"Hey, what's wrong?"

What's wrong? What's wrong? Oh, like I would tell you. Hah!

Jerry has been asking me that for the past two weeks. And every time he does, all I want to do is sock him right in the eye. Except I don't, because then he would know that something really is wrong. And also because right now, Jerry is driving to the Crystal Room – a fancy little place where Sweet Sixteens are usually held, except we're going there to celebrate Jerry's grandfather's ninetieth birthday, not his sixteenth.

I really don't want to impair Jerry's vision by socking him in the eye while he's going fifty miles an hour (which is illegal, since the speed limit is only thirty) because then he'd crash the car, and we'd be the stars of the five o'clock news (which would be so embarrassing – I don't want to be on television when I'm unconscious and piteously ugly. I just know that my hair would get messed up in the crash, and it looks really nice tonight).

So instead I just glare at him and continue staring out the window.

Because I am so not telling him why I've been acting like a rabid dog whenever I'm around him. Jerry is just one of those guys. You know, the kind of guy who can't take anything seriously, who is always a kid at heart. Which really makes me kind of mad. I mean, I'm twenty-seven years old here (But I just turned twenty-seven last week, so I could still be considered twenty-six, right?? But in dog years . . . oh god, in dog years, I'm 189 years old!!!). I'm ready to get married and he's still not ready to give up his Nintendo 64 (which doesn't even work, by the way).

But what does he expect me to do? Propose to him? No. No way. Is it wrong for me to want just one tiny, fleeting ray of romance in my relationship?

No, it isn't. But romance requires Jerry to be serious. And I've only seen Jerry be serious twice – once when his brother, Tony, and I were slow dancing together at their cousin's wedding and Jerry had punched Tony in the face (which doesn't even make sense, because Jerry says that he hates slow dancing. If he wanted to slow dance that badly, he could have just asked his mom or something. Jeez.), and then at my mom's funeral. But I don't think anyone wasn't serious then.

"Lex," Jerry whines as we pull into the parking lot, but I ignore him some more and climb the marble steps into the Crystal Room.

The Crystal Room is not, as I first imagined, made entirely of crystal (even though that would have been so cool). The little round tables with their cute white table cloths and freshly cut daisies are situated closer to the walls because in the middle, there is a dance floor, which some people are already on (it's only the little kids – there is no grinding, thank god). There's one rectangular table set opposite the DJ that is presumably reserved for Grandpa James since there is a giant banner above it that says 'Happy Birthday, Rocky!'

I bet Jerry thought of that since Jerry knows that Grandpa James always wanted to be a boxer. And Jerry is just so funny.

Jerry comes in while I'm staring at the banner and goes, "You like it? I thought of that."

As if he's proud of it. You know, I bet he is proud of it. Good. Good. I'm happy that he's proud. Because Jerry is so FREAKING HILARIOUS that he should just quit his job and become a full time comedian. Or better yet, he can take Ashton Kutcher's job and be the host of Punk'd. Because Jerry would just love that. The only requirement is that you can't take anything seriously. Jerry mastered that a long time ago, folks!

You know what else? I'm glad that he hasn't proposed to me. Because I know that Jerry would be one of those guys who videotapes his wife during childbirth. And he would stand just far away enough so that I won't be able to strangle him. And when I die, I bet he would do something stupid like rig my corpse so it looks like I'm moving, just to have one last laugh.

And honestly, do you really need that? You're sitting there, up in heaven (or wherever you end up going after you die) and just when you're about to hear why everyone loved you so much, do you really need your husband ruining it and making everyone run away screaming because he thought it would be fun to pull one last practical joke?

No, you really don't.

"Hilarious," I spit at him sarcastically.

Jerry sighs exasperatedly, as if he's tired of me. Well, then so be it. Break up with me now, I dare you.

"Lex," he pleads. His bright green eyes widen a little and his forehead creases with worry. "Tell me what's bothering you. Are you still upset over that whore?"

I narrow my eyes at him. Uh, no, I'm not upset over that hag who was all over you two weeks ago. God, she wasn't even pretty. Plus, her name was really misleading. Because you don't expect a girl named Mary-Beth to be a slut with really fake boobs that unzip her sweaters for her. But you know what, Jerry? If you want to go shack up with her and her giant stretch mark covered boobs (not that I looked at them or anything. But you can't have boobs that big and not have stretch marks on them) in the back of your ugly Ford Explorer, go right ahead, because I could care less. Really.

I'm about to tell Jerry all this, but I don't have to answer because just then, his cell phone rings.

"Hello?" he asks into the phone. "Yeah, you have it? Good . . . yeah, I'll put it on right before . . . awesome, thanks."

He hangs up the phone and he's grinning at me as if he has some kind of secret. Oh my God. What if he knows? I mean, I talk about the lack of proposal thing to my best friend Gaby all the time. What if one of Jerry's friends overheard and told Jerry? And now he knows and plans on embarrassing me at his grandpa's party, right before he breaks up with me because he doesn't want to marry me!

I mean, Jerry has been acting weird lately. He kept asking me how much I love him and why I love him. At the time, I passed it off as self-esteem issues. But I bet he was just making sure that I still liked him so he could embarrass me in front of everyone. And he's been kind of sneaky . . . because he was formulating his plan! I bet he's going to tell everyone that I snore too.

By the way, I don't snore. Loudly.

And he's going to tell them that my face gets all blotchy and red when I eat strawberries because I'm allergic to them, I just know it. He probably brought strawberries with him to hide in my food. That's it. I'm not eating anything. If Jerry's going to embarrass me, at least I won't be ugly while he's doing it.

And what did he mean, "yeah, I'll put it on right before." Before WHAT? Before you dump pig's blood all over me? And what is he putting on? Pictures, I bet. Probably the ones where I was over his house and I fell asleep with his dog's butt in my face. He's going to say that I love smelling his dog's butt. I didn't even smell anything, anyway because his dog only stayed there for like five minutes before jumping off the couch and curling up in her doggie bed.

And just for the record, I do not consider a certain pair of Hello Kitty underwear my luckiest pair of underwear. I didn't even buy the stupid underwear; it was a gift.

"Lexie!" someone calls my name. I look over and I see Tony, and immediately Jerry scowls. Jerry should really get over his inferiority issues. Being a younger brother is not as horrid as Jerry makes it out to be.

"Tony!" I smile, and go over to hug him. "How are you?"

"Better, now that you're in my arms, baby," he says, but I know he's only joking, so I just laugh. "So, you're still going out with my loser of a baby brother?"

Jerry obviously can't take a joke when it's aimed at him. I see the stiffness of his jaw and I roll my eyes. Jerry pulls me over to him not so gently and goes in a warning voice, "Tony, I told you to – "

Tony doesn't let Jerry finish though, because he lets out a chuckle and ruffles Jerry's hair a little (which doesn't really give off the condescension Tony was probably going for since Jerry and Tony are the same height), going, "Relax!" before walking over to kiss his mom hello.

Jerry turns to me and kisses me sweetly. All my anger immediately dissipates once our lips touch. God, I'm so pathetic. I should just break up with him first. Except I know I can't, because I'm totally, irrevocably in love with Jeremiah Austin, even if he is an infuriating goofball. Who doesn't want to marry me.

But whatever. I'm totally fine with it. Really, I am. I'm actually happy. Marriage makes everything so serious. You know, I think I'd rather be single for the rest of my life and just hunker down with twenty-or-so cats. You have to admit, cats can be pretty darn cute.

Oh god, who am I kidding?! I HATE cats! I've been dreaming of my wedding dress ever since my mom showed me hers when I was seven years old.

"I love you, so much, Lex," Jerry says when we stop kissing. He's looking deeply into my eyes, his bright green ones searching my dark brown ones.

I smile at him genuinely because I can't help it. "I love you, too."

"Hey! Lovebirds," Gaby, my best friend calls over to us. "Get into position, Grandpa James is nearly here!"

Jerry takes my hand and leads me over by the tables. Yeah, this party is a surprise party. I don't think that it's such a good idea though, since, you know, the guy is ninety years old and all. I just hope there's an ambulance parked outside.

"SURPRISE!" everyone yells, as Grandpa comes through the double doors.

I wait for his heart to fail, but to my delight, he laughs merrily as Jerry's dad wheels him over to his table. We all turn to sit down, but I hear my name being called. I turn – it's Lucy, Jerry's youngest cousin.

"Come dance with me," she says excitedly, jumping around a bit, so her dark curls bounce with her. It's just so cute that I can't resist, so I pick her up and start spinning her around on the dance floor.

"Lexie, you're the best," she giggles as I set her down on the floor and spin myself around a little. "You should marry Jerry so you can be in my family forever!"

"Ha-ha," I laugh uneasily, "we'll see about that, kid."

See, even little Lucy knows when it's time to pop the question, which apparently Jerry isn't going to do, ever. I hope Lucy isn't here when he dumps pig's blood on me. And I know Jerry's going to do it because he keeps grinning his face off. Except for when Tony joins Lucy and me for a goofy dance. Then he scowls his face off. It's really not attractive.

When dinner is served, I don't really eat any of it because I'm still paranoid about Jerry's plan. Although I'm sure no one would notice my splotchy face if Jerry dumps pig's blood on me. But still, I get a little itchy from strawberries too, so I remain cautious throughout dinner. Jerry notices that I'm not eating, so he moves the blonde curtain of shiny loose curls that is my hair from obscuring my face and he thinks I just don't like the food. So he acts really sweet and calls over one of the Crystal Room workers and tries to order a veggie burger for me, since I am a vegetarian, but they say that they can't get me one. It almost makes me want to get down on my knees and propose to him right then and there, but I decide not to chuck all of my dignity out the window (most of it is already gone since I'm actually staying here even though I know Jerry has something planned – but I love him too much to leave) and remain seated. Besides, I am not kneeling while in my super pretty gold dress. So instead I spend the remainder of dinner staring at my water glass forlornly.

Finally Ben, Jerry's best friend, tears me from my gloom and asks me to dance, since the DJ finally stopped playing the High School Musical Soundtrack and put on romantic, slow music. I eagerly get up and take his hand, but I don't miss Jerry scowling at Ben, which is weird, because Jerry and Ben never fight (especially because when you say their names together as Ben and Jerry, they sound like the brand of ice-cream. Obviously they are destined to be best friends forever).

After a few songs, Jerry, to my surprise (and delight – Ben squished eight of my ten toes. Twice.) cuts in. I wrap my arms around his neck and snuggle into his chest. And while we are slow dancing the music stops, and something miraculous happens. Jerry gets down on one knee and says, his voice full of fiery passion, "Alexandra Madison, you are the light of my soul. Without you, I cannot breathe, I cannot live; without you, I am nothing. I love you with the passion of four thousand suns burning in unison, and I can never love another so greatly; for you, my darling, are my soul mate, my saving grace, my sweet, sweet angel. So my goddess, make me the happiest man the gods have ever seen, and bind your heart to mine in holy matrimony. Oh, Alexandra, my love, say yes, say yes!"

And so I did. And we lived happily ever after.

Just kidding! But there was a proposal. For Gaby. Her boyfriend, Chase, inconspicuously maneuvered himself and Gaby to the center of the dance floor. Then the music lulled and he asked her to marry him, and she said yes, of course. It was very cute, but Jerry, not to my surprise, didn't think so.

"That was sweet," I comment, as we begin dancing again.

"Lame is more like it," he snorts.

"Why, because they're getting married? What's so bad about it, Jerry?" I snap.

He looks a little bewildered. "Nothing, just the proposal was a little boring."

"Yeah, because anything that doesn't have a practical joke is just a huge snore-fest, isn't it?" I demand angrily.

Now he looks really confused. "Lex, what – "

But I cut him off, because I really don't want to hear it. "Just forget it, okay? You don't understand," I say, before pushing away from him because the people around us are starting to stare a little.

I head over to the chocolate fountain and grab a few marshmallows to drown my sorrows. Because now I know for sure that Jerry doesn't want to get married. And I can't accept it. Plus, there's still the possibility of him embarrassing me in front of everyone. In my haste to get more marshmallows, I accidentally grab a strawberry and almost stuff it in my mouth, but a hand stops me.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," the voice says, and I look up and it's Gaby.

"Hey, congratulations," I say sincerely, putting the strawberry on a paper plate.

She beams, "Thanks." But then she turns serious. "Are you okay?"

I frown. "No, not really. I don't think he'll ever be ready to get married."

"Aw, Lexie," she says sadly. "I'm sure he'll come around."

I'm about to reply, 'Yeah, maybe at his ninetieth birthday party," but I hear Jerry call my name. I turn around, and he's grinning at me. Obviously, my earlier anger had no effect on him.

"Come look at the cake before we cut it," he says, gesturing down at the cake.

I sigh and roll my eyes. "Jerry, I don't care about the stupid cake."

"Come on, Lex," he insists, "you have to see it."

"Oh, just go over there," Gaby says, giving me a little push.

Annoyed, I walk over and Jerry proudly picks up this cake, which, if you ask me, is a little bit too small if it's going to serve all these people, and holds it out for me to see.

It's probably a stupid picture of Grandpa's head photoshopped onto Rocky's body or something. I decide to laugh at it anyway, only because everyone is watching me. But when I glance down, I see, on vanilla frosting, words spelled out in my favorite color, forest green, because the color is so similar to Jerry's eyes.

Lex, will you marry me?

And instead of dotting the i with frosting, there is the prettiest ring – sterling silver with a sparkling rectangular diamond – sitting in its place.

I feel my eyes widen. And then I scream and jump a little.

Because I know. This is the ultimate prank Jerry can play on me. No amount of pig's blood or dog butt sniffing pictures could ever be worse than this. Because he's dangling what I want most right in front of me. And once I reach out for it, he's going to snatch it away.

My eyes quickly fill with hot, angry tears, and finally I tear my eyes from that stupid cake and raise them to meet Jerry's expectant ones. "Everything is a joke to you, isn't it, Jerry?" I ask coldly. Except I sound more pathetic than angry because I'm crying just a little.

I turn and start to run away, but I Jerry goes, "No, Lex, wait!" And he's running after me.

But I won't let him catch me. Because he's . . .

. . . grabbing me by the waist and turning me around. God, I wish I was on the track team in high school.

I refuse to look him in the eyes so I look all around me, and I see the bewildered faces of Jerry's parents and my dad, the sad faces of Gaby and Lucy, and the sleeping face of Grandpa James. Nice. Because I so wanted an elderly man, drooling and sleeping in the background while the love of my life (fake) proposes to me.


I look down at the ground instead because I'm so embarrassed. Everyone is here to witness my greatest heartbreak. I don't even know some of these people! I start to glare at the ground a little, because I really just want it to open up and swallow me so I don't have to deal with this anymore. But Jerry places his hand against my cheek and turns my head to look at him. And when I finally do look at him, I almost want to start crying again.

Because Jerry just looks so adorable. His eyebrows are furrowed with worry and his green eyes are so, so beautiful and intense. His usually messy brown hair is even messier than usual because he pulled at his hair in frustration a couple times. The sleeves of his dark blue button down dress shirt are rolled up to his elbows, so his arms are showing, and I'm finding his arms really, incredibly attractive at that moment. I really just want to stretch up on my tip-toes and plant a big fat one right smack on his lips.

"Lex," he breathes, and I swoon a little (though I don't think it's noticeable). "How could you think that I'd joke about something like this?"

I sniffle a little. "You're hardly ever serious. How am I supposed to believe you sometimes? You can be so immature. You're twenty-nine years old, but you act like a four year old whenever we're around other people. Besides, we've been going out for three years, and we haven't had one conversation about marriage. What am I supposed to think when you suddenly decide to propose, right after you bash Chase's proposal?"

"I didn't bash his proposal," Jerry says, a little indignant. "I was merely . . . commentating."

"Jerry," I sigh, sounding a little bit like I'm scolding him.

Suddenly, there's a fire in Jerry's eyes (because he hates it when I speak to him like that), and I feel like he's literally burning holes right through me and staring into my soul. "Do you want to know why I act like a little brat whenever Tony or Ben is around? Because I know how amazing you are, and I am so scared that one day, you'll wake up and realize that you'd rather have Ben, the physics genius extraordinaire, or Tony, the filthy rich lawyer who can give you anything you want, or Tristan, your next door neighbor, who can be serious enough for the both of you for a century in the span of one day – seriously, does that guy ever laugh?"

I open my mouth to point out, that Tristan does, in fact, laugh. Okay, so he was laughing at me because I tripped and fell on my face right in front of his feet. But it was still a laugh.

But Jerry holds up a hand and goes, "I don't even care; it doesn't matter. But what does matter is this." Jerry's face softens and he cups my face with his warm hands and stares even deeper into my eyes. "Lex, you are so beautiful but you don't even realize it. Guys fall at your feet, guys who can buy you million dollar mansions and private jets, guys who can treat you in the way that you deserve to be treated."

I reach up and take his hands from my face angrily. "Yeah, those guys you speak so reverently of, they would just treat me like shit. Guys like that don't care who they hurt because they fix all of their mistakes with their money – god, are you still hung up on Sleazy Stevey?"

One time, there was this guy named Steve, but I always refer to him as Sleazy Stevey, because, well, he was a total sleaze. I was on a date with Jerry, and Sleazy Stevey came up to me, and offered me money to ditch Jerry (whom Sleazy Stevey referred to as 'the hobo' even though Jerry looked really nice that night) and go back to his hotel room with him, as if I was some kind of prostitute. Jerry was practically shaking with anger that night. I half expected to discover that he was secretly the Hulk (he does have green eyes, after all), but either he controlled his anger and didn't transform or he just isn't the Hulk.

I'm going with the latter.

"What?" Jerry asks, shaking his head a little. "No. Lex – I – I just . . ." he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to find the right words. "You're like . . . a zoo."

My eyebrows go way up at that. I think the reason why Jerry is never romantic is because he's absolutely horrible at it.

"No, just listen," he says sounding a little panicky, and putting his hands on my shoulders so I can't turn away. "You know when you see a rhinoceros, or whatever running around in the wild, you find it sort of breathtaking because the animal is beautiful and powerful, and out in the wild it can do almost anything it wants to because it's free. But then some animals are taken to a zoo. And that vision that takes your breath away, is suddenly gone because the animal isn't free anymore; it's chained down and unhappy, and it only wants to escape. You are sort of like that. I'm afraid that marriage will make you unhappy because you have . . . my mom said this . . . you have a free spirit. I don't want to tame it and make you unhappy, because if you ran away from me . . . I don't know what I would do, Lex.

Then Jerry's cupping my face again, and going, really sincerely and smiling softly, "I love you, Alexandra Madison, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. How could you see it any differently?"

And then, the choir is singing, and the birds are tweeting, and puppies are all being taken from their puppy mills and being brought to happy little homes, and I'm able to ignore the fact that Jerry just told me that I'm like an ugly, dull rhinoceros, because Jerry really wants to marry me. So then I reach up and move Jerry's hands from my face, and I hold his hands in mine. He looks at me a little sadly, as if he thinks I'm rejecting him. But then he listens to what I say next.

"Jeremiah Austin," I say. Then I take a huge breath, smile softly back at him, and go, "For the longest time, I have known that you are the Noah to my Allie, the Paulie to my Juno, the Beast to my Belle. And for the longest time, I have been waiting for you to ask me to marry you, because I don't know what I would do if you didn't spend the rest of your life with me."

Then Jerry and I are grinning like the biggest idiots on earth, and everyone is clapping and whistling for us, but I don't really care, because I'm finally, finally, finally engaged! Jerry, after kissing my face off (not that I was complaining or anything), reaches into his pants pocket and slips the ring on my finger. I feel something sticky so I turn my hand over and see that Jerry hasn't wiped all the frosting and cake off, so a little bit is smeared on my finger.

Jerry sees me looking at my hand, so he comes over and goes, "Hey, what's wrong, future-Mrs. Austin?"

Instead of ignoring him, I pick up a piece of cake sitting on a nearby table and smear some frosting on his nose.

"That's for not cleaning my ring properly," I say haughtily, but I'm smiling, so Jerry knows I'm joking.

"Yeah?" Jerry asks. Then he takes the cake from my hands and squishes a chunk onto my cheek. "That's for making me get all sappy in front of my whole family and all of my friends."

Then he starts running away.

That's my fiancée (I love being able to say that). He's a jealous, goofy moron who compares me to smelly zoos and fat rhinoceroses and wipes cake all over my face and runs away like a coward. But, like I said, Jerry is the Noah to my Allie, the Paulie to my Juno, and the Beast to my Belle. Most importantly, however, Jerry is mine.

And I'm never letting go.

Well, there you have it, folks. My first, official story. It's ironic how this was so unplanned, but I finished it in a few days, while all the stuff I planned for extensively for remains unfinished.

Anyhow, thanks for reading. Drop a review (or don't, whatever floats your boat) and let me know what you think.

See you later, alligator,