The boy suggested the exercise. Boy and girl sat in chairs facing each other and stared deeply into the other’s eyes, knees almost touching. The purpose was simply a “getting to know” exercise. At first, the girl was smiling and her eyes were very bright, but as time began to tick away, her facial muscles started to relax and her eyes began to dim. Ere long, her eyes were empty as though her soul had receded and left the house of the body. The boy called her name gently, then louder. Finally, he called a third time, with an edge of panic in his youthful voice, and he placed his hand lightly on her knee. At the touch, she started and grabbed his wrist, then seemed to realize what she did and looked into his eyes. He smiled reassuringly, then used his free hand and gently moved her hands until he was holding them.
A little bit later, they were walking, still holding hands. He asked her, “Where did you go?”
She blushed and looked down, then shyly said, “I was just thinking.”
“Do you often think so intensely that not even your name will call you from the reverie?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“I plead the fifth.” She had her reasons for that. For one thing, she had been thinking of what their future together would be like if they married, and marriage was not something they had discussed as a couple.
Unknown to her, however, the subject was also weighing rather heavily on his mind. After walking in silence for some time, the boy ventured another question.
“Do you always attack that way when you are startled?”
“No. I usually don’t just attack, as I am usually not that deep in thought; I usually just jump back or move away very quickly. Running is my very first instinct; attacking is buried deeper.”
They walked again in silence. She spoke again after a few moments.
“Did I hurt you?”
“Well, there’s nothing visible.”
“I think I started to break your wrist.”
“That would have been problematic.”
“I stopped as soon as my conscious mind came back and realized it was you.” Her heart wanted to tell him that she would never intentionally hurt anyone, least of all him, but she was afraid to be seen as anything less than tough and ready to take on anyone, anytime, anywhere.
He realized what was on her mind, for he knew her much better than she thought anyone did. He smiled at her, and she, looking at him, misstepped, tripping over what appeared to be nothing. He caught her and steadied her, still smiling but not laughing at her. For someone so strong, this girl was very frail and needed looking after. Their eyes met and a spark flashed between those two pairs of eyes, so young and yet not unclouded by age-old thoughts.
He held her close, a seemingly natural follow-up to steadying her, and kissed her then and there. The light of fear shone bright in her eyes and as he relaxed his grip on her arms, she broke loose and ran.
She ran as quickly as she could and as far as she could, the rush of wind biting her eyes and confused emotions tearing at her heart. She was not worthy of love. She had no great capacity to give love. She was too young to chain herself to a man. She was too set in her single life habits to change. She could not care for herself, let alone a husband or children. Most of all, she was afraid. Afraid of love, of hurting the one she loved as she had never loved anyone before, of being a bad wife or mother. She ran and ran, trying to outpace her own thoughts and reach a decision.
The boy was somewhat surprised when the girl began to fly. He put his hand over his pocket, where the ring he had recently purchased was still safe in its velvet case. He began to pursue the girl, for he realized that the two of them would make a good couple, despite his own fear of being too selfish to be a good husband or father, and his own feelings of being not good enough for this fleet angel. Would his job be able to provide for all of her needs and the needs of their children? What desires would have to go unfulfilled? Would he be able to fulfill all the duties of husband and father? He ran after her, trying to show the girl that, despite his doubts, he loved her far too much to just let her go.
She could barely breathe now, and her side hurt. Her heart pounded and her vision was clouded, a gray haze edging in on her vision. She began to fall…
He saw her, just a few yards ahead, then a few feet. He was almost upon her when he saw her fall, and he dove forward, catching her so she would not be bruised. She was breathing heavily and her pulse was racing far too quickly. Tears glistened on her cheeks and her eyes were full of emotion. He waited for her to catch her breath. As soon as she could, she stood up. He remained as he was, one knee on the ground, still holding her right hand in his left. His right hand found the velvet case in his pocket.
“Please don’t run away again,” said he.
“Why should I not?” she dared him to answer. “I am no worth the effort o’ running after.”
“I think you are.”
They stared once more into each other’s eyes. This time the girl’s eyes began to shine brighter as she realized that here was the man she’d been dreaming of all her life, the man who truly loved her and the man she truly loved. The man’s eyes shone with love given and received, a mutual exchange between himself and this woman he found so lovely in body, soul, and mind. He figured this was the opportune moment, so he whipped out that precious velvet box and asked the question that had been near his heart these many moons.
“Please, I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. Won’t you be my wife?”
“I think I just might be able to manage that.”