The following fictional short story is based on true events. The names have been changed because that is just what you do. Enjoy!
“Drew,” Emma said in a welcoming tone. It was a voice that never shouted in anger.
“Hey,” Drew answered timidly. She gave way and admitted him into her home.
Drew embraced her in salutation. She led him to the couch. Drew took a seat in the middle. She sat down on the end, to his left, in the recliner and a simple conversation ensued.
Drew decided to set himself up with small talk and in that way he could find the perfect segue. What the exact words would be he couldn’t say.
The five year on-again off-again relationship had tapered into the simple enjoyment of each others personal intricacies.
On this particular day, they sat on the couch and had one of those quaint conversations about nothing in particular. She had been in the habit of leaving town every couple of weekends to train hospital staff to use new software applications. She traveled around the state and earned a good deal of extra money.
“So, you gonna be out of town this weekend,” Drew asked.
She nodded slowly as she study the alignment of the mirror hanging on the wall.
Drew smiled. He turned towards her just a little. He felt the small box in his pocket shift as it dug in against his hip; it urged Drew to simply set it free. He shifted back.
She looked at him as he moved around on the couch. Their eyes met. He continued to smile at her. He raised his eyebrows at her.
She chuckled at him. “What?” she said
“Huh?” he said back.
She laughed again out of confusion this time. “You look like you have something to say.”
“Oh,” he said, as he lowered his eyebrows. “No, no, nothing on my mind.” He spoke evasively. He suspected that she had caught the scent of conspiracy, so he tried to divert her inquiries until the right time. The moment had not arrived.
“So, Em,” he began—he had given her the pet name Em. “I was thinking, all of this extra money you’re earning, you could have a down payment for a house in, like, a few months.” When she smirked at his comment, he knew that he had found his segue into the proposal.
She saw it on his face: he postured himself to make a serious statement. She recognized the look immediately.
Silently in her mind she drafted speculations about how he would require some form of response or—heaven forbid—a level of commitment from her. A punctuating question accumulated behind his eyes, so Emma braced herself as Drew opened his mouth.
“You know,” Drew began slowly, “that down payment could be for our house.”
“Oh yeah? If you want a house so much why don’t you come up with a down payment?” She laughed affably, but behind the smile Emma’s mind brewed with uncertainty.
Drew had hoped for a more cooperative reply. He decided to persist.
“Well, I would you know, but you have all that money in your savings…” Drew trailed off. He sat up and gave her a matter-of-fact look.
“What about you and your savings?”
“Me?” Drew said. “We are talking about you though.”
Emma rolled her eyes.
“I have savings, of course. But you have so much more,” Drew replied softly, trying to sound supportive. “If you save for a couple more months, we could have a house.”
‘He used the first person plural pronoun again. Why does he keep doing that?’
She sat in her recliner and continued to resist. She wanted to hear the truth from him so that she could leave her assumptions alone. Only with his intentions laid naked before her ears could she judge rightfully.
Emma broke the silence. “So?” she began. “What about your savings?”
Drew smirked at her remark. “Well,” he began, “I don’t have any money in savings at the moment.”
Emma sat up more attentively when she heard that. “Oh,” she replied, eye brows raised. “So you give me a lecture about how I should save and use my savings,” she said, “but you don’t have any savings yourself. Help me understand how this works,” She wanted to keep the mood light, but she baited him because she felt Drew neared some pivotal statement.
He sat there on the couch looking at Emma then back down. He reached into his pocket. His hand wrapped around the soft box, and pulled it out. With a slight fling of his wrist he sent that little box—with all of his hope and longing—through the air in a slight arc towards Emma. It landed just beside her right leg.
She bent her fingers around the velvet surface of the box. Then her brow furrowed a little in thought. All her questions were answered. When she flipped back the lid the words escaped her mouth before she could even decide if she wanted to ask them: “Is this real?”
“Yes,” Drew answered. “The ring, the proposal: it’s all real.”
The attention Emma poured onto the ring pleased Drew. Emma fingered the smooth ring then slid it from its secure satin seat. She removed her adoring glance from the ring. “Wow. It’s perfect,” she said, looking at Drew.
“I want you to marry me, share your life with me.”
She smiled in a kind of crooked way and asked: “If I say no, can I still keep it?”
“Uh, no,” he replied. “It’s a package deal, babe. You want the ring then you gotta take me.”
He chuckled halfheartedly. He didn’t want to come across overly anxious and scare her away so he tried to keep his comments and responses light with hints of jest. She had not spoken the simple word though, not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ Drew took a breath, smiled at her, and leaned in just a little and spoke again:
“I don’t know, if you need time to think about it?” He laid the words out gingerly.
To be continued…