ABBY'S SERIES OF INTERESTING DAYS Part 5
She didn't know about Tripp's mom, but Abby was looking forward to sitting down for a while. They'd ended up visiting two nearby quilting shops, spending a long time picking out fabric for the baby quilt Abby wanted to make as well as a bunch of fat quarters that Mrs. Blackston bought to take back home with her. It remained to be seen if it would all fit in the luggage she'd brought with her or if she'd be borrowing a suitcase from Abby.
The original plan had been for them to stop at Bridey's coffee shop. However, since it was now closer to lunch time, Abby took Mrs. Blackston to Frannie's diner instead. As usual, the place was crowded, but luck was with them. Evidently Tripp and his father had been operating on the same wavelength and had just laid claim to a booth in the back corner.
Abby nudged her companion and leaned in close enough to be heard over the noise. "Tripp and your husband are over there."
They carefully threaded their way through the crowd to reach their destination. Tripp immediately stood up to let Abby slide into his side of the booth while his father did the same for his wife. As it turned out, they'd timed their arrival perfectly, because Frannie herself immediately stopped by with a pot of coffee and four menus.
Tripp made the necessary introductions. "Mom, Dad, this is Frannie, owner of this fine establishment and baker of pies extraordinaire. Frannie, these are my parents, Rhonda and Jay Blackston. They're here in Snowberry Creek to check out where I'm living these days."
Frannie studied his parents for several seconds. "I hope you folks know how highly everyone here in Snowberry Creek thinks of your son. He's done a lot of good things for our town since he moved here. We all know we can count on him to be the first to volunteer to help and to come running when something's gone wrong. You can ask Abby about that last part."
After dropping that little unexpected bombshell, she clicked her pen several times. "Now, what can I get for you today?"
As she wrote down their orders, Tripp gave Abby a sideways glance, his eyes reflecting his obvious shock at Frannie's assessment of his role in town. His parents looked a bit confused, but that was understandable. She was pretty sure they'd never before met anyone like Frannie. For sure, they would never have expected a diner owner to feel comfortable sharing her opinion on their son. It would be interesting to see what Rhonda and Jay did with the information.
She didn't have to wait long. As soon as Frannie was out of hearing, Jay frowned at Tripp. "Can I safely assume you didn't coach her what to say before we got here? Because that little speech sounded an awful lot like a bunch of others I got from your friends at the meeting this morning."
Tripp sighed. "No, Dad, I didn't coach anyone. And before you ask Abby an equally rude question, she didn't either. My guess is that my friends simply thought you'd want to know that I'm well thought of. Nothing nefarious, just that people like me. Is that so hard to believe?"
His father's face turned red. "No, of course not. I'm just surprised they know you so well. I would think your studies at college would keep you too busy to get so involved in local affairs. It's not like you'll be here long term. After all, you'll be moving back home once you graduate."
This was so not a discussion they should be having in a public forum. Abby wished she could think of some polite way to ward off the explosion she could feel building. While she didn't want to infuriate the people who might someday be her in-laws, her main concern was their son.
She put her hand on Tripp's arm and gave it a squeeze, hoping he'd understand that she was signaling her support. Then she drew a deep breath and laid it all out for his parents.
"I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Blackston, but you need to stop right now before you permanently destroy your relationship with your son. Tripp is an adult, one who served our country with honor. Even now, he is working toward a degree that will allow him to continue to serve his fellow veterans. That's the kind of man he is. You should be proud of who he's become rather than trying to somehow magically turn him back into a teenager you can order around. By introducing you to his friends and showing you around town, he's trying to show you why Snowberry Creek is his home now. I know you don't like that, but it's his choice to make."
His mother stammered, "Of course we're proud of him, Ms. McCree. I don't know where you got that idea, because we've never—"
Tripp entered the conversation, cutting his mother off midsentence. "Yes, you have, Mom. Constantly."
Jay huffed and puffed before responding. "I don't think it's too much to expect you to come back home where you belong."
"That's just it, Dad. I don't belong there. Not anymore. Haven't for years, in fact. I have to pretend to be someone else every time I came back for a visit. Like Abby said, I keep trying to tell you that this is my home now. I plan to build a life here with her if she'll have me. I'm sorry if that makes you unhappy, but that's the way it is."
Turning in her direction, he said, "Abby, I'm going to tell Frannie that you and I'll will need our orders to go."
Then he stood up and dropped his truck keys on the table in front of his father. "Enjoy your lunch. You can find your way back to Abby's on your own."
So awkward. Abby felt as if she'd lit a match and tossed it on a pile of kindling, but some things just needed to be said. Maybe she should apologize, but that was not happening. Instead, she followed Tripp to the front of the diner to wait for their food. Her late aunt had never approved of bad manners, but Abby figured that even she would have made an exception in this case.
Tripp wished he could wave a magic wand and rewind the past couple of days and start over. Instead of going directly back to the home, Abby had driven them out to a small park by the river. As she arranged their food on a picnic table, he struggled to come up with something worthwhile to say. He finally settled on an apology. "Sorry about all of that, Abby. I swear I don't know when they went nuts."
She sat down beside him and leaned against his side. "They're not nuts, Tripp. They are parents who have spent years and years worrying about their son. I don't think they actually question your decision to pursue a career in the military, but you can't blame them for being scared that something bad would happen to you. When you came back, they probably thought you'd stay close by, and they could finally relax."
He hated that all made sense. "And instead, I moved here. I'm guessing they hoped it was only temporary and that I'd head back home sooner rather than later. They don't understand why that isn't happening."
Abby rested her head against his shoulder. "Don't forget you're not the only one whose parents didn't understand the choices we've made. Remember how many blunt conversations with Mom to convince her that I'm right where I belong? It took her a while to accept that I'm happy here in Snowberry Creek." She picked up a French fry and dabbed it in ketchup. "I know it wasn't easy telling your parents the truth about the situation, but at least you've made a start."
Then she nudged him with her elbow. "And on a different subject, don't think 'if she'll have me' counts as an acceptable marriage proposal. I expect a lot more pizzazz than that. But if it helps you feel better, the answer will definitely be yes."
He grinned at her. "That actually helps a lot. I promise to arrange some major pizzazz in the very near future. You will be dazzled."
He wasn't lying. He already had some plans in motion, ones he still hoped to execute shortly. It would all depend on how soon he could settle matters with his folks and send them on their way. Hopefully by the time he and Abby got back to the house, they would have somehow come to terms with his decisions. For sure he didn't want them to go home with this huge divide lurking between them.
For the moment, Tripp let the sound of the water rippling over and around the rocks in the river soothe away the last tension from the confrontation with his parents. Once he and Abby got back to the house, he would do his best to make peace with them.
Rather than drag out the situation, he and Abby finished off their meals and headed back to the house. His truck was parked in its usual spot, so at least his parents had made it back okay.
"I should go talk to them."
Abby reached over to take his hand in hers. "Yeah, you should. I know it won't be easy, but nothing will get settled until you can talk things out with them. If it gets to be too much, come back to the house. Zeke and I will be there for you."
He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What do you want to do about dinner tonight?"
"I've got a casserole in the fridge that should be enough to feed all of us. If that doesn't appeal to you, we can always order in."
They got out of the car. When she started to walk away, Tripp caught her arm and swung Abby back around and into his arms. There was so much he wanted to tell her—like how much she meant to him, how she'd helped heal the invisible wounds his time in the service had inflicted on his soul, and how she'd helped ground him in Snowberry Creek. Because the words wouldn't come, he let his kiss convey the message.
He loved the way she softened in his embrace, letting him hold her close, giving him the comfort of her touch.
When he finally stepped back, she smiled up at him and cupped the side of his face with her palm. "They love you, Tripp, just like you love them. My advice is to start by reminding them of that fact and go from there."
She was right, and he took strength from that. "It's past time I let them get to know the man I am now."
Abby cocked her head to one side and gave him a lingering look. "And exactly who is that man?"
"The one who loves you."
Then he walked away, wishing like crazy he didn't feel so much like he was headed into battle.