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General

I looked around nervously. People of all ages were talking and laughing, and I had no idea where I fit in, since I was the ‘in-law.’ Although I had met most of them before, it was pretty overwhelming being in one room with all of Catie’s family. I counted twelve, though I could be wrong. Catie nudged me. 

“Chilax! Everyone’s cool.” she said, smiling reassuringly. I took a deep breath. Catie was right, I was fine. No one would laugh. Still, I hung out towards the back of the room, trying to avoid attention.

I glanced around. I wasn’t the only awkward-looking guy there. Catie had moved around, chatting and laughing like no other. Remember, she’s the reason you’re here I thought to myself. I walked over to one of the other guys, figuring I could find some common ground. 

Unfortunately, I was stopped by an old woman. She had wispy but thick gray hair like Catie and gnarled fingers. She looked at me, and I got the queasy feeling that she was tougher than she seemed.

“You’re Catie’s man, aren’t you?” the woman said, pointing her finger at me. “You been good to her?”

“Uh, yes, ma’am.” I replied, unsure and unconfident. Just then Catie came back over.

“Oh, Gramma, this is Bryan. You guys have met before, right? At our wedding? He’s quite shy tonight. Can’t imagine why.” Catie said, pulling at my arm. “Anyway, it’s time for dinner.”

I sighed in relief. Catie had unknowingly saved me from an awkward conversation with her grandma. We all sat down at a huge farm-style table, which must’ve taken a good fifteen minutes.

Then, we all said Grace, with Gramma adding a few words. She was by far the oldest person there, with a newborn who couldn’t be older than a few weeks as the youngest. I counted people again, and came up with fourteen. I had missed two people earlier. Probably the mother and her newborn.

Finally, dinner was served. We had a large pork roast with creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and freshly baked rolls. It was all delicious. In between bites, everyone talked. 

“I love when we all get together like this. After dinner we should play some good old fashioned family football.” Catie said through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

“I call having Paulie on my team!” one of Catie’s brothers shouted, spewing corn bits across the table. 

“Richard, please swallow before you talk.” an older woman, though not nearly as old as Gramma, said reproachfully.

“Remember the last time you told him that, Mom?” the woman with the newborn said, trying to hide a smile. Everybody laughed. Beside me, Catie laughed so hard milk was coming out of her nose. I jabbed her.

“What happened last time?” I asked her. Catie gasped for breath. “He nearly choked!” she replied, her face red from so much laughter. I gasped. That was horrible! How could anyone laugh at that?

“What?!” I screeched. A few people looked strangely at me. I lowered my voice. “That’s horrible!”

Catie giggled again. “Not really. You would’ve had to be there to get it. He blamed Jamal for something everyone saw him do with his mouth completely full. What was coming out of his mouth was nonsense but everyone understood him but everyone pretended like no one could understand him and he nearly choked trying to make us understand. It was so funny!”

“I still don’t get it. It’s horrible!” I said, but this time Catie just ignored me. By now, everyone had moved on to another topic, and Catie jumped right into the conversation.

“So what if chocolate sells more than strawberry? It’s about ten times better with popcorn!” she exclaimed. 

“Huh?” I asked, more confused than ever.

“Ice cream, dummy!” One of the kids, probably one of my nieces, said.

“Hilda, be patient with your Uncle Bryan. He’s new, remember?” Catie reprimanded gently. From this point on, Hilda took it on herself to be my personal guide. She explained everything to me, speaking very slowly as you might to a small child.

When we went outside, she felt the need to explain the rules of football, flag football, the family football, and soccer, just in case I didn’t understand. I told her patiently that I had played a little football in high school. Hilda looked at me doubtingly.

“Now, Uncle Bryan, there’s no need to make up stories. No one cares how good you play. It only matters if you have fun.” Hilda told me frowning.

“But I wasn’t…” I trailed off. It was pretty obvious she wasn’t listening. I rolled my eyes, and Catie caught me.

“Don’t roll your eyes,” she told me. “Hilda means well, even if she is a little, well, rude.”

I was about to reply when people began picking teams. The first team captain was Paulie, another of Catie’s brothers, and Catie’s aunt Kelly. They took turns picking players. Not everyone was playing, so the teams would be uneven.

“Aww, Auntie! You gonna get more people than us!” Paulie complained. An old man joined the game. 

“Now it's even!” he said, giving a mischievous smile. Catie frowned.

“Dad, come on, that’s not necessary. Remember what happened last time you played with us?” Catie said, pulling him off the field. The man walked back on immediately.

“Nonsense! You need another man to play! Just because the last time I played I dislocated my knee is no reason I can’t play this year!” The old man reasoned, waving her away. Catie’s frown deepened.

“Dad, you’re 72. It’s really not necessary, or safe for you to risk another injury. Right, Paulie?” She asked pointedly.

“Yeah, Dad. Its fine, I guess.” Paulie told him, unconvincingly. Catie glared at him. I was definitely with Catie. A dislocated knee is nothing to snort at. But Catie’s dad just laughed.

“You’re being ridiculous, Catie. Really, I’ll be fine.” he said, smiling. “Now, let’s play ball!”

“Wrong sport, Dad,” Paulie said, crouching into athletics stance. I knit my eyebrows. What? Not everyone has been put onto a team yet! I thought. I wanted to speak up, but I was too shy. Luckily for me, a little boy spoke up.

“Hey! You haven't chose everyone yet!” he exclaimed whinely. We all nodded and the captains continued choosing. I was chosen next, then the little boy, and so on until everyone was chosen.

We played for maybe twenty minutes when Catie’s dad fell. Catie rushed to his side.

“I told you, I told you, I told you!” she said under her breath as she shook him lightly. Somebody yelled for her not to, and she glared so hard at them they backed away. 

“You think I don’t know what I‘m doing you idiotic…” she muttered, trailing off. I’m glad she did. I knew where that sentence was going, and it wasn’t pretty. 

Catie’s father opened his eyes. “What? What is going on? Why am I on the floor?” he asked hoarsely. “My ankle hurts like the devil!” he said while Catie rolled her eyes. 

“You were playing football, and slipped in the mud. I told you not to! I knew you would fall!” Catie scolded him. “Now what hurts?”

“My ankle, idiot! Didn’t I say that?” he told her, rolling his eyes. Catie did likewise. I looked at the sky. This family would take some getting used to.

Catie felt around his ankle. “Shout when it hurts the most. Scale of one to ten.” 

He didn’t hesitate to follow her instructions. He yelled unintelligibly through most of it, not helping Catie at all. She told him so, and he snorted. “Just followin’ orders.” he said snarkily. 

“I think you sprained your ankle. Mom can bring you to the urgent care whenever she feels like it.” Catie told him, standing up. “I’m gonna go let her know.”

Catie walked inside, and I quickly followed her. I was more comfortable around her then around a bunch of strangers, even when she was nearly bursting like a slowly healing cut. 

Catie walked around the kitchen island to sit beside her mom. Catie put her head on her mom’s shoulder and sighed.

“Why is Dad always so foolish?” she asked. Her mom shrugged.

“I don’t know dear. Why?” 

“I think Dad sprained his ankle.”

“Where is he?”

“I left him outside, probably to make his sprain worse by trying to walk on it.”

“Oh dear. We should go get him and bring him to the E.R., I suppose.”

“Yeah. Me and Bryan will come with you.” Catie said, sitting up and turning to look at me. I hadn’t realized she knew I had followed her. Oh well. I nodded encouragingly to her. Catie smiled and stood up. 

“We’ll go get him.” Catie told her mom. Then she grabbed me by the arm and began pulling me outside. “Thanks for following me.” she whispered to me. I was confused, but Catie often did that to me. Together we helped Catie’s dad limp out and into the car, where Catie’s mom was already waiting. Although the family dinner hadn’t gone the way I hoped -- or anyone for that matter (although I think Catie expected it) -- it was still pretty good.

November 29, 2019 22:05

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9 comments

E. Jude
06:37 Jun 30, 2020

Hi Leya, Great story! The beginning pulled me in and your characters were so realistic and authentic. You made the scenes very cool and light-hearted, but still meaningful. Loved it!! I would love it if you could check my stories out too!! XElsa

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Leya Newi
14:32 Jun 30, 2020

I'd love to check out your stories, Elsa! Glad you liked mine!

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Thotsuki Bakuhoe
06:11 Jun 26, 2020

Leya, I love this story, once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. I enjoy how you portrayed your characters. Have a great day and stay safe.

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Leya Newi
15:49 Jun 26, 2020

You too! I’m glad you liked and thanks for the feedback

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18:16 Dec 08, 2019

Hi cara

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Sue M
04:36 Dec 05, 2019

LOVED your second line! It immediately pulled me into your story, which flowed well from start to finish. Bryan's description of his new family was excellent, and I enjoyed being able to visualize family interactions, comments and traditions as well as Bryan's effort to try to understand what was going on. Great job! Sue

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Leya Newi
18:19 Dec 05, 2019

Thank you so much for the feedback!

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Sue M
04:34 Dec 06, 2019

You're very welcome! Sue

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Sue M
04:34 Dec 06, 2019

You're very welcome! Sue

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