As I snuck into my girlfriend’s apartment that evening, I was a little more than a little nervous. I had been thinking about this night for more than a month, planning out every single detail. Everything had to be perfect. A few days beforehand, I could hardly eat. Wild thoughts raced through my head when I was trying to sleep at night. What if she says no? What if she doesn’t feel the same as I do? Will she break up with me? Will my heart ever heal again if she does?
For I was planning on proposing to her that night.
Asena and I met when we were in 8th grade, when she moved to my town. I had always noticed her, how could I not? Even in 8th grade, I knew she was beautiful. Her long auburn hair hung to her waist when she left it down. Her eyes were harsh and calculating when she was on edge, but when she was comfortable they were warm and light. She hardly spoke to anyone, only to her best friend, Via. Even in class, she didn’t like to speak. Everyone knew she was smart, but she just didn’t let on much. Everyone in our class noticed her, but I doubt anyone noticed her as much as I did.
Despite my attraction to Asena, we didn’t really start talking until high school started. Over that summer, she had changed, grown into herself. She was more beautiful than ever. I was still too afraid to talk to her, for fear she would shut me down. But it was my love for music that gave me an excuse to talk to her.
Music had always been one of my hobbies, but it became an obsession when I started high school. Most of my money was spent on music, and nearly all of my time was dedicated to it, as well. I would lay on my bed and listen to music for hours on end, basking in the harmonies created by the voices and instruments of the song. Music was my best friend, something I could always rely on, no matter what.
I took choir class for the first time in my first year of high school. I had only considered it because my elementary school teacher had told me I had a good voice. I couldn’t be sure, as I had never really sang in front of her. In elementary, you don’t care that much about music. You never actually sing, either. During rehearsals you yell and talk to your friends, then mumble the words during the concert and hope that you don’t get a lecture by your teacher afterward. Despite all of my doubts, I was eager to start.
Asena was also in choir, and I noticed her voice in the very first class. Her voice was angelic, high and low at the same time. I summed up all of my courage and asked her about her preferences in music. After that, we started hanging out. We’d go over to my house and listen to some new music I’d found or something she had just discovered. When she concentrated on the music, it looked like she was trying to set fire to the carpet with her eyes. When I looked at Asena during those times, it felt like my heart was going to set on fire, too.
We didn’t start dating until the summer before sophomore year, when we’d started to spend the most time together. We went to the park together almost every day, as friends, to just listen to the sounds and feel the breeze. But the best time that summer was when I took her to her first concert. As soon as I saw the ads, I started saving up. Asena’s favorite band, Careless Rain, was playing in a city close to us. I knew that she had never been to a concert, and I also knew that she would have the time of her life.
When I finally presented her with the tickets, she just looked at them for a long moment. My heart was beating so loudly that I was sure she could hear it. After a few seconds, I worried that she would just throw them away or something. Before I knew what was happening, she leapt at me and hugged me, for the first time, so tight it was hard to breathe. But I didn’t care.
She was chatty as we drove to the concert, bubbling over with excitement. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I couldn’t stop smiling. As the first song started, Asena closed her eyes. She didn’t move, she hardly even breathed. She was completely lost in the music, and I was completely lost in her. I don’t think she even noticed how hard she was grinning. When the first song ended, she looked at me with bright eyes and an even brighter smile.
“Thank you,” she said to me, and hugged me, more gently than that first time. I hugged her back hesitantly.
She let go of me, and lost herself in the music again, swaying and dancing and singing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, thinking that this is where she truly belonged. When the concert was over, I drove her home. I walked her up to her front door, but she didn’t open it and go inside, like usual. She stood in front of me, holding my eyes with her bright blue ones. She took tiny steps toward me, until we were almost touching. I couldn’t move. She stretched her hand out to my head to pull me closer, and we kissed.
We became a couple soon after that night. Asena had been hiding much of her personal life from me. After we started dating, she told me more about her family than I would have ever guessed. Her father had left her family when Asena was only three years old. Her mother had a drinking problem for most of Asena’s childhood, although she was getting better.
Asena also told me that she had been depressed for a time period of about three years. She told me that she would go home and cry for hours, tortured by her thoughts that wouldn’t leave her alone. I had been so angry at her stubbornness. I wondered why she didn’t get help, though I knew she was too proud to admit that she couldn’t handle it alone.
After we graduated high school, we went to the same college, quite by accident. I had been looking at Martinez University for a long time, because of its excellent music program. I could learn about the music industry, mostly about digital music production. I decided to get a degree in media planning in marketing.
Asena went to Martinez University to also learn about music, mostly vocal and instrumental music, and get a degree in psychology and journalism. She had always wanted to help young people overcome mental issues like anxiety and depression. Though she never said it out loud, I also knew she wanted to make sure no one felt like she did. She would be perfect for her job, either as a psychologist or a journalist. Between the two of us, we had quite a few scholarships.
Although I was nervous before starting, college was actually an amazing time in my life. I had so many great opportunities and met a lot of new people. My dorm roommate, Derik, was one of the best people I’ve ever met. He was laid back enough to where he didn’t worry me, but driven enough to get things done. Asena’s roommate, Renna, helped Asena overcome some of her shyness in front of large groups of people, which I would always be grateful for.
After college, Asena and I each bought an apartment, even though I was secretly planning to propose by this time. Asena got a job at the local newspaper, and she was making pretty good money. Her employers loved the way she wrote, how she related to every person who read her articles. I also got a job working as a media planner.
Which leads me here, where the story began. Sneaking into my girlfriend’s apartment, laying everything out with shaking hands.
Before, I had no idea what to do for my proposal for Asena. I had toyed with the idea of putting out rose petals, but decided that was too cliché and not really my style. Instead, I used dozens of bouquets that she had pointed out to me when we visited her favorite flower shop. The flowers were beautiful, but in a quiet sort of way. Once the flowers were laid out, all thanks to Renna, I set out the speakers in the hallway. I was planning on playing, “Like an Angel” by Careless Rain, as it was Asena’s favorite song.
The rest of the setup was a blur, I’m surprised I made it through without collapsing from nerves. Renna was the one who made everything go correctly.
“Can I see the ring before I go?” Renna asked me.
I wordlessly pulled out the small box, and handed it to her. She gasped when she opened it. I admit, it was a beautiful ring. It was silver, the top molded into a rose-like shape. In the center of the flower, a beautiful diamond rested. The sides were twisted with the tiniest of diamonds on them. Asena would love it.
The clearest memory I have was when I heard the front door’s knob turning, and I knew that it was Asena. I rushed to the bedroom, knowing that my heart could be broken, that I could be hurt beyond repair. I pushed “play” on my phone, and heard the quiet music start. In my mind, I imagined Asena seeing the white envelope, taking out the letter and reading it with the intense concentration I loved to see in her eyes.
As the doorknob turned slowly, my heart jumped into my throat. What seemed like a slow electric shock traveled up from my heart to my head, clouding my vision over for a few seconds. I tried to swallow, though my mouth was dry.
Asena walked into the room and stopped in her tracks when she saw me. We stared at each other for a solid ten seconds. I then came to my senses and slid off the bed to stand before her. I looked into her blue eyes and forgot what I was supposed to say. So I improvised.
“Asena,” I said in a quiet voice. “I love you. You know that. Though I don’t think I can say it enough times to express how much, I can try. I love you more than you can possibly imagine, and I still can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to call you mine. But you’re not completely mine, yet.”
I sank to one knee and pulled out the small velvet box. I opened it slowly, revealing the beautiful ring.
“Asena Jackleen Linz,” I said, still staring into her eyes. “Will you marry me?”
For a moment, Asena just stared at me. Then, to my surprise, she also dropped onto one knee.
“Will,” she said in her low, melodious voice. “I love you, too. I have for a long time, and you’ve proven to me again and again that you love me. I will always be yours, no matter what.”
She put her hands on my frozen ones around the small box.
“William Daniel Thomason,” she said. “Will you marry me?”
I stared at her in shock, wondering how a person could surprise me so much.
“Of course, Asena,” I said, my eyes never leaving hers, mesmerized. “I love you.”
She smiled, tears starting to form in her eyes. “And I love you. Yes, I will marry you.”
I slid the beautiful ring on her finger, hands shaking slightly. She watched me, then looked back up at me. I kissed her, hardly believing my luck, my heart still pounding.
She pulled back, sighed, and hugged me tightly.
“Oh, Will,” she said, her voice breaking. “Meira won the bet.”
For a moment, I didn’t say anything. I was sure that I’d heard wrong.
“Come again?” I asked, pulling away to look her in the eyes.
She smiled the saddest smile I’ve ever seen. “Meira, my sister. She won the bet.”
I blinked, frowning, my brain reeling. A sister? In the nearly ten years I’d known Asena, she’d never mentioned a sister.
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“I didn’t,” she said, further confusing me. Until I heard her continue, “I had two.”
Soon after these bewildering confessions, Asena led me out of the apartment to her car and drove us out of town. She wouldn’t tell me where she was taking me, only that I’d understand soon. We came to a small piece of land surrounded by a white fence, with many trees around it. I finally understood when I saw the headstones, the flowers, the words written on each stone.
Asena got out, and started walking towards the middle of the graveyard without waiting for me. I caught up to her and held her hand. She squeezed my hand, as though reassuring herself I was really there. She walked down about ten rows, then turned right and continued for five more stones. She stopped in front of two graves, side by side.
One grave read,
Vanya Mirella Linz
Birth; December 10, 2004
Death; December 16, 2011
A loving sister and daughter
The other grave read,
Meira Evette Linz
Birth; June 13, 2000
Death; December 16, 2011
A loving sister and daughter
I was shocked. How could Asena not tell me that she had two deceased sisters? That seemed, to me, like something that you should mention to your significant other.
I was too occupied with the wild thoughts chasing each other around in my head to notice that Asena had fallen onto her knees, her face in her hands. I sank down beside her and wrapped my arms around her. She gasped and took her hands away from her face. She touched Vanya’s grave, then Meira’s, tracing the letters of their names. Tears were falling down her face like a rain shower. She didn’t seem to notice.
“Meira and Vanya were my sisters,” Asena started to explain shakily. “They both died in a car crash when my mother was driving. I always knew that it was the reason my mother was an alcoholic. To try and chase away the blame.”
She paused to wipe away her tears, and I pulled her closer.
“Before she died, Meira and I would always argue and debate whether I would get married and have children. I told her I wouldn’t, so she said she would bet me $10 that I would get married. I agreed. I told her that even if she died, I would put $10 on her grave. Of course, I never dreamed she would die so young.”
She took a deep breath and said, “The worst day of my life was their funeral. The preacher saying things that were so vague it didn’t mean anything. My mother wasn’t even able to walk up to their caskets. I remember seeing them in their caskets. They didn’t even look real.”
My own eyes started to form tears, and I blinked them away. My heart almost burst out of sympathy.
“Asena,” I said, speaking for the first time since entering the graveyard. “How could you not tell me something as important as this?”
My voice was not harsh or angry, but Asena flinched. “I didn’t want people looking at me like I was a kicked puppy. The poor girl with two dead sisters, an alcoholic mom, and a dad that wasn’t in the picture? People would think that I was a recipe for disaster. I meant to tell you once we started dating, so many times. But I could never get the words out. You’re the first person I’ve ever told about them. It’s so hard to talk about, even now.”
She turned her eyes away from the graves to look at me beseechingly. “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you, Will.”
I looked into her eyes and saw a raw pain, the kind of pain that doesn’t fade with time and doesn’t go away even if you try to ignore it. The pain that she’s carried around for about seven years.
“Asena, I know this has been hard for you. I forgive you. But they would be proud of you. I know they would,” I said, meaning every word.
“Thank you, Will,” she said, leaning into me. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
We sat there for a long time after that, just sitting there, not even talking. Before we left, Asena took a ten dollar bill out of her pocket and set it on the ground in front of Meira’s grave. She covered it with a large stone so it wouldn’t blow away. When we got back to Asena’s apartment, we laid on the couch together for the whole night. We didn’t sleep and we didn’t speak.
About a year later, much planning, a lot of money, and a lot of stress, the wedding was finally starting. I was so nervous, especially when Renna evicted me from the room so she could dress Asena up. Who ever thought of the rule that the groom can’t see the bride before the wedding? They should be sued.
When I saw Asena walking down the aisle, my nerves disappeared. I knew that my life was starting, and that it was going to be wonderful. All because of that beautiful, smiling woman walking towards me, in a pure white wedding dress. I knew, and I was right. My life has never been better.
Thank you for reading!