“What, uh, what did you do here?” He tries to sound calm, nonchalant even.
“Do you like it?” I’ve been seeing them everywhere and though of you.” She’s ninety percent sure he’ll love it, but there’s a nagging anxiety inside her at all times, unless of course she’s working on one of her projects.
“Permanent?” he asks, trying not to sound hopeful, merely curious.
“Oh, well, yeah, I mean…we could add things to it around the holidays to change it up a bit but…”her voice trails off as she searches his face for a clue.
He grunts and flops onto the sofa with the remote, trying to ignore the now desecrated bull skull hanging on the wall. Pressing the buttons more firmly than usual, he searches for something he can ignore while he thinks of how to proceed.
Three months ago when she’d first moved in he’d been sure she was “the one.” She was completely his type: tall, thin without being boney, fantastic red hair that tumbled all about, and a laugh that made entire rooms go quiet for a moment in appreciation. He gave her a key to his place on their third date and had planned to propose after three months. Odd numbers were his good luck, or at least they always had been. But now, here they were three months in and he’d never been so unsure of anything in his life.
It wasn’t like she’d changed the last three months. He hadn’t learned of any major skeleton in her closet. She didn’t stop shaving or doing her makeup or gain a ton of weight. If anything, he’d finally realized why some men claimed to love their spouses best first thing in the morning: hair tousled, eyes gritty with sleep, breath molten. He found he loved her most first thing in the morning, too, especially when she was still sleeping or had just woken up and had spoken yet.
No. It was something else. Something unexpected and impossible to change. He tried. Of course he tried! This was the love of his life, potentially. He’d offered to buy her things on Etsy or at those damn craft fairs she was always dragging him to. He intimated that she couldn’t possibly have time in her crowded schedule and surely she could allow him to just buy it for her. But she always declined. She always insisted she needed the outlet, she loved the results, it was better and more intimate if she made the things herself.
And so, slowly, weekend by weekend, project by project, she’d begun to make things for “them.” She wasn’t the worst ever at it. He was sure a child would produce something worse than she did. Perhaps. And he tried to love her creations because he loved her and she loved her crafts. But it was no use. He couldn’t look at the “farmhouse sign” she’d painted without being embarrassed. He couldn’t cuddle on the couch under the blanket she’d quilted without slitting his eyes. And he absolutely could not, would not, sit under his horn-wrapped-bull-skull, the first bull he ever roped and the only skill he’d ever mastered that his father appreciated, now emasculated by air plants and raffia and whatever the hell else she’d done to it and pretend that all was well.
He’d asked her once at two months in how come she didn’t have all kinds of homemade stuff with her when she moved in.
“Oh, I only make things for the people I love. My love inspires me,” she’d said.
He’d remained silent at that and told himself he’d learn to live with it. Afterall, everyone has baggage, right? Some other woman would be far less perfect and come with way more to ignore. So what if this one needed to spend two days a week creating something truly awful in order to express her love.
And so a cross-stitch throw pillow that always made the bed look like it was tilting to the left, a log reindeer that thankfully got packed away for a future holiday, and an owl topiary in serious need of a veterinarian or a gardener or something, joined the sign, blanket, and now the skull.
He stabbed the television off, set the remote carefully on the coffee table, and met her now moist gaze.
“I’m sorry!” she blurts. “I thought you’d love it. I really overstepped. I should have asked…”
He holds up his hands to shush her.
“I didn’t know I could love anyone as much as I love you now. After only three months you’ve managed to create a place in my life and in my heart I didn’t ever think were there. You’ve managed to show me week after week just how much you love me and I’m grateful.” He takes a deep breath before continuing, “this here with my skull, well, I guess you can’t know just how much this bull means to me cause I’ve never bothered to tell you. And I guess if I want things that are mine and only mine that won’t get me too far, fact is, it hasn’t gotten me very far at all. What I’m trying to say is…” and here he paused.
Once he said what he was thinking of saying he wouldn’t be able to take it back and he needed to be sure. Looking at her lovely confused face he continued, “will you keep making us things you love forever?”
He pulled out the ring he’s been carrying for three months from his jean pocket, got down on one knee, and stared into her weeping eyes.
~~~That’s one hour~~~