The Proposal

“Marry me, Gladys.” He said, going down on one knee. Fred’s proposal caught her off guard.

Yes, they've enjoyed a blissful relationship thus far, but she wasn't sure she had the strength for such a commitment. She wished to communicate her emotion, but her tongue ceased to function. Even the windy temperature had no impact on the sweltering heat she felt. The way he gazed at her rendered her emotionally vulnerable. Stillness ensued between them; a drop of a pin could have made a jarring noise.  

He moved closer, separated her intertwined fingers, and clasped them in his as though letting would hurt. In his eyes were passion, sincerity, gentleness, and acceptance. Both didn't move a muscle; they simply stood there, listening to their hearts pound. Fred cleared his throat and broke the silence. "I adore you, Rose. I didn't fall in love with your smile but your frown. I tried to stay away, but like a magnet, I kept drawing to you." He let out a weak smile and continued, "In your resentment, I saw love. Fearlessness in your pain, and in you, I saw a reflection of myself…."

Rose felt excited, confused, and scared. The tangle of emotions was slowly giving way to a throbbing headache; it was as though someone was using her head for drumming rehearsals. The pang made her dizzy, and tears threatened to fall. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths, thankful the proposal wasn't a public one. When she opened her eyes again, she was back in control.

"What do you say, Gladys?" "I can't," she said, but everything in her was screaming her love for him. The fear that he might come to loathe her if he discovered her secret stopped her from saying more. The shock and disappointment on his face were unmistakable. The pain in his eyes broke her heart, and the tears she tried to hide ran down her cheeks unrestrained. She wanted to profess her love for him; she wanted to tell him he was the best thing that ever happened to her. She longed to tell him; he won her heart the moment he demolished the barricade she built around it. But all she did was silently sob. "Okay. I will respect your decision." He said, rising from the kneeling position. "Fred, I...I..." "What is it, Gladys? Is there something you want to tell me?" He wanted to apologize for reading her letter. Though she had addressed it to him, she never gave it to him. He had stumbled on it two months after they met. A letter that summarized her and a past she wanted to bury.

He knew it was an invasion of privacy, but he couldn't suppress the impulse to read it. So, he feigned ignorance afterward, hoping the letter would be delivered to him soon. Every time spent with her, he would see how much she struggled with indecision. "Just trust me!" He screamed in his heart. "I…" He sighed. "I will see you tomorrow." He said, walking away at a fast pace. "Wait!" She called, running after him. But his hearing organ seemed suspended. She screamed his name, and he glanced back. Instantly, she wished he hadn't turned, but it was too late to scream a warning.

The four-wheel vehicle ran over him and sped off. With fear tying knots in her stomach, she ran to where he lay. She knelt beside him and tried to lift him off the ground as he struggled to breathe. She wrapped her arms around him, letting her dress be soaked with his blood. 

"Fred, stay with me! You cannot die; stay with me! Somebody help!" she cried out to passers-by. "I knew about it…." He wheezed, blood trickling out the side of his mouth. "Knew about what?" He grunted in pain as he tried to speak. "Whatever it is, let's talk about it later… But I do love you. I was scared." He gave a painful smile and breathed his last. It's been ten years since the incident, but Gladys still lives with the guilt that she caused his death and the regrets of what could have been if only she'd given him the letter. She could never stop wondering what Fred knew and was trying to tell her before he died. 

© Olagoke Kikelomo Grace

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