“Wait—I don’t want to wait. Please. I don’t want to wait. I don’t.”
“And then what?”
She hadn’t thought they would be required to answer his question so soon. They’d stood face to face in her office for what had seemed like ages, but for what was likely less than a moment or two before he’d broken the terse silence with a grin and replied, “ok.”
Diane was not a woman who’d imagined being proposed to—much less making a proposal of marriage—but in her few imaginings of how such a moment might go, a simple “ok,” had not been one of the scenarios considered. The twitch of his lips, though, the way he stepped closer and rested his hand against her hip before kissing her—it was, in that moment, all she wanted.
They’d found themselves quite giddy in her office, Kurt calling the Edgewater to request a late check-out and Diane furtively waving down her secretary to cancel a few appointments. They’d been determined to celebrate and take a spontaneous lunch. It had seemed appropriate, after all, to celebrate in some small way. In any case, they’d needed to do something other than stand in her office grinning dumbly at one another, so Diane had been grateful when Kurt suggested escaping the office for an hour or two to mark the occasion with lunch and a glass of champagne.
He’d led her out of the office, his hand grasping tightly to her own, down the elevator, and then onto the street where they’d wandered for several blocks, sneaking smiles at one another until they finally paused in front of what seemed like an upscale bistro.
Diane had nodded, still too dazed by the sudden turn of events, and had gladly let him ferry them both into the restaurant where they spent well over two hours eating—steak for her, lobster for him, and a bottle of champagne between them—before spilling back onto the street and promising to speak again in a few hours when she was done with work.
Diane had kissed him soundly before letting him go and waited outside her office to watch him walk away until he was long out of sight. She’d returned to the office hoping to finish up a few briefs before sneaking out for a long weekend. It was a reasonably busy Thursday afternoon, but a quick glance at her schedule upon her return had confirmed that Friday was mostly free—save for a few unimportant meetings that could easily be pushed to Monday. They’d conjured up plans for a weekend at Kurt’s place in the country over lunch, making hushed plans to spend the evening by the fireplace sharing bottles of wine and all sorts of other things.
Diane only made it through an hour or so of paperwork, though, before her cellphone began to buzz insistently. She let it go to voicemail twice before sighing in annoyance and pulling it out of her handbag. Kurt’s name flashed across the screen and her stomach made a gleeful somersault.
Diane answered with a chuckle. “You haven’t already changed your mind, have you?”
Kurt’s voice was low, almost pained, and her stomach did another somersault—this time with an accompanying pang of anxiety.
She lowered her voice. “You—haven’t, have you?”
Diane heard what sounded like a wince on the other end of the line.
Another stomach flip—this one entirely fearful.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Diane, I think I have food poisoning.”
He winced again, which Diane now registered as a heaving sound. She was for the briefest of moments confused. What on earth could she do to remedy food poisoning? Did he want her to call a doctor? His heavy breathing on the other end of the phone snapped her back to attention.
And then what?
As sudden as it seemed, they were in all of this together now. Then was apparently right now.
“Where are you?”
Kurt didn’t respond, and Diane heard him heave once more.
“Edgewater,” he panted. “Came back to check out and never made it out of the lobby.”
“I’m on my way.”
It took nearly an hour for them to make it to her apartment. Diane had arrived at the Edgewater in record time only to find Kurt practically wrapped around a toilet in the lobby bathroom. She’d overcome a not insignificant level of embarrassment to burst into the men’s room to rescue him, and then they’d spent a nightmarish forty-five minutes in traffic to get home. Kurt spent the ride vomiting in regular intervals into a plastic bag that the concierge had kindly handed them on their way out.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered as he dragged himself behind her into the apartment.
Diane frowned. “Kurt, you’re sick. Don’t apologize.”
“Not exactly ideal fiancé material.”
Diane only shook her head. “Go upstairs. I’ll be right up.”
Already too exhausted to argue, Kurt trudged up the stairs—though Diane heard his pace quicken as he reached the top step, and she soon heard the bathroom door slam behind him.
When she arrived upstairs with ginger ale, crackers, and a cool compress five minutes later, Kurt was already sprawled out on her bathroom floor. The sight was altogether alarming; she’d never seen him in such a state of disarray—not even close. They’d had a few nights of overindulgence, but those had generally ended in bed together and then with one of them surreptitiously sneaking out the next morning. Depositing the tray in the bedroom, she tentatively reentered the bathroom and knelt next to him, rubbing gentle circles into his back.
“I really am sorry,” he repeated.
He looked up at her with doleful eyes.
“I wanted tonight to be special. You deserve that.”
Diane smiled and pressed her lips to his temple. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Kurt only nodded, closing his eyes as she continued to make passes up and down his back.
“You’re sweating through your flannel, Cowboy.”
Kurt grunted in acknowledgement, unable to do more than inch closer to the toilet.
“Come on—let’s get you out of this.”
Careful not to make any sudden movements—lest they have a repeat of the car ride home—Diane shifted to his side and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. Kurt made an ineffectual attempt to wrest himself out of her grasp but succeeded only in heaving into the toilet once more.
“Just leave me in here.”
Diane couldn’t help but laugh at his pitiful yet dramatic suggestion.
“Kurt, I’m not leaving you in here.”
She continued to undo the buttons on his shirt and then pulled it off him, taking the undershirt off as well.
“I think I have a t-shirt or two of yours in my closet. Don’t move.”
“Wasn’t planning to,” he groaned.
Diane returned with the fresh clothes. She’d known exactly where they were in the back of her closet; she’d never gotten rid of them, always hoping they’d somehow figure things out and he’d have need of them again. After helping him into the dry t-shirt, she pulled a bottle of anti-nausea pills out of her medicine cabinet and shook out the appropriate dose.
“Take these,” she instructed, handing him the glass of ginger ale she’d carried back in.
Kurt swallowed them without protest which only affirmed his malaise; he’d vehemently argued against going to the doctor when she’d suggested it on the car ride home, but he finally seemed more amenable to some form of assistance.
He groaned, forcing himself to a standing position, and gulped down another sip from his glass.
Diane smiled softly and pressed her palm to his forehead to feel for a temperature. He closed his eyes at the coolness of her touch and exhaled in some relief. When he opened his eyes a moment later he found she was gazing intently at him, her hand still resting against his head. Kurt felt his stomach do a somersault, though for the first time in several hours it seemed unrelated to the bad lobster he’d consumed. No—looking at her just then—he knew it was the sudden anticipation and realization that this, them together here—this was the answer to his question.
And then what?
Kurt hiccuped and the sound startled Diane out of her thoughts. He felt his stomach begin to churn just as she removed her hand and he registered a brief flash of panic in her eyes.
“Let’s get you into bed.” Her voice was hesitant, though still authoritative.
Diane wrapped an arm around his waist—ignoring his I’m fine protestations—and led him back into her bedroom (their bedroom now, she wondered?).
Easing him onto the bed, Diane smirked as she reached to undo his belt buckle.
“Now, this is how I thought our evening would go,” she considered, pulling off the belt and then moving to undo the button of his jeans.
Kurt laughed, though the sound soon turned into a groan as his muscles ached in objection to the sudden movement.
“I’ll make it up to you—I promise.”
“There’s plenty of time for that.”
Kurt nodded slowly, as if weighing her words, and then settled back into her pillows.
Diane helped bundle him under her covers and pressed her lips to his forehead once more for good measure. His skin was warm to the touch, but not alarmingly so, and so she stopped herself from suggesting a trip to the doctor and instead sat on the edge of the mattress and ran her thumb back and forth across his cheek until he seemed to sleep.
Standing, Diane stretched her legs and was nearly to the bedroom door before she heard Kurt’s voice from behind her.
“Just to make some tea.”
He frowned slightly, his features so pitifully sweet. “And then what?”
“And then I’ll come back and sit with you. Ok?”
“Ok,” he murmured.
Diane waited in the doorway until she was sure he was asleep. As she wandered down the hall and down the stairs she thought once more of his question from earlier—and then what? It seemed such a grand, sweeping question. Who knew what was to come? Were they making a mistake? Jumping in too quickly? No—she didn’t think so. She rounded the corner to the kitchen and thought of him resting upstairs in their bed and she knew then what she had suspected for some time now: whatever came next, they would face it together.