I hadn’t seen most of these people in a long time–my choice, not theirs–and I was nervous. No, I was terrified. My stomach was in knots, my head pounded, and my mouth was so dry, I couldn’t swallow.
Ben parked in the lot adjoining the beach where the family reunion was being held and heaved a sigh. “It’ll be fine.”
“Promise?” My voice trembled.
He swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing. He couldn’t promise, and I respected him for not lying to make things easier.
I touched my short, sleek cap of dark hair, and he grabbed my hand. “Don’t. It looks good.” He smiled uneasily. “Even the cowlick’s been tamed.”
The sun was already setting, we were so late, and the strings of lights bordering the party area moved in the breeze off the ocean, twinkling. At the entrance, which was rakishly marked by stacks of fish traps, colorful beach umbrellas were lit from beneath, making the rainbow colors glow.
Ben opened his door, and I heard music. “Let’s go.”
Wearing brand-new shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops bought for the occasion, I got out and moved around the car to join him. He took my hand, and warmth flowed through me. It wasn’t so long ago he’d refused to touch me. We’d slept in separate rooms for almost a year as he struggled to come to terms with who I was.
We ran into Ben’s parents first. They saw him and smiled and held up their drinks. “About time you got here!” his mother admonished teasingly. She looked at me, and the smile turned into a frown. “Samantha?”
I felt like throwing up, and I swayed, suddenly dizzy. They were picturing the girl their son had married, her long hair and lipsticked mouth and perky little tits, not the young man who stood so shakily beside him.
Ben squeezed my hand tighter, pulling me against him, supporting me. “Sam, Mom. This is Sam. My husband.”
Word count: 326
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