Aminta watched her boyfriend drum his fingers on the steering wheel, impatient as ever. As far as she was concerned, however, the blizzard was a godsend. She’d promised herself she’d confront him as soon as they got to the restaurant; if they never got to the restaurant, there’d be no confrontation. She and Fideo could sit in this car for the rest of their lives and Aminta would be perfectly happy.
Fideo clearly felt otherwise, and he flicked on and off the windshield wipers as if that would make any difference. “We’re going to miss our reservation,” he said again.
“So I wish traffic would clear up.”
“We’ve missed reservations before.”
“Yeah, but this one is… special.” He wouldn’t elaborate. Part of Aminta wondered if this was the day he had planned to tell her about the other woman at this meal. It would certainly explain why he’d been so nervous the whole ride down. The whole week, actually. He’d been so jittery—some days he’d get home early, other days he’d get home late. And when Aminta asked about it, he always gave the same answer: “Sorry, nothing, I don’t know.” She was used to Fideo being anxious by now, but these weeks had been something else.
She glanced over without turning her head. At least physically he was the same, although he was gripping the wheel like it would run away and he hadn’t taken off his coat despite the blasting hot air.
“Why don’t you take off your coat? It’ll be an hour still until we get to Delfina’s—you must be boiling.”
“What?” Before Aminta could repeat herself, Fideo shook his head. “No, I’m fine. No need to take off my coat.”
“Oooo-kay.” Whatever. Aminta was comfortable. Her strappy, low-cut red dress was neither warm nor did it cover much, so having the air on like that suited her just fine. She’d planned, when she’d gotten ready that afternoon, to reveal it from under her coat right when she told Fideo what she’d learned, both to motivate herself to go on and to show him what he’d be missing. That reveal plan was down the drain, but from the way Fideo was looking straight ahead, Aminta suspected she could’ve worn a chicken on her head and he never would have known.
Aminta sighed. How could this have gone so wrong? It hadn’t even been two months since their vacation to Alaska, where they’d kissed as the northern lights danced above their heads. It’d been so perfect, Aminta had half been expecting a proposal. But instead, when they’d gotten home, Fideo had turned into a secretive, nervous wreck who never seemed to want Aminta around.
Was it her? Did he no longer feel comfortable around her, after the secrets and dreams they’d shared on the trip? Maybe she’d scared him off. Maybe, she thought, looking down self-consciously, maybe she’d gotten… different. This was the first sexy thing she’d worn in ages and she’d put on some pounds since college. Or maybe she was just inattentive now, not as accommodating, too comfortable. Maybe—
No. Aminta closed her eyes tight before opening them again. It was not her fault he was unfaithful, she thought. Her own voice echoed in her head from when her sister’s boyfriend cheated back in high school: “You can’t control other people; you can only choose how you react.” And Aminta had decided she was going to react with pride, anger, and self-respect, not like the sniveling, self-doubting pansy she feared she really was.
“We’re going to miss our reservation,” Fidel murmured, and Aminta nearly snapped. No, no, save the anger. Anger was better than crying, right?
‘That’s okay. Why do we even need this reservation? We’ll come next weekend, promise.”
“Money,” he muttered, and Aminta almost laughed. Surely he didn’t mean the price of gas driving there and back. She knew they needed to save right now, but this was ridiculous.
“It’s not going to cost much different next weekend. Don’t worry about it so much.” Fideo pursed his lips and she couldn’t help but to soften her tone. “It’ll be fine, I’m sure of it. They’ll probably still have seats when we get there—the blizzard is happening everywhere, other people will be late or no-shows too. Even without the blizzard, it’s a freaking Wednesday night. Worst case scenario, we’ll just sit at the bar.”
His jaw clenched ever so slightly, and Aminta’s chest hurt. So much of her wanted to forget all of this, pretend she’d never found the necklace or the pictures in the first place.
Despite all her resolve, Aminta felt the exhaustion of it all flood through her. She didn’t want this, to hold on to pain, to keep secrets from him, and have him keeping secrets from her. She loved him, she loved being with him, she loved all his little nervous ticks and all his He-man action figures that he swore would be worth something someday (they wouldn’t. He also swore he didn’t take them out and play with them when she was in the shower, but Aminta knew his Skeletor impression too well to believe that). She loved him and being him and this SUCKED, this whole situation was terrible and Aminta was just going to make it worse and she was going to lose him and—
“Ami!” Fideo was facing her now and he unstuck his right hand from the wheel to put it on her shoulder. “Hey… hey… what’s going on?” He finally took the keys from the ignition and the air stopped blasting.
Aminta’s mouth was dry, and her chest was now too tight to speak without crying. She looked at Fideo and opened her mouth only to close it again.
“I think you’re panicking. You’re definitely panicking. Okay. Um. Just… just concentrate on where you are, okay? What you can touch, what you can hear. You’re safe. Listen to my voice. I’m here. You’re going to be okay. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.”
Aminta took the deepest breath she could and it was pathetic. “Sorry,” she spluttered.
“No need for sorry here. You’re okay.”
He walked her through breathing a little while more. “What’s going on, love?”
Aminta went to tell him, but instead broke into tears that anger couldn’t hold back. “I know!” she finally wailed.
He paled. “You know?”
“I know!” She began blubbering, knowing full well only about a quarter of the words were sounding at all. “and… necklace… and the… and the promise… and…”
“Ami, love, I can’t, I can’t understand you.” Fideo face was pained, only cementing Aminta’s conviction.
“I know about Cassia.”
Fideo’s face fell. “You do?”
Aminta nodded. This part she had prepared for, except for the tears still streaming down her face. “You were acting weird, and I found a blue necklace in your drawer and it looked expensive, and I thought that was weird but whatever, you know, but then I saw later in the paper a picture of this woman and she was wearing that necklace and I thought to myself it’s probably fine, that’s a common necklace, but then I went to check and then it was gone and you stopped wearing your promise ring two weeks ago and I thought that was weird so I, uh…”
Aminta took a breath. This next part didn’t make her sound like a particularly good person. “I was snooping through your phone, and I found calls you made to a number I didn’t recognize so I called it and it was Cassia and she greeted you by name and I looked her up in your yearbooks and she went to your high school and you also made a call to a pawn shop and I don’t want to think what I think baby but…” Aminta looked up helplessly. “She was wearing your necklace. It couldn’t have been cheap.”
Fideo took a deep breath. He dropped both hands into his lap. “Alright,” he said, and Aminta held her breath. “I give up. You’re too much, Ami, you just are.”
To Aminta’s surprise, he was smiling.
He wriggled out of his coat. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a smooth box and handed it to her. “Here you go.”
Aminta opened it gingerly to find the exact necklace that Cassia had been wearing in the newspaper picture. “What—what is this?”
“It’s a necklace. Your necklace, actually. It’s artificially crafted blue and lilac sapphire. Lab sapphires. They’re a lot cheaper, but just as hard. You didn’t actually read the rest of the article, did you?”
Aminta looked down. “Well, I… I read that her name was Cassia Owens and she was bringing her business to where the old Bennigan’s used to be.”
“Did you even read what her company is called?”
Aminta closed her eyes tightly. “Uh… it was something weird. Con… Conundrum Inc. I think.”
“Corundum Inc. She creates artificial sapphires. This,” he said, tapping at the necklace, “is her company’s signature piece. She gave it to me for a bargain because we were friends in high school. It was a gift. For you.”
“Oh.” Aminta looked down at it. “Should I…”
“Yes, of course.” Fideo hadn’t stopped smiling. “I’ll help.” He held her long black hair up to fasten the necklace around her neck. To Aminta’s surprise, he didn’t seem nervous at all for the first time in weeks.
“Thank you.” She touched it. If she would’ve known, she would’ve worn her silver dress. “It’s… it’s beautiful. Is this why you were so nervous?”
Fideo’s nose twitched. “No.”
“Well, I didn’t get to tell you the rest of the story.”
“Then tell me.” Aminta wasn’t crying anymore, but her cheeks were still wet. “What’s the rest of the story? What haven’t you told me?”
“Well, I… do you know why I wanted to go to Delfina’s?”
Aminta shrugged. “We went there on one of our first dates… three years ago or so?”
“Three years ago to the date. Exactly today three years ago. You told me how funny it was that such a swanky restaurant was named after a dolphin, and whenever the waiter would leave you would make squeaky dolphin sounds under your breath. I… fell in love with you there.”
“Oh,” Aminta whispered. For a second, there was silence in the stale air of their car, parked in the middle of the road. “Go on.”
Fideo laughed. “Always impatient. So here’s what I did. I rented out a special party room at Delfina’s for seven thirty. I made it perfect. Right place, right time. Secluded,” he said, reaching his hand into his jacket, “so you could say no without any additional pressure. But, I also let the waitstaff know that you might say yes, and then they would make a big fuss around you, because I know you like attention.” Fideo gently brought out a small box, velvet coated, dark as night. Aminta gasped. “I accounted for every possibility.”
Fideo flicked open the box to reveal a simple, beautifully made silver ring with a singular white gemstone. “I accounted for everything. This stone is an artificial white sapphire. Hard as sapphire, almost as hard as the diamond. I called Cassia off a different line so that Corundum Inc. wouldn’t show up in my history in case they check—I didn’t count on you actually calling her. You hate calling.”
A smile flickered on Aminta’s lips but her eyes didn’t stray from the ring. “Well, baby, you know I’d do anything for you.”
Fideo took the ring into his hand gently. “I took off my promise ring,” he said, flipping it over, “so that the metal could be used in this ring as well. It’d keep us together, right?”
Aminta thought she might hyperventilate and faint. “I can’t believe you… you did this all for me. You did it all for me… I can’t.”
Fideo’s brow quivered. “You can’t?”
“No, I mean, I can’t believe you did all this. You tried so hard, baby…”
“You’re a clever girl. Too clever. You unraveled all my plans. That’s… that’s what I love so much about you. You’re a problem solver. I just wanted to surprise you, that’s all.”
Aminta was crying now, and tears and snot dripped down her chin. “Sorry,” she said. “This face probably doesn’t… it doesn’t match my outfit.”
Fideo laughed. “So I take it I succeeded—”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
“No, I mean, yes,” she said, pointing at the ring. “Yes.”
“Oh!” Fideo’s eyes grew round. “Yes?”
They were both crying now, and Fideo’s hands were as fidgety as they could be as he slid the ring on her finger and leaned in for a kiss.
A honk startled them out of their reverie. “What was that?”
“Traffic must be starting up again.”
Fideo turned the key and started up the car. The snow had definitely cleared up a little.
“We’re definitely going to miss our reservation,” Aminta said, not taking her eyes off her ring. “Hey, wait, do you think if I take this off they’ll give us free dessert?”
Fideo smiled. “My clever, clever girl. Still surprised you didn’t know the word corundum and figure it out from there if you had the newspaper.”
“Cut me some slack.” Aminta smiled. At least the corundum conundrum was over and a new chapter of their lives could begin.
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