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"A Class By Himself 25"

I think Tanner's smile grew brighter with every day that passed by the following week. I couldn't believe that he was so comfortable and happy with all of this while I was taking things a whole other way, getting more and more anxious as the dreaded dinner date got closer. I know that I didn't really have anything to worry about so much...I mean, I doubt the night is going to end with them screaming obscenities and hurling dishes at one another. It's just...I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just being weird. Awkward and weird.

The few times that Chris lingered around in the locker room, I tried to keep myself from bashing him over the head with talk about me and Tanner. I'm sure he's so tired of hearing it by now, and I guess it's a little insensitive...considering his feelings for me. I'm surprised that we're still as close as we are, to be honest. He didn't take the heartbreak well at all.

I think things will stay uncomplicated as long as I keep my boyfriend out of it.

"So what have you got going on this weekend? Anything special?" Chris asked me on Friday.


", nothing big. Just some stuff. Just...stuff." I said.

"Just stuff?"

"Yeah. You know...stuff." I wasn't going to say anything else. I swear. But, come on....did I really have to?

"Oh..." He sad. "I get it. You and Mr. Wonderful have one of your little dates planned, I take it?"

I didn't want to gush about it, so I said, "Yeah. Well, he's just sort of...coming over to dinner. My mom's cooking, so..."

"Your mom?" He asked. " mean she's cool with you being...?" He made some sort of weird gesture, hehehe, but I got the hint.

"Yeah. She was actually really cool about it. A little shocked at first, sure...but really cool."

"Lucky you." Chris said, and sort of kept his back turned to me as he finished buttoning up his shirt.

There was a certain sadness in his silence. I turned to him and said, "It really is ok, Chris. You know....'being'..."

"I wouldn't know." I guess Chris still hasn't gotten that far yet. "I'm busy this weekend anyway. My dad's opening another restaurant here in town, and he's almost ready to start planning his grand opening. I'm going to have the whole house to myself. I'm sure there's some level of mischief I can get into."

I smiled and said, "You could always ask Mitch to come over."

"Yeah, or not. Besides, I think you got that whole situation backwards, buddy boy."

"Backwards, how?"

"Mitch isn't talking to me. Ok?" Chris said. When I asked him what happened, he said, "I don't know. I tried to talk to him a couple of times, and he didn't answer me. I just figured he wasn't interested anymore."

"Maybe he's just busy with something, dude."

"Yeah. Or maybe he's not interested." Chris sulked slightly. "We used totalk all the time, but then...nothing. He just cut me off. No explanation. I mean...what better way to say 'I don't want to talk to you' than to simply stop talking to me?" Then he straightened up and closed his locker. "Whatever. It's no big deal. People change. I've gotta run. See you Monday..."

"There's lots of other boys out there, you know? Most of them cuter than me."

Chris stopped walking, and he looked me in the eye when he said, "Don't get your ego all thrown out of whack or anything...but none of them will ever be cuter than you, Derrick. Not a single one of 'em."

I wonder what went wrong? I thought Mitch would have been happy to have Chris' attention on him again. Maybe he got nervous? Who knows? I just...wish that Chris could find his way to true happiness in his life. Wow...I can't believe I just said that to myself. After all the times I wanted him to get run over by a's weird to be cheering him on to find eternal love and bliss. Strange.

When I woke up the following morning, the first thought on my mind was..."My God, today's the day!" Immediately, my brain started working overtime. Calculating every bad thing that could possibly happen within the next 24 hours. Considering everything that could go wrong and trying to plot out a series of contingency plans to avoid any and all forms of teenage embarrassment. Keep those wheels turning, Derrick. I want to get all of my bases covered.

I spent time pacing.

I spent time worrying.

I spent time pacing some more, this time cleaning up parts of my room that weren't even dirty.

Then I went downstairs into the living room and just tried to sit still as the clock ticked down to doomsday.

I got up off of the couch as I heard my mom coming in the front door...struggling with even more bags than she had last week. I immediately went over to give her a hand, and said "Geez, Mom. More groceries?"

"I had to make sure that everything was in order for tonight. Just leave it all on the table. I'm going to set up my workspace as soon as I get a breather. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited! Aren't you?"

I looked in the bags as I set them down. "Steak? You're making steak?"

"The best steak we've ever had. It'll be just like old times, remember? You and your dad had to stay out of the kitchen and let me throw down for a while? Well, I'm feeling much more inspired tonight. Believe me." She smiled.

I didn't want to be rude in asking, but... "Mom...can we afford all of this?"

"You let me worry about that. My son only gets one 'first boyfriend', and we're going to celebrate it big time, Sweet Pea."

"Mom...please don't call me 'Sweet Pea' when Tanner gets here. Ok?" I whined.

"Don't worry. I won't embarrass you. You teenagers and your 'parent-phobia'." She said. I wasn't so sure that she was going to stick to her word. I don't think parents actually know what embarrassing is. Maybe you lose your perspective of it after a certain age. Ugh! I hope this goes alright. I probably should have called Tanner. I don't want him to...I don't know...say anything to make me nervous. Not in front of her.

Jesus! Now I know how Superman feels! Clark Kent and Superman are supposed to live two completely separate lives. They're not suppose to...'connect'. In ANY way. EVER!

I'm doomed.

My mom got in a decent rest, but once she got up again and got herself back in that kitchen, I heard pots and pans banging and clanging together with a vengeance. Cabinets opening and closing. Drawers rattling with culinary utensils that usually lie dormant until Thanksgiving dinner. And the next time I walked in there, she had a set up on the counter next to the stove that looked like she was setting up an army battalion for war. I can't remember the last time I had seen her so happy. I know that she hated only having enough time and energy to throw something 'functional' together for me after work and before school, but she loved cooking. I couldn't count the number of times she had to help the diner out during an unexpected rush of customers. I guess she was back in her element.

I showered and got myself ready for the big event. I can't say what had me so jittery and nervous about this dinner date of ours. I shouldn't be, right? Shit, I don't know what to think! I just put on some clothes and tried to build up enough confidence to make it through the rest of tonight so we never ever EVER have to do this again! Why did I agree to this? Oh wait...I didn't. That's how. My mom and Tanner are big SNEAKS! The both of them!

I came downstairs, and my mom already had the steak cut and cleaned and marinating in some kind of concoction that she had made herself. She had salad ingredients on the table, and all of her spices and stuff within reach. She meant business tonight. I could tell.

She saw me and said, "Honey? Do me a favor and grab the Balsamic vinaigrette from the cabinet by the fridge, will you?" I handed it to her and she added it to her 'arsenal' of flavor on the counter, still working some magic on the flank steaks themselves. "Gotta put a little love into these. Makes them tender. They'll be tough without a little love." Then she took one look at what I had on and said, " that what you're wearing?"

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"Aww, honey, you should snazz up a little bit, don't you think?"

"Snazz up for who? It's Tanner, Mom. And I'm at home. It's not like we're going out anywhere..."

"I know, Derrick, but...ya know...? Are you really going to do a pullover t-shirt? C'mon..." What? It was clean. She was squirming a bit, but I don't know why. Geez, I didn't think I looked that bad. "Why don't you wear that off-white, button down shirt of yours? You know, the one with the really nice design on it? It's so cute on you. It brings out your eyes."

I'm exhausted by this dinner already. "UGH! Fine!" I said, leaving the kitchen in a huff.

"Ugh! Fine!" She said, mocking me with a grin. "Iron it if it needs ironing!" She called out, and got another frustrated groan in return. "I love you, Sweet Pea"

"Please, don't call me Sweet Pea while Tanner's here." I answered back, and then went to go change.

So...the moment of truth was upon me. Tanner's almost never late. Like, for anything. My mom was searing those steaks up nicely and tossing a salad in a large wooden bowl when we heard the doorbell ring. My mom actually 'yelped' with glee when she heard it, causing me to jump. "He's here! He's here! go let him in and you two come back to the kitchen. Ok?"

"It's just Tanner. Mom, please don't make this weird..."

"It won't be weird. It won't. It'll be amazing. Wait..." She started messing with my hair causing me to swat her hands away as if I was fending off some sort of random bat attack! She straightened my collar, and gave me a smile. "Tonight is going to be something special. I promise."

"I know, just...chill out, k?"

"I'm chill. You're Mom's a hip lady." She said.

"Don't...use the words 'hip lady' around him, ok?" I pleaded.

"I can come up with something else..."

"No. Like...don't. Just...don't talk too much." I said.

"You're keeping your date waiting out in the cold, you know?"

"Just...don't get all mushy and crazy on me."

"Go answer the door, Derrick." She grinned, giving me a push.

"And don't call me Sweet Pea!" I said as I walked into the living room.

Ok. Deep breath. I think my mother knows the house rules for tonight. Now, let me just make sure that Tanner knows how to behave as well, and we can make this night go off without a hitch.

I put my hand on the doorknob...and opened it wide.

It's not like Tanner came dressed in a tux or anything, but it was definitely a bit more than the casual attire that I was used to him wearing. It Ok, so I'll give my mom ONE bonus point for making me change, but that's it! And I'm not going to tell her about it either.

"Hi..." Tanner said shyly, and I saw him holding three red roses in his hand as he nodded at his ride and let them know it was ok to take off.

I reached for the flowers. "Awww, look at you. How sweet." I smirked.

He lightly smacked the back of my hand. "These aren't for YOU, silly. They're for your mom." He peeked over my shoulder for a second to make sure that we were alone, then he gave me a brief kiss on the lips as he stepped inside. "Omigod...the whole house smells delicious! What the heck is she cooking in there???"

"Come on and find out. I guess she wants us to help." I smiled. I led him into the kitchen, where he was instantly bowled over by the aroma filling the house, getting a powerful fragrance right there at its source.

My mom was standing there against the sink, attempting to um...I don't know how she was intending to look. But it looked weird. Hehehe, at least to me it did.

"Tanner! So glad you could make it sweetheart!" She said, coming over to hug my boyfriend around his shoulders. "And what's this?"

"I brought you some roses, Mrs. Liddle." He said sheepishly, handing them to her while sort of keeping his head down. "I didn't want to come empty handed."

"Why, thank you, Tanner. Awww, you are SUCH a cutie!" She said, kissing him on the forehead. "I will...uhhh...hmmm, I'm not sure that I have anything to put these in..."

Before she could finish, Tanner pulled out another little box from behind him and said, "Don't worry. I took care of that too. Just in case." It was a small clear vase made of glass, just the perfect size for our kitchen table. Nothing expensive, or necessarily flashy. Just something to hold the roses up. Something sweet. I don't baby was just...making me really proud tonight. I was moved.

My mother took a brief pause to smile at us, and she instantly put water in the small vase and set it up as the centerpiece of our table. Then, she eagerly took Tanner by the hand and pulled him over to her 'work' area. "Wash your hands! Both of you. I want you guys to help me finish off dinner. Come on." She said, causing Tanner to roll up his sleeves and giggle.

"Sweet! What is that you've got going in here? It smells awesome." He said.

"Well, tonight we're having flank steak, cut and feathered out to make it tender. I promise. I'm serving it up with garlic and black pepper and a nice grilled onion relish and a few mushrooms. Side of garden salad with a homemade vinaigrette, and you two are going to make the steak sauce." She grinned.

"WOW! You made all that?" Tanner said, his eyes wide.

I said, "My mom might definitely knows how to a Grade A gourmet mess when she wants to. But it'll be worth every bite."

My mom gave Tanner an apron and then handed me hers. "One thing you're going to learn before you leave her that Derrick's mom's got skills!" She winked at him, and I silently gave her the signal to stop right there. more! Enough! God, I hope she doesn't call me 'Sweet Pea'...

She gave us everything that we needed for the sauce. The Balsamic vinegar, some worscestershire sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard...Tanner kept looking at me like none of these things should ever go in the same pot, ever. He fumbled a bit, but once I assured him that it would be amazing, he trusted me to follow the instructions the rest of the way.

That's when we heard the phone ring, and my mom hurried over to grab it. "Hello? Uh huh? Well...ok, but...can you hold on for just one moment?" She covered the phone with her hand and looked over our shoulder. "Honey, reduce the heat on this just a little bit, and let it thicken. But you guys keep stirring, ok. Strain it again if you think you have to. Put a few shakes of Cayenne pepper in there. Give it some heat." Then she took the phone in the other room to talk.

Tanner and I were only quiet for a second before he looked at me and just burst out with a flurry of boyish giggles. I asked him what he was laughing at, and he just shrugged a shoulder and said, "I don't know, this is's cool. You know? I don't know, I never thought I'd be making steak sauce in the kitchen of my boyfriend's mother before. Hehehe! This whole thing is so surreal. And I've barely been here fifteen minutes yet."

I looked over at his profile, those smooth cheeks barely hidden behind that silken sweep of beautiful hair...hanging to his cheekbones. Those candied lips displaying the most innocent and alluring of smiles as he peeked into the pot to make sure he was stirring it right. Hehehe...omigod it was the cutest thing EVER! It felt like my heart was actually being squeezed for every last drop of giddy infatuation that could possibly be wrung from its already drained dry surface! Unable to help myself, I put my hands on Tanner's slender hips and attempted to turn him to face me.

"Hehehe, Derrick? What are you up to?"

"Kiss me..." I smiled.

"Unh unh, I'm stirring."

"I don't care. I wanna kiss." I said, and Tanner blushed softly as he leaned in and gave me a sweet little peck on the lips. "I want another kiss!"

"Hahaha, behave, you! Your mom went through an awful lot of trouble just to have us mess up on the sauce at the last minute." I really couldn't help myself. He just...he looked so cute and smelled so good and he was being so adorable...I almost wished we had the house to ourselves. I kissed him again and again, and when he laughed and leaned his head back away from me...his neck was fully exposed to me, and I dove straight for it, making loud kissing noises as he giggled and a squirmed from the ticklish sensation. "Nooooooo! No wait, hehehe, wait wait! Um...HERE! We need to taste the sauce! Taste it! We need to...hahaha, Derrick! Quit it!" Tanner finally pushed me far enough off of him to reach for the spoon in the sauce and hold it up to my lips. I got a little swipe of the seasoned concoction off of the tip of the spoon, and while it was made to perfection...I still think the nape of Tanner's neck tasted better. "Is it good? Did we do it right?" He asked.

"It's excellent." I said. "Here, taste..." I took my finger and wiped it in the center of the spoon to offer him some. Tanner's blush deepened, but he took the offering...pursing those delicate lips around the tip of my finger and getting me all aroused and excited by sucking the thickening sauce with a slow lap of his tongue. "Hehehe, you did that on purpose." I said.

"Unh unh..."

"Want more? Hehehe! I got some more sauce on my finger, but this time I purposely surprised him by wiping it on the tip of his nose, making both of us snicker uncontrollably. Tanner actually raised his hand up and I caught it. "Omigod, dude, we're you gonna slap me? Hahaha!"

"Maybe. Hehehe, you need a god slapping!"

"I can't believe you were actually gonna slap me. Ugh. Shame on you."

"Shame on you first. Erg." We struggled a little bit, with him trying to get a hand free and me trying to keep him still, hehehe....but then...our eyes made contact....and everything stopped. I gazed into those bright hazel orbs and was instantly reminded why this boy left me so breathless. Out little wrestling match came to an end, our muscles relaxed, and I think we both thought about fighting the force that was now pulling us forward...but why? When the love is this strong, this pure...the touch of our lips was inevitable.

We kissed. More than just a peck this time. A longer, lingering kiss, that made me weak in the knees...but weightless enough to stay standing. The love in my heart poured out of me. I cared so very much for him. Everything about him was a dream come true for me. You have no idea how amazing it is to be loved this way. He really does complete me. He really makes me feel alive.

I didn't even know my Mom had come back into the room until I heard the little 'camera sound' going off in the background. "MOM!" I said, turning to face the sink. "You said you wouldn't do the picture thing!"

"Hehehe, um, no. No, I never said any such thing, and you know it!" She said, half giggling, half sniffling with tears of joy. "Awwww, you two! That's the cutest thing I've ever seen! Give me another one. I didn't get that kiss framed up probably."

Tanner was happy to pose while I kept my back turned, then he started trying to turn me around. "Derrrrrrrrick? Hehehe! I believe your mom wants another picture."

"Why are you helping her? You're supposed to be on MY side, you know?" He kept twisting my shoulders around, and with a loud groan and a roll of my eyes, I turned around again and I actually took a few more pictures with my boyfriend for my mom's benefit. Even one or two with a kiss on the lips, but just little ones. I wasn't going to give her that much satisfaction.

She stood up, trying to fight back the tears in her eyes by fanning her face. " two are making a big crybaby out of me today. Why don't you two go in the living room? Watch TV. I'll finish up in here."

"Are you sure?" Tanner asked.

"Yes. Yes. I'm sure. You boys go enjoy some alone time. I'm going to put everything together and make it gel so we can eat. Ok?" She said, her voice quivering now. " boys go ahead now. Go on."

"Hehehe, are you super super sure, Mom?" I grinned, seeing her on the edge and teasing her for it.

"YES! Get out of here! Go!" She insisted. She gave Tanner and I both a big kiss on the cheek as we walked past her, and out of the kitchen.

I made sure to tease further by peeking my head back in the kitchen as she was crying. "Hehehe, I brought you some tissues..."

She laughed at me. "Smartass! OUT!" Then she added, "Leave the tissues..."

I do love my little tortures just as much as she loves hers, you know?

Tanner and I went right to the sofa and just sort of cuddled up in front of the TV. Hehehe, I can't say that I wasn't still a little nervous doing this. I was trying to get rid of the paranoia, but it was hard. I guess it just takes time. Maybe one day I won't notice at all. I just...I never feel like I'm going to reach a point where all of this is...ok. After all the media and the hatred and slurs and homophobia in the world being shoved down my throat every time I look online or on the nightly seems unlikely that I'll ever see a day where this is recognized as being just as normal as anything else out there in the world.

My mom kept coming into the living room every now and then, just to check on us. We had to wait for the sauce to cool and the steak to 'relax', as she would always say. But every time she saw us together, her heart melted, and she ran for cover again. Hehehe, she could be such a sap about this kind of thing.

Tanner and I sat shoulder to shoulder. Thigh to thigh. We held hands the entire time. He leaned his head on my shoulder, and I leaned my head over to rest on his. Occasionally we'd get the urge to share another few kisses, and with a smile...we'd fallright back into our natural position. It was the most comfortable thing in the world, know that my sweetheart was so welcome in a place that I called home.

Things were almost feeling nice and natural again. I was beginning to think the worst part was over. Then my mom came in and told us that dinner was ready at last. Aww, we have to all sit at the same table and...'talk', don't we? Dammit...

Tanner was quick to pop up and give me a brief kiss on the cheek as he took me by the hand to peel me off of the couch and lead me into the kitchen. My mom had the table all set up like it was being filmed for TV. Everything smelled great, and she made sure that Tanner and I sat together...his roses displayed proudly between us. And...our special dinner continued on from there.

The meat was just as tender and succulent as she promised it would be. Seasoned to the point where every juicy bite was an experience in itself. Our special sauce came out adding another burst of flavor that made Tanner beam with pride for being able to stir it himself. Hehehe! So cute! It was much more than he, or even I, was expecting tonight. I guess I have to admit that I was kind of proud of my mom tonight too. It's true.

Tanner was moaning and enjoying his meal, slowly shaking his head with his eyes closed. Hehehe, eventually, my mom asked him, "Is it like the kind of meals you get at home?"

"Sooooooooo, much better! Oh so so SOOOOOOOO much better! I've never had anything like this before in my whole life! Wow! Can I have some more sauce too...and some onion and mushroom...ummm...whatchyamacallit..."

"Relish, sweetheart." She said, and served him a bit more of both. Tanner's eyes rolled back in his head with the first bite, and I was starting to get a little bit jealous here! If he enjoyed his meal any more I was going to accuse him of cheating on me, the heartless bastard! Hehehe! "I'm sure your mom cooks up a nice steak for you every now and then."

Tanner said, "Ha! No, Mrs. Liddle. Trust me. My mom can barely operate the microwave. She's not the culinary type. My dad? Even less so."

"Oh..." My mom replied. "...Well, you have people in the house that help out, right? They take care of that kind of thing. I can give you the recipe to take home. Every boy needs to smile like you're smiling every now and then." She grinned.

Tanner grinned back. "That...would be awesome!" He kept eating, and it just made me feel warm inside to know he was happy. "I can't tell you how INCREDIBLE this is! Everything just melts in my mouth! Mmmm...I can't stop chewing!"

"Hahaha! Well, eat up, hon. Eat until you're full." She said. "I tried to teach Derrick to cook too, but the force is weak with this one."

I grinned. "Yeah. I don't have her kind of patience." I said. "I don't have her instincts either. She can totally make something out of nothing at all. I could never do that. That's something I think you're just born with."

My mom said, "You mother, she never measured anything while she was cooking. I never saw her with any measuring sponsor cups or anything like that. She did it all by hand. Every time." I saw her eyes stare off into space a bit, as if remembering. "Sometimes she'd go a bit heavier on the salt, or the butter. Sometimes a little light on the pepper, or the garlic, or the milk. Every meal was different. It was almost as if you could 'taste' whatever mood she was in...just by the power of the ingredients alone. She really put herself into her dishes, and I felt so inspired by that. It was something that I always inspired to be." She smiled.

"Mmm...well, you were certainly in an awesome mood tonight, Mrs. Liddle!" Tanner said, not even looking up from his near empty plate. It really made my mom happy to hear him say that. Really happy.

They're getting along! My mom and my boyfriend are actually getting along!!! AHHHHH!!!

Cleaning what was left on his plate, Tanner was enjoying the food so much, he almost didn't want to stop shoveling another forkful or two into his mouth before answering my mom's random question know, how his family got to be so privileged. not a 'rude' question, just a curiosity. "Actually, I can't really say that I know how the business part of it works. I never did. It's mostly my great grandfather's genius that put everything in motion. At least, that's how I understand it." Tanner said, and he looked at me, "He had a big hand in the beef industry in Chicago..." That started us both snickering wildly, and my mother, while trying to ignore the innuendo...had an obvious blush come to her cheeks. "Anyway, everything after that was just one clever investment after another. I guess the family took some lucky risks, and things have been pretty stable ever since. Savings and interest and all that. It's not like we went digging for diamonds or anything. Once they had money, it just kind of started to work for itself. It's not like we can claim much credit." I couldn't tell if Tanner was uncomfortable talking about this stuff or not. He didn't seem to be. I honestly don't think he cared about having money at all. He just wasn't the type.

My mom asked, "So...what does your mom do, Tanner?"

"Drink, mostly." He giggled. "That's about it, to be honest."

"Really?" My mom asked.

Tanner grinned to himself. "I mean...she really doesn't do much of anything. My dad? He crunches numbers and stuff, and he goes into the office to show his face every now and then, but he could pretty much run his whole business out of his study at home." Tanner shrugged his shoulders, looking down at the table. "That's about all there is to it. I wish it was a bit more interesting."

My mom smiled. "That's interesting. At least I think it is. I mean, I imagine that it must be nice. Not having to struggle or hustle to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. Right?"

Tanner lightly shook his head. "I don't know. In theory, it sounds like it would be the life. But, if I was being true to myself...? I don't think I'd want to live like that for the rest of my life."

Both my mom and I were surprised by his answer. I asked him, "Why not?"

He said, "Neither one of my parents has anything that really 'excites' them, you know? I look at my mom sometimes...and she just seems so totally bored sometimes. Complacent. She goes shopping, then she watches TV, then she plans a rather lonely vacation for the rest of the family. She hangs out with 'friends' that aren't really her friends. Holds dinner parties...feels obligated to show up at other people's dinner parties...the whole routine seems so empty to me." Tanner felt a little self conscious, but his honesty pressed him forward. "My parents don't have any real passion, you know? No drive. No real sense of purpose. Honestly, Mrs. Liddle...I saw you get more genuine satisfaction and actual JOY out of cooking this ONE awesome meal for us than my mom has gotten out of...well, pretty much anything she's done over the past six months! It's just really cool to see someone who really has an enthusiasm for something they truly love." That's when I felt Tanner gently take a hold of my hand, and I blushed as he looked into my eyes. "That's what I first noticed about, Derrick. That's what I first fell in love with. He had so much passion for life. He was such a genuine person, you know? He wasn't like everybody else. And he never once asked me for anything. I never had to buy him anything or cater to his needs to keep him interested in me. He just...he knew how to get in touch with his own emotions...and he shared them with me. Open. And honest. Unafraid. He knew just how to make me feel...'worthy' of seeing the pure gold in everything he did." Then, with a little sigh...right in front of my mom...Tanner said, "He was, quite simply....the dreamiest boy that I've ever met."

Tanner started by lifting my hand up from under the table top to place a gentle kiss on the back of my knuckles, which gave me a little bit of a scary thrill...seeing as my mom was sitting right there across from us. But then, our eyes connected...and Tanner leaned forward to give me a kiss on the lips. Nothing overtly sexual or anything. Just a peck...followed by a bashful grin.

I heard this high pitched squeal being muffled in the back of my mother's throat, and Tanner and I both turned bright red as she gave us this long, drawn out, "Awwwwwwwwww...." Then she started sniffling and grabbing her napkin to wiper her eyes.


"I'm sorry. It's just that you two are SO adorable. This is great. Really great."

I wasn't sure at first why this intense emotion was building up within me, or why my heart was working extra hard to pump it through my system. It was almost as if my body was trying to make me cry against my will. But hit me...

...This was 'ok'...

I used to seem like it would be such a little thing, but it's not. Is it? That sudden realization that I was sitting at the dinner Mom on one side, my boyfriend on the other...the two people I loved most in this world...and this was ok. He's holding my hand. He kissed me on the lips. My mom knows for a fact that we're a loving couple...and it's all ok.

It hit me pretty hard, and despite clearing my throat a few times, the tears welled up in my eyes anyway. That's when Tanner surprised me by crossing his eyes with a goofy smirk. Once I started giggling, the tears began to fall. That boy tricked me, dammit.

I half laughed, half cried, as Tanner leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and hold me in his arms. It was, like...this perfect moment, you know? One that you just know you'll remember for the rest of your life. We could always use more of those moments in life, right?

That's when I heard my mother's chair suddenly scooting back from the dinner table. My head popped up instantly out of Tanner's embrace. "Mom? Mom, no! NO, Mom! I said NO!!!"

It was too late. She was already rushing over to our side of the table, grabbing Tanner and me in a death lock bear hug that could crack lobster shells! Weeping and rocking us back and forth as we waited helplessly for it to be over.

She let us go, and Tanner giggled cheerfully from the burst of affection, and I said, "Yeah...I should have warned you. She does that."

"Oh two are turning me into a wreck! Just look at us..." She said.

"Just look at US???" I giggled, getting a playful smack on the side of the head.

Tanner was smiling the whole time, but I was silently hoping that she'd let us GO before this got any more humiliating! UGH!!! Parents!

I think my mom was trying to contain her emotions again, and she said, " boys leave my kitchen. I'm going to clean up."

"You don't have to clean up by yourself, Mrs. Liddle. I can help..." Tanner offered, which only made her manic flood of happy tears even worse.

"Oh ALAYS hold onto a boy who's willing to do dishes!" She said. "You hang on to this little heartbreaker with both hands, Derrick. You hear me?" She said. "Now go. I've got this. Find something to keep yourselves busy." Another comment that got Tanner and I to giggle madly at one another. My mom didn't say anything, but she gave me a sideways look to tell me to watch my 'manners' as they were. Hehehe!

What??? SHE said it, not me!

Tanner was smiling so wide as we went into the other room. "Your mom is the COOLEST! You know that? She's SOOOOO nice!"

"Shhhhhh!!!! Please, don't let her hear you say that! Hehehe, she'll want you to come over all the time!"

"I WANT to come over all the time!" He chuckled. "Oh, Mrs. Liddle? Can I come back over sometime soon....?"

I slammed my hand over his mouth, pushing him down on the sofa! "Hehehe, what the hell...?"

Tanner said, " know...that was seriously like the best meal I've ever had."

"Psh! Ok, you can cut the theatrics, you know?"

"NO theatrics! Derrick, are you kidding me? I've even been to parties where caterers pull out all the stops with the direct intention of impressing their guests, and nothing they've ever made came close to the dinner your mom made in her kitchen tonight. And they get a small fortune for the garbage they put out for people to eat!" He said. "You know, with all sincerity, should talk to Chris."

"Talk to Chris???" I snickered.

"YES! Every time his dad opens a new restaurant, he goes through a whole list of the area's best chefs to run the new kitchen. Tell your mom to give it a shot. She's better than any of the other egomaniacs I've seen working at any of the parties I've been to."

I laughed it off. "You're getting a little bit loopy now, aren't you? That's taking things a bit far. Why would Chris' dad want my mom anywhere near his fancy schmancy customers?"

"Why wouldn't he?" Tanner said. "The best part about having a real passion for something in that it's something that money can't buy! And what your mom's can't buy." He grinned. "You're mom's got skills!"

I rolled my eyes at first, but seeing as Tanner was still licking and sucking his fingertips from dinner...I don't know. Hehehe, maybe he's being sincere about this one.

Thanks soooo much for reading, and for all of your feedback and support! And be sure to grab a copy of the new eBooks at the COMICALITY EBOOK SECTION link!!! More ebooks being posted every month! So keep an eye out!