Declan drives us back home. He’s smiling. Like a kid on Christmas Day. He’s elated by the marriage proposal. I’m worried I did it too soon because he hesitated.
“Are you going to cook or should we stop and get something?” he asks keeping his eyes on the road.
“We can stop and get something,” I reply.
I still didn’t feel like cooking. He glanced at me. I guess he wasn’t expecting that answer. I guess this morning could be explained away by the proposal, I was nervous but now that it’s over he’s noticed it.
“Is something wrong, Klaus?” he asks.
“We’ll talk about it later,” I reply.
We get take-out on the way home. The rest of the ride is silent aside from ordering. I can feel Declan side-glancing me the whole way home. I wish he’d pay more attention to the road, I know it’s because he cares, but honestly, it’s just my own insecurity eating away at me. It’s just part of who I am. No matter how many times he tells me he loves me, and that he’s happy and that it’s a “yes” I’ll always see that pocket of silence as hesitation. As doubt on his part even though it probably wasn’t.
When we arrive home, I get out of the jeep and unlock the front and head upstairs to the greenhouse room. I methodically water all my plants and then sit against a wall that casts faded blue, green and red from the stained-glass windows on my face. Similar to the first painting I saw Declan do of me. I know the real first picture he painted was of me sleeping on the couch the first day we met. The greenhouse is humid and smells of plant-matter. I can hear Declan moving around downstairs. My old apartment used to be so quiet. The only noises you heard were the television, neighbors and the occasional plane overhead.
I left the greenhouse and went into our bedroom and found my headphones. I flipped through the songs till I hit “Maybe, I’m Afraid” by lovelytheband.
“Maybe I’m just too good
Maybe I’ll run away
Maybe I’m over you
Maybe I shouldn’t stay
Maybe I just don’t care
Maybe I talk too much
But baby I’ll be there
It’s been a little hard
I’ve been a little tough
But maybe all along
I’m afraid, I’m afraid, I’m afraid
I’m afraid, I’m afraid, I’m afraid.”
I sit there staring up at the roof. I’m afraid of what comes next. We all imagine our lives to a certain point. I had thought about coming out, moving out, finding love but after marriage, you were supposed to have kids. That’s how it normally went. I know lots of couples who agreed that neither wanted kids but I didn’t know about Declan. I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids. I wasn’t sure how we’d go about it. Surrogate, adoption, etc. I was scared I wouldn’t be a good parent either.
“Dare” by GENTRI came on after.
“I see the path staring me down
I take a deep breath, feet firm on the ground
My heart’s racing fast, beating in time
I scream at the voice inside of my head
That whispers my dreams are gone and dead
But the harder they push, the stronger I fight
For what’s ahead
I’ve charted my course, to answer the call
I’ll fight ’til I win, proud of the cost of my battle scars
I’ll never cave in, won’t question or pause
I’ll climb to the ledge, jump off the edge and rewrite the odds
And dare, to dream
I push through the pain, and claim what I earn
Ready to take the lessons I learn
And pass them along, taking my turn
To make my mark.”
I feel Declan sit down on the edge of the bed. He pulls off his coat and button-down, along with his jeans and throws on shorts before lying beside me. He brushes my curls off my forehead. He studies my green eyes before pulling the headset off and making the music background noise.
One of his fingers traces down my cheek to my chin and over my Adam’s apple to the nape of my neck.
“What’s going on? Is it me? Did I do something?” he asks wavering and nervous.
“No. Not really. I just…I guess I’m scared,” I reply.
“Scared? Of what? We don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. I can wait,” he starts reassuring me.
“No, no. I want to marry you. It’s what comes after that I’m afraid of. The kids, responsibility…it’s mainly just insecurities that I’m not good enough and I don’t deserve any of it. None of it’s your fault,” I answer.
“We don’t have to do anything right away. I can wait till we’re both ready. I’m not sure I’m ready to have a screaming bundle of joy interrupt my painting every five minutes and have some more of my artwork destroyed thanks to a naïve toddler who doesn’t understand it’s value. It can wait, really Klaus. One step at a time. Let’s plan the wedding for starters,” he continues.
“Okay,” I reply.
“We’re in this together. You’re not alone. You never will be,” he whispered.
I lifted myself and kissed him. He felt warm. One of his hands came to rest on my cheek. I felt goosebumps rise in excitement on my skin. I leaned into it. I decided to be present in the feeling and not have everything in my brain weigh me down as well. I was happy, Declan was happy. Everything else could be dealt with later. Including his jailed mother, and whether not we’d have kids.