120 seconds left
Two minutes is barely any time at all. At the same time, it is eons and eons. Time is relative, as the great scientists have said. When she met him, it had taken her only two minutes to decide that he was the one for her. Such a short time to pivot the course of your life but his T-shirt said This is what a feminist looks like and he was blushing and awkward and stammering. He’d offered to buy her a drink and when she’d hesitated, he’d put both his hands up, told her he understood and wished her a good evening. When she caught his wrist to accept the offer, he’d lit up in a way that melted the walls she’d spent so long building. His eyes had crinkled and she’d had to stop her fingers tracing the lines that spoke of a lifetime of laughter. They’d spent the evening adding to those lines and she told friends that she’d known that night but the reality was that it was the first two minutes that had done it.
100 seconds left
He’d asked her to marry him two years later in their living room, surrounded by half empty takeout boxes and chopsticks. They were wearing pyjamas and her hair was in a messy bun. The week had been long and arduous for both of them; she’d had a surprise inspection that had gone well but had thrown her and he’d had several deadlines that he wasn’t sure he could meet. He had suggested that they might want a night off cooking and she’d waved the app at him, already open to their favourite place. The question had come after the meal when she’d leaned against him and breathed out something affectionate, letting him know she was happy to be able to come home to someone that understood what she needed so completely. She’d kissed the edge of his mouth gently and he’d blurted it out as she was pulling away. He’d not had a ring in hand and he was trembling. She had been expecting something like this for a while, having interpreted his jittery behaviour in the previous month correctly but she had expected a little more romance in the proposal. It took her one hundred seconds to reply, not because she was unsure but because of the situation and the surprise at the timing. Afterwards, after the kissing and the excitement, he explained that he’d planned a date night to the bar where they‘d first met and a whole host of more traditional romantic gestures. He said that it was her fault that this hadn’t happened because when her lips had brushed his, he’d been overwhelmed with a feeling of rightness, contentment and love and hadn’t been able to wait. Two days later, he reproposed according to his original plan but she still told people that his first proposal was better.
90 seconds left
The doctor’s explanation was short and to the point. She outlined the condition, treatment options and survival rates in a mere minute and a half and they had gripped each other’s hands tightly enough to restrict blood supply. She had had to explain what the doctor had said again to him when they got home; he’d not been able to process terms like carcinoma or orchiectomy or tumour in the oncology clinic. He cried then, for the broken hope that he’d been clinging to, for the fear of the surgery he’d be undergoing and for the potential infertility that would prevent them transforming from couple to family. She reassured him, as the doctor had, that childlessness was not guaranteed and that they had options. That the survival rate was 90% and that catching it early had further improved the odds. And she held him as he cried anyway; her reassurances would work but not in that moment.
60 seconds left
They chose a short song for their first dance, both aware of their lack of dancing acumen. He spun her and watched in awe as the light caught the gems woven into her hairpiece. He indulged the cliche that she looked like an angel and pulled her back towards him, only half aware of the cheers and applause from their closest friends and family. Blushing underneath the layer of foundation that made her look unnaturally smooth, her shoes, which she’d chosen as a quirky take on the ‘something blue’, crushed his toes and she whispered an apology. Still, she revelled in the feel of his arms, strong around her, and the flush of health and happiness in his face. She sent yet another wordless thanks up to whichever deity would deign to receive it for his recovery, which had been quick and smooth as far as these things go. Lyrics from the song floated between them.
Life is not the mountain tops,
it’s the walking in between.
I like you walking next to me.
He dipped her at that and she let out a delighted laugh, gripping his shoulder and kicking one leg out in an imitation of a movie princess. On the upward motion she glanced around and saw the many phone cameras pointed in her direction and the self awareness returned. It was only one minute into the song but she waved people onto the dance floor regardless.
45 seconds left
Packing was such a complicated process - a hasty jumble of the pieces of their lives into boxes that didn’t seem big enough to cope with the complexities of what they’d built together. Her promotion had been unexpected and he had been so enthusiastic until she’d told him that it required a move halfway across the country. He’d never lived more than an hour from his family and the idea of having to take a flight just to see them was not one that he was thrilled about. They’d fought for two whole days and she thought that this could be the thing that broke them. On the second day, she pointed out that she’d put her career on hold during his treatment and he threw a book across the room in the first violent expression of rage she’d ever seen from him. They’d both been stunned by it and he’d left without a word, returning an hour later in a different frame of mind. That had been the turning point. He’d agreed to try it for a year and she’d apologised for weaponizing his pain. They’d come together and held each other tightly for nearly a minute without speaking, both aware of how close they’d walked to the precipice.
30 seconds left
The barking in the kennels had been an assault on their eardrums but they ignored it and grinned at each other anyway. They had a specification worked out between them: short haired (her allergies); medium size (neither liked dogs that could be mistaken for rodents); older (he had a soft spot for older animals more at risk of euthanasia) and not too drool inclined (she couldn’t cope with the cleaning). Once they’d spoken to the volunteer behind the counter, they’d been led to a liver and white spaniel who trembled at the sight of them and it had taken half a minute for them to fall in love with him. They spent an hour offering him treats and toys and the space that he needed before signing the paperwork. The moment, one month later, when the dog jumped up and settled down between them on the sofa for the first time was the first time they’d felt joint triumph since they’d moved.
10 seconds left
At the park they threw the ball and shouted encouragement in the vain hope that this time fetch would be a followed command. Each time, the dog chased the ball and then sat by it, cheerfully guarding his prize until his humans came to retrieve it and continue the game. Each time they laughed together and, shaking their heads, walked to the dog in defeat. She threw the ball and it arched high, falling towards the playpark railing. The dog barked in glee and neither bothered to even shout the command at all, both moving in tandem towards the landing point. At the fencing, a toddler was stretching her chubby little arm towards the dog and it snuffled her hand in greeting. She giggled in delight and by the time they reached the ball, the dog was pressed up against the metal bars, tail wagging near hard enough to detach. The mother was apologetic and pulled her daughter away, complete with tiny fistfulls of snatched fur, and the dog whined at the loss of his new friend before bounding back to his owners. She looked at him and saw in his eyes the question that she wanted to ask him. He asked it first and the question and answer combined took only ten seconds. They walked home together, her hand resting on her abdomen in anticipation and his heart beating a quick tempo, trying not to think too hard about his reduced chances.
Three… two… one
They looked at each other and inhaled as one. She saw the hope in his eyes and the shadow of uncertainty seeded all that time ago in the doctor’s surgery. She knew that they had less chance than most but she also knew the roiling in her stomach wasn’t solely anticipation. She reached out to squeeze his knee with one hand and, with the other, turned the pregnancy test over.
It took exactly one second for them to see the positive mark.