He was on his knee before her. His big hands holding onto one of hers. The left one. There was something shiny and cold pressing against the tip of her ring finger. He’d asked her something. Some very important question.
She knew girls lived for this moment. They dreamed of it from the time they were old enough to know what Happily Ever After was. They pictured what it would be like to be sitting in the place she was sitting now. Not to mention all the stuff that would come after it. They never once pictured themselves saying no. They never had a reason to. Why on earth would anybody ever say no?
Her heart pounded in her chest. Like a horse’s feet on the racetrack. Trying to make first place. Trying to win. Oblivious to the world around itself. The sound of it filled her ears. Made it hard for her to hear anything else. She was shaking too. Nerves. Her blood rushing too fast through her veins. Anticipation. Worry. All the people staring. Waiting for her to say something. Anything.
But what could she say to him? How could he ask this of her? Him of all people, who claimed to know her and love her and understand her down to her very soul. How could he do this? Why? And why in public? Why somewhere with people who would look upon her as a villain if she said no to him? After such nice words. Saying that she was his best friend, and he’d loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her. Things that a girl expects to hear during a time like this. Probably things other girls imagined hearing when they were little and playacting this in their minds.
She was frozen. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t talk. She didn’t know what she’d say to him anyway, so she supposed it didn’t matter. She felt so trapped. Like a deer in oncoming headlights. She wanted to die. She wanted the imaginary truck to be real. For it to hurtle into her and put her out of her misery.
Just so she wouldn’t have to answer.
The moment stretched into an eternity for her. His smile was still in place. He was still brimming at the eyes with tears. Of happiness, she assumed. He was happy to be doing this. He, of all people. He should know better. He should know. They’d spent so much time together. She’d told him all her hopes and dreams for the future, and none of it had ever included this. She’d told him how she felt about this. How could he be doing this?
Her mouth felt dry. Actually, her whole throat felt dry. So did her eyes. Like she was going to shrivel up starting from the inside. Just implode in some freak dryness accident. She supposed that would be a good way out of this as well, despite how agonizingly slow it was happening. Any kind of interruption would have been welcome. She felt the stares of dozens of eyes on her. Drilling into her skin from all sides.
He squeezed her hand gently. She was officially taking too long. But it brought her back to life all at once. Brought her back into the reality of the world. The noise of the other people came back to her ears. The smell of the roses he’d brought, the candle flickering at the middle of the table. Him, there, on his knee, smiling at her so happily.
Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she discovered she was nodding and muttering the word yes. He was sliding the ring along her finger so it settled in it’s final place. Then she was throwing her arms around his neck and the people were applauding. The show had been good. They took her silence as shock. Good shock. He was happy with what she’d replied with, and so were they.