“We could get married.”
I widened my eyes and dropped my jaw slightly as I sucked in a sharp breath of the cool night air. “Married?” I barely recognized my voice as I said the word. The sound, strained and high, betrayed my panic and ran in stark contrast to how we’d spoken of it hours ago, a far off dream we’d both shared.
“If we got married, I could live off base. We could be together. I’d make plenty of money to support us both until you came back to school. And after, of course.”
The intensity that once hummed between us now hung frozen in the air as I absorbed his words. I struggled to reply, my lips moving wordlessly. Panic seized my lungs. I couldn’t breathe.
This wasn’t how it had happened in my fantasies. We were older, my life was far more stable than it currently was, and I was smiling and crying and jumping to kiss him with one yes after the other pouring from my lips. Yet now I fought a wave of nausea. My vision blurred. The subtle sounds around us muffled behind a jumble of broken thoughts flooding my brain.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I finally said. True enough, I had no idea where this proposal had come from.
He gripped my hands tightly. I was vaguely aware of the dampness of my palms, but my thoughts were too scattered to care.
“Maya, I want to marry you.”
The earlier softness in his voice gave way to determination. He looked at me intently. He was serious. I was scared to death that he was.
“There are logistics with the military, yes, but none of that matters as much as wanting to be married to you. Everything we’ve had this week… I want that forever, to know that nothing can take that away from us.”
“But—” I stumbled over my words, hoping I didn’t look as scared as I felt. “Are you… Do you mean, like, now?”
He paused. “We could do it this weekend, before I leave. Just you and me. We don’t need anyone else.”
I took a small step back and out of his grasp, hoping it would allow me to breathe easier. My chest heaved with labored breaths. My mind had spun straight out of the love coma that we’d been living in for days. For all my loving him, I could not have been more shocked by this.
“I don’t have a ring…” His shoulders sagged.
My uneasiness only grew with the asking in his eyes.
“I don’t care about a ring, Cameron, but this is so sudden. Do you realize what you’re asking me?”
“I know exactly what I’m asking you. Trust me, I’ve thought about little else for weeks. I wanted to ask you the minute I saw you.”
My gaze darted between the ground and buildings in the distance. I needed something to hold my focus, because my thoughts were running rampant.
The future we spoke of seemed a lot closer for him than I’d realized. The dreams we shared were within reach now, but I couldn’t feel anything but crushed emotionally. The warm blanket of the past few days had been ripped away, and I was left with the shock of his request.
“I can’t just run away. I have things I need to take care of. Things here.”
A confused frown marked his brow. “Like what?”
“I don’t know. Work, I guess.” I offered the weak half-truth, not wanting to get into the real reasons why I couldn’t skip town with my would-be husband come May.
“You can find work wherever I am, or don’t worry about it at all. Take the summer off. I’ll be making more and can take care of you, of us.”
As if anything could be that simple.
Frozen, I tried to think of how I could convince him this was rash. Too soon. “I don’t know, Cameron,” I murmured. “I need time to think about this, I guess.”
I chanced a look in his eyes. His jaw was tightly clenched, his whole posture on edge.
“Do you want to marry me or not?” His voice was a mere whisper.
I’d asked for time to think, but this wasn’t a negotiation of terms. This was a moment—one that demanded an answer, not an excuse.
Fine mist swept over my skin, and I fought a new wave of sickness. I couldn’t. It was too much. Too fast. As head over heels as I was, as we both were, I couldn’t go through with it. One day, yes. But I couldn’t say when that would be. He wanted to take care of me, but he’d never really understand the weight I carried.
“I do want to marry you, Cameron. I really honestly do, one day, but not…today. We shouldn’t rush into this.”
“Rush? I’ve spent two months away from you and it’s killing me. I thought you felt the same way.”