I wouldn’t worry if I were you. I have a feeling you’ll get plenty of offers if you continue to play as well as you did last night. What are your plans after high school, besides playing football on a college level?” he asked and I wondered if it was his test to see if I was worthy of his daughter.

“I’m going to become a lawyer-a prosecutor.”

“That is great goal, Jessie. I know your family must be so proud.”

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to tell a lie I couldn’t fix later. He seemed pleased by my goals and said, “Claire, honey, why don’t you take Jessie to the kitchen to meet your mother? I’ll join you in a minute. I need to finish up something in my office that won’t take but a second.”

Claire was smiling from ear to ear and I knew she was happy with the way things were going. “Sure, dad.”

We walked toward the kitchen and she reached for my hand. “My dad was the one that had me a little nervous, but that went super. My mom will be an ace in the hole. She’s very excited about meeting you.”

We entered the kitchen and Mrs. Deveraux was bent over checking the bread in the oven and Claire gave me a wink before she said, “Mom, I want you to meet someone,” causing her mother to straighten up and turned around. “Mom, this is Jessie Boone. Jessie, this is my mom, Deandra Deveraux.”

No. No. No. This couldn’t’ be happening. I felt my heart begin to speed and I heard the pounding in my ears. I became lightheaded and dizzy as I stared at my psych counselor, Deandra, in disbelief.

Claire squeezed my hand. “Jessie, is something wrong? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

I wish it was. A ghost would have been preferable. “No, I’m fine.”

Shock also flooded her face, but she managed to reel it back in and said, “It’s very nice to meet you, Jessie. Claire has told us some wonderful things about you.”

She stepped over and pulled out the same barstool I had occupied on the night Claire cooked for me. “Please, come sit at the bar and drink something. You look a bit pale. Claire, fix Jessie something to drink.”

I sat down in shock for more than one reason. First, Claire was Deandra’s daughter. What were the odds of the one girl in the world I loved with all my heart being the daughter of the woman that knew my deepest and darkest secrets? Secondly, she was pretending she didn’t know me. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t screaming for me to get out of her house because she knew what I was and where I came from.

Claire was across the room getting ice from the refrigerator and Deandra whispered, “I won’t tell her anything because I can’t. I am bound ethically.”

A moment later, Claire was by my side with a drink. “Drink this. Maybe it will make you feel better.”

The dizziness had passed and I took a big gulp, but didn’t say anything as I stared at the floor.

“Better?” Claire asked hopefully.

I looked up from the floor and nodded. “I think so.”

The timer on the oven went off and Deandra took the bread from the oven. She looked at me after placing the pan on top of the stove and said, “I hope you feel well enough to stay for dinner. We’re having grilled tuna steaks.”

“Tuna steak isn’t weird. Remember, I told you she isn’t brave enough to try weird,” Claire reassured me.

My mind buzzed. I wanted to run so I could get away from the woman that knew more about me than any mother should know about her daughter’s new boyfriend. I looked at Claire and saw how happy she was and asked myself how I could ruin this time for her.

Claire and Deandra finished cooking dinner and prepared the table while I sat at the bar deciding how I thought this night might play out. Were we really going to sit through dinner pretending we didn’t know one another? Then, I thought of her words. She was ethically bound and couldn’t tell Claire anything-meaning she expected me to tell her.

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