Jane now felt paralyzed, powerless to stop Brad’s momentum. “Keep waiting for the right moment to make this official, but it’s looking like that moment ain’t coming.” Her eyes were fixed on his right hand as it came out of his pocket, holding a small white box, not much more than an inch wide, high, or deep. “Sorry for the plain box — they wanted twenty bucks for the velvet-covered one with the hinged opening. You’d think they’d give it to you for free, considering how much I paid for — ”
Snapping out of her paralysis, Jane tore her right hand away from Brad’s grasp, then used both her hands to surround the hand holding the white box, forcing him to close his fingers around it until it was no longer visible. Her voice was sharp and commanding. “Not — now. No, there’s no right time, but there are wrong times, and this is a very, very wrong time.”
Brad looked hurt and offended. “Does that mean no?”
“No! I mean, I’m not saying no. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying yes. Or no.”
Brad tilted his head, his mouth and eyes contorting into a sarcastic grin. “So — maybe?”
Jane nodded. “Maybe. Maybe, yes.” Then she shook her head. “Or maybe no. Or maybe — perhaps — just maybe.”
Brad dropped his hands, stood up hurriedly as if his name was finally called after an hour in the DMV. “I don’t see what the big deal is.” He began pacing around the coffee table, waving his arms, his right hand still grasping the little white box. “We’ve been pre-engaged for what, three months now?” He turned to Jane, pointed at the white box with his left index finger. “I thought this was what you wanted.”
Deciding she didn’t like the rhetoric of their body height, Jane rose to her feet. “I told you, this has been a weird week. I’m just not — I’m not in the right frame of mind to make big decisions.” She decided not to tell him, as she had several times in the past, that if he wanted to walk around talking about something as ridiculous as a pre-engagement, that was his problem.
Brad’s arms raised in the air, like he was signaling a touchdown. “OK then! So now that this evening’s all blown to hell — what now?”
Jane’s eyes moved to the white box, held high above his head in his right hand. She looked at him thoughtfully. “Two things. First — ” she pointed to the box — “put that back in your pocket.” Brad quickly complied. “Second.” She took two quick steps forward, raised her right hand to his cheek, looked up at him with as vulnerable an expression as she felt comfortable mustering. Her voice was soft, barely audible. “Stay. Please — stay.”
The surprise in Brad’s eyes quickly disappeared as he lunged his face down, kissing her roughly. Their sex that evening was aggressive, Brad launching himself against her with an abandon she had never experienced before with him, with anyone. Jane was surprised to find herself responding in kind, exploring Brad’s body in ways that would have made her uncomfortable before.
It was exhilarating. Draining. But not (as Jane realized upon waking several hours later, seeing Brad’s naked body lying next to her, pools of dried semen and other bodily fluids on the sheets around them), satisfying. For if anything, having sex made her feel more alone than she had at any point since her world had changed Monday morning.
She touched Brad’s shoulder, whispered his name. He grunted in his sleep, turned his body away from her, mumbled unintelligibly. Jane sniffed, drew closer, pressed her body against his back. Closed her eyes, the blessing of unconsciousness not arriving for many dark minutes.