And so I said, "So you have learnt how to love, but in words that you cannot express. Has it answered your how if it hasn't answered your why?"
And then it was her turn to stare at me with wide, innocent eyes, doe-like and blur.
"Hold on," I said and got up.
Returning with two fresh cups of coffee, we resumed staring at each other over its fresh aroma.
"I was referring to our first conversation," I said.
"You actually remember that far back?"
"Yes, I remember things from when I was a kid, thank you."
"No I mean, you actually remember that first crazy conversation?"
"Somewhat in fuzzy details, but yes."
"Oh." She looked a little uncomfortable.
"So in reference to what you said that totally startled me out of my socks," I started
"What did I say?" she interrupted me.
"You said that you could never love him because you didn't think that you knew how to love. Or why you couldn't."
"Oh. I see."
"Don't tell me you don't remember any of this?"
"I remember it somewhat, but not in that detail. If you haven't found out already I'm a very forgetful person."
"Yes, I know that."
"So what I wanted to ask was have you learnt to love?"
"You should know that," her smile was happy.
"Yes, I think I do. But did you ever learnt why you couldn't before?"
She grew sober.
"I don't know. Maybe it wasn't time. Maybe it wasn't the right person. Or maybe I just didn't want to love him because I knew that he would never be someone I could like, no matter how much he cared for me."
"So what's different now?"
"That's surely flattering, it is. But why?"
"Must you know why?"
"It would be nice."
She looked a little guiltily at me.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Oh, I suppose it's alright to tell."
"There's some kind of secret? Some pact? You're sworn to secrecy?"
"No, silly." And she whacked me on the arm again.
"The thing is," and she looked embarrassed, "Don't laugh and don't get upset, okay?"
So I said that I wouldn't. And promised. And crossed my heart hope to die, just for the sake of it.
And so she said, "Well. I've always liked you. And I guess in my heart, no one else could ever have measured up."
I was speechless for a moment, stunned.
"You mean… well… I…" And I clamped my mouth shut.
"So you were out to get me."
"Yes, I was." Bluntly, matter-of-factly. No qualms there.
"You really are something, aren't you?"
"Of course I am."
"But you had to make the guy do the asking or it wouldn't count."
"Yes. It wouldn't have worked if you hadn't well… reciprocated."
"How did you know that I would?"
"I didn't. I took it all on chance."
"If I hadn't?"
"Well, friendships just peter out, don't they? One minute you're close, one minute you're not. No one's to blame. People change. Needs change. That's all there is to it."
"You really are one cool customer."
"What else do you need to know before we really make this an irrevocable commitment?"
"I do need to know one thing…"
She looked wary. "What's that?"
"Wait, before the one thing, what would you have done if I had said no?"
"If you had said no?"
"I mean, if I never like, you know, uhm. I don't know how to put it. Well, what would you have done if this whole thing never worked out?"
I looked sceptically at her. "No, hardly you."
"You want to have children, remember?"
"Yes, but it's not an overwhelming I will die if I don't have any kind of thing."
"Well, probably. Who's to say if I wouldn't fall for another after I'd finally gotten over you?"
"So the one thing. What is it?"
"It's just a question really – another debate."
"Oh. What's that?"
"How long is forever?"
She smiled. "Forever is… forever."
"Then what do they mean forever and a day?"
"It's just an expression to prove that no matter how long forever means, they will top it up."
"Something like the giving the hundred and ten percent thing?"
"Well… yeah. Something like that."
"So how long is forever to you?"
"Making this personal, are you?"
"Yes. Everything is personal in the end."
She thought about it. "Why is that so?"
"Why is what so?"
"Why is everything personal in the end?"
"Because well… because… in the end, everything boils down to relationships, doesn't it? No issue stands on its own if no one questions it. It would then be an accepted fact."
"But you're stalling."
"I don't think I've ever thought about forever."
"No. I think forever is too big a concept for me to understand. I do, however, think in terms of for the rest of my life."
"And I suppose for you, forever is the rest of my life. I don't know anything about eternity."
"I don't think I know anything about eternity either," I said. "But I guess that will do."
"That will do for what?"
"For me, for now."
And so she smiled and said that she loved me and I smiled and I said that I did too and I think Jenny and Adrian were listening because she giggled, and he couldn't suppress a sigh or something very like it.
"So you have learnt to love," I said. "Because love is forever, and whilst we cannot comprehend its fullness, at least we can count until the end of our days."
"But remember the hard work bit," she added.
And we promised to work at it and cherish it, to pray and to forgive and to never forget an inch of our lives together. Or so we said.