The Non-Proposal

‘How’s your steak?’ God, is this really what we’ve come to? So many years of loving relationship and all I can say is ‘how’s your steak?’

‘It’s good.’ Liv said, chewing. She swallowed. ‘Yours?’

‘Yeah. Good too.’

‘Uhm-hmm.’

We lapse into silence again. It’s not uncomfortable, or rather, it wouldn’t be if I wasn’t so aware of all the other couples chatting around me. Happily married.

‘Just look at all these old married couples. Getting away to a hotel in a desperate attempt to reignite the passion or whatever.’

‘What?’ Is that what she thought about us?

‘For Valentine’s Day as well. I guess it’s an excuse.’

‘Hmm.’

‘This wasn’t too expensive, was it?’

‘No.’

‘It’s just, you’re not very good with money.’

‘What’s that got to do with it?’

‘You don’t really think whether or not you can afford something. You just spend and then…’

‘I wanted to treat you. What’s wrong with that?’

‘Nothing if you can afford it.’

‘Most girls would be happy.’

‘I’m not most girls.’

‘I know.’

‘I don’t want a guy to buy me things. It’s not what I want from a relationship.’

‘I know.’ Are we seriously arguing now? Tonight? ‘Look, I just wanted tonight to be special.’

‘OK. Fine.’

The waiter takes our plates. I stare outside. It’s raining.

‘Imagine proposing on Valentine’s Day, though. I mean, how cheesy.’

‘What?’ Fuck, fuck fuck.

‘How many girls are being proposed to right now, do you think? ‘Cause it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s romantic.’

‘Well, it is romantic.’

‘No it’s not. Valentine’s Day isn’t about romance. It’s about commodity. It’s about spending unnecessary amounts of money for no reason. It’s always a let down. If you’re in a relationship, there’s all the hassle of should I get something? What should I get? And all of that. If you’re single it just makes you feel like shit. It’s kind of like New Year’s you know? So much expectation and then…’ She shrugs.

The waiter brings her dessert.

‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Why are you looking at me like that?’

I’m not. Like what?’

‘Like, I dunno, like you –. Oh my god.’

‘What?’

‘You weren’t gonna propose were you?’

I down my champagne. It’s still raining. Getting dark, too.

‘John.’

‘No.’

‘You were. I can’t believe –.’

‘What?’

‘I thought — I mean, I’ve never really — I don’t really believe in marriage. I thought you knew that.’

I shrug.

‘John.’

Now she’s looking at me like a fucking puppy.

‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s fine.

‘Were you really going to propose?’

I shrug again.

She shakes her head. ‘I can’t believe –.’ She tries to take my hand. ‘Look, it’s not that I don’t love you. I do. It’s just… So many marriages end in divorce these days. There’s all this pressure on the relationship when you –. I don’t want that to happen to us.’

‘It won’t.’

‘You don’t know that. You can’t know that.’

‘Olivia, I know. Marriages fail because the relationship never worked before.’

‘I’m not even a good catch.’

‘What?’

‘You really should know that by now. I’m a crazy bitch.’

‘I love that about you.’

She smiles. ‘So…how were you gonna do it?’

I sigh. ‘I was going to take you on a walk on the beach at sunset and then…’

‘It’s raining.’

‘Yeah I know.’

‘Plus it’s kind of already dark.’

‘Yes.’

‘Look, John. I know it sounds stupid but I don’t want to marry you because I love you. I don’t want to lose you. To drift apart. You know?’

‘I really don’t think that would happen to us.’

‘But you can’t know.’

‘Olivia, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’

‘So do I.’

‘Then…?’

She grinned. ‘I suppose we would make some beautiful children. Evil little brats, but beautiful.’

‘Yeah, hopefully they’d look like you.’

‘Come on, the combination would be –. Blue eyed, blond haired – they’d be children Hitler would be proud of.’

I laugh mid-sip and splutter. Liv breaks into a loud fit of laughter. Some of the couples give us stern looks. ‘Sorry.’

‘Sorry.’ Liv bites her lips to stop laughing. ‘Tell you what,’ she says when she’s recovered, ‘I’ll think about it.’

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