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Contemporary Romance Drama

This is going to be the biggest day of my life.

So far, that is. In a year or so – if all goes right today – there’ll be an even bigger day, but for now this is the day. I’ve made all the choices I can. Now it’s all down to her to make the ‘right’ choice.

As Aaisha and I walk to the train station I do everything I can to play it cool. I joke at everything, pointing out the colours of the cars or silly words in their registration plates. When I spot a dog on the other side of the road I show it to her, with far more enthusiasm than it deserves given its size. Then I dig up all our old jokes about what it must be like to live with a dog that size; tripping over it on the stairs, mistaking it for a discarded sock, using it as a neck warmer while watching TV.

She laughs as she always does and joins in, but her attention is forced. Is it? Or am I just paranoid? If only the little box in my jacket pocket didn’t feel so stupidly heavy.

At the train station she says she needs the bathroom, so I go and grab the tickets while she’s busy. It’s perfect, and I couldn’t have planned it better. As far as she knows we’re heading to the local beach, but I’ve booked us tickets to the nicer beach further away. The tickets are a ridiculous price, given its only another dozen miles or so, and Aaisha always insists that the sea looks the same at the each of them.

It’s not the sea I’m interested in today however. Sand is much nicer under your knees than pebbles.

I know I won’t be able to keep the secret all the way there, but the longer I can hold off the better. As soon as she realises I’ve sprung for the more expensive tickets she’ll know something’s up. I don’t know if she’ll figure out what’s coming, and I’m not sure if it’s better or not that she does work it out. At least that way she’ll have time to get used to the idea.

Damn it, why is it never like this in the films? They make it look so easy to surprise your girlfriend, but this has honestly been the most difficult thing I’ve done. There are so many choices, little things that every day you’d do without thinking about, but for a day this special you have to get them right. I spent three hours trying to work out which date would be best to do this on for pity’s sake. Three hours of studying weather forecasts and looking at the temperatures from last year. And there’s still too many clouds in the sky today.

After all that did I get it wrong? I could cancel now, go and buy tickets for the crappy beach, leave the box in my pocket, pretend none of this was going to happen. Aaisha would never know…

“Argh!” I grunt in frustration in the half-empty station, which gets me several looks. Some of them are uneasy, whilst others just concerned. They aren’t the only ones.

No, I can’t cancel. If I give myself an excuse to cancel, I’ll just do that next time as well, and on and on. Damn it, where is Aaisha? How long does it take her to pee?

Standing around waiting isn’t helping my nerves, so I wonder over to the newsagents and start browsing. The looks follow me here. The man behind the counter is watching my every move, but not watching my hands. Oh, seemingly random outbursts in a public place. He’s probably trying to work out which behavioural problem I have. Sorry mate, no show here. Unless I have a panic attack from this damn box in my pocket.

There’s still no sign of Aaisha, so I check out the drinks on display. My throat’s dry as a desert anyway, with all the water in my body currently in my palms. I rubbed them down my jeans, then click my tongue as I check that I haven’t left any stains behind. It took me an hour – a whole hour! – to work out which jeans to wear today. Try as I might I hadn’t been able to just wear the first ones I found, which is my usual strategy for getting dressed.

I look up from rubbing my trousers, straight into the stare of the shopkeeper. He has one eyebrow raised and is trying to ‘diagnose’ me. Trying to give him my most casual smile (which I fear comes out more as a grimace) I look at my options. Come on, surely I can choose a drink? Something nice and easy, something completely unrelated to today’s plans. Choose a drink, just so I can prove to myself that I’ve not completely lost the plot, and I can still make some decisions without needing a whiteboard to weigh up the pros and cons.

Oh my god, what drink do I want?

I’m about to bury my hands in my hair when I inhale sharply. This one. There we go, decision made. And the world didn’t end from it.

I’m still grinning as I walk up to the counter, and the shopkeeper speaks very slowly and clearly, with a lot more nodding. I play along though, too tired already to explain what’s going on.

Some day this is going to turn out to be if I just want to sleep. Maybe I should’ve grabbed the energy drink instead…

“Boo!” Aaisha jumps on me from behind, grappling me in a hug that makes me stagger. “Haha, did I scare you?”

I roll my eyes with a smile. “You startled me, not scared. Important difference.”

“Aha, sure it is. You got the tickets?”

“Yup. All good to go?”

“Beach time!”

Still draped over each other we head off to the platform, and I try to find which one we want without her noticing. Thankfully her phone goes off, and of course she has to check it, so she doesn’t notice as I steer her away from the short, local route. I fight back the ridiculous grin that I can feel building. Maybe this is as easy as it is in the films.

Her friends have kicked off some drama again, so once again I’m being handed this on a silver platter. All I have to do is nod along as she regales me with the details, and focus on my breathing so I don’t give myself away. My fingers still play with the box in my pocket, until I worry that its going to fall out. I open the bottle instead and take a gulp. I can’t even remember what flavour I picked up, and give it half a frown as I drink. It’s nice, and I want to hand it to Aaisha and see what she thinks, except she’s halfway through explaining how Ella really wasn’t to blame for the last thing, but this time she totally is (Ella’s always been trouble in my book). It’s rude to interrupt, and this is keeping Aaisha busy at least.

The train pulls into the station. This is it. At any moment during the trip she might realise what’s up, and then there’s no going back. This is the last chance I have to check that everything’s perfect. Location, as good as I can get on my budget. Weather, pretty abysmal actually, but it’s not raining so I’ll take it. The meal, a little local place not far from the waterfront that has great reviews online. Outfits, well, I’m in the best I’ve got and Aaisha always looks stunning. Ring. My fingers dance over the box again. Now that I’m proud of. Maybe it’ll be enough to make up for everything else.

As the doors open I grab Aaisha’s waist and pull her in for a kiss. It’s all I can do to contain my nerves and excitement.

“What was that for?” she asks as she pulls away, but there’s a flush of red in her cheeks.

“Complaining?” I ask.

“Of course not. It’s just not like yo–” She stops and puts her fingers to her lips.

“What’s wrong?” I try to pull her onto the train but she refuses to move. “Aaisha? The doors are about to close.”

She frowns at me, then looks at the drink in my hand. Without a word she snatches it off me and reads it. Before I’ve registered anything she throws the bottle at my head. “You idiot!”

“Ow! Damn, Aasiha what–”

But she’s already spun round and is storming out of the station.

“Aasiha! The train!”

One of the ticket inspectors leans out of the train. “Gotta lock up. You coming or not?”

“Oh, um…” Though I look around for her, Aaisha is long gone. “Not. Thanks.”

The train doors close and it pulls away, leaving me alone on the platform. The tickets burn a hole in my bank account while the ring burns a hole in my pocket. The shock starts fading, and in its wake comes the anger. Everything I’ve planned, and she throws it all away for what? Cos I don’t pick the right drink?

Gritting my teeth I lean down and grab the bottle again. If it’s cost me the whole day, I’m damn well going to enjoy every drop of it.

As I open it my eyes catch the label.

Peach flavour. Made with real peach juice.

“Oh no…” I race out the station, dropping the bottle in the first bin I pass.

If I’m quick I can catch up with her before her allergies cripple her. Oh damn it, of all the mistakes I could’ve made. No wonder it tasted so weird. I haven’t gone near anything peach since meeting Aaisha. Specifically for this reason.

Well… I guess I could always propose to her in the medical walk-in centre. Not at all what I’d planned, but I’m going to have to explain why I was so distracted I didn’t notice that I ‘poisoned’ her.

Of all the choices I had to make today, why was that the one I got wrong?

May 29, 2021 02:27

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1 comment

A.D. Stark
17:48 May 30, 2021

Great story that fits the main subject perfectly. Well done!

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