“Buongiorno! Table for two for Eric?”
Alyssa forced a smile as the host peered at his book and gestured for them to follow him. Her hand fell limp in Eric’s as they walked between the candle-lit tables to a private one overlooking the ocean. The view was incredible, but all the excitement and wonder she had been feeling toward the dinner had dissipated the second she had seen the restaurant.
“Fuck!” She thought as they were seated. “How did I not put this together? He’s been acting super weird all month and then we have this romantic trip to Italy and I didn’t think he was going to propose? God, I’m clueless.”
The more she thoughts, the more signs she realized she had missed. The awkward conversation she had watched Eric have with her dad on their balcony. His increasing stress towards scheduling every second of this trip. The way he had acted going through airport security. Yet she had put none of it together until she saw the restaurant. The moment she had seen the romantic, candle-lit, oceanside view, she knew what was about to happen. And her first reaction had been panic. Not excitement, not nervousness, but actual panic. She didn’t know the full extent of her feelings, but it was clear from her knee-jerk reaction that she didn’t want him to propose.
She had tried to stall, to convince him to take a walk on the beach with her, to do anything but go in that restaurant, but to no avail. Her suggestion to dip their feet in the water had been met with scorn, and so she was followed him to this restaurant, with this spectacular view and this dreamy table and this looming discomfort.
She sat in silence, pretending to gaze out over the view as her mind raced. “Fuck!” She thought again, but this time she wasn’t angry at herself. “Why would he propose without even talking to me about it? If he did, he’d know that I wasn’t ready. Because why should I be? We’ve been dating for what, a little over two years? I’m not even 26. I’m still on my parents health insurance, for god’s sake. And he wants to get married?” Her head swam with emotion.
“Am I the crazy one? Should I be excited? I have a guy who loves me, who took me to Italy to propose to me, and I’m…upset?” She chuckled mirthlessly. “God, I can already hear my mom scolding me. But still, if my gut reaction isn’t happiness, that says something, right? I mean, I love him. I do. But our relationship isn’t, like, the ideal relationship. We fight a lot. Or at least bicker. And I’m happy with him, but I can’t pretend like it’s not tiring. In the months since we moved in together, it seems like we’re always fighting about something. The dishes, where to eat, who’s friends to hang out with…it’s always something. Plus, that weird night where he stormed out of the party and was MIA until the next day has never sat right with me. Am I just being unrealistic, or is that not a relationship that’s worth committing to?”
She smiled and nodded as Eric made small talk, clearly too nervous to pick up on what she was feeling. Not that he did usually. Even earlier, when she had asked him to walk the beach with her, his response hadn’t been to key into her emotions, or even just do something she had wanted to. It had been to snap at her, like he always did. Is that what she wanted from her marriage, from her life? A husband who would snap at her when he was stressed, instead of working with her to face life’s problems?
She took a deep breath and focused her gaze. The voice in her head stopped talking, and she was crushed under the weight of the roaring silence. For the first time since they had sat down, her mind was as clear as the moon-lit sky above her. She knew how she felt. She had known it all along, but somewhere along the way she had stopped listening.
She closed her eyes to compose herself. Inhaled through her nose to steady her breathing. She had made her decision, and there was no going back. Her eyes snapped open and stared at…an empty chair? She was confused for a moment, and then glanced to her left. Eric was standing above her, eyes wide with nerves, hands shaking as he grabbed hers. She opened her mouth to speak, but he began first.
“I, uh, I was going to wait until after dinner, but, heh, I just can’t wait any more. I…I love you. Uh, more than anything, and I…I think you’re the most amazing person to ever come into my life. Since I met you, my life has improved in every way, and I don’t want to spend another day without you.”
He sank to one knee in front of her and pulled a ring out his pocket. She gasped as it sparkled in the moonlight. Her vision tunneled, blackness overtaking the warm glow from the candles. All she could see was Eric. Eric and the ring. His voice sounded as though it was coming from beneath the ocean, but she could make out the words as he spoke them.
“Alyssa…will you marry me?”