The dinner was going well. The drinks and food arrived at the appropriate times and everything was cooked perfectly. It had been one of those days when everything was going wrong, so even something as simple as a well-prepared meal was appreciated.
“I love you,” he said.
She smiled. “You don’t know how much I needed that.”
He sat for a minute, quietly fidgeting with the napkin on his lap. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, “I don’t know if I’ve necessarily been clear. I’m in love with you. You’re my favorite person. And I know this is a lot to throw at you, and you already have a lot to deal with, but I figured it was important to say.”
She dropped her fork, the color rising in her cheeks. “Can I ask you something?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said, his hands shaking slightly.
“Why would you think this would make my night worse?” She picked up her fork and speared a potato before taking a bite.
“It’s just, you’ve had a shit day,” he said with a shrug. “You’ve had to deal with a never-ending sea of assholery, and I thought that maybe you didn’t need anything else thrown on top of it.”
“But you decided to say it anyway?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Something like that, yes. And I don’t know what this means, or where we go from here. But it seemed important to say.”
“Any idea what you’d like it to mean?”
He thought about for a few seconds before replying. “Well, in an ideal world, it would mean a relationship, but I don’t know where you stand on that sort of thing.”
She nodded and took a drink of her wine, hoping that he didn’t notice her hand shake. “I have something to tell you.”
“You’re in love with Steve, the waiter?”
“Fuck, was it that obvious?”
“Well, he is in charge of refilling the bread.”
She shook her head and smiled. “I love you, too. Even if I’m not supposed to.”
They both sat back in their chairs, the moment washing over them. Steve stopped by to make sure everything was fine, and they tried not to laugh.
“I’m proud of you,” she said. “I know this is a big thing for you to do. Can I ask you one more thing?”
“If you pop out a ring, I’m going to be excited and unnerved,” he replied.
“We’ve known each other all this time. How long have you known?”
“Since Portland,” he said, his mind drifting back to a lonely hotel room and a panicked late night phone call.
“That long?” She frowned. “You’ve been back for weeks.”
“It hit me that night, when you talked me down. Nobody’s ever done that for me. And then I started thinking about how the best part of my day is when I get to see you.”
“And you just now decided to say something?”
“I wanted to make sure I did it right,” he said with a smile.
The wine was gone, and Steve had cleared away the dishes. They sat in silence for a moment before she cleared her throat.
“So what happens now?” she asked.
“Well, my first thought is that we pay the check. Then, let Steve down easy, maybe a big tip to ease his heartbreak. Then we see where the night goes from there.”
They walked out into the night, his fingers intertwined with hers. When they reached their cars, they both paused. He smiled and pulled her in close, brushing his thumb against her cheek before pulling her in for a kiss.
“I love you,” he said. “More than anything.”
He felt her smile against his neck. “I love you, too,” she said.
©2015 Chris Page. All rights reserved.