The chords of “Brown-Eyed Girl” filled the interior of the truck as I belted along to every lyric. My fingers twitched to the rhythm and I bobbed my head with each musical swell, ignoring the stolen glances from my boyfriend in the driver’s seat. The fifth time he turned his bright green eyes my way, I cracked a smile and exclaimed,
“Nate! Keep those eyes on the road.”
He returned my smile as I relapsed into the song, “I was just thinking how funny it is that every time we drive in MY car, we always end up listening to YOUR music.”
I stuck out my tongue through a grin and twisted the volume even higher.
After the next few songs passed, we pulled into the driveway of his house. I unplugged my phone from the stereo and pulled on the door handle as Nate lunged across me, slamming the door shut again. I raised an eyebrow as his face flushed pink. He cleared his throat, pushing himself back to the driver’s seat. He gestured with his hands, the color in his face deepening, “Just...let me get that for you, Kayla.”
He hopped out of the truck, running around the front to pull open the passenger door. I bit my lip, my eyes crinkling as I accepted his offered hand and climbed out.
“Wow, what a gentleman. What’s the special occasion?”
Nate grinned, sliding an arm around my waist as we headed for the door.
“Not that I need a reason, but it is our anniversary.”
“I thought we’d agreed not to give gifts,” I pouted dramatically.
He laughed, a bright sound that I could feel resounding in his chest.
“This hardly counts as a gift first off, and secondly, I have the right to spoil you.”
I popped up on the tips of my toes to plant a kiss on his cheek.
“And I appreciate that.”
Two years since I started dating Nate, I could hardly believe it. It was only a breath of time but it was also forever, was I ever not dating Nate? He was simply a constant in my life now, and I couldn’t be happier. He directed me to a seat at the breakfast table as he went to finish dinner, a meal he had started before coming to pick me up. The mingled smell of a simmering roast and oven baked vegetables swirled through the air and I let it fill my lungs. Nate was humming deeply as he whirled through the kitchen, a furrowed brow keeping focus on each task. I almost laughed, it was adorable that he was working so hard, but I also knew I really didn’t want to break his concentration. He finished the meal and brought plates over. We said a prayer and dug in, my mouth practically full of saliva. Eating and talking, we sat in the comfort of each other’s company. The topics floated from one to the other, eventually resting on reading material. I launched into a description of my current book, my hands gesturing with every word.
“...just, the way this author writes, each scene is a painting or a poem and I-- What is it?”
Nate was staring at me, one side of his mouth inching upward as I spoke. He cleared his throat, blinking but keeping the smile.
“Just,” he reached for my hand across the table. “I love you Kayla.”
Now it was my turn to blush as I squeezed his hand.
A soft smile grazed my lips, “I love you too Nate.”
Then he was in motion again, diving into a cupboard in the living room and pulling out a box.
“Up for a game of Scrabble?”
I narrowed my eyes, “But you hate playing Scrabble.”
He shrugged, “But you don’t.”
I smiled wide, a warmth blossoming in my chest. “Here, I’ll take our plates if you set it up.”
He nodded and I walked to the kitchen, the sound of clicking tiles behind me.
“I’m going to go ahead and draw if that’s okay.”
Rushing water from the sink soon tuned out the moving game pieces, then I was done. I ran my hands down my jeans, the water drying from my skin. I took my seat, pulling tiles from the bag and setting them on the little wooden stand.
Once finished, I cracked my knuckles, “Ready to lose?”
He made the motions of cracking his neck, complete with sound effects, “We’ll just see. Ladies first.”
I studied the tiles, placing the letters one by one on the board.
“Fruity, 12 points. But I also believe that the Y is on a double letter square, which means it is 15 points.”
Nate shook his head with a breathy laugh and wrote down the score. He turned to his own tiles, his eyes glancing back and forth to the board. He picked up three, carefully intersecting them with my word.
“Will, that’s 7 right?”
I nodded, not a bad start for him. Good points for a short word. Nate dug through the bag of tiles to refill his supply as I studied my new letters.
“I add to the F of fruity to make, Farmer. That’s 11 points plus two double letters which makes 13.”
Nate recorded the score, already deep into his turn.
“I add to the Y to make You, which is 6 points but the Y is on a double letter tile if I recall correctly which makes 9 points.”
I inclined my head towards him, almost proud that he was doing well. But still prepared to crush him.
“Okay, I add to your O to make Oz, which is 11 points but the Z is on another double letter which makes 21.”
Nate’s jaw dropped, “What! That’s not a word!”
I scoffed, “Of course it is. It’s a noun, it’s a place.”
Crossing his arms he leaned back in his chair, “Fine. I’ll give you this one. But you owe me.”
A bright smile assured him of such a promise as I blinked innocently.
He looked down at his tiles, taking his turn.
“Playing on your M, I am spelling Marry for 10 points, but it actually lands on a double word which is 20 points.”
I gave his move a refined clap, nodding in appreciation before focusing on my turn.
“I’ll use your A to make Acute which is 7 points but the C lands on a double letter and the E lands on a triple word which brings it to 30 points. Take that!”
Nate laughed, “I don’t know how you do that. I guess it’s a good thing I was never expecting to win.”
A gasp of mock shock escaped my lips, “Don’t say that! Never give up hope!”
He picked up a single tile from his hand, “I’ll add to your E to make Me, which is two points but on the triple word makes 6.”
I covered my hands with my face, trying not to laugh too hard.
“I guess you must have a REALLY bad hand, I mean…”
I had looked up only to see Nate, on one knee, offering me a little box. I sucked in a breath, my eyes flitting from the board in front of me to a pair of eyes filled with a question mark. He slowly opened the box, a half grin lifting from his lips as he watched me take in the ring. Emotions rolled through me, but the most powerful one was joy. Tears welling in my eyes, I turned to the board again, pulling a single tile out of my hand and pulling two other letters off the board.
“Yes,” I whispered, a smile spreading across my face. “6 points.”
Nate slid the ring onto my finger and I threw my arms around his neck, hugging him tight. I pulled away slightly, enough to see his face and a glowing smile as big as my own.
“But, how? I mean…”
He winced playfully, “Well…I may have messed with the tiles a little, and found the letters I needed previously, and…”
My finger rested against his lips, silencing the confession, “Nevermind, I don’t want to know.”
I hugged him again, talking softly to his ear.
“Now I really feel bad for not getting you a present.”
He whispered softly back, “Your answer is the only gift I need.”
I pulled back again, meeting his eyes.
“Yes, yes, yes.”
He grinned and as I repeated the single word, we met in a kiss. A kiss marking the rest of forever, of a forever with him.
I sighed, closing my computer and rolling my shoulders. Every time I write for long periods of time I get sore in the most uncomfortable places. I lifted my arms and twisted my spine, hearing the pop and feeling a rush of release. The final scene in the current book I was writing kept replaying in my mind, and the space at the base of my ring finger felt all the more bare because of it. I looked around my bedroom, the cloudy light coming through the window painting the room in a solemn blue. A domineering silence settled around me, but all I could do was look out the window and hope. One day, I told myself. One day.