I wasn’t putting it off, I just kept…forgetting. I did everything else, dinner, flowers and candy.
She seemed to like that, because she came to my folk’s backyard barbeque. Then my little bro’s high school concert with coffee breaks at Starbucks.
I never figured out what made her tick. Rita was different. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and sorted my stammering conversation with ease.
Once I bought the ring, opportunities popped up all over the place. I could’ve asked her when we ran to the car in the rain. Or when we went to the church dinner party and she was all dolled up with sparkles and stuff. She thanked me-for a great night!
When the news came several days ahead, I couldn’t believe it. How could she move and not tell me? I thought we were friends, best friends…and maybe something more-someday.
Every time I called her home, no one answered. My messages were never returned. Rita disappeared from campus virtually the next day. The few people I dared to ask knew nothing of where she’d gone. I didn’t dare stop by her house. She’d never invited me over-and only now I noticed.
Afternoons of computer programming turned into midnight broods over a ring and a commitment I never had the courage to offer.
Two weeks later, I finally found the strength to walk through ‘our path’ in the park. Everything was dull and dark without Rita to make it come alive.
I sat on a park bench, cradling the ring in the hollow of my hand. Even the thunder rumbling above did nothing to interrupt my personal torture. It was my fault, my choice…and I didn’t take it.
“Nicky?” A hoarse voice rasped from behind, a cold clammy hand touching my shoulder.
“Rita!” I stared into the pale, strained face of my only love. “What happened?”
She coughed, shivering in the wind. “Nothing…just a heart defect, I was in the hospital.” Her cheeks dimpled, lighting up my world in her special way. “Sorry…I don’t mean it that way. I wanted to tell you earlier…but I couldn’t make myself.”
“Couldn’t what?” I stretched out one hand, taking hers in mine. It was so cold.
“That’s why we’re moving. I have to see another doctor…and it’s pretty far away. I wanted to see you earlier, but the doctor wouldn’t let me. Mom said you called.”
I tried to digest that information, along with the fact that her hand was warming in mine. “I…it…I-” My free hand closed into a fist, tightening around the ring.
“It’s going to rain.” Rita whispered, hints of color returning to her cheeks.
I sent a prayer upwards and blurted it out. “Rita…will you marry me?”
Peach-tinted lips curled into a smile. “Took you long enough to ask.” She coughed as I slid the ring over her finger. “You’re sure you can handle both sides of me?”