“That bad, huh?” Nick asked.
“Yeah. I spilled my tea, accidently tripped the waiter, and briefly set the table on fire when I knocked over the centerpiece candle,” Vince said. “So her family is not all that fond of me.”
“I never thought of you as all that klutzy,” Nick said.
Vince shrugged. “I’m not normally, but I was so nervous about meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time I just got flustered.”
Nick and Vince sat in the common room, the Sunday afternoon light shining on them through the windows. All the parents but Hershel’s had departed; he was saying goodbye to her in the parking lot currently. Alice was catching up on homework in her room and Mary sat in a chair nearby, reading.
“You’re still a nice guy, though,” Nick pointed out. “I’m sure her parents were just glad she was spending time with a quality fellow.”
“They kept mentioning a nice young Super her uncle knew with coordination and exceptional powers. They were adamant she meet up with him for coffee next time she is in town.”
“Wow, they are not fans of fumbling,” Nick said.
“Yeah. Apparently they’re all about powerful Supers good enough to breed with their daughter. Weird thing, though, as bad as last night went, Sasha was exceptionally affectionate when we kissed goodnight later on,” Vince said.
“You really are clueless, buddy. Think real hard about why a girl with dyed-pink hair might actually be happy to find out the guy she’s with was not well-liked by her parents. When you come up with a theory, get back to me,” Nick instructed him.
“I don’t see why the hair is important, but okay,” Vince agreed.
The sound of the front door opening interrupted them as Hershel walked in.
“See your mom off?” Vince asked.
“Yup,” Hershel confirmed. “It was nice to see her, but it’s sort of weird having her around in this environment.”
“Tell me about it,” Nick agreed. “Gerry’s a good guy, but he was all sorts of cramping my style. Didn’t want to hit strip clubs or cock fights or anything.”
“The visits all passed without any terrible incidents or blown secret identities, so I think we can chalk this weekend up as a win,” Hershel said.
“I’d wait to hear Vince’s story about dinner with Sasha’s parents before I made that statement,” Nick said.
“Bad?” Hershel asked.
“I’m seventy percent sure they tried to sneak out and ditch me when I went to the bathroom,” Vince said.
“That’s pretty bad,” Hershel surmised.
“What about you? Roy didn’t get your mom into a biker brawl or tossed in jail or something?” Nick asked.
Hershel laughed. “Roy? Roy loves our mother. They spent the afternoon touring little niche shops downtown. He’s a model son when she’s around.”
“Huh, and there you go,” Nick said. “Well fellows, we only have a little bit of weekend left. Anyone up for video games in the boys’ lounge?”
“Normally I’d say no, but with everyone gone I was able to catch up on my all homework already, so why not?” Vince agreed.
“I’ll join up with you guys in a few minutes,” Hershel said. “I have to take care of something really quick.”
“Cool deal,” Nick said, pulling himself from the couch. He and Vince headed into the boys’ area, the steel door locking firmly shut behind them.
Hershel took a deep breath. He wasn’t good at these sorts of things, that is to say, brave things. He preferred to let Roy handle that sort of thing. Hershel was the brain and the heart, Roy was the brawn and the guts. It wasn’t a perfect arrangement, but it had sufficed for many years. There was a flaw in that system, though. It didn’t account for when Hershel needed bravery for something only he could do. Admittedly, such a scenario hadn’t really come up before now.
Personally, Hershel blamed his mother. She’d put the thought in his head, and it had stewed about all weekend. By the time he’d kissed her cheek goodbye, he had come to the undeniable realization that she was right. Admitting that was unfortunate, because it demanded action. He had to make a choice, and even if he did nothing, he now knew that was a choice in itself. Hershel no longer had the convenience of self-deception. The only question left was if he had enough courage of his own to take the risk. Well, to be fair, that wasn’t the only question left.
“Mary?” Hershel said shakily, walking over to the chair where she was sitting.
“Yes?” She looked up at him and set the book on her lap.
“I was wondering if you would like to go out sometime to do something with me if you wanted.”
Mary arched an eyebrow. “Could you elaborate?”
Hershel’s stomach began gurgling. He sent it a mental note that it could complain and vomit in stress all in wanted in five minutes, but for now it should please shut the fuck up.
“I want to take you on a date.” Hershel’s eyes widened slightly: that was more straightforward than he’d been shooting for. Still, it was out there now.
A slow smile crept across Mary’s face. “I’d like that. What did you have in mind?”
“Um, just dinner on Friday. Off campus, of course. Around seven?”
“Works for me,” Mary said, straining to keep her own voice even and calm. “It’s a date.”
“Awesome,” Hershel said. “I mean, cool. It’ll be fun. Yeah... I’m going to go play video games with Nick and Vince now. But I’ll see you on Friday.”
“We live in the same dorm. I’ll see you before then,” Mary pointed out. “I get what you mean, though. See you then.”
“Right,” Hershel said. He then, in an act of wisdom well beyond his years, immediately retreated to the boys’ lounge before he could say anything stupid and mess things up.
For her own part, Mary waited until she was sure Hershel was staying behind in the other room before bolting out of her chair and dashing into the girl’s side, banging on Alice’s door.
Interestingly enough, both sides had similar reactions to the news.
“About freaking time.”