Open the box.
February 17 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”
It’s not what she expected, Marilou.
When Sam dropped to one knee and presented a box balanced on the fingertips of two hands held aloft, her heart went a-flutter. Just like in the Danielle Steele romance novels she consumed along with her favorite munchies, bags of buttered popcorn, at her side.
A royal blue velvet case. Just like in the movies. Just the right size for an engagement ring. Or a pair of emerald earrings.
How would she disguise her disappointment if they were those instead of the ring? She’d cross that bridge if she came to it and prayed it wouldn’t.
She and Sam had been dating, what, about 2-1/2 years now. Is he in or is he out? It’s about time he make a commitment. It’s about time he got SERIOUS about their relationship. Their future.
She ruminated on these thoughts a thousand times a day.
It’s about time they both settle down. Find a house. Start a family. All those things that people do. That you’re supposed to do. That’s normal to do, she thought.
How sweet he looks there, on his knee. Totally disregarding his slacks getting soaked by the day’s early showers resting now on the street. Just like in the movies. Just like in those romance novels.
“Marilou,” he said, holding the velvety box aloft and looking her directly in the eye. “You know I love you. You know I love you like I’ve never loved anyone else. Well, except for Rascal.”
Marilou smiled. Yes, he certainly loves that big goof. A motley mutt mix of, to the best of anyone’s guesstimation, muscle-y Rhodesian ridgeback, lab and boxer. That big goof goes everywhere with him. “Surprising he’s not here with us now!” she thought.
Her future fiancé — Marilou was just about that certain that a proposal was in the works — loved that dog to death. But that’d change once they were married. She’d teach him. She’d train him to love her more. Or at least to put her first. Put her before that dang mutt.
“I’ve been trying to give this to you for a while,” Sam said from their spot on the sidewalk in front of the cafe.
The cafe where they first met. He seated at a table with a cappuccino and his head buried in a magazine. A dog magazine of all things. “Figures,” she thought in retrospect. “He’ll outgrow that, once we’re married. He’ll learn to put me and family first, once we’re married.”
Marilou cheered her good fortune at a table emptying next to the man with the magazine just as she paid for her latte. Snagged the seat. Struck up a conversation. And the rest is history. Just like in the movies. Just like in the romance novels she devoured.
“I finally got the nerve,” he said, an unmistakeable bashfulness briefly sweeping across his face. “Here, I’d like you to have this.”
“For me?!?” she cooed. She even batted her eyelashes but he didn’t notice.
Sam glowed as she received the fuzzy box. With anticipation dripping from her every pore, she took hold, prepared herself to remember this very special moment and flipped the lid. Just like in the movies. Just like in the romance novels.
She was stunned. Incredulous even. “What’s this?!”
Grinning with all the pride of a 10-year-old boy presenting his mother a bouquet of wildflowers that he himself had picked from the nearby hills, he answered gleefully.
“That’s a rock … what’s left of a rock, I should say … that Rascal chewed. Down to the nib. It’s the first rock I ever threw for him way back when he was a puppy on our first walk.
“He carried that rock around in his jowls for that entire walk! Refused to let go. Except for me to throw it. Again and again! It was like his tennis ball, ya know?”
“No, I don’t know,” Marilou glared in her mind. She feigned ignorance with a shrug.
“He carried it home, so proud, this little goof with a rock half his size. After that, he’d lie around gnawing that thing down to the bone,” he reminisced lovingly. “What a guy. I kept it all these years. Sentiment, I guess. I just love that Rascal. Now I want you to have it.”
Marilous was speechless. Well, she was receiving a rock all right. But it looked nothing like the one she envisioned or that every girl dreams of. Such was her conviction.
“Definitely not like in the movies. Not like in the romance books,” she fumed.
Her impulse was to take that gnawed-down rock and heave it mightily against the sidewalk in front of the cafe where they’d met, cracking it into a million pieces. “THAT’D show him!”
But a blip of her higher self intervened. Stopped her. And thank God because it’d would’ve broken Sam’s heart in a million ways and he’d never recover.
She snapped the lid shut. Handed the box over. Smiled and said: “Perhaps you should give this to your dog instead. You two would make a very lovely married couple.”
Then she stormed off, leaving Sam dumbfounded, speechless and immobilized still on one knee.
Funny how most things do work out in time.
Marilou and Sam each recovered from their split.
She ended up finding her perfect dream man. Of course he was nothing of the sort. Marilou never truly knew or saw him at all. With her rose-colored glasses, what she saw — and married — was the dream man straight out of the movies and romance novels.
And Sam, he came out the real winner. He and his big goof.
He and Rascal shared a true friendship. They were the best of buddies. Genuine, soulful, unconditional love both ways, fun, playful and honest. Always there for each other. Always listening to each other. Never calling each other shitty names or making hurtful judgements, accusations, false statements and all the rest of the crap that comprises most marriages.
And just for sentiment, Sam placed that box, with the lid opened to display that chewed-to-the-nib first rock that he’d thrown, the rock that had begun a bond and lifetime companionship, on his dresser.
Time to time he caressed that rock, just a little with the tip of a finger. He never thought about the bitch who’d try to sink her catty claws into him — her projected image of him as husband straight out of the movies, out of the romance novels.
He and his dog had a bond that was healthy. Full of good and replete with joy. He felt like the luckiest man alive.
He would never be boxed in by a woman and her watershed illusions or delusions.
And he would never close the box that held the rock that to him meant more than any diamond from a jewelry store — be it inside or outside of a romance novel.