34. meet the parent.

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"Ready?" I asked Ryan as I grabbed the keys to my truck

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"Ready?" I asked Ryan as I grabbed the keys to my truck.

Nothing makes time fly faster than dreading what lies ahead-- the days leading up to meeting Ryan's father sped by in a blur. Now, we were about to face it head on.

I couldn't place why I felt so apprehensive about the meeting, specifically, other than the fact that I was worried about how it might turn out for her sake. If it went sideways, Ryan would be devastated.

"Not really, but it's time to leave," she said, forcing a weak smile. I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

She was quiet as we walked down to the underground parking garage, and quieter still on our five minute drive over to Im/Pressed, the coffee shop they had decided on.

When we walked in, it was immediately evident who we were there to meet. A man, mid-40s, was seated in the corner; he had the same coloring as Ryan— chestnut hair, dark eyes. In fact, she had his eye shape, too. The resemblance was striking.

I could only imagine how strange it must have felt for her in the moment.

Scanning the room, he spotted us and set down the coffee he was already drinking. I noticed that he was well-dressed, in a high-end charcoal suit and a crisp white dress shirt, no tie. He looked like one of the investment bankers my father worked with.

His attire surprised me, since Ryan had intimated that she and her mother didn't have a lot of money, and it didn't sound like he had helped with that, either.

A flicker of anger rippled through me. I clamped down on it, reminding myself that I was here for moral support— not to make judgements for her.

His brows knit together as we approached him, then shifted into excited recognition.

"Ryan?" He asked, standing up.

"Yeah. Hi," she said shyly.

"And Ethan," I offered as I extended my hand. "Her boyfriend."

He looked surprised, briefly, almost like he'd forgotten that she was now a fully-grown adult, but he accepted my hand with a firm handshake of his own.

"Jason," he said.

"Ry, I'll go grab us drinks at the front. Earl Grey or English Breakfast?"

"Earl Grey, please," she replied, reluctantly sitting down at the table.

I was trying to be helpful, but wondered if I had just left her high and dry instead.

When I returned with our drinks, they were still in the midst of awkward, getting-to-know-you small talk.

"What are you taking in school?"

"I'm studying nursing, just finishing up my third year. Ethan is majoring in finance and he's the captain of the school hockey team."

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