Sunlight streamed through the window and Charlotte grunted, rolled onto her side, and snuggled even deeper into the down comforter. The thought of crawling out of the cocooned goodness didn’t appeal to her. Not even a little bit. But despite her best efforts, her mind had other plans and slowly climbed awake mountain until she remembered what today was.
Her eyes shot open and she was wide awake. Despite friends and family warning not to get her hopes up, Charlotte had no doubt that today was the day. The day when she would go from “girlfriend” to “fiancée”.
The sound of clanging pots and pans drew her attention down the hall and she flung off the comforter and jumped out of bed. She plodded down the hall and found Todd in the kitchen. The counter was covered with cracked egg shells, powdery piles, a package of bacon, and whatever was in the bowl he was attacking with a whisk. Standing out from all of it was a square box draped in beautiful paper that shimmered with glittered snowflakes and was secured with a bow tied so perfectly she knew he hadn’t wrapped it.
Doubt needled its way in when she noticed the size of the box. It was large enough to hold dozens of engagement rings. But knowing that Todd considered himself clever, she shed the disappointment, rebounding with a smile.
“Morning,” she said, trying to tamp down the excitement in her voice.
He abandoned the bowl and wrapped her up in a hug before spinning her around. His level of excitement was duly noted and she added it to her “Oh my God, I’m getting engaged” list of evidence.
“What are you making?” she managed to ask over the pounding pulse of her heartbeat.
“First,” he said, grabbing the present Charlotte had never quite let leave her sight. “Merry Christmas.”
She took a deep breath, then she took him in wanting to remember every moment. Todd’s eyes sparkled, the perfect accessories to his lopsided smile. With misty eyes and lips turned up fully end to end, Charlotte reached her shaky hands toward her glittery future.
The shock made her smile falter a bit. There was a weight to the box that allowed the doubt to creep in again. Studying Todd’s face didn’t help. His crooked smile and look of anticipation hadn’t changed.
With only one way to find out, she was indelicate as she ripped the paper away from the box. Her smile fell flat, but her eyes remained misty. She paused a moment before glancing up at Todd’s now irritatingly excited face.
“Ta-dah! It’s the waffle iron you wanted,” he said, oblivious to the energy shift darkening the moment. “And you think I never pay attention. Pop it out of the box, I already made the batter.”
Todd cleared the counter and turned to discover Charlotte hadn’t moved. Not only that, but her lips had pulled impossibly thin, arching toward the floor. Her eyes twitched at the corners as they narrowed.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice projected in a lower register than normal. Even he had to know this couldn’t be good. “We’ve been together for five years. We’ve lived together for three. You can’t give me a waffle maker and then ask me what’s wrong.”
Anger and hurt seeped from every pore and grew stronger with each memory of past Christmas’, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day’s. She would have even happily accepted an Arbor Day proposal. But, no. Apparently it was too much to ask that they be on the same page.
“If you don’t know what’s wrong, then…well, that’s just the root of the problem isn’t it?”
The glare she shot his way was meant to cut through him. But no matter how hurt she was, when his crooked smile faded, her eyebrows softened a bit. Her gaze fell to the floor and she was flooded with the heat of embarrassment as the truest memories of what their relationship was reflected back at her.
How no one could ease her sadness or anger like Todd could. How he answered every time she called. How he asked about her day with actual interest. How every time he looked at her, she had zero doubt that she was loved.
She wasn’t sure when she had become this person, but she regretted allowing it to happen. Especially when she recalled the moment so many months ago when she had fleetingly pointed out the waffle maker in Macy’s. The fact that he remembered was a more accurate measure of the man Todd really was.
Charlotte knew she needed to apologize. But what she didn’t know was that when she looked up, the man she loved would be smiling again. A smile that grew more mischievous every time he squeezed the box in the palm of his batter splattered hand.