Chapter One: When Questions Pop
02142009 – 1151P
AN: This story is the product of a conversation with my friend Leigha about why we would never get married. Happy Valentines Day, right? XD
As such, this story is dedicated to her, my fellow eternal bachelorette. Well, at least until she falls in love and abandons me in my chosen life of consensual solitary confinement.
Random fact: WinWord does not acknowledge the word "bachelorette" as part of the English language. Sexist fucking language…
I walked into the intimate bar, scanning the room for that unruly mop of brow hair that I remembered so well. It wasn't difficult, as even on Valentines Day, people seemed to avoid this place.
I guess "intimate" is a generous description of Sal's. Most would call it a dive. But our mutual hatred of crowds and asinine people had made the often-empty room a favourite place of ours. We frequented it back in the day, not so much any more.
But we still do this every year, on the anniversary of our ultimate undoing.
I don't know why we do it. Maybe it's masochistic, lining ourselves up to repeat the past, as we know is inevitable. And yet, year after year, we find each other here to complete the pattern.
This was to be our fifth year. I was now twenty-eight. He would be thirty.
"Teddy," I breathed, spotting him finally. He was staring at me from one of the booths towards the back, that familiar small smile playing across his lips. I sauntered over, sliding into the bench across from him, crossing my legs as smoothly as I could under the low table and smoothing the fabric of my little black dress across my lap.
"Anna," he greeted, his voice full of that familiar warmth. It made my heart melt instantly. "How are you?"
"I'm doing well," I answered vaguely. "Not much has changed." I always found this part of the night particularly awkward, trying to summarize an entire year into a few sentences. A few years ago, we would have sat here and talked for hours, probably until the sun came up, recounting every significant detail of the past year of each other's lives. But as the years passed, I could feel both of us growing impatient, slowly realizing that that ritual was pointless, as it had absolutely no bearing on the year to come, or even that night, really. Nothing either of us could say would change the outcome of the night.
"Same here," he countered, still smiling that gentle smile. "I ordered you your G&T."
"Getting me sloshed won't change anything," I said, hoping it sounded in jest. I got the feeling, when I saw the distinct line forming in his brow, that it had sounded much more serious.
"Can't blame a guy for trying," he conceded, recovering quickly as a waitress appeared with my drink. I sipped it, clenching my teeth together against the initial burn.
"Strong," I observed. He made a sound in the back of his throat in acknowledgement. It was always strong at Sal's.
"Anna," he began, and my heart tightened. I knew what was coming, just as I had every year after the first.
And sure enough, as he paused, he reached into his pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out that familiar little blue box, opening it and sitting it on the table in front of me. He had never gotten down on one knee after that first year.
"Marry me," he said simply. It was an offer, a statement, and a plea all in one. I sighed, snapped the box shut sharply, and slid it back to him gently.
"I'm sorry, Teddy," I whispered. I truly was. But I just couldn't marry him.
"Why? Why do you always say no?" he asked in a low voice.
"You know, I've thought about that a million times, and I've come up with a million answers," I said. It was the truth. "But not a single one of those answers will change a thing."
"You know, one day I'll get tired of asking," he said. I smiled, feeling the first twinge of regret I had ever encountered in our routine.
"But then, maybe one day you'll get tired of saying no," he said, as though resigned. I was assured in that instant that I would be here again next year, at least.
I couldn't bring myself to quash that hope. I should have. I should have let him know that it wouldn't happen. That me saying yes would be more cruel by far than turning him down, year after year.
But I couldn't.
So we sat there in companionable silence, finishing our drinks. Then he stowed the ring box back in his pocket, we stood, exchanged hugs and chaste kisses, and parted ways once more.
"Same time next year?" he asked quietly when I was almost out of earshot. I turned to him and nodded.
Anna Westin. Female. Daughter. Friend. Lover. Aggressor. Direct Care Provider. Slightly neurotic. Chronically commitment-phobic.
Any of the above could describe me in their own rite.
I prefer none of the above. I believe that I, like my reasons for not marrying Teddy, am much too complex to be summed up in one word or even a sentence or two.
I moved to the city when I was twenty-two, after I finished my journalism degree. My thought process was that in the city, there had to be more job opportunities than in the rinky-dink town I grew up in.
So not the case. Evidently every other journalism student in the class of 2003 thought the exact same thing. Jobs were scarce.
And so I wound up giving up my dreams of becoming Anna Westin, journalist extraordinaire (and future ruler of the known universe, though I usually keep from telling others about that particular ambition), contacting the company I worked for back home, and getting a job doing the exact same thing I did back home.
That was how I met Teddy. We worked at the same site, on midnight shift. There was a lot of downtime, so in just about no time there was nothing we kept from each other.
When I told him of my ambitions to become a journalist, he wished me luck.
When I told him of my ambitions to become the ruler of the known universe, he asked me if he could sit at my right side.
But what happened with Teddy in the past is not the point of this story.
The realizations it led to are by far more important.
AN: Uhm… ta-da?
I know I've been posting a lot of new stories, and then it kind of looks like I've been abandoning them. I haven't. But I'm feeling very flighty at large right now, and it's bleeding into my writing. All of my newly-posted stories will be updated, and hopefully completed. But for now I'm looking for something that truly grabs my attention.
This story was posted on the fifteenth, because I wrote it at work, where there is no internet connection. But it was written on the fourteenth. So… Happy Valentines Day, all!
Hope yours was better than Anna's.
Mine was fabulous.