Alex was surprised at how deserted the interstate seemed to be. He was only surprised because of how close to Christmas they now were. However, it was nearly 10pm. Maybe the majority of the holiday travelers had decided to call it a night.
He couldn't help but laugh at his passenger, Alyson, as she sang along with the latest Katy Perry song being played on the radio. "Are you laughing at my singing?" she asked, feigning offense.
"Not at all," said Alex, and it was the truth. "I'm laughing at the song."
"Yeah, I know. But it's catchy," Alyson said as she reached for her CDs. "Time for something more Christmas-y anyway."
It had been eight months since their first date and things were going very well for the young couple. Despite the fact that they worked together and saw each other every day, they still managed to have the kind of relationship that kept each of them on their toes. They were constantly discovering new things about each other and continually learning just how well they fit together.
Having been together for as long as they had been, Alyson insisted that it was time that she meet Alex's family. Aly's folks had welcomed Alex into their home with open arms only a few weeks into the relationship. For Alex, that was easier than having her meet his family, since hers lived in the same town. Alex, however, had grown up just outside Atlanta, a good eleven hour drive from the D.C. area. And so, with Christmas approaching, Alyson claimed it would be the perfect time for him to visit Atlanta and to take her along with him.
He couldn't argue with her. He had told his parents all about her in various phone conversations. But visits were rare occasions thanks to the crumbling economy and soaring gas prices. Alex couldn't hide Alyson away from his family forever, though. He was crazy about this girl and had been since the first time he'd met her.
"Do you think your parents will be mad that we're so late?" she asked. Her voice gave away just how nervous she was at meeting his family for the first time.
"No, I called them while you slept through most of North Carolina. They know when to expect us."
"Do you think they'll like me?" She looked at Alex, suddenly very serious.
Alex looked over at her and reached for her hand. "They're gonna love you."
Alyson smiled. "How can you be so sure?"
"Well, I love you." As soon as the words were out, Alex realized that it was the first time he had ever said them to Alyson. After eight months together, he finally blurted out what he had been feeling for so long. In that moment he wondered what had made him so afraid to tell her. In that moment, he wished he had told her long before then.
She smiled and looked down at their interlocked fingers. Alex cleared his throat. "I can't imagine anyone not loving you, Aly."
They rode in silence for a few minutes, passing a sign letting them know that Atlanta was 36 miles away. Amy Grant sang about a Tennessee Christmas and Alyson squeezed Alex's hand.
"I love you, too."