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Carrot and Pumpkin


Emily Lain

Claire sat in her car restlessly as Walt, her new boyfriend, drove the car slowly. She was nervous, of course. She always was when she was about to meet her boyfriend's parents, who very well could be her new mother and father in-law. She stayed tense throughout the long journey and Walt noticed, peering over to her each chance he had. She was taking deep breaths and in her mind she seemed to be trying to calm herself.

"There's nothing to worry about," Walt said as his eyes stayed on the road. "The worst that could happen tonight would be if my mom shows you my embarrassing home videos she has stashed away somewhere."

Claire smiled. She was now actually anticipating these mysterious home videos Walt never mentioned before. But that still didn't take away from the point of the visit: to meet two people Walt described on their first date as rude and brutally honest, so much that one of his former girlfriends broke down and started balling her eyes out, locking herself in the bathroom for hours almost as if Walt's parents wanted to scare her away. It sure did work, and Claire didn't want to be scared away, ever.

The car stopped soon enough in the driveway with two over happy, pale sixty-year-olds running up to their blue coupe and opening the doors for them as if they were royalty. They helped them out and took them to the door, asking dozens of questions without one chance of slowing down for a reply.

This is going to be the worst five hours of my life, Claire thought with a thick smile virtually painted onto her face.

"Why darling! Aren't you a pretty thing?" His father first commented, looking her up and down. His wife only smiled awkwardly.

"And lovely wide shoulders. Wide shoulders mean strong personality." she said.

"Wide shoulders?" Claire said, looking over to Walt who only laughed.

"Oh, mom, stop kidding around." he said.

"Kidding around?" she said back, a puzzled look on her face.

"Anyway, aren't you going to introduce us to this beautiful creature?" his dad now said, changing the subject quickly.

"Oh, yes. Mom, dad, this is Claire Harbyznia. She's part Ukrainian and was born in Los Angeles. Actually, she told me the other day that harbyz means pumpkin in Ukrainian."

Claire shook his dad's hand first and he introduced himself as Gary. Second came his mom's.

"I'm Maria Morkina, as you must already know." Maria, his mom, said next, her eyes judging her completely.
"You know? I was just telling Walt the other day, that morkva is carrot in Ukrainian." Claire said, proud she had found a good topic of conversation.

"Well, then, you can call me Carrot." she said.

Claire's face went sour. How odd, she thought. How insane.
Walt's parents sat them all down to a glorious meal of ham and rice followed by and old wine. It was a quick supper, almost completely silent, but after the dessert of a homemade cake was devoured, conversation ran wild.

"So, what do you do for a living, Cleo?" Gary asked.

"Claire." Walt corrected.

"Well, actually... umm," Claire hesitated. "I'm not working at the moment."

"Not working? What do you mean? You have no job? Have you no respect for yourself?" Maria snapped, flipping out.

"Now, now, dear," Gary started firmly. "I'm sure she has a good reason. Why not?"

"Well, Claire was recently laid of because of pay cuts." Walt filled in while Claire mouthed thank you.

"Laid off? Pay cuts? You know, pay cuts mean they think you're under qualified, or, may I say, not good at the job at all." Gary said smoothly, as a matter of factly. Claire was in awe, almost ready to talk back in the most outrageous manner, but Walt stopped her.

"Dad." He said. It calmed them all down and good conversation followed.
Two hours more of talking about her life and family, Gary and Maria left to clear the table, whispering things to themselves.

"We'll be back in a bit. We just need to discuss the future." Maria said and then scooted away.

"Discuss the future?" Claire said critically to Walt, almost prepared to leave and put an end to the criticizing that had gone on the whole two hours.

"It means nothing, trust me." The two came back, sat down and smiled.

"We have decided," Gary started. "That even with all your flaws and failures, you are fit to continued dating our son." Claire didn't get it. She didn't need their approval, and Walt definitely didn't either. But she heard Walt take a sigh of relief. This was how his parents were and how he intended them to stay. And she liked him enough to put up with that. She smiled back and hugged Walt as if she was happy to hear an approval, even though she knew it was insane.

"Thank you, Carrot." she said.
Thirty long years passed by and yet Claire remembered this vividly. She had married Walt and had two kids of their own, both boys. One day, Billy, the oldest, brought home a beautiful young girl for his parents to meet.

"I'm Jessica." She smiled.

"Hello, Jessica. You can call me Pumpkin."

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