“Mom, Dad… this is Bianna.”
There were a hundred things Jin wanted to say; there were at least fifty that Bianna wanted him to say, and probably forty-five of those overlapped. He could guess at a double dozen his parents wanted to hear from him, and twice that his siblings would want to hear.
But all of that had to wait on that sentence. Jin knew how this worked. He understood a thing or two about becoming an adult, and he understood more than that about his parents, and how you had to deal with them, especially if you were their child.
So simply: “Sorry I’m late… Insert excuse here… here’s the girl of my dreams.”
Which, when you were Audrey and Sage’s child, was a little more of a statement than it would be from a human.
There was a pause, a heartbeat, another heartbeat, another one. “Bianna, welcome. You’re just in time for Jin’s birthday party.” Jin’s mother stood up and greeted Bianna, both hands enclosing the younger woman’s hand in a warm greeting, while her eyes stayed on the girl’s face.
Jin found himself breathing again. “Bianna is in my class at school; we ended up spending the prom together, after the, ah, incident.”
“Pleased to meet you, Bianna.” Jin’s father stood up and bowed, deeply, the sort of thing he saved for formal occasions. “While I’m saddened to have not heard of you before, I’m very glad to have you here now. As Audrey said, it’s our Jin’s eighteenth birthday celebration.”
Jin was holding his breath again.
“So I heard.” Bianna had a winning smile, the sort of bright and sharp-toothed thing that had made her family line famous. “And I’m so excited to get to meet you finally. I think Jin was worried that you wouldn’t accept me.”
And, just like that, she dropped the bomb.
And, just as handily, Audrey caught it. “Nonsense. Of course Jin has reason to be worried – we’re his parents, and we fuss – but we’re happy he brought you home to meet us.” This time, her gaze was assessing, what Jin thought of as her professional glance. “Do you eat greenery, dear? Baked goods? If not, we have plenty of meat on the table as well. Please, do, pull up a chair.”
“I can murder the occasional salad.” Bianna’s teeth were, of course, meat-rending, but Jin had seen her eat vegetables and even sometimes a bagel. She took the seat Audrey indicated, waiting the half-heartbeat so that she and Jin sat at the same moment. “You’re both so kind.”
“I imagine,” Sage’s voice was quiet, “Jin wasn’t the only one worried that we’d accept you. Please don’t worry, Bianna. We do strive to be welcoming here.”
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