He looked so expectant, down on one knee, but I couldn't tell him what he wanted to hear, knew I couldn't. So I did the only thing I was capable of. I cried.
"Those are tears of joy, I hope," he joked trying to lighten the mood. I just shook my head and cried harder.
Slowly he rose from the ground. "Halle," he started, but trailed off, before grabbing me in a bear hug. This only made me sob harder and the hiccups made it hard to breathe. I had trouble hearing what he whispered in my ear. Something about how he didn't mean to upset me, didn't want to pressure me, loved me, would wait for me, would wait for me forever.
He held me. He never stopped holding me. It was his way of saying he'd never let go. But there wasn't really a way I could trust that.
"I can't marry you," I finally said, still in his arms, cowering away.
"Why not?" He asked after a pause, tightening his grip, intent on letting me hide as long as I wanted.
I shrugged. "It's scary."
"Everything is scary," he said, now pulling away to look at me.
"I can't." I heaved a big breath.
Noah nodded. "Okay." He turned away, but toward the kitchen instead of the door. He returned with a glass of water for me and some Tylenol. He looked so dejected that I couldn't stop the words from tumbling out of my mouth.
"I can marry you on two conditions."
He looked at me, not speaking. Just staring.
"First, you need to promise never to leave me."
"Second, you have to promise never to break my heart."
Noah said nothing. He shook his head before heading to the kitchen and returning with his own glass of water. We sat in silence for a few moments.
"Then I can't marry you."
My head snapped toward him. "What?"
"I can't marry you, Halle."
"Why not?" It suddenly felt like a huge weight was being pressed on my chest, I felt queasy, my head started to pound. My heart was breaking.
Noah stood up. "Your first condition, yes, I can do that. I would never leave you. That's not what you do in a marriage. You don't quit when it gets rough. You work through it." He looked into my eyes. "My parents entered their marriage on rocky ground. They left divorce open as an option. And because it was an option, it happened." He shook his head and began to pace. "I refuse to go into a marriage with separation as an option. It's not going to happen. No, I'm not going to leave you."
I could feel more tears pooling in my eyes, and it was all I had not to cry.
"It's your second condition that I can't handle." He threw his arms in the air. "I don't understand it, but people think that when you get married or engaged or something, everything gets easier. No more fights, no more disagreements, no more hurt. But that's not how it is. It only gets harder."
He took a deep breath before crouching down in front of me. "We're going to fight. I promise you that. I'm going to make you so mad that you don't want to forgive me. I'm going to break your heart. Going to, Halle. I know I will. I'll tear your heart apart and stomp on it, and you'll squash mine and pound it into pieces. I can't help that. As humans, it's what we do. We hurt other people, intentionally or not."
Grabbing my face, he looked into my eyes. "But I can tell you that I will never intentionally hurt you and I will always, always forgive you. I promise to love you, Halle. I promise. I want to be with you for the rest of my life."