The Proposal | Short Story

“Well?”

 

For a single word it was a very loaded question. Its answer would determine the next step in their lives, or at least their evening. Their eyes glinted at one another, the implication of the single word bouncing back and forth between them like a tennis ball knocked over the net by friendly opponents.

An affirmative answer would lead them down one path, a singular event in mind, sprinkled with smaller questions along the way. It could change the way they saw each other, thought about each other, most definitely their physical relationship to each other.

But what about a negative answer?

Even a blind man could see the calculations being done between them as possible outcomes were weighed and dismissed in a mere moment, futures imagined and left to die.

It would be nice to think that a negative response would have as little effect on them as the positive one would change them. That they could continue on their happy way, changed neither for better nor worse, no possibility of bitterness or resentment, no awkwardness or hesitation in their next meeting.

But they were both too cynical to believe that. They knew that either answer would bring a change, like an impending storm, with those in its path knowing that it may leave in its wake a clean start to a new beginning, with all that that implies, or destruction of all that previously stood in its way.

The question hung in the air, like the extended hand, the glinting eyes and the taunting smile. They knew whose choice it was.

Eyes shifted, breathing quickened and nerves kicked in. Calculations, possibilities, potential failure. Unknown. All of this in the space of a few breaths.

Finally, the nerves be damned, the glinting eyes were met by shining counterparts, the extended hand partnered and fingers intertwined, the taunt of the smile returned by a grin.

The answer was the one heard in the silence between thoughts, the one spoken in the spaces between breaths.

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