The young man flopped down on the queen bed next to the young lady lying on her side, reading in the dim light.
“If I asked you to marry me, would you say ‘yes’?” he asked. His voice was nonchalant, but he fiddled with the strings on his hoodie like he was nervous.
“No,” the blonde said without looking up. She scratched under her chin and then turned the page of her book.
“Because I’d be lying, of course,” she said, not really listening to him.
“But aren’t girls supposed to—” The book dropped onto the bedspread in front of her when she looked up at him, her eyes flashing a little, and he stopped.
“What?” she asked calmly.
“What are girls supposed to do?”
“Uh,” he paused, fumbling for a good answer. “Vote?”
She picked up her book again and went back to reading. “Nice save.” She turned another page. “You know how I feel about marriage. About weddings.”
“Yes, but I thought—” She looked over the edge of the book at him, waiting. “Don’t you love me?”
“Yes,” she confirmed. The dark-haired boy wanted to touch her, to hold her the way she let him when they were sleeping, but he knew she wouldn’t allow it.
“Then why…?” he began, his voice trailing off. They’d had this conversation before, and he’d never assumed he’d be in this position. Usually, it was the women who wanted to get married, right?
“Seriously? Are we doing this again?”
“What does loving you have to do with marrying you?” she asked.
“Isn’t that what people are supposed to do when they love each other?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.
“Who is ‘supposed to’ do anything?”
“Well, I mean,” he tried to explain, “wouldn’t society fall apart without rules and customs and traditions and stuff?”
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because we’re not society,” she said matter-of-fact-ly. “We can do whatever we want.”
“You don’t want to marry me?”
“But I want to marry you.”
She snorted a laugh, despite the seriousness of his tone. “Well, then you’re shit outta luck, aren’t you?” When he didn’t laugh with her, she put the book down again and took his hand.
“I love you,” she said. “I want to be with you. But I want that to be on my own terms.”
“And that means no weddings or rings or anything.”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I’m not going to up and leave you just because I’m not married to you. And a ring on my finger wouldn’t stop me from leaving if I wanted to anyway. Nor would it stop you.”
The young man sighed, running the fingers of his free hand through his short hair. “I know.”
“Now. You know how I feel. I know how you feel. Can we not have this conversation any more?”
“Like, ever?” he asked, his eyes growing a little wider.
“Not unless something changes, okay? It’s the same thing over and over, and it just makes you unhappy.” She leaned up and kissed his forehead lightly.
“Okay,” he said, unconsciously leaning into her small gesture.
This post is part of Flash Fiction February.