Okay, Nick Huggins said to himself, lying on his bed, how do I get out of this one?
His eyes were closed; his hands were clasped behind his head. He might have looked relaxed— this lanky, brown-haired boy of fifteen—but he was nothing like it. In fact, he was deep in thought…and increasingly anxious.
The question was simple: How could he avoid having to go out to eat tonight with his family?
So far, he hadn't come up with an answer.
They've got me, he was beginning to think. I can't get away.
Nick opened his eyes, allowed them to wander across the familiar furniture and colors of his bedroom.
He loved his Mom and Dad. He loved his whole family. He would have fought for them, died for them, so great was his love.
He just didn't want to be seen in public with them right now.
Was that so much to ask?
Nick had read somewhere—or maybe heard it in a movie—that love was about making sacrifices. If that was true, then why couldn't his family sacrifice their requirement that he accompany them, at least once a month, out to dinner?
And tonight's occasion, in particular, was one he would dearly have loved to skip. This evening—the evening of Saturday, the fourth of November, in the year 2012—Dan and Charlene Huggins would celebrate twenty-four years of marriage.
Nick had been dreading this date for weeks now. It wasn't that he wished his mother and father weren't married; on the contrary, he was glad they had made their marriage work. Too many of his friends could not say the same of their parents, and for that reason Nick kept his uneasiness to himself. He just wished Dan and Charlene would leave him out of all the revelry—a single time, even, would have been nice.
Nick couldn't even begin to understand their insistence on having him there, let alone both sets of their parents, plus his mother's brother Rodney and Rodney's wife Debra. Nick's two older brothers had escaped: Thomas, a Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was stationed clear across the country at Camp Pendleton in California; John, a police officer in nearby Savannah where he lived with his wife and two children, was working tonight. Nick, as fate would have it, was too young for either the Marine Corps or the police force, so he was going. But why was he going? Wasn't an anniversary supposed to be about the two people who were actually married?
It was eccentric.
It was odd.
It was just plain crazy.
Early on, Nick had hoped against hope that this would be the year he would escape. Around the middle of October he had approached Dan Huggins about it for the first time.
"So," Nick had begun, "I guess y'all are gonna want to have nice quiet evening alone together. Right?"
His voice was hopeful, even though there was no good reason for it to be so.
"Why would we want to do that?" was his father's unsurprising reply. "We can have a quiet evening alone anytime. No, we're gonna invite the whole family out, just like always."
And that, Nick supposed, was that.