“Yes you will. Everyone does.”
“Okay, fine. But if I have to marry someone, I'm gonna marry you.” He poked me in the arm with his finger hard enough that it hurt, just a little.
It wasn’t a romantic candle lit dinner with champagne and get down on one knee type of proposal, but at the age of ten, it was all I needed. And I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything.
In my bedroom that day, we deliberated and it evolved into a promise that if neither of us had married by the time we were thirty, we’d married each other.
I’d turned thirty a few months ago, and the promise had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since. But did that mean I actually needed to spend the last few dollars I had running across country to see Collins? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the more I analyze it now, the sillier the whole thing seems.
I pull out my phone and dial my friend Leila’s number.
“Are you really there? I mean actually in LA,” she says by way of greeting.
“Yes,” I say.
“I can’t believe you went, girl. You are crazy,” she shrieks in her usual over excited tone.
“You’re the one who said I should go,” I say.
“So? We were drinking. Besides, I was 100% kidding and you know that.” I think back to when we met for drinks just after I was fired. We were talking over my options, or lack of options. I was about to get evicted for non-payment of rent. She offered me her sofa in the tiny one bedroom she shared with her husband and newborn. No thank you. Then suggested my parents’ place, which was even smaller than hers. The next thing out of her mouth was a joke, “Maybe you should move to LA and marry that Collins guy.”
She laughed. But I didn’t. The mention of my childhood love made my cheeks warm and my belly churn. It seemed like an option, one as good as any other. Maybe even better. Just the thought of seeing Collins again had been so enticing.
But now that I was really here, I was questioning myself. “I know,” I say. “I shouldn’t have come. He’s got a live-in girlfriend, and she’s super beautiful.”
“Mia, I’m sorry. But what did you expect?”
My inner romantic knows exactly what I expected. He was going to open the door, recognize me at once, and we would be married the next day. “I know. It was childish of me to come.”
“But you’re in his house? Does that mean he invited you to stay?”
“For a few days.”
“And he has a guest bedroom, or a couch or whatever?”
I laugh. “It’s more like a guest suite. He’s doing really well. His house is amazing, Leila. He’s got so many guest rooms they name them. I’m in the Purple Room.”
“Well, sounds like you might be okay there for a few days then. But remember—my couch is always open if you need a place to crash. And if things get weird there, I will find a way to loan you the money for a ticket home.”
I know she means it. Leila’s a great friend, but there’s no way I’ll let them cut into their small savings to fly me home. Not with their newborn and all. “No you won’t. I’ll be fine,” I say.
“The offer is there.”
We get off the phone, and I chew on my lip as I mull over my situation. When I told Collins what I was doing here, he seemed kind of stunned. Not that we ever really talked about it since we were interrupted by Tatianna’s arrival.
There’s a knock at the door. “Mia, are you hungry?” Collins says through the door.
I pull it open. He and Tatianna are there.
“Sure.” And I absolutely am. The four-hour time difference means my stomach wants dinner yesterday.
“Dinner’s ready. I asked the cook to set an extra plate for you.” He waves for me to follow them and I do. Collins and Tatianna walk next to each other, but manage to avoid physical contact and don’t say a word as we make our way down to the dining room. I wonder if this is how they normally are together, or if I’ve caused this icy tension. The Collins I knew loved to talk. Some days we’d spend the entire day taking turns telling stories. Sure there were times we’d been quiet, but usually it was because we were reading, or watching something, or even just tired.
The silence between him and Tatianna seems different somehow. Not awkward exactly, but not comfortable either. It’s like they don’t have anything to say to each other, so they’ve just stopped talking. But surely there’s always something to talk about. In all the years Collins and I were friends, I don’t ever remember either one of us ever lacking in interesting things to say.
Collins stops at a doorway and motions for me to enter. Having adjusted my expectations to assume everything is huge in this house, I am not disappointed by the size of the dining room. I follow Tatianna down to the far end of what might more aptly be called a dining hall.
“Take a seat.” Collins points at one of the places made up at the end of a table long enough to seat twenty. I sit down and try not to gawk too much as I take in the two amazing crystal chandeliers that hang from above, elegantly illuminating the room. Collins takes the seat next to me, at the head of the table, and Tatianna seats herself on the other side of him and across from me. She barely takes her eyes off her phone as she pours herself some water.
I turn to Collins, wondering if this is the way she usually is when they eat dinner, but he doesn’t seem to notice. I can’t help thinking that if I were dating someone as amazing as Collins, I wouldn’t be staring at my phone when he was around, I’d be gazing into his eyes.