“I’m glad we’re doing this,” Mike said, lowering the volume of the music in the car.
Kara turned from the window to look at her boyfriend. “Doing what?”
“This. Going to your parents’ for dinner,” he said. He glanced at her briefly before returning his gaze to the road ahead. “I’ve missed us lately. I know I’ve been busy with some of those projects, but next semester should be smooth sailing until graduation.”
“Yeah,” Kara said, turning back to the window. Her mood had been sour all afternoon. It started with a last minute invitation to dinner that she’d wanted to get out of, but had been talked into, first by her mother, and then by Mike. After finally agreeing, a fight erupted over whether or not to take Mike’s car. Kara thought it was ridiculous to drive when her family lived near the subway stop, but Mike wanted to show off his brand new stereo system and a few other “goodies” she didn’t quite understand. So, she’d given in to that, too.
Now, naturally, they were stuck in traffic, and Kara was too busy weighing the pros and cons of jumping out of the car and meeting him at her family’s to care whether or not he was glad they were doing this.
“Do you think the car will be okay on your parents’ street?”
Kara turned her head slowly in his direction. “What?”
“Well,” Mike shifted in his seat, “it just occurred to me that your family doesn’t live in the nicest of areas. “ He shrugged. “But hey, that’s why I invested in that great security system, right? I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Kara rolled her eyes and looked away.
“Kara, are you okay?”
“Are you still upset about me taking the car? C’mon, don’t be like that. You know how I hate taking the subway. Isn’t this nicer?”
“You call sitting in traffic nice?”
“It’ll clear up soon. Besides, this gives us a chance to talk. I’ve been thinking, you know, about what will happen after I graduate. I was wondering what you thought about it?”
“Us. I’ll be at Harvard. You’ll be here ...”
“Well, I thought maybe— Hold on.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew his ringing cell phone. “Hey, man, what’s up?... Nah, I’m just out with my girl. What’s going on?... Tonight? Yeah, I guess... sure, sure... after dinner, okay?... Okay, catch you later.”
Kara waited expectantly for an explanation after Mike clicked off the phone. Though the one-sided conversation didn’t paint a full picture, past experience did.
“That was Jason. He invited us over to the pub tonight.”
“I told him we’d stop by after dinner. That cool?”
“No, it’s not ‘cool’. Why do you always do that? Is it so difficult to ask me first if I even want to go anywhere else tonight?”
Mike frowned. “Why not? I thought you had nothing to do tonight?”
“That’s not the point. I just don’t want to go.”
“Yeah, but why? I thought you liked the guys. It’ll be a few quick drinks and then we’ll be off, I promise. I thought I’d stay over your place tonight, anyway.”
Kara breathed deeply and counted to ten. Two seconds later, they were moving again, and Kara lost her steam. Later, she promised herself. We’ll talk about this later.
Dinner began pleasantly enough. Kara’s mood improved considerably upon arriving at her family’s apartment, and she started to believe that perhaps she’d overreacted about not wanting to go. After all, they were her family. Why wouldn’t she want to see them?
Alura turned to Mike and smiled, lifting the plate of chicken. “Mike, do you want some chicken?”
“Oh, I’d love some, thank you.” Mike lifted his plate and accepted the food with his usual charming smile. “I always miss your food, Mrs. Danvers.”
“Doesn’t Kara cook for you?” Alura regarded Kara with a look of disappointment.
“Ah, sure she does,” Mike said, winking at Kara. “A few weeks ago she made me... ah, what was that you made me?”
“Potstickers,” Kara said, not looking up.
Clark laughed. “I bet anything cooked by Kara tastes like a science experiment.”
“It was actually pretty good,” Mike said, surprising Kara. She’d been certain he’d hated it.
“What's that? Kara, why don’t you make him something I’ve taught you to make?” Alura said, frowning deeply.
Kara gritted her teeth.
“So,” Jeremiah said, turning to Mike, “congratulations on getting into Harvard.”
“Thank you, Mr. Danvers.”
“Your parents must be so proud,” Alura said, smiling.
Mike grinned. “Yeah, they are.”
“I guess you’ll be taking a lot of trips over there,” Alura said to Kara. “It will be tough being apart after all of these years together.”
Mike was nodding, moving food around with his fork. “Yeah, actually, I was thinking maybe, if Kara keeps up her grades, she might be able to transfer next year.”
Kara looked at Mike sharply. “What?”
“Well, I just hope you can convince her to study something more practical,” Jeremiah said. “All this art business is fine for a hobby, but spending money for an education on it...” He shook his head.
“With all due respect, Sir, I support Kara’s decision to study art. I mean, if that’s what she wants.” He smiled taking Kara’s hand in his. She was too stunned to comment. “If all goes well, we’ll be married by the time I graduate Law School, anyway. I’d love to start a family.”
“Just as long as she finishes school first,” Alura said.
“Absolutely,” Mike agreed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Kara opened her mouth to speak but sound wouldn’t come out. Transfer? Marriage? A family?
Her life was flashing before her eyes and she hadn’t even finished dinner yet.
“So, I guess Alex won’t be stopping by? I wanted to show her the new goodies on the car.”
Silence fell like a blanket across the table.
Jeremiah cleared his throat. “We’re not speaking about her today.”
“Turns out the Almighty Alex is a big lesbian,” Clark said with a snort.
“Clark!” Alura cried.
“What? It’s true,” Clark said.
“Enough!” Jeremiah slammed his hand on the table so loud that the silverware rattled. “This is not a subject to be discussed at the dinner table.”
Kara bit her lip and slipped her hand out from beneath Mike’s. How could they be so cruel as to dismiss Alex like that? And how could they sit there and discuss her future as if she weren’t there? But most importantly, why did she let them?
Suddenly, and quite clearly, she remembered why she hadn’t wanted to come tonight.
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” Mike yelled, his fists hitting the steering wheel. “I wouldn’t have brought up the subject if I’d known!”
“It was none of your business!”
“None of my business? You made me look like a jerk back there, Kara. Jeremiah was all pissed off...”
“This may come as a shock to you, Mike, but the whole world does not revolve around you, okay? And my family’s personal issues are not your concern.”
“Not my concern? Not my concern, Kara? We’re practically engaged!”
“No, we’re not! And that’s another thing! Where do you get off telling my family that I might transfer to Harvard? I’m not transferring to Harvard.”
Mike shrugged, glancing at the rearview mirror before cutting someone off. “You might get in. I mean, I know it’s a bit of a long shot, but...”
“Okay. Stop the car, Mike.”
“Stop the fucking car, or I swear I’m going to jump out of it and into oncoming traffic.”
Mike obliged, pulling over into the nearest available spot. “Let’s talk about this.”
Kara was halfway out the door. “There’s nothing to talk about. As far as I’m concerned, you and I are over.” She let the sound of the door slamming closed punctuate her sentence.