174 - Emma
I'm not too sure what to do about Lucien's nerves. I just assumed, or maybe hoped, they'd disappear as soon as he got used to the company, but it feels like he's still feeling like a stranger in this group of people.
Which is why I'm glad Charles takes him to chop wood, so I can see how the rest of the family feels.
"Well, Linie," mum smiles, patting Phoebe on the head lovingly, "he's a sweetheart."
"He's pretty much shitting himself, isn't he?" It's one of the first times Daniel has looked up from his phone, and I flip him off as soon as our eyes meet.
"Emmeline," dad sighs, not the biggest fan of the gesture, especially around Phoebe. I have to be a good example for the rest, apparently.
"You'd be nervous too if you met your in laws for the first time," I tell him, "only you wouldn't know because you're never serious enough with a girl to actually get there."
"Your sister is right, it's very normal for him to be nervous," mum tells Daniel, who raises his hands as to say he'll come back on what he just said, "and he seems like a nice boy."
"And he has money," Beth grins, almost earning her another middle finger from me, but I spare him because dad will sigh again if I do that. "And followers."
"Like Emma cares. She doesn't even have an instagram," Daniel tells us.
"Well, it's good to know at least mum likes him," I sigh, really wanting to light a cigarette.
"I like him!" Phoebe smiles excitedly, looking at mum to see if she's allowed to say that. "He's super pretty."
He is, I can see him chopping wood in the back of the yard. It can't be the most comfortable thing to do right now, but he's trying his best. Maybe Charles can calm him down a little more, because those two seemed to get along just fine the last time they met.
Mum has taken this time as the perfect opportunity to get out the potatoes, peeling them and dropping the peels in a little basket on the floor whilst putting the potatoes themselves in a pan.
"I like him too," Beth tells me after a while, "even if he's a little nervous. He seems like a nice guy, just needs to get used to the Middleton dynamic, probably. I mean, he can't be used to this."
Knowing Beth, she's actually done a lot of research and knows all about Lucien's family. How dad's a lawyer, and he has no family members but him and his sister. Beth would never bring that up, though, because even though she's blunt, she also knows what she can and can't say.
Dad's been quiet all this time, so we're all surprised he actually has something to say. Usually, he just pretends to miss half the conversation, blames it on his age and starting to get hard of hearing. "Is he good to you?"
Just the way he asks almost makes me emotional, a certain amount of care in his voice I haven't heard from him in a long time. I can reach him, and softly put my hand on his for just a moment, nodding. "Very good. I'm very happy."
"Good," is all he says, patting down his cardigan with both hands to find the packet of cigarettes in one of the pockets.
"Reg, not here," mum just says, sighing and signaling at Phoebe. Good to know even dad has to set the good example in front of her, not just us.
We both move over to a different part of the porch, joined by Daniel, who apparantly has also picked up the terrible habit.
Lucien and Charlie are still chopping up wood, and I can tell they're also having a conversation. It's good to see Lucien hasn't fully gone silent.
Maybe this was too much to ask of him, I should have just introduced him to my family one by one. Mum first, maybe. Then Beth and Daniel, Phoebe later, then dad. But the damage has already been done, and if this means he'll be afraid to go over to my parents' house for ever, it'll be my fault.
Minutes later, Charles returns, carrying a pile of wood.
"Em, maybe you can help Lucien carry some of the rest, it's quite a lot." He smiles at me, a certain tone in his voice that tells me Lucien will be fine carrying the wood, but I should still go over, so I do.
He's piling up pieces of chopped wood, looking a little less nervous than he did before, but still more tense than I've seen him in a while.
I can tell he feels embarassed about it, because he's been trying his best to pretend he's alright. I see right through it, though, which is why it's good we're alone for a little bit now. Mum's gone into the kitchen, Beth is braiding Phoebe's hair on the back porch and Dad's in his chair on the porch, reading a book.
"Hi, love," I smile, handing him a piece of wood that's rolled away, "are you doing alright?"
He's very quick to nod, and tell me, "I'm fine," but it isn't quite convincing.
I know he isn't, that he's not feeling great and he might not even want to be here. I don't want to make him feel like an idiot for that, though, so I just press a kiss to his cheek. I told him I'd never touch him again, but I feel like he could use it right now.
"They like you, you're doing alright," I tell him, softly putting some pieces of his hair in place. "I know they're a little much, especially Phoebs. I should have told you about her sooner, it just never really came to mind."
"Is she...," he's looking for words, but doesn't seem to find them.
"Something went wrong during labour," I tell him, smiling weakly, "and it impacted her brain negatively. She's seventeen now, but she's got the mind of a young girl and a very low IQ. It's.. well, she's fine. I should have mentioned it, but she's just Phoebe to me, so I never really realised it was something that may have needed a warning beforehand," I take a few pieces of wood from him, pretending I'm helping. "She does like you though, thinks you're very pretty."
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