This short story was published in the February 2012 edition of Pagan Edge. The theme was, appropriately enough, love, relationships, and romance. I’ve thought a lot about narrative convention and romance, and I wrote this to deliberately try to break that mold. Whether I was successful or not is for you, the gentle reader, to judge.
“Turnabout is Fair Play”
“Steve, just ask her already,” said one young man to his friend as he drank a beer. “Seriously. You’ve been flaking out for weeks.”
“This is the biggest decision of my life. I’m not going to screw it up,” replied Steve.
“No, Darnell is right,” said another young man. “You’re wasting time. You want to marry Katrina, so just ask her.”
“Great, thanks, Terence.”
“Man, she’s too good for you anyway,” continued Darnell.
“That’s true,” Terence agreed.
Steve sighed and ordered an appetizer for his buddies. “It’s just such a big decision, you know? This is the rest of my life.” He fumbled with something in his pocket.
“Is that the ring?” Terence asked. “You seriously carry it with you? Katrina’s not even here.”
“I don’t want to lose it,” Steve mumbled.
“You are totally pathetic. Just ask that girl. How hard is it? You pull out the box, show her the rock, and she already knows what you’re going to say.”
“But what if she says no?”
“She’s dated you for like, three years,” Darnell said. “If she was going to ditch you, she would have done it already.”
“Yeah, but this is serious. There’s like, no going back.”
“You really believe that? I mean, half of all marriages fail,” said Terence.
“I know, and I think it’ll be different with me and Katrina. But I guess everyone thinks that, and half of them are wrong,” Steve said. He sighed. “Maybe that’s why I haven’t asked yet.”
The other two groaned.
“Look, here we are, three single guys, and you’re the only one with a steady girl. Katrina is awesome. She’s totally hot, she’s funny, she’s smart. Just ask her already,” Darnell said.
“Seriously,” said Terence. “You call her up and take her out to dinner this weekend. You don’t have to go someplace fancy, just someplace nice. You propose to her, or we’ll tell her what an idiot you’re being.”
“Thanks guys,” Steve said dryly. “You’re the best. Really.”
But the next day Steve made a dinner date with Katrina. He settled on someplace nice but not fancy so she wouldn’t think he had anything big planned. And if she didn’t think he had anything big planned, she wouldn’t be disappointed if he lost his nerve.
After he ordered appetizers and cocktails, he thought about asking but just couldn’t quite work up the courage.
“Stephen, we need to talk,” Katrina said.
Now he was really nervous.
“We’ve been dating for a long time now. I think you’re a great guy. You’re smart, you make me laugh, and we always have a good time together.”
“Please don’t say ‘but,'” he thought.
She pulled a small box out of her purse and put it on the table. “I know this probably isn’t what you expected.” She opened the lid to reveal an expensive man’s watch. “Stephen, will you marry me?”
Suddenly he understood the meaning of the word ‘dumbstruck.’ In a moment, he regained his voice. “Of course I’ll marry you.”
Her smile lit up her face. “Good. I thought you were going to ask, and I was afraid the reason you hadn’t yet is because you didn’t want to marry me.”
“I want to marry you more than anything else in the world.” He leaned across the table and kissed her. “Um, would you like your ring now?” he asked sheepishly, pulling the box out of his pocket.
Katrina laughed until she was out of breath. “You are so silly sometimes. But that’s why I love you.”
“I love you too.”