AN: This is a story I wrote a year ago for a contest. I never did turn it in, but I didn't want to just let it sit on my computer forever. It's not my best work, but I still wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy.

Should I Stay?

My name is Cassie. I'm 28 years old, and I've only ever dated two men in my life.

The first one was Clint. He was a sweetheart, and the nicest person I'd ever seen. When we first met, my impression of him was the he was an annoying jokester. He loved to play pranks, and he loved to scare people.

One day, he took me to a lake. I didn't know exactly why I agreed to go, but I did. And when we got there, I wasn't sure what to expect. Part of me said that I should just leave; another part of me wanted to stay because I enjoyed his company so much.

I'm not going to lie, I had already started getting infatuated with the bozo's innocent smirk, and the twinkle in his eye when he was about to do something bad. That day was no different as we walked to the edge of the water and he pointed out a boat besides the jetty.

When we got to the boat, he took a step in and, like a true gentleman, held out his hand to help me in.

"I'm not falling for that," I had said, crossing my arms as I did so. Oh, there was that twinkle. There went his smirk.

"I have no clue what you mean, Cas."

We stood there, each holding our ground for a good two minutes. I wouldn't give in, and he wouldn't back down. But after two minutes of holding your arm out, I'm sure everyone would agree it starts to get tired.

"Come on," he whined. "It's not like I'm going to throw you overboard and laugh from inside the boat!" I glared, but my resolution was wearing down. I just couldn't say no to that puppy dog face of his so, before relenting, I made him promise.

And he kept that promise.

He didn't laugh from inside the boat. He laughed as he hugged me tightly and threw himself backwards into the water.

"Clint!" I yelled, splashing water at his face. He couldn't stop laughing as we started our water battle. Finally, his laughter subsided, and I treaded to keep myself afloat.

"That really wasn't nice," I grumbled as I watched him lean onto his back and let himself float.

"Maybe," he drawled out.

I let out an irritated "ugh!" and turned to start swimming back to shore. Before I could get very far, he got hold of my leg and pulled me backwards. An irritated "Clint" left my lips as I turned to him, frustrated this time.

"What do you want," I seethed out.

He look flustered, shocked. I think it was one of the only times I ever saw him without his characteristic smile. But his response took me as much by surprise as it did him.

"I want to ask you to be my girlfriend."

It was plain, simple, and to the point. I don't think he even realized he said it until after all the words left his lips. And I didn't realize that I had responded "yes" until after the words left my own.

That was the start of something new, something I never imagined I'd experience.

He was sweet, and caring, and always so understanding. He always thought about me, and worked to make me happy; and I did my best to do the same for him.

Our relationship was a fun one too. Since we were both high students, we would spend our time together doing work for school. He'd want a snack, and I'd bring him some. I'd be thirsty, and he'd bring me a drink. Whenever we had free time, we'd spend the night (or mornings whenever we had the day off because of a holiday) watching old movies or reruns of whatever show we liked in the living room.

And the weekends were spent either at the zoo, park, or taking walks downtown. Sometimes we'd go hiking, and sometimes we'd be so lazy all we wanted to do was sleep. But whatever we did, we were happy.

Then the war broke out.

Part of me saw it coming. Part of me knew what he was going to do, but I hoped he wouldn't. I hoped he would stay safe, home, here by my side. But he couldn't.

See, the thing about Clint was, though he was annoying at times, and though he was a compulsive prankster, he had a heart of gold. He could never let anyone get bullied, or see people get hurt. And I knew that heart of gold of his would bleed once he heard of the atrocities happening.

Though it hurt, it didn't surprise me when he said he had to go. It didn't surprise me when he went to enlist. It didn't surprise me when I started seeing him less and less, nor when he was away for a couple of months at boot camp.

His mom and I got very close during that time, and when the day came for him to leave, a lot of us went to see him off.

No, what did surprise me was what he said right before he left: "Cas, we need to break up."

It was so sudden, so out of the blue. I didn't think I heard right.

"Run off? Right now? But everyone will see. You should've told me earlier. I would've helped you sneak away in a heartbeat," I said in a whisper. Partly to keep this between us, partly because I was scared I actually had heard him correctly. But he wanted to make sure I understood.

"No. We need to break up. In case... In case I don't make it back..."

I had decided I would be strong the day he left. I didn't want him to see me cry because I really was proud of him, and supported his choice no matter what. I didn't want him to think I wasn't, but he wasn't supposed to think like that!

I couldn't stop the tears building in my eyes as he said those words. All I could do was shake my head, try to tell him he wouldn't. He grabbed my chin and made sure I was looking at him in the eyes.

"I need to know you'll be ok. You didn't really like socializing as it was when we first met. Everyone was just as surprised as me when you agreed to date me. And you've improved so much. You've grown so much, and I'm proud of you. But I'm worried that you'll go back to how you used to be. I'm worried that you won't want to meet new people or..."

His voice cracked at that moment, and I could see the warring emotions inside of him.

"Please," he pleaded, "So you can move on..."

I didn't want to. Every fiber of my being wanted to tell him that I would wait for him, that I would never want to be with anyone else. But he was determined to make sure that I would be able to go on. His mother seemed to know what was happening, so she came over.

She put her hand on my shoulder and soothingly whispered, "Cassie, sweetie. He has to go. Please, you and I can talk about this later. You won't be alone. But he has to go now."

My hold on his hands only tightened, but I nodded.

Barely above a whisper, I said, "Fine. We'll break up. But you'll come back alive. Mark my words, Clint Wharton. You will come back alive, or so help me, I will find your ghost and beat you senseless."

I must've sounded ridiculous, but it was enough that he smiled again (one last time), and promised to do his best for me. Before he could completely turn away and leave for good, I grabbed his hand, and pulled him closer. I kissed him. It was our first kiss; my first kiss at all, but I couldn't let him leave without him seeing that I really did care for him.

He was shipped off, and I went home with his mother. She helped make me feel better, and explained that he had the best intentions for what he was doing. He just didn't always think about how things could be taken in those times.

We spent the first ten months constantly talking.

Neither of us got letters from Clint. His mother said he probably didn't want to make us worry.

"And besides. If he sends us a letter, we're obviously going to want to send him one back. Though he denies it, he's a big baby sometimes. He'd get so homesick, he would probably cry."

Oh, I knew that very well. You try watching "Up" with him. The first five minutes would leave him sniffling and exclaiming that there was too much dust in the room.

"That's all! I'm not crying or anything. I'm just tr-trying not to sneeze!"

I missed him terribly, but I did my best to prove to him I would be fine. I got into a college near home, and graduated as quickly as I could, then got a job as a secretary at a banking company. It wasn't my ideal job, and I was sad once I realized I was seeing Mrs. Wharton a lot less, but the pay was good, and it helped me to start being able to pay off my loans.

My plan was to work there for two years, and then find another job. I changed my mind when I realized I was pretty good at what I did. It was a proud moment when I discovered I was well known for how good I was at organizing and being so efficient. Soon, I moved up the ladder so to speak and was the secretary for the manager of the division I started in. Not much later, I was the secretary for the head of the department, and later the vice president.

Then there was my new boss: Nick Osbourn.

I was never really close to any of my previous bosses because I found there to be a strict line between friendly and professional. None of my previous bosses wanted to be friends, so it worked out perfectly.

But Mr. Osbourn was different.

He would constantly make a point to compliment me on how good I was at my job, and would always say, "I don't know what I'd do without you."

I found it very endearing, but thought nothing of it.

'He's probably just really into positive reinforcement,' I often found myself rationalizing. Still, I found myself unsure the day I receives a bouquet as thanks, and then when I found a box of chocolates on my desk with a note saying, "You're the best!"

Thinking back, I should've found it uncomfortable; but at the time, I thought it was sweet. Mr. Osbourn was very kind. Not to mention, the fact that he was quite handsome was not at all lost on me. As I got more used to the idea that maybe we were friends, the less I found some of his behavior unprofessional.

Inviting me to lunch during work was perfectly fine.

Bringing food for me on days when we each worked late was ok as well.

Then, he started to be more... romantic.

"Let's just relax the rest of the night; work can wait until tomorrow. Where do you want to go out to dinner tonight?"

That was the start of going out to dinner every time we worked late, and soon going out whenever he felt the desire to do so. It was nice, having someone to hang out with again. It was nothing like when I was with Clint. There wasn't that easy-going atmosphere. I was always scared I would say the wrong thing, or annoy him, and then I would lose my job. But it was still enjoyable.

A couple of months after that, Nick and I were in a relationship. Many people found it taboo.

"Dating her boss? Oh, we all know how she got that job," I would hear people whisper whenever I walked by. I tried to let it slide; I tried to ignore the snide remarks, but I just didn't have that much of a thick skin.

I let Nick know about it one day. When it first came up, he was very compassionate. He said people just didn't understand, and were probably trying to make themselves feel better because they weren't as lucky as me.

But after some time, he would throw that back at me. One time I was sick and unable to come into work. "It's a good thing you're my girlfriend or else I would fire you."

Another time, I forgot to bring him a document for an upcoming meeting. "Maybe those gossipers weren't all that wrong about you."

Each time he would say things like that, it stung. I missed the old relationship we used to have. I missed the old relationship I used to have. But he would always say he was just joking whenever I would make a face, or was about to comment on his words, so I wasn't sure if he was ever serious.

I tried contacting Mrs. Wheaton after some time, but her number must have been disconnected. Later, I tried talking to Tasha, Clint's younger sister. She never answered any of my Facebook messages.

It was saddening and kind of isolating, but I figured Mrs. Wharton must have changed her number and Tasha must not really use Facebook. After all, I hadn't been on Facebook for months prior to trying to talk to her.

So on I went.

I made some new acquaintances, and reconnected with some of my old friends from high school, but I never really did get out much other than when Nick wanted to. After a year of dating, he told me I should move in with him.

"It's good for our relationship. And besides, what do you besides work and going out with me? If you're going to stay at home all day, you should stay home with me."

I felt uneasy about it, but after talking to my friends Jill and Denise, I agreed.

"He's totally gorgeous! Why wouldn't you want to spend more time with the hunk?" was Jill's question.

"Are you serious? Go for it!" was Denise's remark.

So we moved in together. At first, it was nice. But much sooner than before, I started feeling uncomfortable. He would want to go out and random hours, and he would always want to do things I didn't. Then he started insisting on other things I was opposed to...

"What do you mean you don't drink?" he asked me when time during a party.

I never liked the taste of alcohol, and wasn't really up for trying to force myself to get used to it. Still, he insisted I drink. With my back against the wall in options—he was making quite a scene with all these people I didn't know—I decided it was time for me to leave.

He got home at four in the morning later, and came home screaming about how everyone now knew him as the guy with the boring girlfriend. He tried to change that 'boring' image by convincing me to smoke.

"I have asthma."

And wear more revealing clothing.

"I don't like those kind of blouses."

He was getting tired, I could tell; but so was I. He got so tired of my "excuses" one day, he slapped me. I didn't say anything, and chalked it up to him being slightly intoxicated. I didn't have any evidence of it, but I also feared he might have also been high on something. I didn't want to risk any more violent behavior, so I tried to leave it be.

The day after, he was nice again. He left me alone about "being boring" and things went back to how they used to be. We would go out to dinner. He bought me flowers. We even went out for a couple of walks downtime.

'Just like with Clint...'

I missed Clint so much after he and I broke up, but especially those days. I hated that I had lost contact with Mrs. Wheaton, and I hated that I couldn't find out how Clint was.

If he was back home.

If he was ok.

If he was happy.

If he had moved on, just like he had asked me to do.

After two years going on three with Nick, he told me we should move our relationship to the next level. I didn't understand what he meant until he put his hand on my knee. I was uncomfortable, so I scooted back, and then he scooted forward—and higher. I made it clear I didn't want to do that, and that I would only do that with my husband. I had told him time and time again, but he refused to understand.

"I'm not ready for that!" I would constantly exclaim, but did he care?

It always has to be his way. It always has to be when he wants to do something. God, I miss Clint...

I finally mentioned Clint once to him.

"Clint never made me do things I didn't want to. He never made me do things I wasn't ready for!" You know what he said?

"He joined the army so he could leave you. You know that, right?"

It hurt. A lot. But I knew that wasn't true. At least, I hoped it wasn't. Then he said, "I bet if he were still alive, he'd be glad he die overseas instead of be here, still by your pathetic side. How could anyone deal with you?!"

Great... Tears, again...

I didn't know he was dead. I hadn't known... I thought he just couldn't find me. I mean, I looked for him too. With his mom gone, and his sister not responding, how was I supposed to know?

'Wait, how does he know?'

"You got a letter from his mom a while back. I just never told you because why would you need to know anything about your ex."

I tried breaking up with him, but he had a point: I had nothing else. I had no home to go back to. I had no friends to go to for support. I didn't have anyone...

Yesterday he did something I never expected.

"Here," he said as he tossed by a box. I opened it up and was horrified by what I found inside: an engagement ring. He didn't ask me anything, and went out right after. I immediately went to talk to Denise and Jill, but they were just super excited.

I had always gone to them whenever things would happen between me and Nick, and they would usually side with him. I don't know why I thought this would be any different. I don't love him, but everyone tells me I should.

"He can take care of you, make sure you're comfortable."

"He's got everything I'd want in a man!"

I honestly don't know what I should say. And with things like that one Swan girl and fifty colors or whatever are saying this is what relationships are supposed to be like, how can I argue that they're wrong.

That he's wrong...

Should I say yes?

Should I stay?