“What are you doing here?” I stared at Mom, dumbfounded.
“What? I can’t come and surprise my own daughter?”
No. Just no, Mom. There was a reason I’d chosen an internship a full continent and ocean away from my family.
“Some welcome mat you roll out.”
“Mom! Seriously, why are you here?”
“Your father went to the evangelical ministers’ convocation. I couldn’t stay in the house alone any longer.” Amélie, Chloë, and Luc all shifted uncomfortably.
“So you hopped a flight to Paris? What about Aunt Liz?”
“She’s in Hawaii. Besides, I’ve never been to Paris. We’ll have a great old time. You’ll hardly notice me at all. But I absolutely must meet that boyfriend you’ve been writing about.”
Now it was my turn to shift uncomfortably. Fuck. There was no way I could produce said boyfriend, because I’d made him up. Conjured him out of my imagination so my mother would stop making snide remarks about my looming spinsterhood. Our fictitious “parting” at the end of my internship would have left me heartbroken, and given me another six months respite from further prodding. Sometimes it’s easier to lie to family than put up with their endless nitpicking.
But now the game was up, my plan shot to hell because my mother couldn’t just stay in her own lane.
Amélie nudged me. “You’ve been hiding a man from me? Mais ça ne va pas, Nadia? You know how I love the gossip.”
I winced. Tried to buy time. “Exactly. I didn’t tell you because … I’m … kind of private, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
Mom knew me too well and wasn’t having any of it. “He doesn’t exist, does he, Nadia?”
Luc’s arm snaked around my waist. “But of course I exist!” He gave me a little shake. “Don’t I, ma petite poule?”
Amélie and Chloë choked. I gaped at Luc. Mom’s eyes narrowed.
Luc took her hand and brought it to his lips. “It is un vrai plaisir to finally meet the woman who brought my sweet Nadia into the world. Truly, I thank you.”
Could he pile it on any thicker? I considered giving him a warning kick on the ankle but Mom was lapping it up. She actually fluttered a hand near her cheek. “My, Nadia, where did you find such a gentleman?”
An hour ago, at a gay bar, probably wouldn’t cut it as an answer in Mom’s world. “Amélie introduced us, actually.” It wasn’t a lie, but I gave Amélie a look I hoped she’d interpret as “Please shut up.” Speaking of introductions, I presented my mom to my friends. “We were all just heading up to my place for a drink.”
“We should let you catch up with your mother, Nadia,” Chloë said.
“Yes, we wouldn’t want to intrude.” Amélie edged toward the door to the street. My mother had that effect on people.
“Oh, but Luc should stay!” Apparently Mom was a sucker for hand kisses.
I gave him a graceful out. “He promised to drive Amélie and Chloë home.” With any luck, Mom hadn’t noticed how tipsy we all were, because no one was going to be driving anyone anywhere.
“Well, then, you’ll just have to have him over tomorrow and cook us all dinner. I can’t not get to know my daughter’s new beau while I’m here.”
I squirmed. That escalated quickly. “Luc tends to work late, Mom. I’m not sure he can—”
“Ne t’en fais pas, Nadia. I would be honored to dine with you and your mother tomorrow. I will bring the wine.” Luc’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “7 p.m.?”
“I—” What was I supposed to say? Thanks, fake boyfriend, but no thanks? I decided not to look this gift horse too closely in the mouth. I could swing one dinner and then get Luc to make up a business trip or something, to get him out of Mom’s clutches. “7 p.m. sounds great.”
Luc grinned. Then he swooped in and planted a wet kiss on my mouth. “Alors à demain, ma puce.”