“C-come again?” I tried to say. My voice came out in a whisper, sounding hoarse as my throat suddenly seemed even drier than a desert, while the rest of my body was pouring buckets of sweat.
Did he just say what I think he did? I asked myself incredulously. No, no! He can’t ruin this, not now!
His eyebrows furrowed together, but his wide grin was still plastered across his face.
“I said, ‘Will you marry me?’” He repeated, this time a little louder as if English wasn’t my first language— which it was; I was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. Not one of the most exciting of towns, but hey, it got the job done of making me grow up. Or at least I thought so.
How in the hell is he asking me to marry him? I asked myself. We’ve only been together for…five years. And then I realized how dumb I sounded— actually, most girls – excluding weirdos like me – have given an ultimatum to the guy to get married if they’d been together for that long.
I looked around, and noticed that everyone had stopped and were looking at me, excitement over their faces, hands already poised to start clapping once I said yes.
But that was the problem. I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
“Can we talk about this later?” I squeaked, feeling embarrassed by my voice as tears started to leak out the sides of my eyes. Damn it, I was crying. How in the hell could this night get any worse?
It turned out it could.
The look on Sam’s face as I uttered those dreaded words. His face literally seemed to crumple, and his hand that held the box with the ring in it drooped to the floor. He robotically got up from his crouched position and slipped the box back into his pants pocket.
My eyes were still “watering” per se, as he got up and sat back in his chair, moving the napkin from the table over from his lap.
“Sam…” I whispered softly.
“Don’t,” He said quietly. He couldn’t even meet my eyes; he just kept them glued to the floor. “I think I’ll be staying at my sister’s tonight.” He took out his wallet, took out a few bills, and laid them on the table.
“Sam, please,” I tried to get his attention again, trying to grab his hand, but he simply pulled away. By now, everyone had turned around, trying to avoid the awkward scene as Sam left me and I began to embarrassingly bawl my eyes out.
What a great way to spend the few days before Christmas.
“He’s still not home and it’s been two days,” I sobbed into the phone, brushing my ball of tissue across my nose.
“Well, you did reject him after he asked to marry you. And it’s been five years, Ayden,” Scolded my best friend Mia.
I had known Mia since high school (just as long as I’d known Sam) and we’d stayed best friends, even though she ended up moving to Chicago. She was planning to come home to attend me and Sam’s Christmas party, but now…
“I know,” I whimpered, but the familiarity of the words that I had repeated and chanted over and over in my head, trying to convince myself that it was crazy for me to reject him, just sent another wave of tears that made my chest ache from the movement of hunching over.
“So? How are you going to fix this?” Mia pressed, just the question sending waves of nauseous running through my stomach.
“I…don’t know,” I whimpered. I hated feeling this vulnerable, I hated feeling like I was completely hopeless. And even worse it was only a few days before Christmas, which not only in itself was a big deal, but it just so happened that it was Sam’s birthday, too.
“Well, you need to fix this,” She protested, but I didn’t really even know what to say. It was several awkward, silent minutes before she finally answered, “I’m leaving now, Ayden. But when I call you back tomorrow, you better have fixed this.”
Click. And that was the end of our phone conversation.
I let out a heaving sigh and let the cordless phone drop to the couch. Here I was, sitting on the couch in front of my T.V., a box of tissues on hand just in case I had a spontaneous outburst of tears for what seemed like the third time that yesterday.
Sam still hadn’t called; I hadn’t heard a single word from him, not even from his sister. But even if he did call, what was I even supposed to say? I’d basically crushed him by saying no— and for no good reason at all. True, I was afraid of commitment, and I’d always been, but I had just assumed that Sam and I could just stay together for a while, and just not have to get married.
But, then again, Sam had always been the type of person to want to settle down eventually, and I guess that “eventually” time was finally upon us. Everyone else was growing up, but I was still left behind. Me, 28 years old, still trying to live out life like I was Benjamin Button, growing younger instead of older.
I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that when the phone rang, I felt like I literally jumped out of my skin, sending the blanket I had wrapped around my shoulders flying off of me to the floor.
My hands were literally shaking as I picked up the fallen phone and comforter, almost scared to look at the caller I.D. My body froze, shakiness all gone from my nerves, as I read the words appearing on the screen: Samuel Evers.
Sam. I thought in my head, and my heart started to race immediately. I seriously felt like I could hear my heart thumping against my chest, and I was sitting there for several seconds; unaware that I still hadn’t picked up the phone.
“Sam?” I finally got the urge to whisper fearfully into the receiver.
“Ayden.” He said. He didn’t sound happy, or sad. If anything, he sounded monotone; no emotion whatsoever in his voice.
“I…I missed you,” I said, raising my voice up at the end, like it meant something. As if just saying those three words would make him forgive me.
“Sure you did.” He said, sounding like he didn’t even mean it. Just like I thought, he didn’t care what I said; I’d ruined everything.
Just hearing him sound so distant and unattached made me want to start crying all over again. How could I have made literally the biggest mistake of my life? How could I have said “no” to the one person in this world who actually meant the most to me? How could I have been so stupid?
“But anyways, we need to talk,” He said solemnly, ignoring the silence that had followed after his words had stung me, almost physically in the heart.
“We need to talk?” I repeated. Wasn’t that one of the oldest lines in the book for “I want to break-up”? That line was older than ‘it’s not you; it’s me’.
“About what?” I asked, trying to sound somewhat nonchalant, but still, my voice broke on my words uncontrollably, making it sound like I was whimpering wildly.
“…Just meet me at that café on Halsted Drive, alright?” He said, blatantly ignoring my question. “Can you do that? Can you say yes to something for once in your life?” Sam emphasized on the word yes, making me feel even worse of a person that I already was.
“Mmhmm,” I replied quietly. I was opening my mouth to say, ‘I love you’ when I heard the click of the phone hanging up. Apparently, he didn’t care if I loved him or not. His mind was set on breaking up with me, and there was nothing I could do about it. How could you fix a broken engagement that never happened?
It was cheerful outside my apartment that I had once shared with Sam. The lights and street poles on the sidewalk and corners were decorated with wreaths and garland. There were green and red lights strung around the roofs of the stores, and snow was gently falling from the sky, adding to the small piles lined up on the sides of the street.
It was a beautiful winter day— not too cold, just the right amount of snow for snowmen and snow angels; it all added to the peaceful Winter Wonderland look. I would have reveled in it, but…
No. I couldn’t find happiness in this beautiful place. Because I was too plagued with the idea of losing the love of my life. And all because of one word: ‘no’. How could I fix things? Why couldn’t I just be normal like the rest of the people out in the world, who weren’t as afraid of something as minimal as commitment and relationships? Why did I have to stay immature for so long?
Even though I didn’t want to, I kept the tears inside so that they wouldn’t freeze to my face as I got out of my car and walked inside the café Sam had asked me to meet him. There were several happy couples in the booths that lined the walls, smiling and having a good time.
Was I a bad person for wishing that they were just as miserable as me?
I scowled as I walked by all the happy couples laughing and being all “in love”. Love was for saps, hopeless saps that were too afraid to face the darkness ahead of them.
Oh my god, that was really dark. I thought to myself as I took the booth farthest away from the door. I needed to cool it down, before I yelled at the guy and girl in front of me sharing a candy cane. It took every part of my being not to yell at them, “You know, that doesn’t look as cute as you guys think it does! Actually, it looks pretty provocative!” But, I resisted the urge.
I didn’t have to wait long for Sam to show up, only a couple of minutes, and he walked inside, wearing a trench coat-looking thing and there were dark shadows underneath his eyes. There was fuzz growing across his jaw, which was weird because usually he shaved every day. He just looked downright tired, all in all.
My heart literally skipped a beat when his dull eyes settled onto my frightened ones. It was just like high school over again— when I saw him talking to this girl named Alyse and I threatened to kick his ass; which was basically my way of saying, ‘I really, really like you’.
I kept my eyes glued to the table as he walked to the table, studying the wood as if it were telling me the future of my relationship.
“Sam,” I said, calmly and coolly as he sat down across from me.
He sighed and took off his hat, setting it on the seat next to him, and took a while to swing his tired looking eyes to me.
“Hello, Ayden,” He replied.
I flinched from his response. He sounded so offhand, like he wasn’t talking to the girl he’d loved since the 11th grade and throughout our four years in college. And worst of all, he didn’t even call me Aya, which was a nickname he gave me.
I’d always hated my real name, Ayden, since some people considered it a male name, but the way Sam said Aya made me feel more feminine, even though in reality I really wasn’t.
“So…what did you want to talk about? Or, you know, did you want some coffee or something first?” I blabbered on, not letting him answer because I was dreading his response.
“Because if you wanted to stay longer than you originally planned, that’s fine. I mean, I—,”
“Ayden, please stop,” Sam said, putting up one hand to beckon me to cease and rubbing the bridge of his nose with the other. “Don’t prolong this. You know what this is.”
I froze and stopped talking, my eyes transfixed onto his glazy ones. My fingers started to shake uncontrollably and I had to use my other hand to keep them flat to the surface as I answered, “This?” I repeated feebly.
He took in another deep breath, letting his whole body heave out. “Ayden…I don’t think we should be together anymore. I think we should break up.”
And in that instant, I felt completely numb.
I couldn’t feel my hands shake anymore, I couldn’t feel myself sitting anymore; a cold wave of shock was thickly blanketed around me. I couldn’t even see straight as I looked into Sam’s frightened-looking hazel eyes.
“B-break-up?” I heard myself repeat, my lips barely parting to let the words get out. “Why…would you want to do that?” I said, drifting off as I realized the answer. I’d rejected him. And now he wanted to break up.
It was my fault.
My entire fault.
“I didn’t want to rush anything, and I really thought we were going to get married next year sometime,” He said. My vision started to focus again instead of shaking back and forth, and I saw his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed.
“But when you said no…I knew that I couldn’t spend any more years with you without be completely committed to you, Ayden,” He explained, but it’s like…I couldn’t comprehend or understand what he was saying.
“But you loved me…” I whispered, not sure if I was talking to myself or him.
He must not have heard me because he continued on, “I know it’s a lot to ask, and may seem like a huge shock, but I wanted to go back to the apartment and get a few of my clothes while I’m staying at my sister’s house. I mean…we can work out the details later, you know…”
And then, once again, I felt myself sort of back out a little and then come back to life when he started talking again. Time seemed to speed up back to normal, and I found myself grasping the edge of the table and staring into Sam’s eyes wildly, frantically, searching his face to see if what Sam was saying what he really meant.
“Okay,” I interrupted him.
His eyes froze on me, and he had to take a big swallow before he finally said, “What?”
“I said, ‘okay’,” I repeated, staring off into space, not being able to focus on Sam’s face. “We can go over to the apartment. Things are over now. We’re…over.” I whispered.
The words weren’t connecting with my brain, I didn’t understand what I was saying. One minute, I was telling him it was okay, and then I found myself sticking my car key into the car door. The sound of the metal clicking inside seemed to wake me up, and everything was clear as I got into the car while Sam slipped in the passenger seat.
My hands were on the wheel, my foot on the gas, as I started to drive and I reached the first stoplight, I started to lose it.
“You’re breaking up with me!” I half yelled/half sobbed, my eyes focused on Sam instead of the light.
He flinched at my crazy-sounding tone. It had been quiet for so long that my sudden outburst scared him. “Ayden, I…”
“How could you do this to me? You know how I am; how I work! You should know that I need time to process things! And now, this!” I screamed loudly. Tears were tracking down my face, blurring everything together so I couldn’t see straight.
“Ayden, the light turned green, you should go…” Sam suggested hesitantly, almost as if he was afraid of how I would react to him.
I sent him a dirty look and only stomped on the gas when cars behind me started to honk their horns angrily. The tires squealed against the snow-covered on the ground as I sped through the streets; well above the speed limit.
“Ayden, slow down!” Sam screamed, putting his hand on my thigh to try and calm me.
“Don’t touch me!” I cried. Like an idiot, my arm swerved to the right to swat his arm away, sending the car turning drastically to the side of the street, almost hitting a couple of people walking on the sidewalk.
“Holy shit!” I heard Sam yell, just as I turned to the left to avoid hitting the innocent pedestrians.
“I’m pulling over, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” I repeated over and over again. I started to cry in another wave of tears, making my chest wrack back and forth as I pulled to a stop by a snow bank at a street that led to a dead end.
My hands were shaking on the wheel as my foot slowly eased on the brake, slowing the car down to a stop.
“Oh my god, I’m a wreck,” I whispered in fear of what I had just done. I looked to the right to see Sam, who was eyeing me uneasily, like I would explode any moment.
“Sam, I’m…oh my god, I’m so sorry, please don’t look at me like I’m crazy,” I begged. Tears were still streaming from my eyes as I didn’t even wait for him to answers.
“Sam, these past two days have been hell for me, literal hell,” I emphasized, suddenly pouring my heart out to him. “God, I mean, I didn’t know…what life was like without you. I’ve been with you for so long, I was just used to you and your presence that I didn’t even realize how much I needed you.
“You know that I’m not overly sappy, and I have a really hard time admitting my…you know feelings,” I struggled to say, still avoiding his eyes so that I couldn’t see them, judging me. “But, I know enough of my own self that I can’t let you can leave. I can’t…I can’t keep on living without you if it means this much hell for me.
I paused, swallowed hard, and closed my eyes, trying to prepare for what I was going to say next. “Sam, I…I…want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don’t care how stupid and overly induced with love I sound, I don’t care anymore about that.” I finished.
I finally lifted my eyes to look up to Sam, and saw that of all things, he looked confused, and a little bit bewildered. My throat suddenly seemed so dry, and fire was running through my veins in anticipation to hear what he was going to say.
“Are you saying that you want to get married? To me?” He asked, like he couldn’t believe me. Hell— even I couldn’t believe what I was saying. I didn’t even know that I felt that way. I’d never sat down and realized just how much Sam meant to me; just how much he kept me afloat.
“I think so,” I whispered, unable to believe what I was committing to. I had just said that I wanted get married. I, Ayden Liaz was getting married, and I actually wasn’t even freaking out about it. How in the hell had that happened.
Sam didn’t even have to say anything as he leaned in and his wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close so I could my face into his neck.
“I missed you. A lot.” He admitted sheepishly, rubbing his hand up and down my back reassuringly.
“Me too,” I said, trying for once not to be a wuss and start bawling into his neck again. Seriously, these past two days were the most days I’d ever cried in my entire life. And that was saying something.
“I love you,” He said simply, pulling away and still holding my hand in his.
I cringed, this whole moment seemed too sappy to be happening to me, but in a way, I didn’t even care. There seemed to be this huge weight lifting off of my chest, and it was all because I didn’t feel so off-edge, uptight (and alright, I’m admit it— crazy) because I had Sam back. Holy crap, I was one of those girls, the kind that didn’t feel right if their “other half” wasn’t beside them.
I didn’t care about whatever I was thinking.
I was just prepared to say ‘I love you’ and just spend Christmas/and Sam’s birthday with him, happy.
I opened my mouth to finally say it, but my eyes widened with horror on the object flying towards the car, coming from the other end of the street, where there wasn’t a dead end. I let out a scream that pierced my ears as the semi that came out of nowhere hurtling towards us and crashed into the car, sending me and Sam flying out the windshield.
To our impending death.
Blood. Everywhere. Literally everywhere.
On my clothes, on Sam’s, on the ground around us, staining the pure white snow. One minute, I was blissfully happy, and the next, I was wondering what was the strange sensation running across my scalp and forehead was. There was a strange warmth creeping across the top of my head, and I kept trying to focus on it, but it was like I couldn’t slow down time enough to understand what was happening.
And then my head turned to the right, to see Sam lying on the ground, a trickle of blood spilling out his mouth and a gnarly gash on his forehead. The snow behind him was stained with the bright blood, making a bloody, snowy, pink mess.
The neon brightness of the snow and blood was the only thing that seemed to register in my mind: red and white. Red and white. That was the only thing I could think over and over again, dazed, as my eyes froze on the ground underneath Sam.
And I realized that Sam was dying. Right in front of my eyes.
“Sam,” I breathed. I felt my hands twitch, and my eyes focus on Sam’s hand lying crumpled in the snow.
I reached out, my breath coming faster and faster, as the physical movement made me lose my breath. The warm sensation that had started at the top of my head was drooping down to my nose, and I realized that it was blood running down my face.
There was a desperation deep inside me as I reached for Sam’s hand, for the last time; I knew. I finally grasped my lanky fingers around his, and I noticed that his eye were registering onto mine, as he was still alive enough to hear me.
“Sam,” I repeated, feeling a few tears trickle out of my eyes, for the last time. A last time for everything.
“Ayden,” He said, his grip tightening more on mine.
He pulled me in, slowly into his arms, and I slowly lie my head robotically onto Sam’s chest. We laced our fingers together, so that our hands were intertwined, and held them together as we lie on the ground, our blood mixing in with the bright snow: red and white.
And I held my hands in with Sam, my love, my somewhat-not-official-fiancé.
And I died happy, with my Christmas miracle, Sam Evers.