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“Hey Mom, how- “ The rest of Eric’s sentence was cut short by a tight hug that squeezed the air out of his lungs. He chuckled as he hugged his mother back and slowly extricated himself from her grasp. She fussed around him as they walked into her house.
“Have you grown since I’ve seen you last? You seem taller. It’s been so long, it’s hard to tell…” Eric rolled his eyes. His mom was laying the guilt on thick. It had been a while, though. Work had been crazy in the last few months, and he hadn’t managed to make it out to the ‘burbs as often as he would have liked. Not that he would admit that.
“It’s been, like, a month, mom.” He said with a grin. “And no, I haven’t grown since high school, like every other person alive. It’s good to see you though. What’s for dinner? It smells great!”
Before giving his mom a chance to answer, he strode into the kitchen to see a pot of marinara sauce bubbling on the counter. He breathed in deep, the smell of tomatoes and spices and a homecooked meal permeating his nostrils as he looked around for a spoon.
“Don’t even think about it!” His mother scolded him jokingly as he tried to get a taste of the sauce. “You’ll eat when it’s ready. I’m making spaghetti and meatballs, your favorite. Why don’t you open the wine and pour us a glass?”
Eric didn’t need to be told twice. He uncorked the bottle of Cabernet that was resting on the counter and poured two healthy glasses. His mom and him clinked glasses wordlessly and took matching long sips.
“Mmmm, that’s good.” His mom said. “Do you like it? Rebecca from down the street recommended it.” Without waiting for him to respond, she continued. “Anyway, what’s new with you? How are things with Alyssa? You’ve been living together for a few months now, have you worked out all the kinks? Are you being nice to her? You know she’s a sweetheart.”
Eric rolled his eyes as he took another sip of his wine. “Yes, mom. Of course I’m being nice to her. I’m always nice.” His mom looked at him pointedly, but he continued, unperturbed. “Living together has been great. Our new place is really nice and it’s awesome not having to worry about who’s going to whose place every night. She doesn’t know how to load a dishwasher to save her life, but…”
“Oh, you stop it. Be nice!” His mom exclaimed, slapping his arm lightly. He laughed, raised his hands placatingly, and continued as his mom turned to stir the sauce, shaking her head.
“I’m just kidding. Living together is going great. We actually just booked a trip, too. We’re going to Italy for a week!” Eric’s smile faded slightly as this information didn’t elicit the response he was expecting. Instead of showing excitement, his mother instead slowly placed her wooden spoon to the side and turned to him with a serious expression on her face.
“Eric, are you telling me you’re going to propose?” A shocked expression crossed Eric’s face as he shook his head emphatically. His voice caught slightly in his throat as he spoke. “Uhh, no. Not at all. It’s just a trip, why would you think that?
His mom tilted her head and cupped his cheek with her palm. “Oh honey,” she said in the voice you would use on a dumb puppy that had ran into the wall chasing its own tail. “You guys have been together, what, almost two years? And you live together? And now you’re planning a big romantic vacation to Italy? Do you really think she won’t be expecting a ring? I was younger than you when your father proposed to me, you know…”
She continued talking, but Eric was no longer listening. A look of sheer panic was plastered on his face, and the voice in his head was talking a mile a minute. Holy shit. Did Alyssa really expect a ring in a few months? By the time their vacation rolled around they would be nearing the two-year mark. And they did live together. Was it time? He didn’t feel old enough to be getting married, but would he ever? His eyes looked upwards as he attempted to do some math. If he proposed on the trip, assuming about a year engagement, he would be…nearing 28? Fuck. That’s a totally normal age to get married at. He didn’t want everyone to be sick of weddings by the time his came around, right? Better to be early than late.
He nodded mindlessly at whatever his mom was saying as he continued to think. It’s not that he was opposed to getting married, he just hadn’t given it any thought. He didn’t want to rush into things like his parents had, but at the same time, he knew Alyssa was the girl he wanted to spend his life with. Right? I mean, he thought so, at least. How do you ever truly know? He knew he loved her. He wanted to be with her. Marriage was just like dating, but for longer, right? Until kids, it wasn’t like it would be a huge lifestyle change. He already knew they were compatible at living together. What difference would a ring make?
He snapped out of his reverie as his mom finished her speech. “…If she makes you happy, you should go for it. That’s what I think. But make sure you’ve talked about it and it’s not out of the blue for her, either. Don’t listen to Hollywood. Something like marriage, girls don’t want a surprise. Anyway, I’m not trying to pressure. But if you start to think about it, Janice’s husband is a jeweler, you know. He has a cute little store right downtown, and I’m sure he would give you a good price. I’ll get you his number. In fact, I may have it around here some- ”
“Mom!” Eric shouted, his voice rising louder than he had anticipated. “Uhh, I think the pasta is done. Why don’t we eat?”