A/N: A fun little story I wrote last year. Posted for the holiday seasons! Hopefully, it'll give some people out there a good laugh :)
Proposing With Onions
Exactly 1459 days had passed since Logan asked Jessica out. In less than twenty-four hours, it would be 1460 days, which would mark their fourth anniversary together (rather, their forty-eighth anniversary, since Jessica insisted on celebrating each month; this meant Logan's bank account shrank indefinitely and bordered nonexistence when a month included holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day).
'It's been long enough,' Logan decided. He and Jessica first started dating in their freshmen year of college. Four years later, both received their bachelor degrees and obtained respectable jobs with steady incomes. It was high time Logan took their relationship to the next step.
Currently, he sat in a little café, nursing a mug of steaming coffee. The foggy window seat offered a metropolitan panorama: towering shopping centers, weekend-shoppers bundled in coats and sweaters, vehicles that moved an inch per minute.
Logan took a sip of coffee, frowning in annoyance as his glasses misted over when the mug came too close to his face. He had considered changing to contacts, but Jessica claimed the glasses gave him a sexy nerdy look (he thought maybe "erudite" was the word she was looking for).
"I'm surprised you haven't asked sooner."
Logan shrugged. The woman across the table grinned over a venti mocha that was practically frothing with whip cream, chocolate syrup, and rainbow sprinkles. The drink was ridiculously large; it was also the most expensive item on the menu, which made Logan wonder if she'd intentionally chosen that since he was picking up the tab.
"Not everyone gets married the day after high school graduation," he said, referring to Liz's own marriage.
The woman licking whip cream off a red-and-blue stripped straw was Elizabeth Madeline Geoffer, otherwise known as Liz, otherwise known as Logan's girlfriend's best friend. Logan was quite sure Liz was married, although her ring finger remained suspiciously bare, and he had yet to meet her husband.
Liz put the straw down. "Hey, me and my man are getting along fine. We have a house, a car, and a white picket fence. The whole American dream thing."
"You don't have a kid," Logan pointed out.
"I'm still in my early twenties. Let me enjoy my freedom before it's invaded by sewer-winning diapers, ear-piercing wails, and ungodly 2 a.m. feeding. Besides, technology's advanced these days. I could have my egg frozen and still have a kid when I'm forty."
"You could always adopt."
"That too." She folded her arms across the table and eyed him through blonde fringes. "Did we come here to talk about how I'm going to make children or what?"
"Ah, yes, about Jessica…" He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, suddenly wishing he could sink into the vinyl cushion. Ten minutes ago, calling Liz out hadn't seemed like a bad idea. Now, under her amused – and he would dare say, evil – gaze, he was reconsidering his decision. "Do you think she'll say yes?"
"Of course not."
"It's okay to tell me the truth – wait, what?" Logan had been in the process of taking another sip of coffee. The brown liquid swished in his cup as he hastily put it down and gawked at her.
Liz was not grinning. She was smirking. "Yes is too plain for Jessica. I'll bet she'd kiss the daylight out of you, then run up and down the street like she'd just won the Super Lotto of the millennium."
Logan knew for certain now that calling her out was a bad idea. In fact, he could see the proverbial devil's horn growing out of her forehead, followed by the pointed tail that swished back and forth behind the table.
He put on his best glare. Considering that he almost had cardiac arrest, the effect fell short. "That wasn't funny."
"It wasn't supposed to be." Nevertheless, she smiled apologetically, and the horns and tails retracted.
"So what do you want to know?" she asked.
He looked down into his coffee. The brew was still rippling from the recent disturbance, distorting his reflection. His red hair, angular face, and a nose he considered too big didn't soothe his anxiety in the least. "I'm not sure if that's what she wants. I mean, I know that's what I want, but she hasn't…" He trailed off, searching for the most positive way to express his dilemma.
"She hasn't conned you into it yet."
Logan discarded whatever words had been running through his mind. It was true that Jessica was the one to initiate the events that pushed their relationship along. If he'd been the instigator, they'd be at square one and still awkwardly holding hands. Nonetheless…
"You make it sound like it's a bad thing," he said.
"I'm not saying it is. Simply stating the truth. After all, how'd you confess your feelings for her?"
"That was accidental. We were playing word association –"
" – which she most likely suggested –"
" – and the rule was to say the first thing that comes to mind when given a word."
"Let me guess. She said something like H, to which you replied with I. Then she said like, you said love; she said Jessica and you said you." Liz grinned. "Basically, she manipulated you into saying those three words."
Logan couldn't help shuddering at Liz's pinpoint accuracy – so accurate that it was eerie. As a matter of fact, the more Logan thought about it, the more he suspected Liz and Jessica had been conspiring together. However, he felt that it was safer if he didn't know, so he wisely kept his mouth shut.
Liz, though, wasn't finished. Anyone with eyesight could tell she was taking sadistic glee in the game of let's-see-how-red-Logan's-face-can-become. Wait. Scratch that. Even a blind person could sense her evilness, because her vibes were that strong. "Or what about the time she conned you into your first kiss?"
"Uh, let's save that discussion for another time." Logan prided himself in evading the question so brilliantly.
"Great!" Liz said. "Then you can treat me to another venti mocha with extra cream and syrup when we hang out."
Logan's pride crumbled. He hadn't thought of that.
"I'm joking!" If her arm had been long enough, Logan was sure Liz would've reached across the table to ruffle his hair. "You're so fun to tease."
Then her grin turned into a genuine smile. "But seriously, it's good that you're taking the initiative. I've been Jessica's best friend since high school, and I know that she'd never con you into something as big as marriage. If you don't make the first move, I can nearly guarantee that you won't have a wedding any time in the next decade."
"Ah…thanks," Logan said, after unsuccessfully trying to decide whether or not he should be offended by the last remark. Adding to his discomfort was the almost tangible stare he was receiving from the waitress behind the counter. Although he was sure his and Liz's voices were kept to a conversational level, muffled by the chatter of at least a dozen other customers, the waitress was eyeing him as if he were some extraterrestrial oddity.
He thought wryly, 'Maybe she can read lips.'
"So how will you propose?"
Logan returned his attention to Liz. Or at least tried. The waitress obviously had no inhibitions about staring at people, and he wondered if there was a law against psychologically harassing customers. He fidgeted, like an inattentive student who had just been called on by the teacher. Finally, he muttered, "That's my problem. I don't know how."
He thought Liz would laugh. She always did find humor in what she called "the beauty of cordial embarrassment." To his surprise, she said with every ounce of sincerity, "Well, what do you usually give when proposing?"
"A ring, but that seems so…" He frowned. "Simple."
"What about flowers?"
"She doesn't like flowers." Logan paused. "Except for black roses, but those seem too morbid."
"I totally agree." Liz drained the last of her beverage. "Chocolate, then? Jessica would kill for almond Hershey bars."
"Yes, but that seems too cheap." Logan didn't relish the idea of giving the woman whom he planned to spend the rest of his life with a one-dollar confection.
Liz thought for a moment. "Say the first thing that comes to mind: What does she like?"
The word tumbled from Logan's lips before he could stop it. When the waitress brought him the check, she seemed ready to call the police – better yet, a mental institution. Instead, she asked if he was feeling all right.
As the waitress left, Liz said with a Cheshire cat grin, "I think she overheard my idea."
Logan winced. "I really wish you were kidding about that."
Four hours later, he stopped in front of a two-story apartment building. In one hand, he clenched a plastic gift bag. In one pocket, he had a small velvet box which he believed would determine his future.
Jessica lived on the first floor, and her front door was as conspicuous as a salmon balanced on its tail and offering its brain on a golden platter. The odd simile was not a product of Logan's creativity; there was literally an aforementioned salmon by Jessica's door. In an attached speech bubble, the salmon said, "Eat me. I make you smart."
Jessica had a strange sense of humor. Logan had long ago learned why she and Liz were best friends. Although he worried for his health (more mentally than physically), he'd sooner be forced into an insane asylum than to not share nuptial happiness with this crazy woman who's the love of his life.
Jessica opened the door on the third ring.
A rush of warm air hit Logan smack in the face, and he wondered if she had somehow moved Hawaii into her home. She certainly dressed the part: a red tank top that hugged her slender frame, thin cotton pants, no socks.
"Logan!" Her voice sounded crisp, more suitable for spring than the forsaken winter he stood freezing in. She grabbed his arm, the one that gripped the bag, and pulled him inside. "Come on in. As much as I've always wanted an ice sculpture of you, I'd rather have the real thing."
He took his coat and soggy shoes off at the entrance, so as to not drip all over her carpet. The three-room apartment was small, but offered a sense of coziness that was enhanced by the wall's warm brown tones. He had come over enough times to be able to navigate through the apartment with his eyes closed. Yet at that moment, standing in the foyer, he felt like he was seeing everything for the first time.
"So what's up?" Jessica tucked a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear. She reminded Logan of nature: eyes green like rainforest foliage, hair the color of tree trunks, smile as brilliant as the sun on a clear day. Sometimes Logan wanted to ask her if she was actually a wood nymph who had cast a spell that forever enthralled him, but knew she would just tease him if he did.
"I missed you," he said simply.
She laughed, then surveyed him up and down. "We're not going out for dinner, are we?"
He blinked. "I don't think so."
"Then what's with the getup? Not that I mind seeing you in a silk shirt and dress pants." She winked, before leaning towards him. He caught a whiff of the body spray she always used. Mango-banana. "Hey, is that the tie I gave you for your birthday two years ago?"
He instinctively looked down at the tie; it was dark blue, specked with little moons and stars. It had been one of Jessica's milder present. He winced at the time she'd craved him a full-size bust out of mozzarella cheese. Yes, the tie was definitely a milder gift.
"I wanted to see you," Logan said, feeling rather stupid at his excuse. Well, he really did want to see her, but that wasn't the primary reason. Before he could consider how to bring up the subject of marriage, Jessica led him into the kitchen.
"Come, I'll make you coffee. I have hazelnut, your favorite."
From a high stool behind the laminated soapstone counter, he watched her rummage around. The monorail lights hanging from the ceiling washed the room in molten yellow and cast hazy, airbrushed shadows.
The light spun gold filaments into Jessica's hair, sliding over her creamy skin and pooling in the creases of her pants. Despite her small frame, Jessica had an ineffable grace in her movements – the way she scooped coffee into the coffee filter or poured water into the machine or glided across the kitchen floor.
He wished he could come home from work to this image everyday. Of course, he'd never try to force Jessica into domesticity (she'd kick him out of the house with an apron tied around his head first), but he enjoyed the feeling of family, of belonging.
"Here you are, sir." She placed a ceramic mug in front of him, then slid into the adjacent seat, her legs dangling above the ground. Cocking her head, she said, "You're such a sweetheart for coming all this way to see me –"
"We live a block apart," he said, confused.
She shrugged and smiled. "Same thing. It's the thought that counts. So is my absence the only excuse you have for coming here? Not that I mind."
He remembered the bag he was still strangling in his hand. Setting it on the counter, well-aware of Jessica's curious gaze, he said, "This is for you."
"You're such a dear." She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. Pulling back, she asked, "What's it for? Our fourth-eighth anniversary's not until tomorrow." Then, struck with an ill thought, she frowned, "You're free that day, right?"
"Of course." The response came automatically. He planned on taking her to a French restaurant tomorrow, a posh little place that, despite being new, enjoyed immense popularity. Jessica had been dropping less-than-conspicuous hints to go there ever since its grand opening. Logan was already feeling sorry for his checkbook.
He glanced at his watch. It was four hours until midnight.
'I should ask now,' he thought. A lump was forming in his throat; his hands were cold and quivering despite the heater that was on full-blast. Never before had he experienced such intense anxiety, not even when he went to his first interview (which, fortunately, was successful and landed him his current job, but marriage is nothing like an interview).
"Are you alright, darling? You haven't touched your coffee yet."
He blinked and found Jessica glancing worriedly at him. She hadn't opened the bag, but he could tell she was eager to.
"I'm fine," he said, and took a sip of coffee to placate her concerns. If he didn't love her out of, well, love, then her hazelnut coffee was worth his affections. The hot drink dissolved the lump in his throat, and he found talking easier.
Sliding off the chair, he reached into the bag and pulled out a necklace.
He heard her gasp, before he was enveloped in the biggest, sexiest bear hug. Suddenly the intense pain he had endured in making the abusive piece of jewelry was all worth it. Although he had spent less than less than five dollars on the materials, the hours he'd invested in its production were priceless.
"It's beautiful," she gasped, and touched the smooth, glossy orbs as if they were diamonds. The necklace was lustrous in the overhead glow, a fusion of green and white.
"I know you like onions," he said, trying not to grimace at his recent experience with the torturous vegetable. After much tears and sniffing and red eyes, not to mention pricking himself a ludicrous amount of times with the needle, he'd managed to string the bulbs together. The largest bulb in the middle had a heart carved into its center, where a small photo of him and Jessica nested. Beneath the picture was a tiny inscription: "Your love brings tears to my eyes."
Corny, but Jessica loved these things.
"Can I wear it?" she said, like a child asking for permission to open presents on Christmas morning.
She stood as he helped her put the necklace on. He was incredulous, and a bit envious, when the smell didn't affect her at all.
Taking a deep breath (unfortunately smelling only onions), he got down on one knee and gently took her hand.
A sudden realization struck him.
'No, this isn't right.' The feeling of something amiss nagged him, as elusive as it was irritating.
He switched to his other knee. 'This isn't right either.'
He stood up and unfastened the necklace she wore. Confusion darkened her eyes, but she remained silent. He got down on both knees this time, and presented the onions in a ceremonial manner, as if he were worshipping a deity.
The nagged feeling persisted.
Ten tries later, Logan was confused and tired, and Jessica was confused and amused. She gently pried the necklace out of his hands, and gave him a tissue to wipe his watering eyes.
"Why don't you rest a bit, dear? I'll get some more Kleenex for you."
Suddenly, Logan was engulfed in a shimmering wave of enlightenment. He rushed to the foyer, where his snow-crested shoes were making a rather large puddle of water. Absentmindedly promising to clean up the mess, he reached into his coat pocket and retrieved the velvet box.
Dropping down on one knee, he checked his watch, opened the box as gracefully as he knew how, and said with all seriousness, "Jessica, 1459 days have passed since we became a couple. In less than four hours, it will be 1460 days, which will mark our forty-eighth anniversary, and I hope that's enough time for you to decide that I, Logan Crawford, love you with every inch of my heart. I promise never to hurt you in any way, will jump off a cliff if you asked me to –" he paused, then added quickly, "though I'd like to know why first – and want to spend the rest of my life with you. So will you, Jessica Maria Vaneschi, marry me?"
For a moment, when she didn't reply, he feared she was trying to figure out how to reject him in the kindest way possible. Or if she was seriously going to make him wait four hours for an answer. But then the most beautiful smile blossomed over her face, and he knew everything would be alright.
"So how did it go?" Liz asked the next day. Another venti mocha with extra whipped cream and chocolate syrup sat in front of her, courtesy of a less reluctant and practically beaming Logan.
"Perfect," he said. The waitress behind the counter was staring at him again, but he could care less. "Thanks for the onion idea. I think that's what won her over."
Liz licked her spoon. "Yeah, Jessica's always been a sucker for strange stuff. I mean that in the most positive way, of course. Hey, at your bachelor party, you may consider…"
As Logan listened to her ramble on, he gazed out the café window. People milled about in stocky clothing, colorful blurred forms beyond the foggy glass. Winter sighed, releasing a breath of white flowers that danced in the night sky.
He smiled to himself, and daydreamed of summer days, wood nymphs, and onions.
End notes: Happy Holidays!