And now for the conclusion…
Emma, peered vacantly at the mirror, heedless of what Drew was saying. No, she didn’t need time. She admitted to herself that the past month with Drew had been ideal. He stopped by every night after he was done with work. They went grocery shopping together. He moved furniture for her. She counted it one of the best months of their entire, inconsistent relationship. One night he showed up after one of their ‘breaks’ and told her that he missed her. Even though he tried to play it cool by saying he only ‘kind’ of missed her, she read a deeper intensity in his eyes. He wanted her back, so she opened her door and let him in for the last time.
She looked into that mirror, while Drew talked about decisions and time lines, and remembered that a night of romance when he did everything she loved: the right music, he cooked, massaged her, played with her hair. She savored the memory of that night, but still felt like she could not honestly say ‘yes’ to him. All those romantic moments hadn’t added up to anything significant. They weren’t enough to cancel out the moments he walked out her door.
They sat there for a solid, silent moment under the soft glow of the floor lamp. Drew sat and chewed on his bottom lip. Emma sat fixated in the mirror. She stood up and walked over to the where the mirror hung.
Drew watched her, unaware of her intentions. “I know this is all so sudden. We’ve never even talked about marriage, but there is that moment when…”
She turned at the sound of his voice and spoke over his monolog: “You come over here with this grown up ring, and your grown up proposal but I look at your face and I just see a little boy.” She registered the expression of shock reflected in her mirror.
“Emma, where is this coming from?” Drew said standing up.
She turned back to face Drew. “It’s coming from the heart,” she said, taking a step towards him. “It’s coming from those times we got close then you decided ‘oh, never mind.’” She stood inches from his face, her finger hit his sternum. “You can only break someone’s heart so often Drew.”
Drew stepped back, surprised at her display of aggression. “Look, I never meant to hurt you. My feelings just…”
She cut across his words again. “You never meant? Did you stop to think that maybe the back and forth took its toll or was this whole relationship just going to always run on your time?”
They were nose to nose again. Drew felt his knees buckle against the couch. He fell back. Instinctively, his hands rose up to block his body as Emma leaned in.
“Emma, this time wasn’t about just me. It was…I thought that we could stop all that. I’m ready to be here for you, by your side.”
Emma stood up right. She relaxed, her shoulders slumped. Drew stood up and met her shrinking frame. He scooped her up into an embrace. She felt his breath warm her hair. He kissed her head.
“Emma, this is about you and me becoming us. I think it’s the right time…”
Time. The word set Emma’s mind turning again. She cataloged the moments when it was on Drew’s time. Time: it was the word that broke all the romantic spells that Drew had tried to weave.
Emma broke his embrace. All of her grievances must have flooded her countenance, because she saw Drew take a step back. His brow furrowed in concern.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Emma shook her head and walked away. It seemed like an appropriate time to give him her response to this proposal. “Sit down. Let’s talk about this,” she told Drew.
Drew took a step back and slowly sank onto the couch. His eyes were locked on Emma’s back. His open palm met the open ring box. He closed his fingers around and it and snapped it shut. Emma turned at the sound.
She watched him roll the box around in his hand. His head had dropped. Her heart was not swayed by his posture. She had made up her mind at his last utterance of the word “time.” Her heart beat with a cold so fierce it could burn the skin off of a man.
On a shelf near the window, there was a jar. It had paper hearts in it. Drew watched as Emma reached for it. She held the jar in her arms, gently, sweetly. She sat down opposite of Drew. Her eyes locked on him.
She kept her eyes on Drew, wondering exactly how this conversation should start. Her finger traced around the lid of the jar while her other hand cupped the bottom. She felt something like a faint heart beat through the glass. The longer she kept her focus on Drew, the more intense the beating grew. After a few seconds of unbroken starring, the heartbeat felt in sync with Drew’s. It was beating slightly fast. She realized he was hanging on this moment.
Drew had tried to meet her gaze. He clung to the belief that Emma might still say yes. He didn’t care how foolish the idea might be. He had to hope for it. He needed that hope.
“Drew,” Emma said. “Look,” she began as she unfastened the lid from her jar, “I don’t know if I’ve told you that you were a sweet guy?”
The words felt like no to Drew.
Emma felt the heartbeat, in the base of her jar, slow. “You are. You should be told more often. And that’s not a bad thing. I don’t know why guys think that a compliment like that is a death sentence.”
Drew gave her a slight nod. He saw her reach a hand into the jar and pull out a paper heart..
Emma felt the small paper-heart pulse. It felt like the rhythm had picked up. She looked up at Drew. “You had my heart so many times and so many times you just treated it like paper.” She held the little heart up and tore it in half. She tossed the pieces aside.
Drew felt a slight tingle in his chest. It was like the beginnings of heartburn. Drew nonchalantly swallowed. The feeling subsided. “But Emma…” he began.
Emma ignored his words. She had grabbed a small handful of hearts from the jar. “You don’t realize do you?” She asked. “You have no clue what it means to have your heart broken. Not even once, let alone over and over by the same person.” She took the palm full of paper hearts and closed her fingers around them. She smashed and crumbled them together.
Drew felt the twinge in his chest again. This time it was heavier. He wondered why he was getting heartburn now. He hadn’t eaten that day. He swallowed, but the tight feeling riding up his sternum persisted.
Emma grabbed more hearts. “I don’t even care the reason. You may think that it’s just the way it goes, or that it’s my fault. Yeah, I kept letting you back into my life, but that’s what happens when you trust someone. I know falling in love is scary,” she tore one heart at a time while she continued, “but at some point it’s on you, Drew. You should have thought more of me than to keep playing me at your convenience.” The pile of hearts had been turned into a pile of shredded red and pink paper.
Drew started to scratch this chest. There was a pricking feeling like tiny pins stuck at his heart. He was not just uncomfortable; he was starting to feel pain. “Emma, I this wasn’t my intention. I was truly ignorant,” he said. He coughed. He removed his hand from before his mouth. He looked briefly at his hand, the one that had covered his mouth, and saw specks of blood.
Emma sat quietly for the moment. She felt the beating in the jar pick up after the coughing subsided. It beat so hard.
The crimson spots on his hand took precedence over his proposal. He looked up at Emma who sat with a nonchalant look on her face. He wondered if she didn’t see the blood or, even worse, if she didn’t care.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Emma,” Drew began. He swallowed hard again. He watched her tear each little paper hearts into confetti. As his eyes followed her hands, he felt the pain in his chest intensify and radiate. His fingers began to go numb.
“What is it?” Emma asked.
He felt tears flood his eyes. Through the haze he noticed the jar was almost empty. He felt cold. He couldn’t swallow. He could only cough, warm blood effuings from his mouth. He leaned forward, a hand stretched out toward Emma and her jar.
She simply stood up with the last few hearts in her hand. She looked down at him. Blood dribbled from the corners of his mouth onto the couch. “I think you’re starting to get the point,” she said.
His brow furrowed. “Emma…” he wheezed. “Please,” was his final argument.
“No Drew,” Emma said. She tore through the last few hearts quickly. The movement tore through Drew’s chest. In his head he heard a tearing sound, wet and stringy like raw meat being cut up. Then the world went dark.
Emma leaned down and gently shuttered Drew’s eyes. She caressed his cooling cheek. There was much to do, but time enough to do it. She didn’t have to worry about the stains or body right away. In that moment she stopped, stood up and watched herself in the mirror. She caught the glint of something on the couch. She spun around and saw the ring, nestled in its plush cushion. She reached out and closed the lid before slipping the ring into Drew’s pocket. It was a package deal and she had officially said no.