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#PastelPrincess cnt.



Cover Photo © Rosalie Thorne

Editor – Z. V. Ezell


#PastelPrincess


By Rosalie Thorne


“Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses rated the most passionate,

the most pure. This one left them all behind.”

- The Princess Bride


#PASTELPRINCESS


EIGHTEEN


“Well, won’t this be nice? You and Chris being able to celebrate Halloween together, in good company, and in a rather private setting – not having to worry about any fake news fixations. It’s a shame none of your other friends could have joined you… Charlotte and I are very respected with that community, we could have easily gotten all… what is it now, nine of you? In tonight.” Mama talks excitingly as she finishes doing my hair like in the movie.

“Sophia and Eric are taking Ryan trick-or-treating, Macen and Parker and doing the whole Rocky Horror Picture Show thing, but I do think Chris mentioned something about Cynthia and her girlfriend Jessica being interested.”

She peers around her shoulder to look at me, “Oh! That’s so wonderful. I’m sure Charlotte will be able to handle that.”

I smile at her through my vanity mirror, “Are you excited though? I know you love doing charity events with children or children’s museums.”

A soft smile and her eyes drift to the side, “Your papa and I always dreamed of having a bustling household. We still think about adoption or fostering, but with the distance… well without a cohesive parental unit we don’t think that’s fair.”

I lift a hand to my mama’s on my shoulder, leaning my ear over it. “I’m sorry I was the only miracle you could have.”

Glistening eyes, she does that almost-frown smile, “Oh, iubit, my floarea frumoasa, the Lord works in funny ways. That’s the best part about adoption or fostering though, we can do it whenever and there are so many children who need help.”

Hair finished; I stand quickly to hug her. “And I will totally be the best big sister, ever.”

“There’s no doubt about that!” Hands-on my cheeks, she kisses my forehead. “Now I need to go get ready, is Chris going to hang out downstairs with you or are you two going to go ahead of Charlotte and me?”

Looking just to the left of her I let out a little “Ahh….”

She laughs in her I-love-embarrassing-you Mama way. “We’ll see you there, hm? It’ll probably take us a while to finish getting ready and you know how Charlotte is, she loves to make a classically late entrance.” Giving a little wiggle of her fingers at my bedroom door, she gives me one of those proud-mama smiles. “Check in with me at the party at least once, okay? And then be home by two or at least let me know where you’re sleeping okay? That you’re safe.”

Instantly flushed, I look down, “Mama… com’on now.”

She laughs, “I was young once, Anna. Maybe not with Chris, but an after-party with your friends or something, yes? Just have fun! It’s Halloween and you have full permission not to go to school tomorrow.”

Perking up, I can’t help but smile, “Really?”

“It’s All Hallows Day, All Saints Day, Benovia National Awakening Day, and you’re only sixteen once. Plus,” she leans against my door frame, “your papa has an earlier flight and will be arriving Thursday afternoon instead of Friday!”

Standing up, I clap my hands together, “Really!”

“Yes! Yes, he’s just so very excited to be with us.”

“Aw, Mama, I’m so happy.”

“Me too, iubit. But! For tonight let’s have some fun. ‘Tis the season to be spooky, right?”

I roll my eyes with a smile. Waving her away, I comment “Go get ready or you’ll miss all the good chocolate.”

She leaves as I sit on the very edge of my bed. Snatching my phone, I click to the group chat first.


Papa is coming a day early!

Also, Mama says I can skip school tomorrow!

Mayday: Afterparty tonight at my place?

My parents always say I can skip school whenever

(as long as my grades are solid)

And we totally need to give you Dad-Daughter time.

Let’s Do It!

So-So?

You and Eric game?

So-So: I turn into a pumpkin at midnight.

But we’ll be done with the kids by, like, 9:30

10 pm meet-up at Macen’s?

M: Rocky Horror kids will probably be around

For a while, if that’s cool?

The more the merrier <3

I’m just so happy right now.

I love you guys

I love my family

Chris and I are still in the honeymoon period.

I finally feel like I can totally rock Juliet.

M: FINALLY.

GOD.

I’ve been waiting for you to feel like yourself again.

So-So: I am so glad!

Eeee!

Ry-guy is ready, though, so see you later!

M: Bye <3

Bye!

See you guys soon!


Feeling like the living embodiment of an exclamation mark, I hop and skip and dance my way down the two flights of stairs, landing softly on the hardwood landing on the ground floor. Texting Chris to ask ETA, he replies:


With Mum, GPS says 10 minutes.

Are you ready?

Mum says we can take (my) car.

And she’ll ride with your mum?

I’m ready.

Perfect!

I’m excited - are you excited?

OH AND GREAT NEWS!

My papa is coming tomorrow!

A whole Day EARLY.

Aw, darling, that’s so wonderful!

I cannot imagine how much you’ve missed him.

And he’s missed you, for that matter.


Knowing we’ll pick up the conversation in person within a few minutes, I don’t bother texting back. And right on time, as soon as my shoes are on there’s a buzz from the gate. I rush over and let them up. Throwing the door open, I feel the rush of Autumn air flow in, the whisper of winter on the tail of the breeze, and am in awe of the flame-like dusk.

I can see Chris holding the gate open for his mum, I wave down at them. Gate closes, they slowly make their way up the garden path and stairs. Holding my hands clasped in front of my chest, I’m ready to glomp Chris with a hug. Before me, Charlotte (who is dressed as a classic witch, pointy hat and all), exclaims “Lorianna! It’s so wonderful to see you. And my, do you look so lovely tonight.” She air kisses both my cheeks and slides by me into the house.

Chris hugs me before I can hug him, squeezing me tight against him. My hands fan across his back and I nuzzle my cheek into his chest. The fabric of his cosplay is surprisingly soft, and he still smells the frankincense and myrrh soap he’s been using since childhood.

“So, I’ve been meaning to ask,” Queen’s English making ‘ask’ sound like ‘awhsk’, “is there any point this extended weekend we’ll be having a father-meet-the-boyfriend dinner?”

Snatching my antique slouch-fabric purse, I eye the couch and flaking side tables for my phone. “Ah… you two have already met? On quite a few occasions if I’m not mistaken. Hundreds perhaps, off and on since…” seeing my phone peeking out under a pillow, I grab it and turn to him, “you were seven.”

“Not as the boyfriend,” he nudges me in the elbow as we head to the door.

Right before closing it, I holler, “Mama! We’re heading out. I have my phone!” There’s some sort of response as the door slips close. “Well, I suppose you have a point there. Honestly, it hasn’t really come up. Papa always says he has one-hundred percent free time but that’s not always the case.

“We pick him up from the airport if we can – which is why Mama is letting me stay home tomorrow. Somewhere out to eat for dinner, a movie or board game at home. Friday I’ll have to go back to school and then we’ve got the play. I don’t even think I’ll have time to go home in-between… Papa will be there though, with Mama. They’ll wait for me, and we’ll go home and probably order in.”

The car door closes behind Chris, and we buckle up. “Saturday morning Papa will go out for donuts and coffee. Sometimes he likes to take me to a bookstore and out to a one-on-one lunch. I’ll have the play that evening. Mama asked if she could skip it to make dinner and all that, which is fine by me; she and Papa need some alone time, you know? Ivan will be there to record stuff anyway or if he’s not in the mood they’ll send some sort of assistant.”

I scratch at my forehead. “Sunday morning Papa will make chocolate-chip waffles, my favorite. And I actually don’t remember if he’ll be making the play that day – he’s heading back that afternoon. Which is… life,” my laugh is small with a shadow of heartbreak, “but it’s better that he comes for a few days instead of lying that he’ll try for a bigger vacation later, you know?”

When my eyes fall on Chris’s face, my hand automatically goes for my mouth. “Shit! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…. I wasn’t talking about your father. I… just, fuck.” My chest heaves with a sigh. “Damnit, I’m sorry.”

A smile cracks, causing his thin lips to full. “I don’t know that I’ve heard you swear that much and you not be yelling at me.”

Still, with a tinge of weird guilt, I laugh weakly. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, my papa and I curse like sailors. It’s an actual struggle to not in public.”

“Mm. I know how that is…. The whole to-not in public. Did you ever learn the vodka in a Sprite bottle thing?”

My snort even surprises me, “When I was about thirteen. I like ‘dirty Shirley’s’ as well, though, so I can put about a third into a Cherry 7-UP bottle.”

“Mm, you do have the Russian blood in you, hm? Holding your vodka like… well, a princess,” and his elbow brushes mine.

“Romani and Romanian on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s, way back – pre-National Awakening of course – is the Russian. Over the centuries there’s been Moldovan influences, Ukrainian, mmm… Lithuanian and even Turkish.

“What about you?” I ask as the car starts making the turns up the parking garage ramps – parking ourselves to avoid press, given the under-age factor. “English as far back English can go on your father’s and then American for you mother as far back as start of the country goes and then English as well?”

Chuckling he holds a hand to help me exit the car, “Sounds about right. English, Scottish, Irish… unfortunately the farther back you go the more it blurs together. And for Mum, well, American coming over not exactly on the Mayflower but one of the ships close after, from England. That blurs but apparently there’s some Norse in there as well. You know, from the whole pillage and plumage era of Vikings.”

“Vikings are fascinating,” I comment excitingly. Partially our up-bringing, partially because we both actually like learning, it’s refreshing to talk about something most people don’t care about. “Papa says it’s hard to trace their lineage because they were too busy conquering to keep formal records.”

“He’s definitely not wrong.”

Almost to security check, we inch our way with the rest of the line. Full metal detector and wand, bag check, checking our invitations against the guest list, and tonight (given the Halloween costumes) a weird sort of pat-down and ID check. It’s so interesting to see all the costumes. Some I recognize as current pop-culture references, some very dated ones, classic costumes like a mummy, vampire, Frankenstein’s monster, and then some that I think are supposed to be witty or puny but without seeing it fully or straight-on it’s hard to tell. There’s a small family of two moms and what looks to be twin boys and then it’s our turn.

That feeling of awkwardness as one is being scrutinized never leaves no matter how long or how significant a part of my life it is. Always having a wee bit of the heebie-jeebies on the other end, my shoulders do a little wiggle and adjust my Fitbit band exactly where it had been. Chris joins me with an arm around my waist and we follow the rest of the crowd down a long hallway.

Coming out from behind red velvet draped curtains, we come into the main gala space of the Boston’s Children Museum. A large blood-red banner with shiny scrawled lettering reads ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. The centerpieces on all the four-person high-tops are crimson and white roses with black lace doilies over the silver tablecloths. Perhaps because it is a Children’s museum, there are tall clusters of red and black and silver balloons periodically throughout the hall. Interestingly enough, as well, there’re not just cob-webbed covered servers in grey carrying trays of various treats around, there’s a thin but long buffet table against the back wall. Feeling more like we’re in a Goth prom than a Halloween gala, I laugh a little.

“This is a bit different then,” Chris comments, catching my laughter.

“Oh, I love it. It’s so aesthetically appropriate. Oh! And look, there’re little black skull candles on the stands.” I tug at his arm to head towards the front, “I wonder what the gift bags have!”

We beeline for the table by the coat check. Most people grab the gift bags when they leave, but because the comings and goings of the guest are so random, the bags are out from the start. Depending on what’s in them, Chris and I have tried to get more than our fair share in the past – usually using the fib that our parents didn’t get any. Picking up the matte black bag, I adore out the dark red tissue paper is so perfectly tucked and fluffed. Walking to the nearest table, we set our bags down and start digging through them.

There’s a heart-shaped box I thought was of chocolates until I opened the cover. The lid has the same scrawled lettering of ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ over a pair of shiny black angel wings. Inside, to my surprise, is gothic bubble bath products. The same black skull candle lit on the tables, a red atomically correct heart bath bomb, red and black rose solid fragrance, an antique-looking bottle of lavender essential oil, and then what’s labeled as ‘bath confetti’ made of little black and red hearts in a corked vial.

“This is amazing,” I look to Chris. “Like, oh my god. The aesthetic….”

I see his expression of bemusement before I go back in the bag. “Ooo, a gift card for Luca’s, a pair of really nice black marble print pens, a petrified butterfly from the gift shop, and… ooo! Dude!” My wide eyes shoot to Chris, “this is a chunk of raw amethyst!”

He examines the one from his bag. “That’s your favorite stone, isn’t it?”

My fingers automatically go to my great-grandmama’s necklace. “Yes. Not only has amethyst been a feature in most of Benovian royal jewelry, but we actually have goblets with amethyst details because the Greeks used to think it was an antidote against drunkenness.

“As for any Pagan or Wicca beliefs, the stone is believed to have not only healing properties but protection abilities as well. It’s linked to the crown chakra so it’s helpful in purifying the mind and clearing of negative thoughts. It may be a placebo effect, but I honestly believe it helps with my anxiety. That’s why I always wear my necklace and wear my ring when I remember.”

Intrigued, Chris leans an elbow on the table before asking, “Do you know a lot about the metaphysical properties of different crystals?”

Nodding, I give a small smile while repacking the gift bag. “I did a whole paper on them last year, for World Religion.”

“And to think I did mine on something as boring as what Pagan traditions were taken by the Christian church.”

Smiling, I comment that that’s actually a great topic though and that sort of information should really be more widespread. This subject keeps us occupied for a while then we go on the hunt for food and drinks but most importantly chocolate.


*


Heels off, hair un-done, head on Chris’s lap with my feet perched on the base of the window, the car is slow-moving with all the post-gala traffic and I’m all but lulled to sleep. Chris’s long, strong, and warm fingers go back and forth between petting my hair and massaging my scalp. His breathing is low and slow with his head tilted back and eyes closed. It’s close to ten, which means we’d been at the event for five hours. Mingling, conversing, getting pictures, eating, dancing, playing the silly Halloween games like pin-the-tail on the dragon or pop-goes-the-pumpkin game with lists of prizes in each balloon or guess-how-many with the Candy Corn jar, and then winning the teen couple’s costume contest (and getting a one-hundred-dollar gift card to Barnes And Noble), can actually take a lot out of a person.

Though Mama and Charlotte had arrived about a half-an-hour after us I still can’t believe they’re planning on staying until midnight.

Blindly searching for my phone, I wonder how close we must be to my house. Stopping just long enough to change, then we’ll be heading right back out to Macen’s. Mayday said Chris could borrow some of his clothes, though they may be a little big on him.

Definitely dozing in and out, I must have actually fallen asleep because the car slows and stops sooner than anticipated.

Wide awake, Chris helps me collect our things, grabbing the gift bags and my shoes. I shut the car door with a shove of my hip and unlock the gate with a swipe of my card and my thumbprint scanned. The tiny garden path and curling stairs seem so much longer in my sluggish tiredness, and it occurs to me that on a normal Wednesday night, I’d be getting ready for bed around now. Yawning uncontrollably, I shoulder the front door open and flip the lights on.

“Just toss the stuff on the couch; I’ll get it when we get back.”

He nods with a yawn and places the stuff in the plush armchair instead so he can lounge on the couch. “I’ll be here.”

My trek to the third floor is slow but steady. I try and work the top clasp and hidden zipper but doing two things at once seems a bit too much for now. Finally sitting on my bed, I try again and am able to be free from the fabric. Going straight for the constellation pants on the top of my fresh laundry basket, it takes me all of two minutes to find a plain violet sweater to pull over my head. After finding and sliding on my amethyst ring, I adjust the chain of my necklace so the tear-drop pendant is visibly above the sweater’s scoop-neck. Fluffing my hair and touching up the makeup, I head back downstairs with my black, faux-fur-lined moccasins in hand.

I find Chris hunched over, nose-to-nose with Anastasia. Her long-haired tail is working like a broom across the hardwoods, her face adjusting with his behind-the-ear scratches. I ease into the cushion next to him, “Having fun.”

His eyes are sleepy and his huge smile is a little goofy. “I love dogs! And this sweetie right here is the best, huh? The best puppy ever, yes you are.”

Leaning against his arm, I reach over to pet her too. “She’s the best. I’m so glad we got her. I’d been wanting a dog for a while, but it was when my therapist said it would be good for me that’s when my papa finally gave in. We’ve had Anastasia since she was six months old, since winter of eighth grade.”

“Does she help?”

“Oh yeah, tons. She never went through any of the ESA training or anything but she’s naturally damn close. I love her.”

I notice him squint out of the corner of my eye. “ESA?”

Knowing I’ve always been upfront and honest when it comes to my mental health, I don’t understand why I’m suddenly nervous. Tucking a lock of hair behind my ear, I clear my throat. “Emotional Support Animal.”

Though Chris only says “Oh” in return, that ‘oh’ is filled with mild confusion then sudden understanding. As if he realizes that though I may be nonchalant when talking about my anxiety or clinical depression, it’s actually a much bigger deal than I let on.

In one gesture, he tucks me against his chest and leans us both back against the back cushion. Half-laying down against the armrest, it’s so easy just to melt into him. Our difference in size makes me feel that much safer and secure in his arms. The warmth, his smell, the way his fingers softly rub my back, I don’t resist the urge to fall asleep.


NINETEEN

Bright sunlight makes my lids shine red. Squeezing them tight, I nestle further against the fabric against my cheek. A deep breath to try and settle, the smell is off. Instead of the usual lingering rose and vanilla scent, it reminds me of a witch shop… like a long-burning incense. Blinking to gain focus, the last memory of last night comes rushing back: falling asleep on the couch with Chris.

Awkwardness is supposed to come in this situation, isn’t it? But this isn’t exactly the first time we’ve fallen asleep together. Not even the first time fall asleep with his arms around me, actually. So, I suppose, I – hopefully we – get to bypass that stage, and everything’s normal. Normal or even good since I haven’t slept that soundly in a long time. Lifting my head slightly and taking it all in, I notice I’m wedged on my side between his two legs, laying across his stomach, having been curled under his shoulder – most of the weight of my head on his arm. His hands are limp over themselves in the dip of my hourglass waist.

Just as he’s matured, so has his snore. Pushing my lips together to keep from laughing, I slide my hand under his shirt to the couch cushion. Trying my best not to wake him, I maneuver myself up and over, my feet landing softly on the wood. The thought to wake him softly comes in and out of my mind and I head to the bathroom as it is a more pressing matter.

A silent house, I wonder if Mama even came home last night or stayed over at the O’Crosphens with Charlotte. Years ago, both of us would stay over there from time to time, usually when the mothers would stay up way-too-late talking while sipping their wine. Which could be as simple as that or because she wanted Chris and I to be alone? No… because last she was told we were going to Macen’s!

“Ah fuck….” I whisper softly looking past the trim of the archway to see if I can find where my phone ended up. I see a small reflection of sunlight on the black screen peeking out from under the armchair with all our gifties.

Slinking into the room slowly, I’m unfortunately unsuccessful at not waking up Chris because I hear a really groggy and a little sexy, “Morning, love,” from behind me.

Turning on the balls of my feet, I face him. “Hey you.”

Pushing his glasses to rest on his head, he swings his legs off the couch and rubs his eyes. “What… ah, what time is it?”

“Ah, ten… ten oh-seven.”

Glasses down, scratching the back of his head, he pushes up his bottom lip and nods. “We slept… eleven hours?”

“About, yeah.” I sit next to him. Getting into my phone I go straight for Mama’s texts. “Yeah, and apparently my mama is at your place but she’ll be back to pick me up to go to the airport at two.”

“I can only assume my mum is fine with me not going to school today,” he sighs while reaching for his own phone. “Mmm. Ah… yes. Well,” he leans back, “what do you want to do today?”

Smiling, I peck his lips. “I’m sure we can think of something.”


*


My controller flies out of my hand as I lift on my knees, fist thrusting in the air. “Motherfucker! Ha! I Fucking Won!” I point over to Chris-Cross. “You lost the bet! You totally have to cook me dinner now.”

“I can’t believe it. I had three stars! How did that even happen?”

Laughing while pulling out my phone to take a picture of the ‘The winner is… Daisy!’ I type into Instagram that ‘#TheBoyfriend and I played Mario Party 4 (on the GameCube) and because he lost the bet, he now has to cook me dinner’. “If it makes you feel any better, we can still go to the Crimes of Grindelwald premiere as Newt and Tina.”

He leans over and kisses me softly. “Only if you want, darling. I do think you’d make a beautiful Tina.”

“I’m more of a Queenie, but you,” I run my fingertips through the bushel of hair, “will make a fabulous Newt. You even have a pin-on Picket already, don’t you?”

A little blush on his cheeks, “From the last movie.”

Hand on his chest, I kiss him back. “You’re such a dork.”

“Mmm, but I’m your dork.”

“I suppose we both win then, huh?”

“Ah, maybe. Seeing as I actually won, before you got those ridiculous bonus stars.”

Laughing I push a palm against his chest. “I asked you! I asked you if you wanted the bonus stars turned on or off! That’s your own fault.”

“Ooh now, did you catch that? I’m rubbing off on you with that ‘awhsked’ and ‘stahs’ and ‘phawlt’.”

Cheeks raised, gums showing, shoulders rolling forward with my laughter. “Don’t make fun!”

“Oh, darling, I’m so not. It’s adorable.”

Right in the middle of another kiss, there’s a click from the buzzer that meant someone had opened the gate. Pushing off his chest, I look towards the door. “That must be Mama!”

I slip off of him and look at my Fitbit. “Shit! I lost track of time. I have like five minutes to get ready to go fetch Papa.” Flipping my hair over my shoulder, I try to tidy the GameCube, turning it and the TV off and shoving back the games and controllers in their little nook in the TV stand. “Did you want to come with us?”

“Oh, no, Lori, you and your mum should go meet your father. You haven’t seen him since the weekend before Homecoming, yes?”

A small pinching feeling around my heart. “Yeah. Yeah… you’re right. I -"

My phone rings with the notification noise. A new text in the group chat… from Macen.


Mayday: CANNOT WAIT for tonight!!!

Bohemian Rhapsody is Literally going to win ALL THE AWARDS.

We driving together or meeting at the AMC?

I have our tickets printed

And they should let us in the theater an hour before, at 6

So-So: Ooo! Let’s ride together!

Are we still dressing up?

I have that outfit we talked about all ready.

Totally looks just like a cosplay.


Blinking, my brain can’t process.

Spending the day skipping school with Chris, then Papa arriving a day early.

I had completely forgotten about the movie we’d spent so much time planning around.

The movie I’ve been raving about since I’d gotten the tickets months ago, early September.

7PM showing – the first available – at the AMC.

Tonight.

I’d already told my ballet teacher I’d be missing tonight’s class.

The night Papa gets in town.

Did I tell him? Does his remember?


M: Lori?

S: Lorianna?


Their text comes at the same time.

I hear both Mama and Chris ask, “Everything okay?”


Still have my outfit planned.

Can’t wait!

On my way to pick up Papa

Will text in the car.


“Ah yes. Sorry. Mama, did you remember that I’m going to that movie tonight?”

Bohemian Rhapsody? Yes, of course! You and your other halves have been planning that for months. We made sure to have your outfit cleaned last weekend, remember?”

My shoulders drop. “Does Papa know?”

Her fingers brush my bangs back. “Iubit, are you feeling all right?”

“I feel bad that I’m busy tonight when Papa is here.”

Her laugh is light and breathy, “Aw, Anna, don’t feel bad. He knows you had that planned.”

My brows knot. “Oh… you two have dinner planned?”

Her smile is sweet, but the overall expression is one of ‘I need time with him too’. She kisses my forehead and places her hands softly on my shoulders. “How about we go get ready to pick up Papa, hm? We should have a couple of hours before you have to run off to your movie.” Her eyes flick to Chris. “Your mother arranged my ride; it’s waiting out front for you…. Unless you wanted to come? Nicolae is excited to see you sometime this visit.”

“Oh no, I don’t think I could. This is a family moment. I’ll be happy to visit any time this weekend. Perhaps Mum and I can sit with you at the show? We’re planning on seeing Romeo And Juliet tomorrow night as well.”

A step towards him, I slid my hand around his waist a push up on my toes for a kiss. “Talk soon?”

“Of course! You’ll have to tell me all about the movie.”

I walk with him to the hall, give him a hug before he leaves, “I’ll text you.”


TWENTY


Wrapped in my favorite dusty pink peacoat, a thick lavender turtleneck, high-rise steel-colored jeans, and black calf-high boots, Mama and I wait on the usual tarmac for Papa to exit the private jet. Her acorn leather gloved hands are twisting in impatient excitement; she shifts back and for in her matching leather heeled boots, her unbuttoned cream peacoat flapping in the Autumn wind. A small executive airport is where he always flies in, even though there’s a layover through Logan. The door opens and the stairs lower. Mama tugs her emerald knit-sweater lower over the hem of her dark-wash jeans.

He steps down and within seconds spots us, giving us the traditional two-handed wave. We meet in the middle, Papa throwing his arms around me first. A big squeeze and a small lift off the ground. Kissing my forehead he smiles his goofy Papa smile, “Floarea mea! Fiica mea glorioasa, inima mea este atat de plina de bucurie sa fiu cu voi din nou.”

Tata! Tata meu, te iubesc si inima mea a suferit in lispe ta.”

He kissed my forehead again then turns to Mama. I step away, towards his bodyguard of the trip and their bags, letting husband and wife have their privacy. Moments later the four of us are heading through the mini airport to get to the limo. Papa smiling, holding both mine and Mama’s hand, we’re in that we’re-so-happy-to-be-together-we’re-not-even-talking phase. Settled in the car though, letting my parents have the backbench while I lounge on the side, facing them, he finally starts talking.

“So, Lorianna! Are you nervous about the play?”

“Actually, I was. I thought of giving up my role to the understudy, actually, for a while. But after some encouragement from my friends, I’m totally ready for this weekend. It’s a classic role that I love, and my costume is gorgeous.”

“She helped make the costume herself,” Mama nods my direction.

“A bit of nerves comes with any sort of public speaking, I’m sure. I still use that paperclip trick during a lot of my speeches. I cannot wait to see you perform tomorrow.”

I smile, my heart feeling light. “It’s going to be amazing! And we’ve already sold out for Friday and Saturday. They’re thinking of adding a second performance on Sunday.”

His eyebrows lift and he glances at Mama. “Impressive. It’s so wonderful to hear the whole school and student’s families getting involved and supporting the theater.”

The conversation then leads to how school is going, which I’m pleased to fill him in on how well I’m doing in my classes and how I’m really loving a lot of the subjects. This leads to a rehash of which college to choose and my career path topic. And then we’re home.

Anastasia is ready to meet us at the door, Papa dropping to his knees to let her jump to his shoulder. Loving on that dog as much as I do, I think for a moment about how much he and Mama want more kids. That moment passes quickly though, when Mama calls from the kitchen, suggesting a snack before it gets too late.

Sitting at the breakfast bar, Mama pulls out fresh-cut fruits from the fridge. After snatching a cube of watermelon, Papa leans against the counter. “So, Lorianna, your mama has been keeping me updated with the developments between you and Christopher.”

I toss her a look then look down at the options, leaning towards the pineapple or oranges. “Oh really?”

“How do you feel about it all?”

My eyes flick up to him drinking his tea. “Good?”

His brows lift ever so slightly. “Is he nice to you?”

I snort and pop a chunk of pineapple in my mouth. I roll my eyes as I chew. “Yes, Papa, he’s very nice to me. Though, do you really think I’d be with someone who isn’t?”

His free hand lifts, “I suppose not. You’re a very smart and strong young woman.”

Mama’s eyes look between the two of us, “We just worry about you, you know that.”

“You needn’t worry, everything is going very well. Because of our history and the fact, we’ve both had decently lengthy relationships, we got to pass that awkward stage.” I eat an orange slice while thinking on what else to say. It’s not that I don’t want to tell my parents everything, but I don’t want to say something and them take it the wrong way. “And we’ve both been brought up with great communications skills so it’s easy to talk about… well, anything. Like I said, I feel good about this.”

With his puzzle-solving expression he takes a long sip of tea before saying, “Well, it sounds pretty serious then, yes?”

Momentarily feeling of my chest tightening, a nervous and bemused giggle escapes my l