Meeting the Parents
[Sequel to Back to Reality]
Aoba hasn’t completely smoothed things over with her mother, but they are talking again. Her father had kept good on his promise, and the first thing Aoba did after coming home was apologising for not letting them know sooner.
While it’s not like they’re entirely back to normal, things are better. Aoba isn’t entirely sure if her mother is genuinely that disappointed because she is not settling down with a man, or if it was the whole ‘not letting them know sooner’ thing that was the biggest problem. She is aware of the very common ‘oh, she’ll grow out of it’ mindset among people regarding same-sex attraction, and maybe her mother had thought the same until Aoba had dropped this on them.
Announcing that she’s moving out doesn’t seem to have helped. To her mother that might seem like adding insult to injury right now. But Aoba is determined, and has been packing her things all week. Nenecchi has helped of course. She agreed as soon as Aoba asked. Finding enough cardboard boxes, and trying to ignore her mother’s lack of approval has been the main problems.
Since things are a bit tense at home, being at work feels like a relief. Her mother has tried to talk her out of it more than once, but those conversations have all either gone cold, or turned into an argument. But at least they’re talking, right?
Her father has been doing his best to mediate, bless him. While Aoba isn’t entirely sure whether he actually approves either, he at least acts like he respects her decision. Without him, things would have definitely been worse.
She asks him one night, when he comes up to her room, if he is really okay with it. It has been a rough day, and she is hoping for some encouragement.
“Aoba,” he says calmly and sits down next to her on the bed. “I have seen how happy you’ve been the past months. You shouldn’t give up on that.” He smiles and puts his arm around her, which Aoba had hoped he would do. “I’ll support you so long as you remain happy. It’s not my call beyond that. I’m certain your mother will understand and feel the same once she calms down.”
“Thank you,” Aoba says while trying to not cry. “But… um…” She fidgets. “Would you… would it be… I mean…” Even though he’s being supportive, it feels awkward to ask what she’s about to.
“What is it?” He sounds patient, but curious.
“Do you think it would help if… would it be okay if… I brought Hifumi over to meet you both?” she asks cautiously. “O-or would that just make it worse?” She can tell he hesitates, which stings a little bit. Hifumi has agreed to come over if Aoba’s parents are okay with it.
“Er… um…” he says before thinking it over. In a way he has come to terms with his daughter dating a woman, but mostly on a conceptual level. Actually facing the reality of meeting Aoba’s partner, possibly the person she’ll be spending her life with, feels different. Maybe he’s thinking too far ahead. Not all relationships last. But Aoba is happier now than he’s seen her since she was a little kid, so he can’t ignore the possibility of this lasting long-term.
“I…” he starts, then reminds himself he just said he’s going to support her happiness. “I wouldn’t mind,” he says with a smile. “Besides, it’ll give me the chance to judge whether I think she’s good enough for you,” he adds, only half-joking.
“Dad, please,” Aoba says, sounding embarrassed, but happy.
“I can’t speak for your mother though,” he says, turning serious again. “But I will speak to her, and find out whether she’s ready for this.” He rubs her arm comfortingly. “It may help if you come with me to ask. I’ll admit that seeing the two of you like this isn’t great, and I think she may prefer that you don’t speak just through me as a proxy.” Aoba isn’t entirely fond of that idea, but admits he may have a point.
She asks for a minute to prepare herself mentally, and then goes with her father to talk to her mother.
Hifumi is extremely nervous. She had agreed to this, but now that it’s finally Saturday and she’s outside Aoba’s house, she regrets it.
Why did I agree to this? she thinks. I still have trouble talking to Hajime and Yun sometimes, there’s no way I’m going to do well here. She had probably felt like she had to, at least a little. Aoba is going to be there with her, though. That’ll hopefully help.
She takes a deep breath and rings the doorbell. Thankfully it’s Aoba who opens the door. She smiles at Hifumi and reaches out to gently take her hand and lead her inside.
“Hi, sweetie. Are you okay?” Aoba asks her. Hifumi isn’t, but she wants to put on a brave face, so she nods.
“Y-yeah,” she replies. Aoba squeezes her hand before letting her take her shoes off.
“Are you sure?” Aoba asks again. “I won’t think less of you if you want to call it off right now. I’ll explain it to them.” It is impossible to miss how nervous Hifumi looks.
“N-no, it’s f-fine. I’m h-here now,” Hifumi says as she stands back up, and instinctively takes Aoba’s hand again.
Aoba leads Hifumi over to the doorway to the living room, and as soon as she sees Aoba’s parents sitting on the couch she freezes. Aoba’s father smiles reassuringly at Hifumi, but her mother’s smile looks forced.
She’s really not happy with me, Hifumi thinks. Seeing them both does let her see where Aoba got her traits from, though, which makes her feel a little bit better. These are the people who brought Aoba to the world, and raised her to become the woman Hifumi loves. She is able to follow Aoba into the living room proper. Should I really be holding Aoba’s hand? she wonders, but she definitely doesn’t want to let go.
“Mom, dad, this is Hifumi,” Aoba says, also feeling rather nervous. Please let this go well, she thinks to herself. It takes a moment for Hifumi to remember she has to introduce herself.
“H-he-hello, I’m Takimoto H-Hifumi,” she says, maybe a little quieter than she should. Then she bows to them. “I’m l-looking forward t-t-to work-” No, that’s not what she’s supposed to say. “I-I mean, it’s a-a pleasure to m-m-meet you!” Maybe a little loud there. She’s blushing furiously as she straightens back up.
“It’s nice to meet you too, Takimoto-san,” Aoba’s father says. He sounds sympathetic. “Please take a seat.” He indicates a shorter couch Hifumi and Aoba can sit on. While she is again not certain if it’s okay for her and Aoba being so close in front of her parents, she is also really glad she doesn’t have to sit in a chair by herself.
Aoba’s mother still hasn’t said a thing. Her forced smile is gone, and now she’s just looking neutral. So this is the woman Aoba has gotten into a relationship with, she thinks. Hifumi looks even more nervous and awkward than Aoba had told them she might be. Yet she still came, and she’s sitting here with them. So she can’t be faulted for her courage. Now that she’s here, Aoba’s mother is finding it really hard to dislike Hifumi.
She finally speaks up to introduce herself alongside Aoba’s father. Hifumi smiles nervously at them.
“P-please c-call me Hifumi,” she says, and smiles nervously at them.
“Okay,” Aoba’s father says. “So you two work together, Hifumi-san?” he asks, and Hifumi nods.
What follows is some awkward hours as they have dinner, and then tea, while getting to know each other a little. Hifumi slowly relaxes and opens up a little bit to them as the evening goes on, and Aoba’s mother mellows out a bit as well. She can tell Aoba really cares for Hifumi; she knows her daughter well enough to see that. And Hifumi seems very attached to Aoba as well. Even literally, considering how much they hold hands that night. She may not think that’s entirely appropriate, but…
Hifumi helps clean up before she thanks them for the food and their time, and heads back home. Aoba walks her to the station, and when she gets back to what is her home for only one more day, her mother is waiting for her.
“She seems nice,” her mother says.
“She is,” Aoba says, wondering if her mother is going to start something. But her mother just lets out a sigh before smiling faintly.
“You truly love her, don’t you?” she asks, and Aoba lets her shoulders down.
“I do,” she replies, blushing slightly.
“Look, I still wish…” her mother starts, then shakes her head. “No, I guess that doesn’t really matter. Your father is right. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen you this happy. And I suppose that’s what’s important.” Aoba looks at her mother a little confused.
“W-what are you…” she starts to ask as her mother ponders how to say this.
“I guess what I want to say is… best of luck with your new life, Aoba,” her mother says, and Aoba can’t stop herself from suddenly hugging her. Nor stop herself from tearing up.
“Thank you, mom,” she says, and her mother places a hand on Aoba’s head while embracing her with the other one.
“You have to treat her right, though,” her mother says. “No one knows better than me how much of a handful you can be,” she adds jokingly. “And she better do the same to you.” She is definitely not joking about this.
“I will,” Aoba replies.
“Also you should invite me over some time,” her mother says.
“And you’re always welcome here.”
“I know. Thank you, mom.”
The moving truck arrives the next day, and they load it up. Aoba is glad they do business even on Sundays. She does one last tearful goodbye with her parents, then heads over to Hifumi’s apartment. Their apartment, now. That thought is going to take some getting used to. She looks at the key Hifumi had made for her, then wraps her hand firmly around it.
This isn’t a dream, right? she asks herself.
When she arrives at the apartment, she almost rings the doorbell before she remembers she can just let herself in. For the first time. Her hand shakes a little as she puts the key in the lock, and her heart skips a beat as she hears it click open when she turns the key.
“I’m home,” she calls out as she steps inside. Hifumi comes to greet her.