I'm Alex Cavanaugh, and I'm a bastard, literally. I was seven years old when my parents finally got hitched. My ultra-conservative Aunt Barbara used to go around calling me a bastard child. She still does actually, only now she does it under her breath when she thinks no one can hear her. But now, nineteen years after my parents' marriage, when she says it, she's right. I really am a bastard. I cut off little old people because they drive too slowly, and when I was in high school, I only ever said "Hola!" to this Mexican family who moved in down the block, even though they didn't speak Spanish. And now, when I run into kids from my high school, I usually have to reintroduce myself by going, "Hey! Remember me? I used to be mean to you!" I generally can't convince them to go out for coffee with me after saying that.
But I like to think that I've matured a little since then. I'm twenty-seven years old now, and I have a job. I'm proud to say that I'm a high school teacher, specifically for AP American History and honors US Government. And I'm considered the cool teacher, but that's because I make fun of the librarian behind her back. But everyone does it, so that makes it okay. Sort of.
School is finally out, so I'm free for the summer. I'm at my parents' house now because I need advice. Not that my family's the greatest source to go to for advice, but I'm still holding onto the possibility that they one day may provide me with essential advice that will alter my existence on this earth.
Yeah. Don't worry, I don't actually believe that either.
My parents, Kayleigh – my little sister, and I are sitting in the dining room, which has remained unchanged for the past eight years, the last time we repainted. The walls are an olive green (though my dad calls it barf green. Personally, when I think of barf, I imagine it with a slight tinge of orange and lots of saliva, but my dad insists on calling it barf green), and the moldings are white, but looking a bit dull. The sleek glass table is still cluttered with papers, and the center light bulb in the chandelier that hangs directly above the table flickers every few minutes. The marble floor, on which I sock-skated as a child, is cold against my feet. An open box of pizza sits in the center of the table. It's no surprise that we ordered in because the Cavanaugh family is incredibly lazy, and always has been. My dad actually stole my grandpa's grabber, this metal claw thing that old people use to grab things that are out of their reach. My dad mostly uses it when he's sitting on the couch and the remote is out of his reach. It's pretty pathetic, though not as pathetic as the grunting noises he makes when he's actually forced to get up.
"So," I say after swallowing a mouthful of pepperoni pizza, "I've been thinking."
"And have you had any luck?" Kayleigh asks like the snotty little sixteen year-old she is. There are times, like now when she acts like a little bitch, when I wish she was a guy so I could punch her in the face without feeling like a complete asshole.
"Shut up, Paley Kayleigh." I smirk maliciously when I see her scowling. Kayleigh doesn't tan well, or at all really, something that didn't go unnoticed by the boy who lives next door, Drake. When they were kids, he called her Paley Kayleigh, because at that age rhyming nicknames are the most derogatory.
"Kayleigh," Dad whispers conspiratorially. "If life hands you a spoon, exchange it for a fork and stab something!" He sounds oddly triumphant, as though he just imparted some kind of insightful piece of wisdom to her. Then again, this is my dad, who still tells jokes about nacho cheese, so this shouldn't be surprising.
Kayleigh glares. "So where's the fucking fork?" I laugh loudly when she curses, but she ignores me. I kind of wonder if there's actually going to be a fork, and if I should start running. Getting stabbed with a dining utensil isn't exactly on my agenda for today. Or, you know, for the rest of my life.
"It's a metaphor!" Dad exclaims exasperatedly, as though this was obvious.
"For what?" she asks flatly.
"Okay, listen. Sometimes life hands you a spoon or an unfavorable circumstance, in your case, an inability to tan." Her eyes turn to little slits, but Dad continues on, oblivious to the murderous glare he's receiving. "So you have to take your paleness, and turn it into a weapon! Instead of looking at your paleness as a bad thing, turn it into a fork! Then, by viewing your insecurities as favorable circumstances –"
"Could you just give me a real fork so I can really stab him?" Kayleigh interrupts loudly.
"There won't be any stabbing!" Mom yells over Kayleigh, who slumps back into her seat, seething in anger. I wonder how she's killing me in her head.
"So, if we're done with our immature outbursts," I shoot a glance at Kayleigh, "I have a serious question to ask." I pause and look at Kayleigh. Hopefully she's already head-murdered me by now because I don't want her interrupting. But considering her opinion on the subject I'm about to bring up, she'll probably forget all about the Paley Kayleigh thing. Either that, or have an aneurysm. But I think I'll take my chances. I take a deep breath. "Dad, how did you propose to Mom?"
Dad's eyes bulge and Mom jumps up from her seat quickly, as though she's been electrified. Even Kayleigh raises her eyebrows in surprise.
My dad smiles. "My proposal to your mother was very romantic."
Mom snorts in amusement as she sits back down. "A balloon ride is lovely," she says pleasantly. Then, after a pause for dramatic effect, "But not in February."
My dad rolls his eyes and turns to me as though he's going to argue against her, but a sudden thought seems to strike him. "Her hand was shaking so much from the cold that it was difficult getting that ring on."
Mom laughs loudly and then quickly sobers up. She looks at me seriously. "I'm so happy you're doing this, Alex. I don't want you doing things like Daddy and me. We did everything backwards, right from the start." She gives me a long look that makes me think that she's trying to tell me something.
"Mom," I say slowly, "if you're trying to discourage me from premarital sex, it's too late."
"That's not what she's saying," Kayleigh drones, sounding bored. Then, gesturing at me with her hand, "Obviously."
"Enough, Kayleigh," Mom says sternly. She turns back to me. "How are you proposing to Lainey?"
"That shouldn't matter," Dad says, stretching his arms above his head and yawning. "You guys have been together for three years. You've been living together for two. You're both still alive, and it doesn't look like the cops have to be called in for any domestic abuse."
Kayleigh perks up at this. "AKA, you guys are soul mates!" Her voice is all bubbly, unlike the acerbic tone she's been using with everyone since she hit puberty. She loves romance, which is why she's being so sweet now. She's always going on about soul mates and fate and all that romantic bullshit.
I groan at this. There's nothing really special about my relationship with Lainey, nothing besides our feelings for each other that would keep Lainey and me together. We don't have a heart-warming backstory, like Allie and Noah from The Notebook, that will inspire future generations of young lovers, nor did we find love after surviving some life threatening incident like Annie and Jack from that movie Speed. We're not a couple out of a storybook or off the movie screen. We're just two people who love each other, not soul mates whose destinies were intertwined by the masters of fate, or some kind of corny shit like that.
I give her a look. "Leave."
She puts a hand over her heart dramatically. "I am merely stating fact, young lover! Oh, my silly brother, you cannot stop the celestial powers of love!"
Then, to my absolute joy, Dad joins in with Kayleigh. "This lad is a nonbeliever!" Dad knocks over the chair he was sitting in as he falls to his knees theatrically and grasps my hand. He looks at me with round, sad eyes. "Oh, young man, please tell me why you do not believe in the awesome power of soul mate-itude!"
God, if you do exist, have mercy and kill me. Kill me now. I'm not even asking for a peaceful, painless death. Disembowelment is awesome. I don't mind. I'll even be okay if you killed me by dumping slugs on my face that excrete flesh-eating slime. Anything is fine by me, as long as death is the end result.
"Shut up with the soul mate bullshit, will you?" I say when Kayleigh and Dad begin fake-weeping loudly.
Kayleigh opens her mouth and I know she's going to say something annoying, like, "Don't worry, the Fates will solve all your dilemmas!" so I hold up a finger and sternly say, "No." I feel like I'm chastising a dog.
"You are such a teacher," she mutters, looking disheartened.
"Thank you," I say brightly, getting up from the table. "Now, if you don't mind, I have a girlfriend to propose to."
I think I left my family with false hope. Because I'm pretty sure I made it seem like I had my proposal all figured out. I didn't. I still don't.
Maybe I should seal myself in a box and mail myself to her office. Then when she opens the box, I'll pop out merrily yelling, "Marry me, Delainey Decker!" But how long would it be before I arrived there? I'm not quite sure if I trust the post office to deliver a package so important, especially since I would be the package. And I don't want to suffocate before I get to propose. Maybe, I should just ship myself in a cage so then the workers would handle the package with extra care since they would see that the thing being shipped was a person.
No, I'm not going to do that. I'm not a dog, for crap's sake. And somehow, I can't imagine the workers handling my cage with care. In fact, I'm sure that they would just throw bacon bits at me or tell me to roll over and play dead like the human-looking dog I was. Either way, my ego would feel as though it had been violated.
My proposal should be romantic. I could buy several hundred candles and arrange them in the outline of my dream house, like Meredith did for Derek on Grey's Anatomy. But to do that I'd need to buy land, which isn't going to happen on my pittance of a salary. I'd also have to be able to put the candles in straight, perfect lines, and since I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler, my dream house outlined in candles would probably look as though it had been hit by a hurricane. Or a tornado. Or both. And with my luck, one of the candles would tip over and I'd end up starting a wildfire that destroyed the world or something catastrophic like that.
My proposal should definitely be romantic though. Maybe I could copy something I saw in one of the episodes of Castle! In one episode, a chef named Balthazar Wolf makes a cake and places an engagement ring in this heart shaped mold, which is pretty romantic in my opinion. Only I can't bake. And he used liquid nitrogen to make the heart shaped mold. I don't trust myself around liquid nitrogen. I'd probably somehow accidentally dump it on myself, dying the way Wolf died. But Wolf was murdered. I'd just be the schmuck who inadvertently killed himself with liquid nitrogen. And Lainey, who'd probably be mocked for having such a dumbass boyfriend, wouldn't even be able to mourn over my lifeless body because I'd shatter into a million pieces before I even made it to the coffin.
I could always go with the classic, down on one knee proposal. I actually watched this soap opera one time, Days of our Lives (I was sick and I stayed home from school and my mom had it on. I don't watch it on a regular basis though. I'm into Desperate Housewives now), and this guy Shawn was dreaming about proposing to his girlfriend Belle. He brought her to a room covered in rose petals and went down on one knee and proposed. The guy actually moved her to tears with that proposal. Belle proceeded to go down on her knees and kiss Shawn. And then I think they had sex, which I personally wouldn't mind.
That plan could actually work, especially if the end result is sex. And I bet if I add in some heartfelt speech about how much she means to me, she'll definitely say yes. To the proposal, I mean. Not the sex. Lainey always says yes to sex with me, probably because I'm the sun.
Get it? I'm the sun! The sun is really hot, like 11,000 degrees, so I'm that hot.
Oh god, I think my dad's humor is rubbing off on me.
As I'm frowning at this disturbing discovery, I hear the door to the apartment open.
"Alex, you here?" Lainey asks. I hear her throw her keys onto the end table we keep near the door.
The engagement ring, which I had been holding when trying to come up with a proposal, suddenly feels heavy in my hand. I quickly shove it back in the small velvet box and stuff the box into the pocket of my jeans.
I walk into the living room as Lainey's taking off her black high heels with satin bows at the toes. She's wearing her work clothes, a black pencil skirt with one of those chunky belts she loves and a simple but girly white button down top. I don't greet her because I'm struck by the feeling of rightness I feel as I look at her.
Lainey and I aren't the most eloquent people when it comes to expressing our feelings. There's usually a lot of stuttering and blushing involved, and it's really just an unpleasant situation that ends with me wanting to give myself a swirly. But right now as I look at Lainey with the ring in my pocket, I know that I don't want to be with anyone else. I just want Lainey. Because even though she'll get old and wrinkly and cranky one day, I know I'll be the exact same way. And I know that even though one day I'll be bald and fat and probably just as corny as my dad, Lainey will still love me. She's not with me just because I'm good looking.
Though I do have to say that Lainey and I make a great couple. And our kids will probably be more beautiful than Helen of Troy. No joke.
"How were your parents?" Lainey asks when she sees me standing in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen.
But I don't answer her because all I can think is that right now is the time, the right time to propose even if there aren't any rose petals or scented candles because those don't matter. I can still do the heartfelt speech anyway.
I walk towards Lainey, staring directly into her bright, pale blue eyes the whole time. As I approach, she runs a hand through her blonde hair, which falls down the length of her back in smooth waves.
"What's up with you?" she asks. Her voice sounds a little breathless.
"Lainey," I manage to say. I open my mouth to begin my speech that will guarantee a yes to my proposal but no words come to me. "W-we've known each other f-for, uh, a while, and I think that I care about you – no, I mean I know I care about you, and uh, wow, I'm feeling a little lightheaded. Can we sit on the couch?"
Lainey looks worried. "Are you okay?"
I start backing away, slowly inching towards the bathroom. "Yeah, no, yeah," I say quickly. "I'm – I'm – I'm, uh, gonna splash some w-water on my face and then throw up a little bit."
"Alex." Lainey goes to grab my hand, but I continue retreating towards the bathroom.
"Just sit down, Lainey. Relax. I'll be right back. I just – I –" I try to think of a plausible excuse, but nothing comes to me, so I decide to use the excuse I always gave my high school Spanish teacher when I went to his class twenty minutes late. "I have explosive diarrhea!"
Breathing heavily, I run into the bathroom and lock the door behind me. I splash some water on my face and look at my reflection in the mirror. I have to calm down if I'm going to propose. I don't want to look like a crazed hobo during one of the most important moments of my relationship with Lainey.
"Get a grip," I whisper to my reflection fiercely.
I squeeze the engagement ring box through the pocket of my jeans. I can do this. I can give a heartfelt speech and propose. Because if I can't, then I vow that I will change my Facebook status to "is a douche-monster." And I really don't want to do that since the Facebook friends I have from high school will probably comment and go, "You've just realized this now?" or "You should change that to 'is even more in the closet than Edward Cullen. And that dude sparkles.'"
I walk back into the living room to find Lainey curled up on one end of the couch watching Spongebob Squarepants. I sit down at the other end of the couch and sigh.
"So how was your exploding diarrhea?" Lainey glances at me briefly before returning her attention to the television. "You didn't break the toilet, did you?"
"No, the toilet is still intact, and I didn't have explosive diarrhea." To my dismay, my voice sounds triumphant, like I'm proud because I was able to keep my diarrhea in control. I didn't even have diarrhea in the first place!
"Congrats," she says through a yawn.
I reach over for the remote and turn off the television. I can't have Spongebob interrupting my proposal.
"What's up?" Lainey looks at me quizzically. She rests her head on her arm when I don't respond.
Looking steadfastly at my hands, I take a deep breath and then begin my romantic spiel in a quiet voice. "Lainey, I love you. I love you a lot. Like, more than I love making fun of Republicans. And Lainey, you're a great person. You donate stuff to orphans. I'm nowhere near that selfless. When I was little, I told my mom that the orphans were greedy crybabies who only wanted to steal my toys because I always got the awesome ones. I mean, I don't believe that anymore. I donate to charity now. But that's not the point. What I'm trying to say is that I really love you, even if you sometimes forget to clean your hair out of the shower. By the way, that's kind of annoying. I don't say anything to you because I'm a nice guy but if I leave the toilet seat up you think I deserve to be taken to the gallows. I'm not angry about it, I just thought I should point it out to you because it's kind of unfair. And if you don't get the hint, I'm trying to tell you to clean your hair out of the shower drain when you're done showering. So . . . remember that.
"Anyway, that's not the point either. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I thought that maybe you might have been thinking something along the same lines. Because Lainey, you make me happy. I really like living with you, and I can see that this isn't going to stop anytime soon. And I don't want it to stop. I like having you around, you know? And I was thinking that maybe I should keep you around, not as like a slave or anything. You know I'm all for women's rights. I even took a women's studies class in college. That was kind of weird since I was one of the only guys in glass. I mean, I pretty much was the only guy in that class because Pete Wilson was the other guy, but he's all nerdy and undesirable to the opposite sex, so I was really the only guy.
"But, wow, I think I got off track again." I take a deep breath and pull the velvet box out of my pocket. Still refusing to glance in Lainey's direction, I hold the box out towards her. I think I've shocked her into silence because she's not saying anything. "What I've been trying to say this whole time," I open the box, revealing the silver ring with one, clear, sparkling diamond, "is . . . well, I think we should get married."
I wait for Lainey's response, but I only hear silence. I at least expected some tears, but I can only hear her breathing softly beside me. I turn my head to look at her and a little bit of me dies inside.
Fuck my life. I just proposed my girlfriend to sleep.
See, this proves that Cupid doesn't exist. Because if he did, he would've offed me a long time ago for being such a shitty romantic.
But since I actually made a speech and proposed, I don't have to change my Facebook status to "is a douche-monster."
Somehow, this doesn't make me feel better.
"You . . . proposed her to sleep?" Frankie, my best friend, asks skeptically as I tell him what happened.
After the epic fail of my proposal, I walked out and called Frankie because I figured he'd know what to do since he grew up with four sisters. He had to be in touch with his emotions after being around girls all that time. There's even a rumor that his sisters dressed Frankie in dresses when he was a kid.
"Yeah, she just came home from work before I proposed, so maybe she was tired. . . ." I trail off, hoping that Frankie will agree with me.
Frankie sighs. "How exactly did you propose?"
I think back to all the tangents I went off on and cringe. Frankie doesn't really need to know that I was chastising her during the proposal.
I scratch the back of my head, thankful that Frankie can't see the sheepish look on my face. "You know, I have a new plan actually, and this one doesn't involve a speech. Actually, there isn't really a need for talking at all."
"Oh god," Frankie groans. I can imagine him smacking his hand against his forehead. "You're not doing that shitty sky writer thing, are you?"
"No!" I say hotly. He doesn't have to know that I was seriously considering that one.
"Then what are you doing?" he asks suspiciously.
"Well, I saw it on this commercial a few years ago –" I begin, but Frankie cuts me off.
"It's not that Kay Jewelers commercial where that guy takes his girlfriend to all the places where something memorable happened, until they get to a new place, and the girl is all," here, Frankie's voice gets very high, "'I don't remember this place!' And the guy is all, 'You will,' and he kneels down and pulls out a ring. Because that commercial was on like two seconds ago, so Lainey will realize that's where you got it from."
"That's not the commercial I'm talking about! Besides, I already told you that I don't have to talk for this proposal." I've been walking around the block during my conversation with Frankie. When I look up, I see that I'm standing in front of my apartment building. "Listen, I gotta go. I'm proposing tomorrow, so I'll let you know how it turns out."
"Dude, just remember that Lainey should be conscious when you propose," Frankie says. And before he ends the call, he adds in, "And if your plan for tomorrow somehow ends up with Lainey falling asleep, just start singing, because your singing voice usually makes people want to get up and rip your vocal cords out. So if Lainey starts running off to the Land of Nod tomorrow, just sing and propose really quick. If she rips out your vocal cords before you propose, well, that's your fault, Boring Boy."
"Douche-monster," I mutter before sticking my phone in my pocket.
My singing voice isn't that bad. My grandma always listened to me sing after she fiddled around with her hearing aid a little.
"Hey, Alex," Lainey calls out to me as we stand in my parents' garage. It's much roomier than normal because Dad and Kayleigh went out and took the truck. "Remind me again why we're going bike-riding."
"Because," I say, as I wheel two bikes out and attach them to the bike rack on my car, "it's a nice day. And you're starting to look a little pudgy. Kidding!" I say quickly, when Lainey looks at me sharply.
I'm pretty sure Lainey might be a little upset with me (translation: so furious that she's going to rip my eyes out and eat them for dessert) about the pudgy comment because she's silent during the drive to the park. She doesn't even comment on the heavy metal music I'm blasting to ensure that she stays awake.
When we get to the park, we go to the bike path. I let Lainey ride ahead of me and look out in the distance, searching for the spot where the proposal is going to happen. Finally I spot it. It's a secluded area, right next to a large weeping willow, and away from the kiddie playground with the booger-covered babies. As I look at them, I wonder if maybe I should propose at the beach instead, but the weeping willow is far away enough, so the little cretins shouldn't interfere.
I have it all planned out. Just as I reach the weeping willow, I'm going to stop and kneel down on one knee next to my bike. Lainey will notice that I'm not following her, so she'll turn around and come back for me. By the time she does, I'll have the ring in my hand. Once Lainey reaches me, I'll hold out the ring to her, and she'll most likely fall into my arms and kiss me. Unfortunately, we cannot have sex in the public park. If only this place was like Oberlin College a few years ago, where clothes were optional.
I sigh in disappointment, so I don't immediately notice the little booger eater run out onto the bike path. I see the kid at the last minute and swerve sharply so I don't hit into him, but I end up falling off my bike. The little monster just runs off in his soggy diaper back to the sprinklers. I just saved his life, and in thanks I get to watch him run away in his Spiderman diaper. What a little fucker.
I groan and sit up. My jeans are ripped and my knee and hands are beginning to bleed. Maybe Lainey didn't notice. Maybe I could just limp over to the weeping willow now and – oh no. She noticed. She's rushing towards me, looking worried. I look to my right. I'm right next to a garbage can, and beyond that in the sprinkler is that little saboteur. I really don't want to propose in front of him, but I have no time to get to the weeping willow. . . .
"Alex!" Lainey says sounding worried. I still haven't gotten up. "Alex, what happened?"
I have to propose. I have to do it now.
But it's too late. She's already by my side and the ring is still safely sitting in my pocket. "Oh crap," she says, when she looks at my hands. She turns around, as though she's going to look for help, and then she turns back to me, her eyebrows furrowed. "Stay here; I'll go get Band-Aids from the car!"
She turns around to run off to the car. I reach into my pocket and pull out the tiny box. I open it and hold it out in her direction before calling her by her full name to get her attention.
"What?" she demands in annoyance. Then she turns around and gasps.
But before Lainey can respond, I hear Kayleigh voice behind me, squealing and my dad rejoicing with her.
"The power of soul mate-itude triumphs!" Dad yells enthusiastically.
I knew I should've proposed at the beach.
A/N: Whew! Finished! This took me awhile to write! I was afraid I'd have to back out of the contest, but somehow I found inspiration to finish, thank God. This was originally in the third person and very dramatic. Then I decided I didn't want it to be dramatic, I wanted it to be humorous, so I changed it to first person with the guy in denial about wanting to marry his girlfriend. Then I changed it to something completely different, and then I got frustrated, contemplated quitting, came up with the beginning of this story, and changed the names of the characters because I was so annoyed with my other attempts.
I'm not thrilled with the title, but the story was about a proposal, and I didn't want to title it, The Proposal. I mean, how boring.
But anyway, this is for Annoyance's Popping That Question Contest. I'd put in all the contest guidelines, but you've all probably read them in the other stories. If you haven't and you feel a dire need to read the guidelines, check out Annoyance's website, link in her profile.
So...that's about it. Adios, then!
Update! A/N: Ach. Okay. I realize now that I should mention that I used some quotes from Castle in there because people are starting to think that I'm stealing them. I was just extremely lazy when I posted this last night and for some reason I thought everyone would know which quotes were from Castle. Yeah my thought process doesn't make much sense.
So the following things in this story are not mine:
"My proposal to your mother was very romantic." "A balloon ride is lovely, but not in February." "Her hand was shaking so much from the cold that it was difficult getting that ring on." - Castle
"Yeah, no, yeah. I'm – I'm – I'm, uh, gonna splash some w-water on my face and then throw up a little bit." - Castle
"If life hands you a spoon, exchange it for a fork and stab something!" RH Contest
And obviously the direct references to Castle, Desperate Housewives, Kay Jewelers, and Grey's Anatomy aren't mine. Sorry for the confusion!