One Fall in New Hampshire Part 07
Making Plans to Visit the Parents
Telling Mick and Laurie about our engagement was easy. Telling our parents was going to be hard. I knew my parents would throw a fit. Leslie told me she feared her parents would do the same.
We finished our lunch with Mick and Laurie and returned to the dorm. Once in my room, we discussed how to go about telling our parents about our engagement. Much discussion led to our decision to travel the next Saturday down to Hooksett to visit Leslie’s parents and spend the night. Then on Sunday, we’d drive over to Rye to visit my parents before heading back to Plymouth.
Leslie called her parents about us coming on Saturday. She didn’t mention our engagement. Her parents were amenable to the idea of Leslie bringing home a boy home for them to meet. They were less enamored with the idea of me spending the night and made sure Leslie and I understood I’d be sleeping on the couch in the family room and not with Leslie in her bedroom.
My mother hemmed and hawed when I told her I’d be coming to visit the next Sunday and bringing a girlfriend with me. She first suggested I should come home alone to visit since it would only be my second stay at the house in Rye. After I explained how Leslie and I were going to Hooksett to visit her parents on Saturday, my mother acquiesced to having us to Sunday dinner.
When my father got on the phone, I got the impression he was much more agreeable with the idea of me bringing home a girl than my mother had been.
The school week passed with lightning speed. Leslie and I spent every moment out of class together. One afternoon while she was giving a piano lesson, I made a secret trip to the Main Street Jewelry store. On Friday, after dinner with Mick and Laurie at the dining hall, as Leslie and I walked along the river, I revealed the reason for my shopping trip.
I stopped at a spot along the path just south of the bridge where the bushes along the bank cleared and the trail ran right along the river. I turned to face Leslie and got down on one knee. Taking the jewel box from my pocket, I opened it and presented Leslie with a round cut half carat diamond engagement ring.
“You asked me to marry you, Leslie, and I said yes. Now I’m asking you if you will wear my engagement ring so everyone will know of our love and commitment to one another.”
Leslie sniffed, and a tear rolled down her cheek. “Of course I will, Ren. It’s beautiful.”
I rose to my feet and carefully took the ring from the box. Leslie held out her left hand. I gently placed the ring on her finger.
Leslie held her hand up so her ring could catch the fading light. “I love it, Ren. I love you.”
I pulled her into my arms and with my kiss showed Leslie how glad I was to have her wearing my ring.
Lunch at the Herschel’s
The drive from Plymouth to Hookset was a fifty-mile straight shot down I-93. Leslie’s parents were expecting us in time for lunch. Leaving a margin for traffic and delays, we left Plymouth in my Nova around ten-thirty in the morning.
Traffic was light. We arrived at the exit for Hooksett thirty-five minutes before we were expected at Leslie’s parents. With time to spare Leslie gave me directions to the American Legion Hall. We didn’t go inside, but just south of the Hall was a pedestrian walkway across the Merrimack River.
“This used to be railroad bridge not too long ago,” Leslie told me as we walked out to the halfway point. “When the railroad abandoned it, the town took it and turned it into a walking bridge. Bike riders use it, too. In the winter people use it for snowmobiles and cross-country skiing.”
I was watching the river flow under the bridge and only caught the last of what Leslie said. “You were on your high school cross country ski team, right? Did you ski across here a lot?”
“No. I went to high school in Manchester. I told you that.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”
Leslie glanced at her watch. “We should probably get going. My parents are expecting us for lunch, and my mom will start worrying if we’re not there right at the stroke of noon.”
We made it to Leslie’s parent’s house just at noon. Her father met us at the door.
“Hello, Leslie,” he said greeted his daughter. “I take it this is your friend Darren.”
“Yes, father, this is Darren, but everyone calls him Ren.” She turned to me and said, “Ren, this is my father, Mr. Herschel.”
I offered my hand and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“I’m sure,” Mr. Herschel replied taking my hand for a brief, none too firm, handshake.
He turned around and walked into the house. Leslie and I followed.
“Your mother is in the kitchen finishing lunch,” Mr. Herschel said over his shoulder before he turned into what turned out to be the dining room.
I followed Leslie to the kitchen.
“Hi, mom,” Leslie said from the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen.
Mrs. Herschel turned from the stove and said, “Oh, hi, dear. Is this your young man? Nice to meet you. You’ll pardon me if I don’t shake hands. I’m just finishing up our lunch.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Herschel,” I said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh, no,” Mrs. Herschel insisted. “Everything is nearly ready. You two should go on into the dining room and take your seats. I’ll be right out with the food.”
Lunch turned out to be grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches, tomato soup, and corn chips. It was not quite the menu I was expecting, but I had no complaints. As lunch, this menu was one of my favorites.
As we ate, Mrs. Herschel bombarded me with questions about where I was from, why I was in New Hampshire, what I was majoring in at college, how had I picked Plymouth State, how had Leslie and I met, and on and on. Mr. Herschel finally decided the interrogation had gone on long enough.
“For goodness sakes, Martha, let the boy eat.”
Mrs. Herschel turned a hurt look on her husband and then looked to Leslie for support. As she looked at Leslie, her eyes went wide.
Surprise – We’re Engaged
“Oh! My goodness, Leslie! What is that on your finger?”
Leslie froze in mid-bite. She stared at her mother. Mr. Herschel looked at Leslie’s hand and dropped his spoon.
“Yes, Leslie, what is on your finger? It looks like an engagement ring.”
Leslie swallowed hard. I sat stock still. We’d planned on announcing our engagement after lunch. Our timetable had accelerated.
“It looks like an engagement ring, daddy, mom because it is an engagement ring,” Leslie explained to her parents. “Ren and I are engaged.”
“Oh, oh my, oh what wond…,” Mrs. Herschel sputtered.
Mr. Herschel rose from his seat and pounded his fist on the table. “I’ll not have it. Young lady, you take his ring off your finger right this instant.” Then he pointed at me. “As for you, you…you…leave my house this instant before I throw you out. How dare you ask my daughter to marry you before you’ve even met her mother and me?”
I began to stand.
Leslie said, “You stay right there, Ren.” Then to her father, she said. “It just so happens, father, that Ren didn’t ask me to marry him, I asked him to marry me. Girls can do that these days. We can, and I did.”
“I don’t care who asked who,” Mr. Herschel roared. “The two of you are not going to get married, and this boy is going to get out of my house right now, or I’m going to throw him out.”
Mr. Herschel was a good four inches shorter than me, twenty pounds lighter, and not well muscled. The idea of him throwing me out against my will was laughable. However, beating up my fiancé’s father within an hour of meeting him had no upside to it.
“I’ll go, Mr. Herschel. I’ll go, and Leslie will go with me.”
“She’ll do no such thing,” Mr. Herschel commanded. “She’ll stay right here. And she won’t be going back up to school with you there, either.”
Leslie shoved her chair back from the table and stood up. “I’m leaving with Ren, father, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. You can’t stop me from going back to school, either.”
“I can stop paying the bills for you,” Mr. Herschel threatened.
“No, you can’t, Thomas,” Mrs. Herschel said. “Her college money came from her grandparents, and you can’t touch it.” She rose from her chair. “And if these two leave because of you, you best be on the way out the door as soon as they’re gone because you won’t have a home here anymore either.”
“You can’t talk to me like this, Martha! I’m your husband.”
Mrs. Herschel pointed at Leslie. “And you’re her step-father. She just told us some wonderful happy news, and you’re trying to turn it into the worst day of all our lives.”
Mr. And Mrs. Herschel stared at each other for several long seconds before Mr. Herschel stepped away from the table.
“I’ll not be talked to like this in my own house,” he muttered on his way to the kitchen and out the back door.
“Honestly, mom, I don’t know why you put up with him,” Leslie said as she sat back down. “You know I never thought you should marry him.”
I followed Leslie’s example and took my seat, too.
“I know you didn’t, dear, but the truth is I love him with all his faults. And he’s tried to be a good father to you.”
Leslie snorted. “He didn’t try too hard. He always acted like I was in the way and he couldn’t wait for me to go off to college.”
“Thomas never had children of his own,” Mrs. Herschel said to me. “He never got the hang of how to be a father to a teenage girl.
“I do think it would be better if the two of you didn’t stay here, though. Ren, do you think your parents would mind awfully if you showed up this evening instead of tomorrow morning.”
“No, ma’am,” I said. “I don’t think so. May I call them and let them know we’re coming?”
“Of course,” Mrs. Herschel said. “There’s a phone in the hallway you can use.”
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© 2019 DW Davis