Irene's fingers tapped the table, eyes downcast. Her parents were ten minutes late, and they'd invited themselves. What they hadn't done was invite Irene's girlfriend, Molly Hooper, to the family gathering -- that was Irene's doing -- and so at least she knew it wasn't that keeping them away. Irene sighed. She knew, of course. It was just her.
Molly placed a hand over her moving one, and Irene turned her palm to face the other woman's. She slipped her fingers between Molly's and smiled up at her, the smile she always put on when she meant to say, "I'm fine," but couldn't quite get out the lie.
"You don't have to tell them. You could just say I'm a friend from out of town, or something." Molly said quietly.
"I want to do this," Irene breathed. She hated how vulnerable her voice made her sound. She wondered if a glass of rum would calm her nerves or reduce her to a blubbering mess.
She decided she wouldn't risk it.
"Are you sure?" Molly asked, for probably the millionth time this evening. It wasn't that Molly was unsupportive of her plan to come out to her parents -- Irene knew that -- Molly was responding to the signals Irene knew she was sending out. Anxiety. Uncertainty.
Ding, ding, the doorbell sounded like an alarm, and there was no more time to console Molly -- or herself.
"Completely." Irene slipped her hand out of Molly's and stood up. Molly didn't say anything else, but her eyes shone up at her, bright with admiration and (could Irene dare to hope?) love. "Thank you," she said.
Molly actually rolled her eyes, as if to say, obviously, but instead she just smiled and said, in her soft voice, "Always."
Irene took a deep breath, and turned on her heel. She stood up straight, like her mother had taught her, and headed towards the door.