*Photograph credits go to Michelle Seres*
“I love you right here and now; and we are not married. I love you more than anything in this world; and we are not married. I love you and I want to be with you until we die; and we are not married,” I said sitting with Joss.
“Then why not have that party so our families can mingle, drink and dance?” Joss asked softly.
“Why slap another label on our lives?” I responded.
“Why not slap that label on our lives if it fits?” Joss said letting go of my hands.
“Because we don’t have to do what everyone else thinks; we are our on persons,” I said leaning back.
“But what if I want to?” Joss said pointing at herself. “You said you wanna give me the life I deserve. I think I deserve to be married!”
In that moment I knew I had failed Joss. I had failed to give her something she deserved. I opened my mouth to speak; but I couldn’t. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. I had never failed anyone; let alone fail the woman I love.
“I’m going out for a smoke. I’ll meet you and your parents down stairs in a few minutes for presents,” Joss said storming out of the room.
“Don’t leave me,” I whispered as she walked out of the room. She was gone. The love of my life had walked out on me because of something I said. She had left me because of something I had done. I sat back on the couch and slumped over sideways, falling face first into the couch.
I laid there for a moment contemplating everything that the both of us had said. I began to wonder if I was really the right guy for her. I wondered what she saw in me and if I were ever capable of being the guy she thought I was. I doubted it. I even doubted that I’d ever become the guy who I believed ought to be Joss. In fact, I knew that I wouldn’t become that guy. And yet, she was crazy for me. She was absolutely in love with me and had been for some time now.
After moping about my predicament and lack of confidence I headed down to the living room so I could join my parents and sibling for the annual opening of presents. In the living room my younger sister waited anxiously for Joss and I to join the group. My parents were both seated on their love seat sipping coffee when I walked in.
“Merry Christmas!” my mom said as I walked into the living room.
“Right back at you,” I said softly sitting across the room from her.
“What’s wrong? Everything okay with you and Joss?” she asked.
“I don’t know if I’m the right guy for Joss,” I admitted.
“Oh hunny; relax. You two are perfect for one another,” my mom said quietly.
“I don’t think I can ever be good enough for her. She’s too great,” I said.
“You are,” my mom smiled, nodding toward the front door. Joss opened the door, bringing a batch of cool air into the house.
“Merry Christmas everyone,” Joss said taking off her coat. “Well, let’s get this day started! Tammy, grab that bag under the tree. It’s from me.”
“Okay!” my little sister said happily grabbing the present and tearing into it.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything I thought about marriage before,” I apologized as Joss walked over to me.
“It’s okay,” she said sitting on the floor next to me. “I overreacted.”
“Hey, Tammy can you grab that little box there?” I said to my sister.
“This one?” Tammy said handing me a semi-small present.
“Yes, thank you,” I said taking the gift.
“Merry Christmas babe,” I said handing Joss the gift.
“Thank you,” Joss said sticking her tongue out at me. Her fingers traced folds in the wrapping paper, pulling both the paper and tape off the box. Her efforts revealed a plain cardboard box beneath the paper. The flaps on the box popped open, allowing her to see inside.
“Oh, jewelry?” Joss said pulling the tiny box from the larger one. I smiled as she opened the little jewelry box.
“Will you marry me?” I asked as Joss opened the ring box.
“Oh my god,” Joss said softly. “I thought you hated marriage. Are you doing this just to make me happy?”
“That isn’t the answer I expected,” I said as my smile dwindled. My cheeks erupted in embarrassed tones of red.
“Are you?” Joss asked holding up the box. “This morning you seemed pretty against the idea of getting married. Before when we discussed the idea, you seemed pretty much against the institution itself. What made you change your mind?”
“You,” I said taking Joss’ hand.
“What?” Joss asked confused.
“You are the kind of girl that makes a guy like me; someone who openly says marriage isn’t for them change. When we first started dating you gave a reason to approach the idea. Then when we started to become more serious, you gave me a reason to actually consider the idea. Then, in the last few months you gave me a reason to openly commit myself to you with a label we call marriage,” I explained holding her hand tighter.
“I made you change?” Joss said surprised.
“Yes,” I said happily.
“Well?” I asked laughing “You can’t leave me hanging.”
“Yes,” Joss smiled slipping the ring on her finger. It sparkled and shined in the colorful hues of the Christmas lights. The small band almost glowed underneath the gentle twinkling lights. Behind us, my family clapped as we shared our first kiss as an engaged couple.