Meet the Family: Flash Fiction

Her family would ruin her chance with the perfect guy.

At least, that’s the story Karina Meeks told herself as she walked up to her family home trailed by that guy. His arm brushed hers, their denim jackets announcing rare compatibility.

Maybe her brother wouldn’t tease her. Perhaps her dad would be so engrossed in whatever Uncle Lee said that he wouldn’t blast Andrew with the firing squad of boyfriend-killing questions. Mom would take a hint from Karina. But Grammy? Her stomach plummeted. A miracle couldn’t silence her outspoken grandmother.

“You don’t have to do this.” She faced him, one foot on the top step.

Honest eyes, blue more than gray in the afternoon light, studied her. A familiar fluttering of bird wings took flight in her throat. Andrew saw her. And still wanted to spend time with her.

She gulped. How could she subject his kindness to her family?

“You ashamed of me?” His peachy lips twitched, giving a flirtatious tone to the question.

“Afraid for your life.” She wished she was joking.

He chuckled. Warmth melted her heart. He squeezed her icy hand, and tingles sparked along every nerve ending in her arm.

The front door burst open. “Kay! Is it you?”

Although she hadn’t seen her cousin Marco in several years, she would know that white smile and teasing café latte eyes anywhere. She stepped into his hug, returning it with one arm.

“Andrew, my cousin Marco.”

Marco raised a single eyebrow and narrowed his eyes. “A boyfriend brave enough for this shindig?”

Karina opened her mouth to correct him. Andrew stepped closer, warming her side. The guys shook as Andrew said, “Karina deserves only the bravest.”

Her cousin’s eyebrows shot up, disappearing beneath the lank of black hair across his forehead.

So it began.

“Is this your young man?” Her mother asked as they entered the kitchen. Karina wished herself invisible.

Andrew smiled, nodded, and shook hands with her mother. “It smells great in here.”

Marco led the way into the adjacent family room. A baseball game flitted on the big screen, its announcers drowned by Uncle Lee’s boisterous voice. Why did deaf people shout? It wasn’t like other people had trouble hearing them.

Karina edged after Andrew, but Marco was making introductions. Uncle Lee dove into his favorite recollection of young Karina losing her shoes during a muddy walk on a trail along the Pacific Peninsula. Her face heated.

“Polite,” her mother said, handing Karina a knife and gesturing to three blocks of cheese on the counter. “Handsome, too.” The quick wag of eyebrows made Karina grateful Andrew had left the room.

She tried to listen to the men’s conversation, but her mother clanked pans and asked about school and how she met Andrew. Her father’s booming, embarrassing guffaw rang out, followed by Andrew’s rolling chuckle.

Proof of life.

The front door opened. The telltale squeak of wheels announced impending disaster. Grammy had arrived. Thomas ducked away as soon as Grammy reached the counter before she could situate herself on a barstool.

Marco and Thomas slapped each other’s backs, and her cousin gestured to Andrew. Making the introductions? Her straying attention cost her.

“…came with Karina,” Mom said.

Hearing her name, she focused on the women in the kitchen.

“I need to meet this boy.” And Grammy’s squeaking walker trundled across the laminate floor, barely Avoiding a collision with the sofa.

Grammy ignored her son and her brother’s greeting, instead pointing a spotted hand at Andrew. “Who are you? No one deserving of my beautiful granddaughter.”

Karina wilted against the counter. Only a grandmother could think a twenty-one-year-old who had never had a steady boyfriend was so desirable.

Andrew stood, extending a hand to Grammy. “Andrew. And I’m sure you’re right.”

After a shake, which her grandmother clutched longer than necessary, he asked, “Can I help you to a seat?”

“Beside you is perfect.”

Perfect for a swift death of the relationship that would never be. All those weeks of attempting to flirt when Andrew studied at the library. Months before that following him with a hungry gaze, only to turn away with a blush if he looked at her.

Mom’s hand patted her forearm. “It’ll be fine.”

How could she be so calm and certain? Karina’s lungs were collapsing. Dark spots danced across her vision.

“Breathe. Finish the charcuterie.”

Karina gulped air. How did a person drown in a kitchen? She blinked and sliced the sharp cheddar. The clunk of the knife on the wooden board sounded like nails hammered into the coffin of her hopes.

She should have rescheduled their first date. That would have avoided the inevitable death knell for a week. Maybe two.

Hours later, she stumbled out the front door. Cool air slapped her face, waking her from the nightmare.

Andrew breezed past, reaching his black truck parked at the curb first. He opened the passenger door, and his hand slid into hers, stopping her robotic death march.

“I like your family.”

She gaped at him. Snapping her teeth together and swallowing a boulder of amazement, she stared into his gorgeous eyes. Still honest but grayer now with evening falling.

Teeth peeked out when he grinned. “Maybe they’re even saying the same about me.”

She blinked. What strange dream was this? “This wasn’t the first date of nightmares?”

His thumb stroked her knuckles. “Only if it doesn’t end with a kiss.”

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.