“Thank you for having me over for dinner, Mrs. Hindle,” I said in my most grown-up, respectful voice. “Everything smells wonderful.” A combination of aromas filled her spacious kitchen. Spices on steamed vegetables, freshly-baked dinner rolls, a cheesy casserole with broccoli and pasta.
“We’re glad to have you, Chad,” Maggie’s mom answered. “Here, will you take this casserole over to the table? It’s hot. Be careful.” She handed me some oven mitts first and I picked up the Pyrex dish and carried it into the dining room where I set it down on hot pads that were perfectly positioned to accommodate the pan.
When I returned the oven mitts to the kitchen, she handed me a bowl of dinner rolls. “You kids can have a seat. Riley! Dinner’s ready!” she called into family room where a Dodgers baseball game was on the television.
I cringed away from her hollering to her husband and hurried into the dining room. Maggie was already slipping into her chair and I slid in next to her.
The large white paper napkin beside my plate was too much of a temptation. I grabbed a pen from the pocket of my sweatshirt, clicked it open, and quickly sketched out the bowl of rolls complete with shadowing and depth. I couldn’t help it.
“That is so cool,” Maggie said. “You can draw just about anything can’t you?”
“I can draw you,” I said with a mischievous grin. “From memory.” I turned the napkin over and shifted so that I was facing the opposite corner forcing myself not to look at her. I quickly pulled together a very rough draft of her face. The quality of the drawing looked more impression than its level of difficulty. I held it up for her to see.
“Oh my gosh! That’s incredible.” Maggie held up the napkin to show her father, who was just walking in the room. “Look what Chad just drew, Daddy.”
“Chad? Who’s Chad?” Her father slipped on his reading glasses to get a closer look at my drawing.
“Hello, Mr. Hindle.” I stood and offered my hand. “I’m Chad Briggs. I met your daughter down at the sub shop where she works. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Riley Hindle shook my hand absentmindedly, still scrutinizing the drawing as he moved over to the head of the table. “This is very impressive.”
“Thank you, sir.” I cleared my throat and returned to my seat.
“Margaret, why don’t you grab this young man another napkin so you can keep this.”
“Good thinking, Daddy.” Maggie rose from her chair and headed for the kitchen.
“Mr. Hindle, since I have you alone for a moment, I’d like to ask your permission to take your daughter on a date.”
He peered at me across the tops of his reading glasses then removed them and slipped them in his pocket.
I gulped. “Sometime. Soon. When you’ve had sufficient time to get to know me and feel that I’m good enough to be trusted with your daughter.”
“I don’t trust any teenage boy with my daughter,” Mr. Hindle said.
“I understand, sir.” I lowered my gaze. “Let me know if you change your mind,” I mumbled.
“Just the fact that you asked my permission says a lot about your character.”
“Thank you, sir.” I took a drink from the water glass sitting beside my plate.
“I suppose you can take her out sometime,” he said.
“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”
“I still don’t trust you.”
“I understand, sir.”
Maggie and her mother entered the dining room carrying the remaining parts of the meal, a salad and steamed vegetables along with a new napkin for me.
I hadn’t been this hungry since sitting at my grandmother’s table for Easter dinner two years ago, and it had nothing to do with the length of time since my last meal. This was a family. This was something I craved more than food.
“Everything looks delicious, Mrs. Hindle.” Then I stage whispered over to Maggie. “I may renege on my promise not to eat like a starving savage.”
Maggie giggled and Mr. and Mrs. Hindle both stopped with their serving spoons halfway to their plates. I decided to explain.
“The day I met Maggie she gave me a sub that was so tasty I inhaled the thing in four or five bites.”
“He promised me that when I invited him over to meet my parents he wouldn’t eat like a starving savage.”
“In my defense I had just come off the surf where I had burned about a zillion calories.”
“So, you’re a surfer?” Mrs. Hindle asked, resuming dishing. I couldn’t tell if her tone was impressed or derogatory.
“I have been known to surf a few times a day.” I nodded.
“A few times a day?” Mr. Hindle asked. “Don’t you have a job?”
“Uh… I help out at Buddy’s Surf Shop a few hours a day. Plus, I do character drawings down on the pier. I make good money as a sketch artist.”
“Character drawings?” Mrs. Hindle asked, lifting her eyebrows.
“Yes, ma’am.” I gulped. This dinner was not quite as appetizing as it had been a few minutes ago.
“Look what Chad drew, Momma.” Maggie reached across me to grab the napkin on which I’d drawn her portrait, from where it was still sitting in front of her father’s plate. “He drew that just a few minutes ago, from memory.”
“Wow, you’re talented.” Finally, her mom sounded impressed.
“Thank you, ma’am.” I took a bite of casserole that contained cheese and tuna and some sort of white sauce, which explained why none of the casserole was on Maggie’s plate. I wondered why her mom didn’t go out of her way to accommodate her daughter’s vegan lifestyle.
“Is that what you want to do for a living?” she asked. “Art? Drawing?”
“Well, I’ve sort of been offered a full ride to UCLA art school.”
“Sort of?” Mr. Hindle raised his eyebrows. Why did this feel like an interrogation?
“Everything’s still in the negotiating stage,” I said. “My guidance counselor will be involved in drawing up all the paperwork and stuff. I mean, I still have to finish my senior year of high school, so there’s time.”
“Definitely,” Mr. Hindle agreed. “Sounds like you’ve got your head on your shoulders, young man.”
“Thank you, sir.” I let out a breath of relief. Hopefully I’d passed the first test of meeting the parents. Seeing as how Maggie was my first real girlfriend, if we’d even reached the stage of calling her my girlfriend, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
If I could get through dinner without making a complete fool of myself, being Maggie Hindle’s boyfriend should be easy.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.