Kendra wasn’t sure how to prepare Asra for her mother and Fred. She decided it was best to drop tiny hints and let him put them together and make conclusions. “They’re vegetarians, I hope you won’t mind,” she said in the car on the way to the birthday party.

Asra laughed. “That’s fine. I told you I’m okay. Believe me I’ve met all sorts of people, I’m sure your family won’t frighten me off. I made your stepfather some chocolates, will that be okay?”

“Yes, he eats chocolate, but you don’t happen to know if it’s child labour free chocolate do you? He’s going to ask you.”

Asra shook his head. “I don’t know really.”

“Okay, just say yes then. And don’t call him my stepfather; he thinks father is a very patriarchal word. Just call him Fred.” Asra nodded his head and Kendra felt sorry for him already. It really was unfair to drop him in her mother’s world with all its politically correct booby traps. Fred and Hy should be more tolerant. Why should Asra change for them, why don’t they change for him? “No ….no just forget it! You just be yourself. Be yourself. Don’t worry about them. You’re lovely and their politics are so convoluted I don’t think I even know what they believe in anymore so I can’t expect you to learn all of the rules in the car ride over.” She laughed in an attempt to lighten things. The nervous, manic edge of the laugh only served to heighten her tension.

Kendra tried to calm down but then she let her mind wander through the potential guest list. Definitely her mother’s good friends Mabel and Liz would be there, Liz the Barbara Cartland look alike, lesbian romance writer and her very butch girlfriend Mable, the car mechanic with perpetually greasy hands. Then there would be the argumentative Phillip, Fred’s best friend. He was on the far left edge of the political spectrum and despised almost everything. He could pick a fight over the most innocent of things. He once argued with Kendra for almost an hour over the colour of her handbag (brown). Kendra crossed her fingers that “the relationship group” called Breeze, Cliff, Connie and Red Feather didn’t pitch up. She wasn’t sure how she’d explain their four-way marriage to Asra. The more she thought about it the more she realised that this was a very bad idea. A disaster. How could Hy and Fred be diluted by friends who were even crazier than them? Why had she listened to Annah? It all seemed to make sense in the office.

Asra looked over at Kendra. He smiled and rubbed her shoulder. “Don’t worry. It will be fine. I tend to get along with most people. I’ll be fine. All I care about is spending time with you. It’s so great to see you. I missed you when I was in LA. Have you ever been there?”

“No, I’ve been to New York though.”

“We’ll go one day. A trip of the whole United States. It’s such a diverse place.” He rubbed her shoulder again. “Everything will be fine. Calm down.”

Kendra immediately felt relaxed. Asra was right, at least they were together and they should enjoy that time since it was so rare. She looked at him, his strong, competant hands on the steering wheel, she felt safe with him, like nothing could go wrong. Why was she stressing?

They pulled up to the rainbow painted house and the three big dogs, one white, one brown and one black, came bounding toward the car barking. Kendra got out quickly before they mauled Asra to death, they weren’t mean, but they were over exuberant with their affection and not well trained. Hy and Fred frowned on the training of animals.

“Hey guys! That’s good…yes I’m home and ….yes calm down.” Kendra petted the dogs while speaking in a calm voice. The dogs slowly calmed too. “My brothers, as it were,” Kendra said up to Asra.

“A handsome lot,” Asra said then he bent down to pet them too. A dog lover, Kendra thought, another plus.

“Kendra!” Her mother and Fred rushed out to the car; their arms wide open taking turns hugging and kissing her. They were wearing matching black kaftans with long kente cloth scarves. Both in red Birkenstocks.

“So this must be Asra,” her mother said. “How handsome!”

Asra shook her hand. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Handsome and polite? Kendra, I think we have a winner here,” Fred said. He turned to Asra. “Have you two had sexual intercourse already?”

Kendra forgot to warn Asra about that. Fred took after her mother for not knowing what was and what wasn’t appropriate. Asra hesitated and Kendra jumped in. “Fred! I thought I said no sexual investigations.”

Fred’s bald head turned a bright shade of pink. “Sorry, I forgot. He’s just so beautiful and quite frankly, Kendra, pretty darn sexy if I say so myself, so my mind just went there.” He turned to Asra, “Please excuse me.”

Asra held out a gold wrapped box. “Happy birthday, Mr Karstens.”

“Oh you didn’t have to do that!” Fred said genuinely please. He opened the box. “And call me Fred.”

The box had 24 of Asra’s homemade chocolates. Fred bit into one and after a few seconds said, “Holy heck! These are fantastic. Hy eat this.”

Kendra’s mother opened her mouth and Fred popped the other half of the chocolate in her mouth. Hy’s eyes lit up. “Oh that is fantastic! It’s like an orgasm in my mouth! Where did you get these?”

“He made them,” Kendra said. “Aren’t they the best thing you’ve ever eaten?”

Hy put her arm around Asra and walked him toward the house. “You know, Asra, I think I like you.”