When she came out of the bathroom she walked up to him, both looking at each other before simultaneously letting out a deep, satisfied sigh.
"You didn't come, did you? I'm sorry, it's just-"
"Shh, I told you", Emily quieted him, giving him a quick kiss before continuing, "this was about you. You know I love you for all the little things you do, but I also have to make sure you feel good , too - otherwise, it's not really fair to you."
"I feel so much better now, I think I needed that more than I thought I did." He smiled at her and motioned to the door, adding: "I guess we should get some presents while we're back in the States before your parents catch us two still here." Emily nodded and went to get her purse, leaving him to get his phone and wallet from the counter as they made their way out the door.
The big day was finally here; after Emily and Gabe actually followed the rules and slept apart the night before, they had gotten up along with everyone at an ungodly hour to help prepare the feast that was Mrs. Myers's Thanksgiving cooking. The kitchen was a synchronized pool of plates, trays, utensils, pans...people turned right and left, passed over items to one another - everything short of a cartwheel was required to get things done. Gabe and Mr. Myers made small talk while they barbecued, one of the few things they had in common thanks to Gabe's native country.
After hours of stifling heat, a few close-calls with dropped plates, and a severely cut thumb on Vanessa's part (despite Susan's warning to keep several yards between her and any sharp objects), dinner was finally served. Lunch had been nothing more than a few small sandwiches passed around, as everyone made sure to leave plenty of room for the real show.
Everyone sat around the oval dining table, Each couple was sitting right next to each other, with Mr. and Mrs. Myers each sitting at either end of the table. Susan and Gabe were finally able to catch up, seeing as how they hadn't ever met before this week.
"So, how did you and Emily meet?", she asked him as she waved a fork back and forth between the two. She took a sip of wine just then, the only one of the four guests old enough to even drink.
"Well, the fact that we even met kinda amazes us both; I mean, I was brought here from South America when I was a kid, and my parents moved my sister and I all over the country before we settled here in Maryland. I'd fallen in love with England from all the shows and movies I liked, so I got into this program that would let me study abroad there.
It was only like a week after classes started and my roommates wanted to throw a huge party for someone else, so I just got up and left the room. I was trying to find somewhere to go when I remembered the roof has this staircase going up to it, so I figured I'd spend a couple of hours there..."
"And that's where I met him", finished Emily.
Susan 'awwed' at the couple; "So you two met on the roof while you were trying to get away from everyone there?"
"Actually", clarified Gabe, "she fell asleep waiting on the steps because she'd locked herself out; I just kept her company until her roommates left the party and she was able to go back home with them. She told me she was studying in England for some psychology program, and we talked about classes and our families...I managed to get her number and, well, here we are." He looked over at Emily, seeing the slight lip-bite she always gave when they told the story.
"I mean, Vanessa and I just went out to lunch together every day at work; we didn't even know the other one was a lesbian until someone else asked if we were dating and she just yelled at him, 'so what if we are?!'" She jokingly shuddered as she remembered that day, not envying that poor guy one bit.
"Emily's got that same thing, except instead of yelling it she'll just use her eyes - the only time I ever got that was when I joked around and asked her if she was sure she didn't wanna postpone our-"
He stopped talking all of a sudden, his face getting bright red in a flash. He looked down at his plate and stuffed his mouth full of turkey as Emily nearly choked on what she was just eating, making her dad give her back a few rough smacks
"Postpone your what?", Susan asked, oblivious as to the two acting so weirdly. Emily looked over at Gabe, their eyes having an argument only they could hear, until she simply grabbed a napkin and wiped her mouth before finishing for him.
"Postpone our engagement."
Vanessa and Susan instantly gasped, while Mrs. Myers let out a laugh in disbelief; chairs were thrown back as the three women went to congratulate Emily and Gabe, with not a dry eye in the room as everyone exchanged wishes and excited words at this announcement. Well...
"Where's Daddy?", wondered Emily, looking around the table in hopes of finding her father; she was about to ask again before a clutter coming from inside the garage gave her her answer. Her mom let go of her and whispered, 'I think you should talk to him', before stopping Gabe from following her.
Emily slowly made her way to the side door in the living room that led to the garage; she took a few deep breaths before turning the doorknob and going to her father.
The garage was a mess, his mess, created over years and years of projects and collections, things he'd started but never finished and things he'd broken but never fixed. She stepped over a leaf blower before having to move a box aside just to reach her dad, sitting down on a trunk marked 'Fragile- that goes for *YOU*, Vanessa'. She stood in front of him, finally fed up with how he'd been acting towards her and Gabe ever since she'd brought him home for the first time.
"Why?", she only asked; he finally looked up at her, a bear of a man reduced to a crumpled figure in the corner of the room. He didn't offer anything to her, so she asked again; "Why are you always making me feel like shit for feeling like this? I mean, you never once told me that you're happy for me, or if you thought Gabe was a good guy for me or not, and now, just when I thought you'd finally say something to me...you just sneak away - why?"
He sniffed quickly, wiping at his nose with his sleeves before finally answering.
"I never thought Gabe wasn't a good guy..."
"Then why do you treat him like crap? I mean, do you have any idea how much he worries about pissing you off? I almost hate coming here since I have to see you treat him like that even though he's been nothing but good to me. I love him, Dad - can't that be enough for you?"
"It is, it's just...I thought I had more time." When Emily merely looked at him in confusion, he decided to continue. "I mean, your sister tells us she's dating some women she met at work, and you come visit a month after starting college and tell us you're already living together with some guy we haven't met...I just didn't think you two would move on so fast."
"But Dad, how come you're okay with Vanessa and Susan being together, and then you make Gabe sleep on a pull-out couch like he's some art student in New York? I know you didn't know it yet, but he's my fiancé, and you can't expect us to be happy with the way things are around here."
"Vanessa's different, you know it was always your Mom that she stuck with. You and me, you were always my little girl, and when you just stopped calling here every week and missing a holiday here and there...it felt like you didn't-like you just forgot about me", he choked out, burying his face in her hair. He started sobbing against his daughter's shoulder, the first time she could ever think she'd seen him like this, and there was no holding back her own tears.
They simply let it all out to each other, holding each other and feeling themselves shake from emotion. She pulled back and looked right at him, needing him to listen to her.
"Dad, you know that's not what happened; it's just, between college for us both and living together and everything, we barely even have time for each other. I don't know what I would've done without Gabe all this time over there, but I don't know what I would've ever done if it weren't for you. But I need you to tell me that it's okay, because I really care about Gabe and I want to see you okay with all of this."
Mr. Myers simply nodded at her and hugged her tight, whispering how sorry he was, promising to show her how he really felt. The two took a few minutes to compose themselves before deciding they might as well go back to the others. She smiled at him and pulled him behind her, opening the door to meet the rest of the group.
Everyone was quietly sitting down in their seats, the tension remaining in the room; Mr. Myers simply walked over to Gabe and took his hand, clasping both around it and shaking it with all the strength he had left. Gabe got up and hugged the man, knowing now was the time to get in a rare embrace from him.
"Listen Gabe, I know how I've acted hasn't been what you and my daughter deserve, but Mrs. Myers and I would be proud to have you in our family."
As soon as the words had left him, Gabe slowly shook his head; Mr. Myers managed to raise an eyebrow before Gabe explained himself.
"With all due respect sir, it's not about that; it's not that I don't want to be a part of your family, it's that we want you to be a part of our family now", he told him, wrapping an arm around Emily's waist and bringing her against him. He leaned down and kissed her before looking back at him, waiting for his answer - her father simply nodded before speaking.
"I think we'd all like that", he announced. Mrs. Myers broke the tension by walking over, slapping her husband upside the head, and giving him a loving kiss before embracing the couple.
"Now", she asked of everyone, "can we please eat dinner before it gets cold, for once? I'd really like to bring out that red velvet cake." Everyone quickly agreed and sat down in the nearest chair; the table was nearly groaning under the weight of every dish imaginable, from mashed potatoes and lettuce salad, to the small pumpkin pie everyone ended up fighting over - and of course, the large tray with the stuffed turkey, about to be opened up and shared with everyone there.
Not everyone was in the same seat as before, but no one paid any attention as long as their plate was full, with everyone else there to share with.
They might as well start over anyway.