Spencer’s Toyota putters through the sprawling UCLA campus. Students are milling around, making the traffic more stop than go, but that’s okay. It gives me a chance to take it all in. Spencer insisted that I let her drop me off, and I couldn’t really deny her. She was just too cute, all protective, wanting to be sure that my first day jitters were nowhere to be seen. But as I look around me, I get the feeling that her help isn’t all that cute so much as necessary. It would have been a twenty minute hike from my car to the Herb Alpert School of Music alone, and that’s assuming that I could have found a space in the student lot and not in one of the paid parking garages almost a mile back.
I’m majoring in Computer Science, with a Music Industry minor. I’m not sure why I actually want to learn programming. I mean, I’ve already made a fortune at it. But I haven’t tinkered with it in so long that I probably couldn’t even use one of the current languages. I guess I’ve just kind of missed it. I could have majored in music, but I figured I already know how to write it and play it. Recording is another thing entirely though. I’m self-taught and I’m decent, but it still lacks that industry grade polish. I’d have probably taken music engineering as my major, but all UCLA offered was a minor, and the result will be the same.
Spencer helped me put my schedule together. I’m going full-time throughout, which is normally twelve credits, but with my minor, I’ll be doing about sixteen credits each semester. We figured that I should start my days with music so that I’ll be in a good mood before I go and get my nerd on. I’m so excited that I’m almost bouncing in the seat. There’s only one dark spot on my horizon, and I sigh as I glance over at her.
I’m going to miss her.
“You think you’ll be able to come meet me for lunch today,” I ask.
“I should. I’m meeting the contractor at the office, but it shouldn’t take long.” She pulls the car to a stop against the curb. “Until they’re finished, I’ll be working from home.”
The way she said all of that was detached, like she’s distracted.
“How long will it take?”
Her eyes are scanning the crowds of people as if she’s looking for someone, and I find myself doing the same.
“Oh, um, only about three weeks. It’s just offices and equipment. The studio itself is little less than an interview room since I’ll be documentary driven.”
“Spence, is everything okay?”
I can’t help but wonder if she’s regretting her decision, but then a huge smile breaks out on her face and she looks over at me apologetically.
There’s a bang against my window that nearly sends me into Spencer’s lap. I turn towards the sound and see Kate’s face pressed against the glass, her cheeks blown out and her eyes crossed.
“Kate,” I ask stupidly.
She opens the car door for me. “What’s up, numb nuts?”
I hate it when she calls me that, but I still hug her when I get out of the car.
“What are you doing here,” I ask in shock.
Kate scrubs at the back of her neck and defers to Spencer who’s making her way towards us on the sidewalk, her hands tucked into her pockets and her head bent in contrition.
“What did you do,” I ask her.
“I know you hate surprises, but… I’m hoping you’ll forgive me for this one.”
I feel my eyebrows pull together.
“Most of it’s financial aid,” Kate hastens to explain. “But I didn’t qualify for many grants, so I’m still sucking from your teat for things like books and supplies, and a little of the tuition.”
Spencer shrugs. “Kate wanted to go, and I thought you might need a best friend…”
A grin splits my face as I crush her in a hug that nearly lifts her off of her feet. She squeaks with surprise and then starts to giggle when I kiss her face over and over again.
“You used our money,” I say breathlessly. “And it was your idea!”
She cocks her head at me. “I broke the surprise rule and made sure you had your best friend, and all you can think about is that I used the money?”
I nod, still smiling and she shakes her head adoringly.
“I hate to break you two love-birds up, but both of us are going to be late for class.”
I tap my lips with my finger and Spencer quickly kisses the spot. Once I have my backpack, I watch her pull away before turning to Kate and shoving her shoulder.
She just laughs.
“So do we have the same schedule,” I ask.
Kate snorts. “Hell no. I’m not a geek. We’ll have the engineering classes together, but then I’ll be loser adjacent, drawing, painting, and sculpting.”
“Not a geek, but a tree-hugging hippie,” I grin at her.
“Yeah, well…, thank you, Ash.”
I can tell by the look on her face and her tone of voice that she’s being serious.
“Don’t thank me,” I say. “Spencer did it.”
“Just take the fucking thank you, okay?”
I mock the seriousness in her voice. “Fine, you’re welcome.” We make our way towards the entrance. “So what about your jobs?”
“I still have to work, but I’ve cut it back to two part-time. I should be okay, but I might eat at your place more.”
I smile at her. That’s perfectly fine with me.
I’ve never done this. I’ve never had to. I guess that’s one of the perks of growing up with a social worker for a father. Anytime I needed to sort through what I was feeling, I could always just go to him. He always knew what to say and how to make everything feel better. He was the best dad in the world. And he still is. He’s trying, so hard, but there isn’t anything he can do about this, about Ashley, so there’s nothing he can do for me.
This journal is so… just an Ashley thing to do. She’s always lived in her head, and it always made me crazy. Even when we were younger and I’d ask her some stupid question, she’d just shrug at me, or make a joke of it, or even say nothing at all.
It was infuriating!
I wanted her to open up to me, to let me see her, because I knew that if she did all of my suspicions would be confirmed. From the first moment that I met her, I knew that she was… special. And that’s what I’m talking about when I say that she’d make every attempt to get to know her so difficult. One time I actually told her that she was special. And all she did was jokingly accuse me of calling her stupid, and then laugh when I tried to explain that’s not what I meant.
Not only was she physically incapable of taking a compliment, but she had to put herself down in the process and make a joke out of it, all the while somehow still full of herself. It just wasn’t all that funny to me. When I told her that she was special, what I was trying to tell her is that I could see her potential, that I could see just how bright and amazing she was. I wanted her to know… that to me, she was a star, brilliant and bright and central.
She had no idea, despite all of her posturing, but maybe that’s what made her so charming. She never seemed to know just how other people saw her. Both Aiden and Glen had crushes on her when we were younger. I think Glen honestly mistook torture for love, so he grew out of it rather quickly. But Aiden, like her, was so much deeper than he appeared on the surface. Sure, he was a typical guy, but he was one of the good ones: caring, intuitive, warm, and protective. And he loved her. I think that’s why it hurt him just as much when she left.
He’s never said it out loud, not to anyone as far as I know, even to this day, but then he was keeping a lot of things from everyone. His parents were never home, and when they were, his father was abusive. I understand now why he never told me. He knew I’d tell my father, and while that might have been the best thing for him, no child can see being away from their parents as a positive thing. With Ashley though, I think he kept his feelings to himself for me. He was the first person to know that I was gay. He was the first person to know that I was in love with Ashley. He knew before I even did and he kept those secrets without even being asked.
Ashley is the reason that he and I grew so close. Suddenly she was gone and there were no stars anymore. Nothing was special anymore, for either of us. Something inside of me died the day that she left. No, it didn’t die; she took it, like a thief in the night, as the parish priest used to say. And, well, I understood her, or so I thought. She taught me a lesson that I never wanted to learn, but I’d never make that mistake again.
I thought I’d moved past that, but I guess I haven’t. Even now just thinking about it gives me ulcers. She left and took my heart with her. God, it took ages for me to believe that she wasn’t coming back. I couldn’t believe it; I wouldn’t, because I believed in her. I believed in her more than I believed in anything else: not God, not my family, not even me.
But she didn’t come back.
I got used to being that way. But I was happy, wasn’t I? I still don’t even know. I focused on school and spoke to Aiden often. We were both doing well; he was traveling around, living out of his truck and seeing the states. I was pursuing my dreams. I laughed and learned and discovered new facets to the world; we both did. It all seemed rather romantic. That last year of college he showed up. For the first few weeks, I’d sneak him in for a shower, a good night’s sleep, or a meal. He finally found work and started to live on his own, but by then we had grown to rely on each other. It was like we both came to finally understand why Ashley was selfish enough, disconnected enough, to leave us like that, because we both became like her, at least with everyone else. Eventually I stopped fighting Carmen’s attentions, he was happily living the bachelor life. We had fun and everything seemed right in the world, especially when I took both of them and moved to California after graduation.
But then she showed up, and… it was like the sky lit up again, only I didn’t know that the light was missing in the first place. I saw her up on that stage and she was so… just so unbelievably radiant. My memory of her was so murky. I’d forgotten her raw talent, her depth, her brilliance. She turned everything upside down with those umber eyes, that clear voice, and her impossible ability to be vulnerable without actually giving anything away.
Just looking at her always made me feel exhausted. When she told me what had happened, that she’d loved me and left me, I wanted to kill her myself. Not only did she destroy the lies that I’d built around her abrupt departure, but she destroyed my perfectly erected life. I’d worked so hard to build something normal, something clean and fluid, only to find that all of my hard work was for nothing.
Everything had always had a plan before. I’d marry this kind of person. I’d settle into that kind of life. We’d have this kind of house, and these kinds of dogs. We’d drive these kinds of cars and we’d do this respectable thing or that respectable thing.
One second, I’m living this perfect life by the book, and then it was just… pointless, lonely, empty.
It was like I was looking at the palm of my hand and there was a pearl resting there. And then I looked up and saw her, but when I looked back down, there was a lump of coal where the pearl should be. There she was, making so many things thrilling and bright and wonderful, even as she made others seem dull and messy and ugly. And it filled me with inspiration. My world became beautiful, but then she’d be gone again, shutting me out, shrugging at me, or doing nothing at all.
God, I felt so stupid. I knew better. She’d already taught me this lesson, so why was I playing with fire? Well, it was warm, that’s why. I know it now. I knew it then, but no amount of warmth was worth being burned like that again. I decided that dim wasn’t so bad. It was calm; it was safe; it was better than bright because I didn’t feel the incessant need to shield my eyes. I decided to just let her be on the outskirts of my world where the light could be controlled and contained. I would focus on me and on Carmen and the plan. And I had Aiden. He was there with me through it all. He was so much stronger than I was, especially with her. He knew how to stay away, to keep from being burned, at least until he met up with Kyla.
Neither of them would allow us any peace. Kyla lit up his world and Ashley lit up mine, but for all of the ways that Kyla and Ashley are so much alike, they are entirely different. Kyla could be trusted. She was consistent. But Ashley… she kept coming around, and everything would reignite for a moment, but it was just a glimmer. Then she’d fade, and I realized that while I couldn’t survive her, I couldn’t stand to live in that dim world either. So I let her come and go and come and go, trying to be satisfied with this semi-happy existence in purgatory.
Nothing could shut her out but nothing could make her stay. It was like I was dealing with a ghost and I needed an exorcism, but that ghost was the best part of my day. I was terrified and confused, angry and hurting, but no matter what I did I couldn’t walk away because every flash of her in my life was brighter than the last and I craved her; I needed her. So she became the crux of everything, just like before, my plan of no plan.
And as strange as it is, this is the plan that worked, at least for her. She made sense of her head and opened her heart and gave it to me. I’m holding much of it in my hands right now. She finally gave me everything I wanted, only for me to find that it was not how I wanted it. I couldn’t stand to know what she thought and how she felt because it made it impossible not to forgive her. It made it impossible to let the world be dim. It made it impossible to believe that I understood anything, not until I read this.
I finally grasped just how much she was protecting me from. I finally understood why she couldn’t take a compliment, why she put herself down, why she kept me at a distance as often as she could, why she’d reel me in and throw me back. I finally understood that she’s not selfish, that she’s not disconnected, but human and terrified and trying. I didn’t realize that a star has to die to be reborn. I didn’t know it, so I couldn’t plan for it. It was like I wasn’t allowed to have a plan, even if that plan was no plan, so I had no idea what to do. I became still, and when that happened she was moving on without me.
It was like one minute I was looking at the palm of my hand and there was another pearl resting there. And then I looked up but she wasn’t there. And when I looked back down again there was nothing, just my empty hands. And that’s why I’m doing this, doing what she’s asked of me, because I don’t know what else to do. I’m just sitting here with empty hands, no heart, and no plan, writing in this journal while she moves on, shining so brightly that all other things are black by comparison.
I live in the dim again, but this time I know it. And I don’t know how to live with it, even as I don’t have a choice.
I got a text from her today. It’s a picture of the beach at the end of the Goonies movie. I recognized it immediately because of the iconic rock resting in the water, and with it came a flood of memories and aching and hurt. I thought that maybe it was stupid of me to have stayed back, to have forced myself to miss her this much. I regretted my decision not to go the minute that I’d made it, but I just couldn’t stand to be around her anymore, especially not with Erin.
God, help me, I’m not even capable of actually hating her new girlfriend. She’s far too much like Ashley for that. She’s attractive, smart, gutsy, and charismatic. She understands music. She’s everything that I’m not. I always wondered what Ashley saw in me. I’m not ugly and I’m intelligent, but I’ve always been pretty basic. It’s the side-effect of living by the book.
You become predictable, boring.
Erin isn’t like that though. I get the impression that she’s just as wild as Ashley is. I’d never jump into a fist fight, but I’ve seen both of them do it. The honest truth is I do hate Erin, but not because of who she is. I hate her because Ashley loves her. I hate her because Ashley chooses her. Erin got to be the one to help her through the hardest moments of her life. Erin gets to be the one to touch her, to kiss her, to love her back. And it pisses me off that she doesn’t seem to… care. She has everything I’ve ever wanted, she has Ashley, the real Ashley, one that’s present and consistent, and she treats that unbelievable gift like some second-hand pair of jeans.
Letting Ashley talk about her, giving her objective advice, is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I know that if I say what I want to say, if I throw myself at Ashley like I want to, I’ll just make more of a fool of myself than I already feel. Ashley has moved on and I’ve taken a seat. I hate this inert feeling, like the world is passing me by, but I can’t make a new plan until I can see something other than her. Right now, it’s all still her. That’s what planets do, right, they revolve the sun, the star? But that’s over. She’s gone supernova and thrown me to the outskirts of her orbit.
As much as that hurts, it still brings a smile to my face. At least she’s burning again. At least she’s happy. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever wanted more for her. I just wish she wouldn’t tell me that she misses me. I wish she wouldn’t hug me so much or so tightly. I wish she wouldn’t tell me that she loves me, and I wish more than anything that I could stop wanting her to. I want to say no when she asks me to do something with her. I want to ignore the personal wake-up calls that she inspires in me, the way she makes me think about things in new ways. I want to create enough distance to start to rebuild, but I have no will left when it comes to her.
It’s like nothing matters.
So I’m not going to reply. I’m doing nothing. Maybe staying back, taking this week, will give me the time that I need to finally walk in a different direction instead of stare after her.
But, Ashley, wherever you are, I miss you too.
Dad’s been taking care of me today. I can’t seem to quit crying. We’ve been talking, a lot, about Ashley of course. He’s been trying to tell me that it’s not over, that now’s the time to get off of my ass and fight like hell, but he just can’t understand. I’m not… normal, or at least my version of it. He doesn’t know what I know, but I don’t know how to explain it to him.
When I say that I’m not ready, it means that I don’t have a plan. But those are thoughts and feelings and contexts that he can’t possibly be privy to. It also means that even if I did have a plan, it couldn’t involve Ashley. She’s moved on. Now this, he can understand, and I’ve told him.
He just doesn’t believe me.
He believes that Ashley doesn’t realize what she’s doing. He says it’s common for people to project their feelings onto another person, a safer person, until they’re able to heal. He says that it happens to therapists all of the time, and that this is the reason that the law is so clear about doctor/patient fraternization. But even if that’s true, Ashley is still making a choice, and I’m not what she chose.
If he’s right, why was Erin the ‘safe’ choice? Ashley has to know that I love her. She has to know that I’d do anything for her, that I’d bleed myself dry. I’ve turned my life upside down for her because what makes her happy makes me happy. Is she really blind enough not to see that?
Well, I know that she is fairly thick-headed. She’s oblivious half of the time, but then sometimes she says and does things that are so profound with deep understanding that I don’t know what to believe. Even that night at the Troubadour, with the black-headed slut, she thought that I just misheard the name of the drink. And, she thought that I was upset about seeing Carmen, but honestly, I was just upset that she’d gotten Erin’s number, right there, in front of me no less. And then she had the audacity to hold me, to dance with me, to capture my attention so effortlessly and do nothing with it.
And Mardi Gras… I tried to tell her, to help her understand that who she is can’t be empty or dim or dull, even as she kept trying to show me that she was. That’s why I left, because if that’s who she is, I couldn’t stand it. I know who she could be, who she used to be, and I couldn’t live with that precious person’s murderer. It was like she didn’t care about herself at all, but then now I know that’s the truth. And anyone who doesn’t care about Ashley is no one I want to know.
But I know how much she cares now, about herself and about me. The ghost of her materialized, and this time, she stayed. She was warm and colorful and whole and brighter than I’d ever seen her. I could touch her, but only as a friend. And I just don’t know how to live with that. I tore my own heart out so that she could be free, and then she toddled off with that… trollip. Every time she tells me that she loves me, I believe it, but then she’s still walking off with someone else.
Because I’m not good enough? She’s told me that I’ve lost my ‘fire.’ Maybe she never loved me, but some aspect of me that never actually existed. I don’t even think I ever had this ‘fire’ she talks about. Maybe the person I was and the person she thought I was were two different things.
I don’t know… I don’t know anything, it seems. I’m just here, and I need a plan, because right now, Kate, Jon, and Jac’s suggestion to put out a contract on Erin’s life is sounding better and better. But that just makes me feel worse, to think that way, to feel that way.
It’s not a game.
Maybe I could go back to Ohio? That would put some distance between us. That would give me a chance to figure things out.
That sounds like the best plan I’ve had in a while.
I have a flight out tomorrow afternoon. Dad has been upset with me all day, even as he’s helped me pack. He hates it, and he disagrees with it, but he’s still helping me, supporting me.
This is why he’s always been my favorite.
Aside from Ashley, he’s the worst part of this. He just got here. We’ve just begun to get close again, and I’m leaving him again. He’ll never know just how sorry I am to have lost those two years with him, and to leave him now. But it’s not forever and I’m not going to disappear from his life. I’ll call him every day. I just hope that he can forgive me, but then I know that he will. If I know nothing else, I know that he loves me.
I can’t take anything with me that won’t fit in a carry-on. I’ll have to send for my things, and I’ll have to come back to get Flot, but Jet’s officially lost to me. He loves her as much as I do. And she loves him. I could never break the two of them up. I think I understand Ashley even better now. Now I know why she runs.
At this point, I just hope that she’s happy, that she’s healthy, that whatever happens, she realizes that I forgive her, that I love her, and that I’ll be okay. And who knows, maybe the next time I’m looking at the stars and I think of her, it’ll be true.
God, I hope so.
My world is burning with apocalyptic fervor. Bright isn’t the right word anymore. Every single wonderful experience in my life has completely obliterated, outdone, outshone. And all of it happened in a single week.
It was… crazy, to say the least. I wasn’t sleeping, but I was trying, and then the door buzzer went off. At first, I thought it was because of the electrical system. It wasn’t uncommon for a surge to make the lights brighter for a split second, or make the ancient smoke detector beep for a few minutes. Sometimes, all of the numbers on the kitchen appliances would be flashing zeros when I got up in the morning. So the random sound of the buzzer in the middle of the night seemed like just another quirk to my new home.
But then it just wouldn’t shut up. I thought that maybe the homeless man that sometimes sleeps near our steps was drunk or desperate or just… something. So I decided to answer it, but there was nothing and no one on the other end. I was about to go back to bed when someone starting pounding on my door. Dad came barreling out of his room holding a bat and we just stared at it, half-asleep and terrified, and hoping that it would hold. I was about to call the police but then I heard her voice.
To me, that sound was more terrifying than the prospect of an insane intruder, but I still found my way over and let her in. She was a wreck, sweaty, breathless, speaking nonsense, and being far too beautiful. Whatever rash reason brought her to my door this time, I was determined to be strong. I put my walls up immediately. They couldn’t block her out, but they could hold her off. I only had to make it a few more hours. And I was determined to do that, but I needed coffee. I needed to be alert.
I sat her down and went to fix some but then she grabbed me, took my face, and pulled my forehead to hers. She started saying things to me, sweet things, dream-like things, things I’d always wanted to hear but never thought I would. She was warm and blinding and relentless. I’d never seen her so… determined before. But then she started reminding me of the hell that she’d put me through. She was trying to piss me off. I knew it, but my walls still crumbled.
I had no idea just how… cruel I could be, how purposefully hurtful. For the first time in my life, I wished that I’d never known her, that I’d never met her. I wanted nothing more than be rid of her. And as much as it hurt, I was thankful for it. She was helping me, making my plan to run so much easier to carry out.
I hated that I loved her so much, because it never mattered. No matter what I did, it would never be enough. I had to hate something, and I couldn’t hate her. But I couldn’t love her either. Everything hurt and she was pouring salt in every wound she’d ever created. I just wanted it all to stop, and then I hated myself for feeling that way too. I was shut down and there was a certain amount of peace in that, but I even hated her for that. I couldn’t fight and I couldn’t sit still, and it felt like it was entirely her fault. Couldn’t she just leave me to what little peace I’d found?
Of course not.
She gave me a choice, but more than that, she shoved me, hard. I spewed every single terrible thought I’d ever had about her right in her face. It was worse than if I’d just slapped her. And when that happened, I felt… paralyzed and ashamed. Here she was, offering me everything I’d ever wanted from her, but how could I possibly trust her? I couldn’t, and I still don’t. At some point she’s going to do what she always does and change her mind. But when she tried to leave, I just couldn’t allow it. It was like I was reliving the first time, but then I’d had no choice. How many times had I wished to know before hand, to be able to stop her?
So many times that I don’t think a single day went by without that wish. In my mind, I’d stopped her a thousand different times in a thousand different ways. And all of them revolved around knowing that it was going to happen. This time, when she’d showed up at my door and bombed every carefully constructed barrier to rubble, when she went to abandon me with it again, I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t let it happen.
This time I had a choice.
There was just nothing left to worry about anymore, so I let it go. I gave in and spent a glorious week with her. I figure that even if it is all a lie, that even if it is only temporary, at least I’ve had a taste of the life that I want. It would be easy to compare this last week to a sugar high, that first taste of chocolate or the first heady rush after too much alcohol. But as crazy as it sounds, this week was my first taste of pure, life-imbuing water. It wasn’t sweet so much as sustaining. It wasn’t dizzying so much as revitalizing. And I had no idea just how dry and lifeless I’d been before now.
That first morning, I thought that maybe it wasn’t real. And it still doesn’t feel real. Every day I have to wrestle with my insecurities, force them to let me have this while it lasts. I know they’re just trying to protect me, but Tennyson was right when he said that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. They get their voice, every day, multiple times a day, but I don’t let them deter me. I have chosen to take each day as it comes, to enjoy her while she’s here. And I’m determined to be grateful, even when she’s gone.
As much as I regret that it will most likely end, that my world has to burn for me to be happy, I will never regret asking her to kiss me.
It’s strange how weeks easily become months. It’s strange to be waiting for something that should have already come but I never wanted it to. It’s strange to see her, and I don’t mean to be near her. I mean that I see her. I’m beginning to believe that I never knew her at all. The more of herself that she gives, the more that I am forced to recognize that I have always been wrong.
I always knew she had potential, but I had no idea just how far reaching that potential was. Every day she surprises me with her words. The way she speaks to me, even when we disagree. I never feel… disrespected or depreciated. It’s like all I have to do is ask and she’ll not only say what’s on her mind, but give me the context that makes it personal. It’s been so long since I could stand up to someone and not feel rebuked, where I can be honest, brutally so, and know that I won’t be bullied into silence or submission. I feel… emboldened, set free to be me. But more than that, no matter which part of me is present, it’s accepted.
I always knew that she was special, but she’s so much more than that to me now. It’s like once the fires stopped burning around me I found this incredible oasis in the middle of the resulting wasteland. Every day she sweeps me off of my feet with what she does. I have never felt so cared for, so precious, so treasured. It’s like all I have to do is look at her, and her arms are there, her hand is there, her love and support are there. She meets me wherever I am, even if it’s in a thicket of thorns. And every day, I find myself wanting to do the same. She makes me want to be a better person, to show her the love that she shows me.
I hate that I’m scared, but I’m more than scared; I’m terrified. I have never wanted someone so much in life. I’ve never wanted to be so honest or open before. And I am opening up more and more, but I’m still not there. I hate this feeling, like the other shoe is going to drop. It’s not fair to her. I see just how hard she tries, even as I can see how natural it is for her. That’s what makes her so special: she cares and loves and shares and gives of herself so completely and so effortlessly.
I’m not sure that she even knows just how much it means to me, how much strength she gives me. She gives me a reason to fight, and I am, but I want to fight harder. I have to fight harder. I want to give her a reason to never change her mind.
Today was a struggle, probably the biggest one I’ve had thus far. I try so hard not to let those things that I feel out, to keep them from taking these perfect moments and tarnishing them. But they’re like rust, eating away at anything beautiful.
I’ve been anxious for months, since that first headache appeared on the ski trip. I think that’s the first time that what she’s up against became real to me. I can’t stand to see her hurt. I never could. But this is a whole new level, a deeper, sinister level of Dantean proportions. It’s the ninth circle of hell, living with this fear that I can’t squash, but she doesn’t just live with it, she thrives with it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a stronger person.
The test results came back negative. There are not words for just how much weight that took off of me. But then I ruined it, just like I did when we talked about moving in together. We can have a family. We can start now. She was so excited, and I wanted to fall apart at the seams.
I wanted to tell her to drop out of school.
I want to start now, just like she does.
And that wasn’t just unexpected, it was petrifying.
She has always wanted a family. I could say that it’s because she lacked one for the first decade of her life, or because she’s a natural mother. She knows the love and sacrifice involved in raising children. And she did a beautiful job with Kyla by any standard, but to do that at such a young age… it’s an intrinsic part of her, a talent.
I never really wanted a family before. I thought I might have a child or two, but all of my plans were so cold by comparison. My life was just a carefully manufactured schematic. All of the components were there, but it lacked heart and depth. Her heart was always in it, and I wanted it because she did. Today, that wasn’t true. Today I wanted to make a family, to build a family, to throw the schematic out and not just give her what she wants, but be part of that wanting.
The thought of carrying her child… it seems so personal, so indescribably beautiful. Why couldn’t I just say that, let the desire out, throw caution to the wind? All of that worry over what, finances? It all seems so silly, so petty, but my mind just won’t let it go. I couldn’t even tell her that yellow is my favorite color because it reminds me of her, how she’s my true north, my star.
Why? Why couldn’t I just give her that piece of my heart when she already owns it so completely?
It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t make sense.
I want her to know it all. I want to be just as bright for her as she is for me. I want to stop holding back. She deserves so much more. She gives me everything she has. I truly believe, at this point, that there is literally nothing that she would hold back from me. So why is it still there? What is it going to take?
I can’t imagine my life without her.
I am desperate to give myself to her and I hope that she believes it until I can give her the reasons to know it.
I’m going to start by saying that I’m sorry for what you’re going to find here. I was angry and hurting, and none of it was actually your fault. I had spent so much time focused on trying to figure out your thoughts and feelings that I neglected my own. It was an injustice to both of us, and for that, I’m sorry.
I’m not giving this to you to hurt you or to make you feel bad, but because the more that we grow together, the more that I know that my fears and doubts are hurting you. And that is the very last thing I ever want to do.
Please just know that I’m giving you what you gave to me: the raw, unblemished, and honest truth. And even as I know that it will hurt you, I hope you can see that I’m working on it. I’m trying. And I promise you that I will get through it. I love you so much, and I am fighting with every ounce of strength I have because you are worth it. Please just be patient with me and take this for what it’s worth. I believe in you, Ash, in us, more than I believe in anything else: not God, not family, not me, and definitely not my insecurities.
Thank you for showing up that night, for giving all of yourself, and for stopping me from running. Thank you for loving me and trusting me. Thank you for finding yourself and putting me on that same path. Thank you for choosing me. I promise that this is something you won’t regret.
Mr. C pulls himself up off of the low wall of the water fountain. “Hey, Ash.”
“Hey, thanks for meeting me.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.” He studies the area around me. “Where’s Kyla?”
“Uh, I was hoping that you and I could keep this just between us.”
He whistles lowly. “She’ll kill you when she finds out.”
“She’ll definitely try, but she’s due in April. I plan to pop the question in March. She won’t physically be able to catch me.”
He laughs and slings an arm around my shoulders before turning us towards the rather severe looking doors of Tiffany and Co. He was adamant that this would be the right place to come, but I’m not so sure. Rodeo drive oozes with money and uppity snobs. The stores are even worse. Spencer is plenty elegant enough to be accepted by this crowd, but she’s too nice, too genuine for all of the pretentious glitz and glam.
“Are you sure this is the right place to find Spencer’s ring?”
He steps forward and holds the door open for me. “Trust me, Ash. You want a place that can give you a wide selection, or you’ll never find what you’re looking for. This place has it all.”
I do trust him, so we head inside. It’s clean and polished, and looks a lot like a museum with the thick, clear cases of gems and precious metals. I glance into the one closest to me and stop when I see a diamond so big and so perfectly mesmerizing that it almost doesn’t seem real, even when I know that it most certainly is. Everyone knows about Tiffany’s. That’s part of my apprehension. I don’t want to do basic, but I definitely don’t want something this garish.
My eyes keep finding giant hunks of hypnotizing gems. All of them are too… much of everything. In fact, I notice that this area is a perfect grid of case after case of rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and everything in between. There’s even an escalator to another level and I start to feel intimidated.
A salesman approaches us in a finely tailored Armani suit and addresses Mr. C. “Welcome to Tiffany’s. My name is Brian. Were you looking for something specific or just perusing today?”
Mr. C shakes his hand. “Arthur, and the perfect engagement ring, preferably an antique.”
“Ah, your chosen is a very lucky woman.”
He leads us toward a partitioned area where two security guards are standing rigidly.
“Yes, she is,” Mr. C responds.
Brian’s resulting chortle is plastic and I just shake my head at Mr. C’s compliment. The guards fill in behind us and, while they aren’t at all obtrusive, I have to admit that it makes me feel a little claustrophobic. But that dissipates when I notice that there are only about five cases in this room. Our salesman leads us to the booth immediately to our left where he starts to chat with Mr. C. I glance at the treasures inside the case. These are definitely better than what I encountered in the lobby. The designs are simpler, more tasteful. Many of them are solitary diamonds, the bread and butter of engagement rings. But most are jewel encrusted behemoths, and nothing immediately calls out to me. I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I figured that the right one would just jump into my hand and give me a regal bow. Instead, I’m left with the conclusion that this might be much like finding a needle in several rooms full of haystacks.
“So did you have anything specific in mind? Narrowing in on an era can help. Most of our antique selections are Edwardian and Victorian.”
Mr. C looks to me and I shrug. “I’ll know it when I see it.”
Brian looks at me curiously and then clears his throat. “My apologies. I didn’t know that you’d brought the lucky lady with you.”
He now seems to notice that I exist and turns his bright, even smile on me. It takes a moment for his conclusion to spark the hilarity in me, but Mr. C doesn’t find it funny at all. He stumbles over his words as he tries to correct the salesman.
“Oh, no…, no, no, Ashley and I aren’t-”
I loop my arm through Mr. C’s, smiling up at him. “Don’t be bashful, sweetheart,” I say, running a finger suggestively up his arm.
He turns bright red, and Brian clears his throat before pulling out what has to be the biggest diamond he has, in this room at least. I ignore him. I knew that this kind of place was exactly the wrong kind, and Mr. C seems to be learning this as well. But, it’s whatever. I’ll look at what’s here and maybe I’ll at least gain some sort of an idea of what I should get.
Thing is, I already know what I want, but I can’t have it. I’d considered getting a Claddagh ring, but it didn’t seem appropriate, and Mr. C agreed. There really is no replacement for that particular item. So, if I can’t have it, the alternative needs to be special and unique in its own right.
“I want something simple,” I finally interrupt the salesman’s endless prattle when we’ve looked through two different cases with no luck. “Simple but…”
“Timeless,” Mr. C finishes.
Brian flashes a grin and leads us to the case on the other side of the room, picking up another solitary diamond, but this one is much more understated than some of the others, even as it’s still big. And it’s beautiful, but it’s still so… plain, if that can be said about a five carat diamond. There’s just no character to it, but it’s the best he’s presented thus far.
“This is Edwardian, from 1910. It’s the quintessential engagement ring, but this one has history.”
I try to imagine it on Spencer’s finger, but it just doesn’t seem right. And that’s okay. This is only our first attempt. I’m certain that it’s going to take time over the next couple of months to find the one, even if it’s only second best.
Brian seems to know that he’s losing us, so he puts the ring away and leads us over to the middle counter. “How about something like this,” he says, pulling out a square cut diamond set into a thicker band with etchings around the setting.
“It’s beautiful,” Mr. C says, picking it up and holding it out to me.
“It’s better,” I say. “But…”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “This isn’t it.” He hands it back to Brian before turning to me. “Ash, try to keep in mind that we can’t have the ring we actually want.”
“I know,” I say. “I don’t mean to be so picky.”
“No, it’s okay to be picky. You should be picky. Just try to keep that in mind.”
I nod and start to peruse the other rings in the case, pointing to one. “That one is… better.”
Brian is quick to retrieve it, much like an over-excited Labrador, and it does seem closer to what Spencer might like, but it’s still not good enough. I have to wonder if any ring is going to be good enough. I have no idea what Spencer would want. Her jewelry spans the gamut, everything from big and dangly to small, simple studs.
“Well,” Brian says. “I do have something that we only just put on the floor yesterday, but it’s not very old. It’s from the 1960’s.” He leads us over to the first booth and fishes a ring from the very bottom and the very back. It’s so out of the way that I wouldn’t have seen it had he not pulled it out. “We just procured this from an estate sale in Beverly Hills. It’s a vintage solitaire, pear-shaped diamond. But it’s only about one-and-a-half carat.”
This one makes something tingle in the pit of my stomach. It’s simple, elegant, beautiful but understated, and the cut of the gem makes it look like a teardrop. What throws me over the edge is the way that it catches the light. No matter which way I rotate it, the inside glows yellow.
It screams Spencer.
“The band is platinum,” the salesman continues. “It’s beautiful, but we definitely have much better selections in the same style.”
I smile up at Mr. C and he grins back. “Is that it?”
I nod slowly. “I think so.” I hand it back to Brian. “I’ll take it.”
He seems to sigh with relief or maybe disappointment; I can’t really be sure.
He’s still agreeable as he says, “Excellent. Let’s get you fitted. This is a seven, which is average, but at a glance, I think you’ll probably need to come down a size.”
He’s right, I’m a six, but Spencer is a seven. “Seven is fine.”
He scowls. “Ma’am, not to be contradictory, but I’d hate for the ring to be too loose on you. It could easily slip off and be lost.”
“I appreciate that,” I say. “But seven is what I want.”
He doesn’t argue, though I can tell that it bothers him, and we follow him to the counter back out in the lobby. Brian retrieves a small metal box that’s just a beautiful as the ring itself and sets it into the velvet slit. He clicks around on the computer in front of him and I’m surprised to learn that the ring is only about eight grand. His brows furrow when it’s my credit card that’s passed to him, but he seems to have learned his lesson with assumptions, choosing instead to just keep his mouth shut and take the money.
Before I know it, we’re standing on the sidewalk and I’m holding a tiny blue bag in my hand that feels like a live grenade.
I grin because I’m so fucking ready to pull that pin.
“I think it’s perfect, Ash.”
“Me too,” I say. “Or as perfect as it can get.”
He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t doubt what you already know. I know my daughter, and so do you. She isn’t going to be worried about that when you show her this ring, and you shouldn’t either.”
“I still wish it could be different.”
“Me too,” he says. “Me too. So, can I treat you to lunch?”
“No,” I say. “I think I owe you lunch after what I did to you in there.”
He laughs and shakes his head, his face reddening again. “I won’t argue.”
And with that he follows me to my Humvee.
I stand up from the cafe table and face the attractive Asian woman.
“Lily Zee, I presume. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
We shake hands.
“Are you kidding me,” she says as we sit. “I feel like I know you. Spencer talks about little else.” It’s my turn to smile, and damn if I don’t feel a blush creep up my neck. “It’s all good, I assure you.”
“Then she’s lying,” I retort.
“Well, I think I get why Spencer left,” she says. “You’re very charming.”
“I’d say I’m sorry, Lily, but I’m just… not.”
“Well, we certainly miss her and her talent.”
I smile. “If you had the opportunity to open your own studio, wouldn’t you,” I ask.
She snorts. “Are you kidding me? I probably wouldn’t even put in notice.” I chuckle. “So I’m curious, why me and why the secrecy?”
“Well…,” I clear my throat and pull the backpack from under the table so that I can access its contents. The first thing I pull out is Spencer’s engagement ring and open the box. “I need your help.”
Lily’s eyes get huge. “May I,” she asks and I nod. She takes the ring out and gazes into the diamond while shifting it in different directions. “This is absolutely gorgeous. It’s vintage, isn’t it?”
She puts it back and I put it away. “When do you plan to pop the question?”
“March. I have a few things planned for how I want to do it, and that’s where you come in.”
I pull out a binder filled with everything from photos to some horribly sketched ideas. There are also a couple of burned CDs. “I need all of that to make sense visually.”
“I see.” She starts to rifle through the photos, a wistful expression lighting her features. “You two really do have history.”
“We really do. She’s my first love.”
She glances at me before reassembling everything back into the binder. “Well, I’m happy to help in whatever way I can.” She picks up one of the CDs and reads the title before rolling her eyes. “I swear she spent her last two weeks listening to this song on repeat.”
“It’s the same at home,” I commiserate.
Apparently Spencer isn’t as unaffected by music as I’d originally thought. She just needed one song that could do it for her. This song makes me want to vomit at this point, but she loves it, and I can’t bring myself to hate it for that very reason. Besides, it is a great song, when I don’t have to hear it on continuous loop…
“What’s on the other disc?”
“Family videos, some old, some new.”
Those videos were the most difficult part of the preparation process. Of course, with Spencer moved in, I was able to riffle through hers for some choice pieces without issue. And Mr. C is in the know, so videos from our earlier era were no problem. But some required lies built on more lies, especially with Kyla and Aiden. I’m glad I did it though. Some of the content I didn’t even know existed.
“So I have a little over two months?”
“No, we have a little over two months. I want to make this for her myself, but even if I rented a space to work in, I wouldn’t have the first clue of how to use the software. I could probably manage a simple collage with low production value, but movies are Spencer’s world. I want it to dazzle her. I need your knowledge, skill, and talent, but it still has to come from me. And, of course, I’ll pay you well for your time.”
“Actually, I have a better idea.” She grins. “How about I help you with this, and you put in a good word for me when Spencer starts hiring?”
I lean back in my chair. Spencer already planned to try and steal Lily away, but she doesn’t know that.
“How about I do both?”
Two months flew by in a blur. Schoolwork ate up more time than I’d anticipated, despite the fact that I’m taking courses on subjects that I’m already familiar with. The most time-consuming part is the reading, but I’ve been learning, and I’ve always loved to learn. My first semester is coming to a close, but the entire world has opened up to me.
Once I started college and Spencer put in her notice, she and I almost immediately fell into a routine. It was beautiful. We’d have breakfast together; we’d talk on the way to the campus or sometimes just enjoy each other quietly. And then she’d meet me with lunch before picking me up on her way home. And that’s when the best part of the day would start. Most nights would find us in her office. I’d be on my laptop or with one of my books while she’d tool around with footage at her desk, the dogs resting at our feet.
She successfully recruited Lily, not just as an employee, but as a partner. In order to get True North Filmworks off of the ground, they decided to operate seven days a week. They split the weekends, Spencer taking Saturdays and Lily taking Sundays. This way they could avoid any further overhead. Their focus was building their brand, so cost management was priority as the first year would primarily be preparation. And while we have a lot of money, a studio would quickly suck it up. So this set a budget that included heavy advertising, marketing, and then, in January of next year, they’ll submit two projects to the Sundance Film Festival. This will hopefully open doors for commissioned projects, and essentially be ground zero for the company.
As much as I hated to lose time with her on Saturdays, I was grateful. This gave me a day with Lily each week to finish the proposal project without having to fabricate a lie. And it’s done, or at least as done as it can be at this point in time.
That’s actually what I’m doing now.
It was Lily who suggested the El Matador Beach House. Not only do we get a spectacular ocean-side house, but we get our own little stretch of private beach. It’s not as beautiful as the beaches in Oregon, but it’s nothing to scoff at, and it’s perfect for what I have in mind.
Starting at the steps at the back of the house, I’ve set up two perfect lines of wind-resistant white candles to create a glowing pathway that goes all the way down to the water. At the end of this path is a stool set directly center of a projection screen and speakers. Behind it is the pre-dawn ocean in all of its glory. This was no easy feat considering that electricity, water, and sand don’t quite get along, but Lily is making one last sweep of the waterproof cables to ensure that everything’s safely connected, functioning properly, and hidden. The weathered rock formations scattered throughout that area are a tremendous help as well, since they hide the various members of the professional camera crew that I hired to unobtrusively capture the moment.
The breeze is cool and salty, and the sun will be coming up soon. I look down at my watch. Mr. C had better not be late. But who am I kidding? He’s more dependable than Spencer’s cycle.
Everyone else is still asleep, and they have no idea what’s happening right under their noses. Kyla’s impending pregnancy gave me the perfect cover for this little coup. We rented the house for her baby shower the night before, or that’s what everyone thinks, and Spencer fell into bed with me completely unaware. In fact, no one knows except for me, Lily, and Mr. C. I don’t think I got a wink of sleep. I was far too excited, and anxious, and nervous, and…
I’m really doing this.
What if she says no?
Jesus, I might puke.
“Ash,” Lily whispers, startling me. “They’re coming.”
“Go,” I hiss.
If she gives my location away, I’ll kill her. She sprints away towards the laptop hidden at the back edge of the house, and I risk a peek from my prone position behind the corner of the raised porch. I can’t help but smile when I see Spencer’s stupefied face. She’s at the bottom of the back porch steps facing Mr. C. Her hair is loose and straight, the strands dancing in the wind. She’s hugging a frumpy, gray sweater tightly against her chest, and she looks utterly disheveled and utterly lovely, even in her pajamas. Despite the semi-darkness, I can still see the adorably grumpy crease to her brow as Mr. C turns her by her shoulders and whispers something in her ear before releasing her.
She’s reluctant but moves out into the sand, walking down the center of the path, and I watch as she makes her way to the stool. I have to duck again as she glances back to her father about halfway to the goal. I can’t see her now, but I do see him wave her on. When I check again, she’s seated, her back to me, and her shape silhouetted in the light of the projector as her new favorite song washes out into the air.
I stand, readjust Al over my shoulders, and gulp as I quietly pad my way down the stairs and towards her, Mr. C squeezing my shoulder as I pass. I have to get close enough so that I can actually propose, but then be quiet about it so she won’t know that I’m here until the time is right. But then as I get closer, I realize that this isn’t going to be a problem. Her attention is enraptured to the screen that’s set against the pressing tide. And I have to admit, so is mine.
As many times as I’ve seen this video, I can’t seem to get enough of it.
The movie starts in a plain white room, the back wall covered in dozens of framed photos as the camera slowly zooms in. It’s timed so that just as the song reaches the first verse, the first framed image fills the screen before it jumps to life. It’s the two of us, ten years old, our first Christmas together. We’re cuddled up on the Carlin’s oversized arm chair. Spencer is drinking some cocoa as she watches me clumsily mess around with my new electric guitar. There’s a beatific smile on her face and one of utter concentration on mine. There’s nothing remarkable about it to someone who didn’t live it, but this is where our lives together started, so to me, it’s indescribably precious.
Then the scene shifts, the camera pulling back to reveal that the frame is actually a star hanging in a twilight sky by a string. The string is cut and the camera follows the picture on its way down before bumping into the next frame where it wobbles for a moment.
All of this happens within about fifteen seconds, even as time seems to slow down. I get closer to where Spencer is, and I can tell that her arms have moved from hugging herself against the breeze to covering her mouth. And while I wish that I could see her face, I’m not worried. The sunrise is right on time, lightening the sky so that the cameramen can properly capture every expression from every angle. There’s even one behind me, watching me watch her.
My eyes flicker back to the screen as the star settles and the still it holds fills the screen and starts to move. It’s summer and we’re playing by the pool at Aiden’s house. I shove Glen into the water and the two of us fall onto a lawn chair to laugh raucously. Glen then proceeds to climb out and shake over us like a shaggy, wet dog, dousing us in cold water. The two of us chase him out of the shot, and the camera pans back out, another star is cut, and we’re onto the next memory as the first chorus of the song begins and the sky loses a little more of its gray tones.
This video is from prom, and it showcases just how rhythmically challenged we are as we dance together. But then the crowd around us shifts, she hooks her arms on my shoulders, and we start to sway. I watch as young Spencer tucks a stray lock of hair behind my ear and leans in to kiss me. Tears blur my vision because that’s how it was supposed to stay. But my sadness can’t last long because Aiden’s goofy face appears close to the camera, putting all three of us in the shot. He grins, waggles his eyebrows, and gives a thumbs-up.
I laugh and look back down to present Spencer. I can tell at this point that she’s crying. Her shoulders are shaking and her hands haven’t moved away from her face. I can’t wait for her to see me. I miss her eyes. The prom star on the screen is cut and it pulls my attention back up to my life, my history, with her.
Yet another image takes its place. This is where I showcase our fight forward. It shows the two of us acting crazy on Whistler Mountain as we sing that stupid ass song from our youth. I can hear Spencer’s laughter, even over the music and crashing surf, and I see her throw her head back.
I laugh with her, though she doesn’t even know it.
The video then cuts to me flying through the air. Spencer braces against the stool as I impact on the screen, my lack of dexterity forever immortalized. But then the last verse of the song starts, this star string is cut, and it shifts yet again as the sun peaks up over the line of the ocean.
The next image to appear is one that I grappled with, but I’m out there in all of my glory as I raise my shirt and get showered in beads. Of course, Lily and I put a black bar over my breasts that reads: SPENSORED, and I’m glad to hear Spencer’s resulting guffaw. It’s a bittersweet memory, but she’s taking the good with the bad and finding the joy in both, and this is why I love her so much, why I’m here. Even if she says no, even if she’s not ready, she needs to know my intentions.
Another memory falls and I realize that the video is going to end soon. This is the second to last star, and it’s the beginning of our current story. All of the other content documents our time together, our journey, and it was one hell of an incredible ride. But this where I begin to show how far we’ve come and where we’re headed should she choose to say yes.
It’s from this last Thanksgiving. I had no idea that anyone had been watching us as I’d taken Spencer into the backyard, plucked her a flower, sang to her, and held her. And while I wanted to be frustrated with Kyla for the intrusion, I just couldn’t. I was glad that it had been captured, because while I remember it differently from a first-person perspective, I’m so thankful to see it from this one. There is so much love, so much tenderness. None of that uneasy need to fix shows through. It’s just a perfectly imperfect moment between two perfectly imperfect people.
But then it’s over, that last star string cut, and it’s moving onto the last memory as the horizon becomes a study in pinks and blues. And I saved the best memory for last. It’s just a random video of the day that we first started moving Spencer into the house. It shows me find the video games as I’m unpacking and relentlessly question the camera about them. Of course, she refuses to answer, so I walk up behind her, rest my head on her shoulder, and force her to turn the camera so that we can both be in the shot. I don’t even remember what I’m saying, but it’s all attitude, playfulness, and profound happiness. It’s the perfect finish for the video, not because anything’s over. It’s not nearly over. But because it shows that wherever we’re going from here, every day is only the beginning.
Just as that infernal song comes to an end, Spencer’s face on the screen turns to me and she smiles. We look at each other, kiss, and then a hand envelops the lens, blotting out the screen. It gets quiet, nothing but the crash of the tide and Spencer’s sniffling, and I realize that it’s time. My heart is pounding in my chest as I clean my face, swipe my hands on the thighs of my jeans, and start to play Al.
“I want to make you smile when you’re feeling sad…,” She’s startled, turning quickly on the stool to look at me. And when her eyes find mine, my heart stutters faster even as my nervousness disappears. “Carry you around when you’re arthritis is bad. All I wanna’ do, is grow old with you.”
She starts to cry harder, her hands returning to her mouth, and I smile, taking a step closer to her.
“I’ll make you medicine when your tummy aches, build you a fire if the furnace breaks. Oh, it could be so nice, growing old with you.” One of her hands slips down to cover her heart and I get a little closer. “I’ll miss you, kiss you, give you my coat when you are cold. I’ll need you, feed you, even let you hold the remote control.”
I strum out the instrumental part of the bridge, using it to close the remaining distance between us and get to my knees in front of her. I look up at her, offering all of me as I sing the last lines of the song.
“So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink, put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink. Oh, I could be the-”
I stop, as is tradition.
“Girl,” she chokes out, as is tradition.
“That grows old with you. I wanna’ grow old with you.”
I pull Al up over my head and lay him down in the dry sand before reaching into my pocket and retrieving the little box. My hands are shaking as I clumsily open and present it to her. I have to swipe at my face and try to remember what I’m supposed to say. It’s hard enough to just breathe right now. But I know that if I say the right things, if I lay myself at her feet, regardless of her answer, I will have done the right thing for both of us because it’s honest.
I have to go there to come back, and I want her to come back with me.
“Spencer Carlin, I’ve got a confession to make.” She laughs and my vision swims at the sound of it. “That song was about you.”
“Good,” she says.
“I’m in love with you.”
“I’m so in love with you.”
“So will you grow old with me, Spence?”
She drops to her knees in front of me, takes my face in her hands, and kisses me so softly that I’m not even sure that it actually happened.
“Yes,” she breathes out.
I want to weep with relief, excitement, and so much joy that I’m not sure that’s the right word for it. But I take the ring from the box and watch her carefully as I slip it onto her finger. It seems that Mr. C was right. None of the disappointment that I feared is present as she looks at the ring, fresh tears fall over her lashes, and she hugs my neck so tightly that what little breath I had left is stolen.
But who cares?
She always has been, always will be, and most certainly still is better than air.