I was sweeping the floors in the café later that afternoon, and was glad that there was hardly any business today. After last night and this morning, I probably looked more like a fifty year old woman that a girl in her twenties. I let out a sigh and glanced at the clock. It was three fifty-five; five minutes later than the last time I had checked. I got off of at 4:15 and I seriously wanted to break the clock above the door so that time would stop.
I was gravely demented about this decision. I knew who I wanted to chose, but I knew deep down inside what my heart really wanted. I prayed to God that somehow he would give me the ability to freeze time; what a great present that would be.
A bell rang from a distance but I hardly noticed it. It wasn’t until I saw black sneakers on the newly swept floor that I realized someone had come into the café.
My neck maneuvered upwards and my breath caught in my throat when I saw that it was the same man who had been consuming my thoughts for hours.
“Emma,” Zach said with a soft smile. I saw him flick his eyes across my body and take a deep breath. “You look so beautiful today.”
I actually let out a scoff. “Are you crazy? I haven’t slept all night.”
“Neither have I,” Zach admitted, which made me curious as to why.
“Oh yeah?” I answered, making my arms stop the sweeping.
Zach nodded and took another deep breath. It was then that I noticed that he looked pretty nervous.
“Are you okay, Zach?” I queried with a slight grin.
“Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it,” Zach suddenly said more to himself than to me. I watched him while he closed his eyes and calmed himself down. “I think I’m falling in love with you, Emma.”
When my eyes bulged and no response came from my lips, he let out a nervous laugh and shook his head slightly. “I’ve been up all night thinking about it. I don’t know how you feel, but I figured it out last night that I like you. A lot; more than I’ve ever liked anyone else,” he said desperately, as if he thought that he was about to be rejected.
“Aw, really, Zach?” I asked, feeling delight calm my aching heart. He was such a sweetheart, and look at him! He was a nervous wreck right now! I stepped forward and placed a hand on his arm, casually rubbing it and telling him to calm down. He stared at my hand and I saw him swallow; it was as if he was intoxicated by just the touch of my hand. Oh, I liked that.
I removed my hand from his arm so that I wouldn’t have a fainting man on my record. Zach nodded and said that he was okay, he was just nervous about coming out with it like he had just done.
I nodded and smiled, “I can understand that. That’s really sweet Zach.”
“Well that’s not all that I have to say,” he added with a loosened smile.
I cocked my head in confusion. “Oh really? What’s up?”
Zach laughed shortly and I saw his eyes twinkling. “Well, I guess I was wondering if you would be my girlfriend. Is that weird? I’m sorry, maybe I should just go,” Zach started to turn towards the door and I rolled my eyes, laughing at his hair brained activity. I reached out and grabbed his wrist, turning him back to me. I raised my eyebrows and smiled. “No, that’s not weird, Zach,” I laughed, “I would love to be your girlfriend bu-” I was going to tell him that it wasn’t going to work out, but he cut me off in excitement.
“Really? Oh, that’s great Emma! You have no idea how happy that makes me!”
“Oh gosh, Zach. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that I would…I just meant that I would love to…”
Zach frowned and looked at me in bewilderment. “What?”
“Um. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’d love to go out with you, but I can’t. I just…I can’t.”
Zach’s face fell along with mine. “Why can’t you?”
I sighed and walked to a nearby table, letting myself fall into a chair without effort. “It’s complicated. I guess you could say that my family wouldn’t be too thrilled with the idea.”
Zach took a seat opposite from me and looked at me with sadness and disappointment fluttering in his eyes. “Well. You know,” he said suddenly, letting his face take over a mischievous glow, “We don’t necessarily have to tell anyone…”
I looked up at him in surprise. The thought had never occurred to me, but it still wouldn’t work. “It would be way too hard to sneak around, Zach. If my family found out, then I would be in so much trouble.”
“I know, you probably aren’t used to doing things like this, but if you wanted, then I could just come to the shop…”
I put a hand to my forehead, trying to think about the option. Why was I even thinking about this? I knew that I wanted to choose Drew. I didn’t even feel like I liked Zach, it seemed more like an attraction than an actual feeling. But then again, there was something so much more fun about this whole scheme. There was an adventure, a challenge.
“Zach, I don’t know,” I said apprehensively.
Zach suddenly put his hand on my thigh and squeezed gently. The action made me feel strange, and I wasn’t sure if I liked what he did or hated it. “It’s okay, Emma. Take your time to think about it. Is it okay if I call you?”
“Yeah, sure,” I nodded, presenting Zach a beam.
“Okay,” he said. He stood up and winked, “I’ll talk to you later.”
I could only nod as he turned to walk away. I felt a piercing pain in my forehead and grumbled in annoyance as I thought about the headache that would ensue from all of this. I suddenly heard a horn from outside. My eyes flew to the clock and I saw that it was five minutes past my shift. I couldn’t believe that it had gotten here so fast. I suddenly started to scramble for my things. Time seemed to slow down as I thought about Drew’s reaction to my answer.
In a way, I was glad that he had forced me to make a decision so fast, but at the same time, I absolutely dreaded confirming the words. I really didn’t want to go out to that car, but I knew that I would go crazy until this was all over. I picked up my pace and tried to hurry. No need to keep Drew waiting in the stuffy car.
My heart beat chaotically as I thought about Drew’s smile that would be awaiting me. Then I realized that he probably wouldn’t be smiling. Nevertheless, I still felt an incredible urge to see him as soon as possible and chaffed myself for thinking like this. The scary part was that it actually was starting to feel normal. Oh, gracious.
I rushed past Randy and ignored his high pitched pick-up lines. Silly fool. I wondered silently if he would ever get a girl. The little bell rang behind me as I pushed past the door. I saw the silver car waiting for me by the curb. I suddenly couldn’t feel my legs below me, and wondered if the bones had disintegrated from fear.
Drew suddenly leaned over when he saw me come out of the shop, and I saw him plant a smile on his face and then welcome me over with a flick of his head. My heart raced as my brain finally connected to my legs; move. I took a few slow steps toward the car and grasped the handle of the door. I felt as if 400 watts of electricity were flowing through my arm at the touch of the car, and it had me paralyzed, just standing there looking like a fool.
Drew suddenly rolled down my window and looked at me strangely. “Get in, Em,” he said with amusement. I could only nod, but it was shaky and stiff. I felt my muscles constrict and my arm pulled the door open softly. I flopped into the car and felt it shake. If I wasn’t so nervous about telling Drew my decision, then I probably would be laughing right now.
“How was work?” Drew asked, fulfilling the routine that we went through every time he picked me up.
“Just fine,” I answered shortly, showing my obvious nervousness.
“Look, Emma, you don’t need to be all nervous about this. I know it’s a really big decision, but about last night, I wanted to apologize. I never should have tried to persuade your answer by using our friendship. Whatever choice you make, then I’ll respect it; even if it isn’t the one that I want.”
I nodded, unable to find words for a moment. I forgave him; that wasn’t the hard part. “Drew, I’m so sorry about all of this. I feel like the worst friend right now. I didn’t have to agree to marry you but I did, so I need to face the results. No matter how hard it might be,” I added, referring more to my growing admiration for this man more than the small affair with Zach.
“So…” Drew said slowly, not convinced if this was my answer.
“Yeah, Drew. I’m choosing you. You didn’t really think that I would pick Zach, did you?” I said, somewhat annoyed. I didn’t really know what my issue was all of a sudden, but I suddenly just felt irked. Maybe I was just tired.
“Okay,” Drew simply breathed. I heard immense relief and a tinge of thrill in his voice, and I wondered why that made him so happy. Somewhere, somehow, I thought about the possibility that Drew was joyful because he wanted to marry me just as much as I wanted to marry him. The thought made me shiver, and I felt a tingling sensation run down the length of my spine.
I shifted in my seat, clearly uncomfortable with my thoughts, and Drew, being the observant darling he was, noticed it in a nanosecond.
“Why are you so twitchy? What’s on your mind?” he asked gently. I lifted my eyebrows; it surprised me of the sincerity in which he spoke. Lately, or maybe it was just me, there seemed to be something behind his words, something that wasn’t physical or understandable. I couldn’t place it, and this made me grumble to myself in annoyance.
“Fine, sorry,” Drew said suddenly, making me recollect what he had just said.
“Oh, I wasn’t doing that to you, Drew. I was just thinking. There’s a lot on my mind right now.”
Drew shook his head up and down, and then stopped in front of my house. I sighed and was on the verge of tears as I looked at Drew for the first time since this entire car ride. I saw his eyes shining, and despite my depressed feelings, his ecstatic face made me produce a smile.
“Why are you so happy?” I said, slightly pushing his shoulder so as to tease him.
“You made my day, Em. I’m just so glad you picked me.”
I felt myself blush. “Well, I should say so. It would be really dishonorable to disregard someone’s dying wish like that. Especially since he was pretty much my dad.” And because you’re falling for Drew, my mind stated. I looked down at my toes at the memory of Mr. Willings, and when I fixed my eyes on Drew’s face, I almost jumped at the sight. His eyes had suddenly turned from joyful to sad, very sad. I cursed myself for mentioning his dad and closed my eyes, feeling annoyance crowd my brain.
“I’m so sorry, Drew. I didn’t mean to mention…”
“It’s okay,” Drew cut me off, turning his head toward the ceiling and slumping in his seat. “I just thought that- never mind. I guess you’re just doing this for my dad, huh?” The despair in Drew’s question was eminent.
I squirmed at the direct question and avoided eye contact. “I- I guess,” I answered truthfully, not fully knowing the answer myself. Man! Why did this have to be so complicated? Why couldn’t I just straighten out my feelings? I was hurting Drew in the process, and that was absolutely not allowed in my book.
Drew then surprised me by laughing, but it wasn’t cheerful or full of life. It was cold, rueful; dead. He was staring off into space, and then he started mumbling to himself, “Who am I kidding? Of course that’s why she picked me, I…” Drew suddenly caught himself and shot me a self-conscious glance. I wanted to laugh, but I knew that if I did, then my life as a married woman would be a living hell. So I just sealed my lips shut, and tried to forget that my fiancé was talking to himself.
Fiancé. The word struck my heart like a gondola. Why, it sounded so beautiful, and believe it or not, the phrase actually fit us well. This engagement, although 90% of it was forced, was starting to seem unbelievably run of the mill. Drew decided not to explain himself to me, so I let out a sigh and pushed the car door open, leaving the automobile without another word.
I walked into my house with determination. I needed to sort out my feelings. Now.