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He Said, She Said
“Are you frightened by perfection?/
Is this who you are, not who you want to be?”
-- “Just Impolite,” Plushgun
She stepped into the room, lithely, as a cat would. The door whickered shut behind her as she examined her surroundings: a candlelit table with a crimson tablecloth, a place set for her, her beloved, resplendent in a tailored suit, smiling. She gave a placating grin back and took her seat.
“It was nice of you to come tonight.” She looked beautiful in her dress. Hell, she looked beautiful in anything she wore. All he wanted was her company tonight. What they did was no object; it was her presence that made it heavenly. He had his hands in his pockets out of nervousness. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, licking his lips in anxiety, before sitting down across from her and smiling softly.
“I’m glad I could make it.” He looked good. He always looked good. Tonight, like many a previous night, seemed pretentious, but he had the money and he could spend it as he chose. His choice, more often than not, was her. Not that she minded. It was nice to be given attention. And she loved him. At times it was doubtful, but she did love him, if only for tonight. It was a sharp suit he was wearing. It was a beautiful dress he had bought for her.
“I’m glad you could too.” He looked into her eyes, let his gaze smolder for a few breathless moments. She returned his stare levelly for a time; then she blushed and turned away, covering her exposed teeth with one manicured hand. He smiled in his head. He knew that she was eating out of the palm of his hand. Well, metaphorically speaking. Technically she was eating out of the plate that was on the table in front of her, but now was not the time for semantics. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and fidgeted with his hand in his pocket.
A few long moments passed.
“Can you believe it’s been two years since we met?” She chuckled. He smiled in response, keeping his eyes focused on her slender profile. She blushed again. “It’s been something else, hasn’t it? To think, only two years have passed. Two peas in this pod we call New York,” she sang, remembering their “song,” the piece of music that reminded them of their relationship and devotion to the other.
“It’s so lonesome,” singing back and smiling. “This was so expensive, sweetie. And with the economy the way it is…” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I just wanted tonight to be special.” He was worried. He moved his fork through his fingers, used the fingers of his other hand to drum on the table.
“Why did you want it to be special?” She tilted her head to the side in curiosity. She knew he loved it when she did that. Every now and again he would kiss the side of her neck. She fingered the diamond necklace that draped softly around her neckline. “Was there some special occasion?” Did she forget something besides their anniversary?
“Yes.” He paused, savoring the moments when she hung on his every word. “You’re here. That makes it a special occasion.” He toyed with his pants pocket again, smiling nervously. She blushed again, twirling a finger through her elegant brunette locks. Some might say the American pastime is baseball, but the real American pastime is making your sweetheart blush. It’s way more fun than baseball. At least, that was what he thought.
“You’re too kind. I’m just plain old me.” She had some self-esteem issues, that much was certain. Ever since the death of her father, she had never quite been the same. But he was bringing back the girl she used to know; the girl that used to laugh and sing and exist, unashamed at the audacity of the act of being. She had never loved him quite as much as she had at that moment in time.
They ate their meal.
“Hey, honey?” It was a statement, but he phrased it as a question. Sign of the times, he guessed. Men had become more passive with the feminists moving up in the world. Still, he thought, it was long overdue. Men had controlled things for too long. It was time for the women to take action. Not tonight, though. He smiled again. Tonight, she was all his.
“Hold on a second. I have to use the little girls’ room.” She blushed, as she always did when using the euphemism. He smiled that captivating smile she loved so much and waved a hand in polite dismissal. She swept away.
He loved her scent. Not the odor of the perfume on her body; that was pleasing enough. No, what he really loved was the scent of it in the air around her as she moved. There was a word in French for it: sillage. He didn’t love the smell; he loved the sillage: the ambrosial ghost of an odor’s leaving.
She returned, extravagant and humble as ever. They had a flair for the routine, she liked to say.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, honey.”
“Oh, yeah?” She put a hand on her hip and grinned.
“Yeah,” breathing it out like an exhalation. He took the ring out of his pocket. “I wanted to know…” He got down on one knee.
“Sweetie…w-what are you doing?” more out of surprise than anger. Her right foot was starting to wobble. She internally kicked herself, furious for having worn stilettos.
“Will you marry me?”
She said nothing.
There was an unspoken word hanging in the silence, a cannon’s roar in the abyss of nothingness that lay between them at the moment:
“I—um—” when her heel broke. She fell to the floor, laughing all the while. He got up and checked on her, frantically inspecting every inch of her body for any infinitesimal injury. She blushed.
She blushed. And she knew.
She knew she had been looking for excuses she would never find. She knew that she could wait for eternity and never find someone that she loved as much as the man that was running his fingers gently over her thigh. For the first time in a long time, she smiled and meant it.
“Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He said nothing, only stared at her with a rush of indescribable gratitude.
“What is it?”
“I love you.”
She blushed. She said:
“I love you too.”
These two are a small portion of the lucky few that find love at the last second, who find things that they weren’t looking for, who realize the reality of forever as a good thing. These are the few that marry and stay and preserve their love. The flickering light has not died from the candles yet. They keep it alive, keep it burning.
So it was, so it is. So it shall be.
The power will go out. The electric bill will be unpaid. There will be children, running through. But the flame remains bright.
May it never go out.