Month Six: Irises
I sat across the table from Gwen Gregory, Ethan’s mother. Her long, manicured fingers ran over the fabric of the thick, white cloth napkins.
“Does no one understand the importance of good linen anymore?” she asked, directing her question to no one in particular.
I watched a red curl at the nape of her neck try to escape her tight French twist. She smoothed it back in place while eying the centerpiece.
“Are these irises fresh?”
Ethan, a bit on edge now that his mother and I were finally in the same room, ventured to deter her from more judgmental questions.
“Mother, I’m sure the flowers are fresh. They look lovely, don’t they, Gia?”
“Oh, yes, quite lovely,” I responded. My voice sounded robotic in my head. I hoped it didn’t sound that way to Mrs. Gregory.
“Nevermind, Ethan. Let’s talk about your beautiful young lady here.” She waved to the waiter, signaling him for another mimosa. “Would either of you like another?”
“No, we’re fine, Mother. So, did I tell you that Gia is hoping to work as an event planner after college?”
“Gia? Is that Italian,” Mrs. Gregory asked.
“I suppose it is. But my name is actually Georgia.”
“Georgia? Isn’t that interesting. But Barone is Italian, right, dear?” Her southern accent rolled over my first name, rounding the vowels and elongating the syllables.
Ethan jumped in to help me, obviously worried his mother would continue with her questions. “Yes, Mother. Barone is an Italian name. And Gia was named after the state of her birth.”
Mrs. Gregory looked at me over the rim of her champagne glass, another question posed on her lips.
“My father was stationed in Valdosta when I was born. My parents decided to embrace their unique military lives full of travel and moving, and named all of us geographically. My sister’s name is Tahoe and my brother is named Antonio.”
Ethan took my hand under the table, giving it a supportive squeeze. He warned me that his mother would be tough the first time we met, but that she would warm up to me without a problem. I wasn’t so sure. It felt blizzard-like at the moment.
“How quaint. I love names with sentimental meaning. Ethan is named after his great-grandfather.” She smiled at her son, obviously fascinated by him. “So your father was a soldier?”
“Air Force officer, actually. We moved a lot, but otherwise it was a good life.”
“An officer. That’s something I can work with.” Suddenly she sounded upbeat and I wondered how much she truly appreciated the military. I guessed her new attitude had more to do with the idea of me coming from an educated family, even if my father would still be considered blue collar by her circles. “But an event planner? We hire those people, dear, we don’t become them.”
“She wants to create luxury events, Mother. She isn’t interested in children’s birthday parties or anything,” Ethan explained a little too eagerly for my taste.
“I actually plan to break into the wedding industry if possible.”
“Oh, it’s possible, dear. Anything is possible when you know the Gregorys.” She smiled at me as she took a long swig of a fresh mimosa. “And with that complexion, you’ll be a devastating bride yourself.”
I laughed a bit to cover my shock. “Well, we aren’t at that point, Mrs. Gregory.”
“Of course not,” she commented. “Well, not before I met you. Now however, well, now you may be.”
“Mother, really.” Ethan looked shocked, but his voice hid a false sense of surprise.
I felt heat rush to my cheeks and turned away. I hoped my apparent embarrassment would end the conversation. It didn’t.
“Hush, Ethan. We’re all adults here. And, Gia, dear, no need to discuss your future employment.” She smiled brightly across the table. “I’m sure you’ll quit once you give me beautiful grandbabies, right?”
Having taken a demure sip from my own champagne flute, I sputtered and coughed upon hearing her statement. Babies? The woman had us married and me birthing tiny Gregorys before I’d even finished my second mimosa.
Ethan squeezed my hand in understanding, but his smile and the dreamy look in his eyes did not dissuade his mother.
“No rush, of course. But you should both consider moving things along. Ethan won’t be available forever, dear.”
I supposed she was right. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be the one who took him off the market right away.