As we walked along the canyon, my anger seethed inside. Didn’t he get what I wanted? Didn’t he understand that I just wanted him to propose, so I could leave that city behind, so that I could start over, and perhaps even begin having children? I continued to stomp my way through the forested trail, as the sun peaked randomly through the trees.
It wasn’t even that, really. I didn’t want to be married per se, I just wanted to have something to look forward to. I’d spent the last year in the confines of my own body, only having relinquished The Kiddo weeks before. Didn’t he understand what it meant to me? To have him want me forever, and to make everyone see I was not nearly as broken as it appeared. I could be that girl. The one who had the baby, then went on to get married in the Mormon temple. I would prove them wrong. I would prove me wrong.
I could hear his footsteps crunching behind me, every so often, a sigh would escape his mouth, along with my name, “Danielle”, he’d call. I pretended I didn’t hear him. We had hiked to the waterfall, and I had thought that it was the perfect time for him to propose. We’d discussed marriage in the short month that we’d known each other, so what was he waiting for?
His footsteps quickened, and he caught up to me, grabbing me by the hand,
“Danielle. I want to propose, but when the time is right,” he said in his garbled voice. Didn’t he know how lucky he was to have me? Someone who would accept all of his flaws, who would willingly live with his disability despite how trying it had already been for me. I felt guilty for thinking this, but it was hard to communicate with him. Even when it wasn’t.
I scowled at him, “And when’s that? After we do more long distance. More talking on the computer!?” My hands were waving wildly, and I was speaking far too loud for a place that was so serene.
He sighed again.
“Why are you being so difficult?”
I shook my head madly and stormed off again, leaving a trail of red dust in my wake. Didn’t he get it? I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be married, to have the life I had been told I wanted for the last nine months. Maybe I didn’t really want those things, I had no idea, but he needed to give it to me. He was the only one who could.
This didn’t need to be so complicated, he just had to ask the damn question and we’d prepare the invitations.
I came to a spot that opened into the bright sunlight and I stopped to look. My inner voice was telling me I was way out of line and that I didn’t want any of it to happen like this. Who wants to tell people that they were proposed to because they all but held their significant other hostage? That’s not romantic. Yet, I’d gone this far. I was sure I met him so he could take care of me after I’d relinquished The Kiddo. I was going to hold him to that, even if he had no idea.
Tears spilled over, and I viciously wiped them away. They, all of the people at church, had promised me great blessings. They promised me marriage, and a full life of love and much goodness. Right now, I just felt hollow on the inside and completely unlike myself. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to go into autopilot, and just begin my life as if nothing had happened, as if the last nine months were gone, erased, and meant absolutely nothing.
But he needed to propose in order to do this.
While I was deep in my thoughts, he had passed me. He was mad, and I knew I was losing the moment, the moment I was trying to create. As I began my trek back to the beginning of the trail, I mulled over the arguments I could use to make him see why this all had to be. I mean, I had just given my child away, didn’t I deserve exactly what I wanted because of that?
I came to the bridge, and found him throwing rocks into the creek bed. He motioned to me to sit down, and I did, but as far away from him as possible.
“I want you to go to school first”, he started.
“I can go to school here,” I articulated soundly.
He sighed again. From where I sat I could see his cheekbones moving as he was grinding his teeth. I knew I was getting to him, and I knew I was being unfair, but I was indignant. I wasn’t going to share the experience of losing my child with him and have him take off into the abyss. He was going to make things right, and marry me.
“Danielle. I just think…”
“No, whatever. You can just say whatever you want. I think you are being selfish,” I said stubbornly. I knew I was wrong. What was I even doing?
There was silence, and I listened to the water move down the creek. I could hear the birds chirping around us as the hot July sun beat down on us. He could only feel these things, not hear them, and I thought for a moment about what it would be like to talk to him in the dark, or how we would deal with feedings in the middle of the night when we had a baby. I’d be alone almost as much I had been in the hospital. The pit in my stomach was beginning to grow.
“Look, I love you Danielle. I do. I just need…”
I cut him off.
“Stop. I don’t want to talk about this. Let’s just go home. I think I want to go back to my parents tonight too.” A threat. I was going to cut my trip short when I knew he had much planned for us.
You could hear the voices of other hikers making their way closer to the end of the trail. We wouldn’t be alone for much longer. He wasn’t going to do as I said. I felt my eyes get hot again as I thought of how he had held me the day I had come home from the hospital. Why had I shared that moment with him?
Minutes later, he started talking about his grandfather. I stopped listening because I didn’t care. I had no patience for listening, or hearing, or thinking about anything other than exactly what I wanted. Words that had nothing to do with The Kiddo meant very little to me. Then I heard it.
He was proposing. I had won. He was under the bridge, on his knee, one foot touching the creek, his eyes looking at me, tired almost. I tried not to smirk. And then I said yes.
I would get the white picket fence. The family. The marriage. I would do it all, exactly as I was told. I got what I wanted, even when it wasn’t what I wanted at all.
Image Credit: Mike The Mountain