The Proposal - A Drabble
“You’re enlisting?” Lorraine tried to keep the dismay out of her voice. They were only sixteen, why did he have to leave her already? They had only known each other a few months and that wasn’t enough in the larger scheme of things. She felt a moment of panic and a loss that made no sense because he was still standing right in front of her, studying her reaction as if he could read her mind. She knew he couldn’t really do that, but already he came closer to deciphering her moods and thoughts than anyone else ever had or could.
“I feel like it’s something I need to do.” Ed’s tone was both regretful and yet sure at the same time. He needed
to do this. She knew it, she understood it, she couldn’t even fault him for it. Even without the propaganda and the peer pressure that surrounded him on a daily basis, he would have eventually come to this conclusion. Because helping people, playing his part, doing his duty…those were all things that made him who he was and she loved those things about him. She just didn’t love that they were going to take him so far away from her into so much danger that she could do nothing about.
She tried to think of something to say and could only come up with one word. “When?” The answer he gave was worse than she had expected. Next week. September seventh. He was enlisting on his birthday. Of course it made sense. He couldn’t do so before then or he probably would have already. She didn’t know what her expression showed, but he clearly read something there.
His expression softened and he reached for her hand. “I don’t want to go…” He started, looking like he wasn’t sure how to explain. “I don’t want to leave you…alone.” He was clearly struggling with the words, with expressing his feelings in a way that wouldn’t upset her, would make her understand where he was coming from. He didn’t realize that she already did.
"You’re not leaving me alone.” She tried to smile for him, to assure him that it was okay. Even if it wasn’t, even if the idea terrified her. While it was hard not to let that terror guide her every thought and the what ifs overwhelm her, a part of her knew that they were meant to spend their lives together and that meant that this was a scary separation but it wasn’t a permanent one. “There will be plenty of people around to keep me company.”The look he gave her made her want to smile and cry at the same time because as much as she understood him, he understood her and she had never had that before. Not really. She had never been able to really be herself, never wanted to. She still didn’t fully know who she was but she knew that he loved her. All of her. He was never going to tell her she was being fanciful if and when she mentioned anything that she knew or felt or saw or…anything. She had found someone she could actually tell these things because he had experienced them, too. He knew what it was like for people to think you were imaginative or crazy or…weird. He knew what it meant to find someone who believed you.
He also knew that those ‘plenty of people’ might be there, but it was entirely possible to feel alone even in a group. It was something they both knew and he didn’t want that for her. “I know what you mean.” She added before he had to. “But, I’ll be okay. I’ll soldier through, just like always. I’ll be here when you come back.” She swallowed hard, her smile slipping just a little. The words were true. She would always wait for him. But, there was no telling how long that wait would be or how different he would be when he did come back, what he would go through in that time away.
For a moment, all she could imagine was waiting in terror day after day. Waiting for a letter or some kind of news…until the day came when that news was that he was injured or captured or even dead. The very thought made her body go cold and her grip tightened on his hand as if she could prevent it here and now. She suddenly wanted to beg him to stay. To tell him that he couldn’t leave her because she needed him more than anyone or anything, because he grounded her and kept her sane and…she loved him.
It was that last that brought her back to reality. It was that thought that was the reason she couldn’t do any of that. If she asked it of him, if she pleaded hard enough, he would give in. She knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt. He wouldn’t be able to deny her. And that wasn’t right. Because he would stay and he would regret it. He would spend the rest of his life feeling like a failure and a coward and who knew what else because he hadn’t done his part to help his country and those others being trampled and taken over by the tyrant overseas.
“I know.” His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes and she couldn’t imagine why. She had just promised that she would wait for him, she hadn’t protested any of this. She was offering him understanding and support. She wasn’t making this difficult at all. At least not more than it already had to be. “But…there’s something I want to do before I go. In case…in case I don’t come back.”
“You’ll come back. I know it.” The words were out before she even had a chance to think about them, and when she did she knew with a firm certainty that they were true, even if she could only feel it this deeply in this moment, she didn’t doubt it for a second. He would go, but he would also return and they would be together. They were soulmates, how could things be any other way? “I know it.” She repeated, trying to put all of that certainty into those simple words, to make him understand that she knew it. It wasn’t just wishful thinking or something she was saying to make them feel better. It just was.
“Maybe, but…I would still like to do this one thing..."
She tilted her head slightly and studied him for a long moment before she finally nodded. “Okay.” She had no idea what he had in mind, but it was clearly important to him and so she would let him do it. He let go of her hand and reached into his pocket, pulling out something small as he shifted to get down on one knee in front of her. All thoughts of what might happen, of Ed leaving, of being alone here, of going on day to day without him left her head as her eyes widened and she bit her lip to keep from speaking. He couldn’t be doing what she thought he was doing…
Taking a deep breath he looked up into her eyes and smiled, looking slightly nervous but still somehow sure that he was doing the right thing. “Lorraine…” He had to stop and try again, swallowing hard. “I know we’re young and we haven’t been together but a few months, but I love you.” He met her eyes for a long moment. “I love you and I think that’s really all that matters. I know that some things are meant to be. You and I are meant to be.” He opened the small box and held it up, revealing a simple gold band with a small diamond in the middle. There was nothing gaudy or large about it, it was beautiful in its simplicity and Lorraine was convinced she had never seen anything as wonderful in her life.
“Will you marry me?”
This time her heart was so full that she couldn’t stop the tears that welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks, making it impossible for her to immediately answer. Ed’s eyes widened slightly and she could tell he was wondering if he had made a mistake, perhaps acted too soon, asked too much. He tried to read her expression, still holding up the box because this wasn’t the reaction he had expected or hoped for and he wasn’t sure what this meant. “Lorraine?” The concern and uncertainty was clear and she quickly moved to alleviate it.
Holding out her left hand, she nodded and smiled, still unable to actually speak. He stared at her for a moment and then a grin broke out, lighting up his entire face and making his eyes sparkle. “Yeah?” Another nod and he took the ring out of the box, slipping it onto her finger and kissing her hand before he got to his feet once more to pull her into his arms for a more proper kiss on the lips.
When they parted, they were both smiling. He looked into her eyes for another long moment and his smile faded slightly into something a bit more serious. “You know I didn’t ask only because I’m going, right?” He sounded truly worried that she thought that was the case. That she felt he wouldn’t have asked otherwise. “I know.” She wanted to set his mind at ease with the truth and she had finally found her own voice.
“I do know.” She repeated, wrapping her arms around his neck as his were around her waist. “Because I love you and, like you always say, some things are just meant to be.”
Take my hand, take my whole life, too.