Flashback in the Present

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“Caroline, will you marry me?” His words pulsed through her veins and with every heartbeat they seemed less and less real. She watched as, down on one knee, he balanced the delicate sparkling ring between his callused fingers. She began to pick her nonexistent fingernails, a nervous habit started in her childhood. Usually quick-witted and clever, Caroline found herself speechless, as if her entire mouth were numb and without a tongue.

“Um…I’m not sure.” She regretted the words the moment they left her slightly crooked teeth. Tim rose to his feet slowly and silently. “You’re…not sure?” The muscles tensed in her neck and her cheeks flamed with embarrassment and regret. She let her wiry, thick golden-orange hair fall over her face, shielding her from the intense stare of her boyfriend. “You’re not sure,” he repeated vacantly. She could feel her heart pounding in her ears. Caroline loathed being put in a corned like this. She peeked apologetically through the tangles of her untamed hair only to meet the wounded gaze of the man she loved. She quickly lowered her tired eyes to the floor. Why did she say it? She always believed in speaking her mind, that those who edited their thoughts before speaking them weren’t brave enough to tell the truth. But this was different. This was important. Her first thought had spilled out of her slippery mouth before she had the chance to stop it. And now she couldn’t take those words back. What had she done? She raised a thumbnail to her soft lips but quickly returned her arm to her side. She really needed to kick that habit. She glanced at her knobby knees, her pigeon-toed feet, the tips of his worn sneakers, the blank wall behind him, the ceiling fan, the linoleum floor, anything but him. “So that’s it, then?” She met his dark and haunting eyes.

In a flash, the memories of their relationship rushed back to her like a beautiful, suffocating tidal wave. Twenty years old, drifting at a college party; through the smoke and the noise they found each other. Twenty-one, first Christmas together, giggling childishly and mistletoe kisses. Lazy rainy Sunday mornings, the perfect temperature of his skin. Final exams, first fight, screams and tears followed by bubbling apologies. Humidity and fiery souls. First love. Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, five years around the corner. Had it really been that long?





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