Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 53byrpsuch©
I didn't get to spend much more time with Jeff up to the Thanksgiving break. I chose to spend my free time educating myself on nutrition and exercise, particularly the way they affected coronary artery disease.
Sitting around waiting to find out if Louis was going to survive and seeing him in his fragile state the next day left an indelible image in my mind. Each time I saw Jeff in his place a chill ran through me.
Jeff was tired much of the time and I fantasized about drugging him to force him to get a full night's rest. But everything I read about the drugs suggested it might be a lengthy sleep, but it would not be as effective as normal sleep and there was a good chance it would not include REM sleep.
God, I was turning into Jeff.
We took my car back for Thanksgiving. I was hoping Jeff would sleep in the car as I drove. He didn't.
He asked about my courses, my vocational plans for the future. He apologized for not having enough time to spend with me but pledged that any time I wanted to be with him over this break, he would be there.
We stopped at Jeff's first. I had already called home the day before to tell them I didn't expect to be there for dinner. I assumed I would be invited to eat with the Goldbergs.
I didn't get my dinner invitation. It was just assumed.
After greeting me with a big hug, Sunny said, "Ashley honey, you can set the table with Sandy."
Just two weeks had passed since we returned to school, yet Louis looked almost himself again.
Unlike any of my previous visits, everyone seemed more reserved. There were topics that had the potential to make for uncomfortable conversation, like the progress of Louis' health and the plans for my wedding.
Just like that I had slipped into thinking of it as my wedding, not ours.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. My parents weren't making all the plans, per se, they were making all the decisions. I was perfectly welcome to plan, I just shouldn't have any expectation that my plans would be implemented.
Harri and Sam regaled us with the highlights of their year and spoke dreamily of their covered-wagon adventure.
Sandy was coming out of her funk that followed Louis' heart attack. But the dramatic moment of the evening was supplied by Sunny as we finished dessert.
"Ashley, are you planning to come over early tomorrow to visit, or will you be coming later in the afternoon with your parents?"
My parents? With Sunny, Louis, Jeff, Sandy, Harri and Sam?
I sat there in stunned silence.
"Ashley, are you okay?" asked Harri.
I turned to Jeff. He had that same stupefied look on his face.
Good. It wasn't just me.
I turned back to Sunny, shaking my head slowly and said, "Nobody said anything. I didn't know."
I probably could have answered the question if I had been thinking, but thought would come later.
Nobody seemed to know what to say until Jeff said with little conviction, "It could happen."
"In a Disney movie," I said.
"Are we missing something here?" asked Sunny.
I tried to think of the best way to explain the situation. There wasn't a best way.
I took enough time that Jeff decided to give it his spin.
"I didn't exactly go over there to talk with them. I was ordered.
"So I prepared. We had some rough moments, but I think I finally managed to persuade Mr. Fine of the logic of our getting married.
"Nonetheless, it would be fair to say he didn't accept the situation with unbridled enthusiasm. He still had some reservations."
I couldn't help but laugh.
Everyone looked at me. I had to explain and I didn't want to hide it.
"Jeff has a career in the diplomatic service.
"That's like saying Lee wasn't entirely enthusiastic to fully bask in the glow of surrender at Appomattox.
"My father came out charging like a bull at a trussed matador and Jeff cut him to ribbons.
"My father swaggered in like Custer and Jeff was counting coup long before he finished him off.
"When it was over my father could have done better by getting advice from the French before Dien Bien Phu."
"Ashley," said Jeff.
"When it was over my father flaked like overdone brisket."
"I think they get the idea," said Jeff.
I was barely embarrassed. My father deserved what he got.
Still, I said, "Sorry."
"I wish I'd been there," said Sandy.
"Sandy," said Sunny, sharply.
Sandy rolled her eyes.
"I'm not sure he doesn't have something up his sleeve," said Jeff. "I don't think we'll see anything tomorrow, but at least you have an idea where he's coming from."
This conversation would have caused considerable discomfort at any family dinner table. But the pause was very brief.
Harri asked, "What's your father like, Ashley?"
She was asking politely how he could possibly have an objection and I decided it probably was a bad idea to get carried away complaining that he was such a rotten guy.
"He cares about his business and what people think of him more than he cares about his family. And he really can't stand Jeff."
"I'm sure you're exaggerating just a bit," said Harri.
"No. Jeff really stuck it to him.
"When Dad said he wouldn't pay for the wedding, Jeff told him that was no problem, he'd already taken out a loan. And he would be happy to get them a set of pictures so they could see what their little girl's wedding was like."
"Jeff," Sunny admonished.
"Jeff said he was surprised they wanted to come but it was no problem, we could fit them, just them, into the budget."
"Jeff, you didn't!" scolded Sunny.
"Jeff, that's really not nice," said Harri, but she couldn't maintain her serious demeanor and started to snicker.
"Jeff, you naughty boy," said Sandy before she started to laugh with delight.
The table shook from the explosion of Sam's hand slamming down on it.
There was dead silence until he said, "Boy, you've got quite a set."
Then he dissolved into laughter and everybody joined in, Sunny being the last.
I felt a twinge of disloyalty, but it wasn't much of a twinge.
These people were more supportive than my own family and I felt more confident they would come to my assistance if I were in trouble than my own parents.
Sunny lectured that all of this was private information and nobody was to mention any of this discussion to the Fines.
Jeff said, "You shouldn't have any trouble with Joanne, but Ebenezer has something of a temper.
"Jeff, it's not nice to characterize him as cheap. He doesn't seem to want the wedding at all," said Louis.
"No, his name is Ebenezer, though when Jeff called him that, it was the first time I'd ever heard it. He's either Mr. Fine or E.J."
"Hey, Mom, why don't you call him Ben? E-ben-ezer," said Sandy.
"I thought I taught you better," said Sunny. But I could see a look in her eyes that told me it was a possibility.
"They're our guests," said Harri.
"And we make guests feel welcome," said Sandy and Jeff in unison.
"They're a growin' up, Maw," said Louis.
Sunny rolled her eyes.
Why hadn't my parents said anything?
What was the benefit to them of my being surprised?
Did they think I would need to make excuses for his family in advance so they could stop me by saying, "Let's go out for dinner?"
Sunny mentioned it like she assumed I knew so she relied on them to tell me.
Was this the start of Dad's plan?
Jeff was also a little surprised Dad hadn't tried anything - that we knew of.