"I Promise" 2
“You haven’t kissed me yet.”
Francis looked up from his plate of food across the table to the figure starring at him. She was resting her head on her hands, holding them like a table for her delicate chin. Her red hair reflected light from the over-hanging lamp. She had let her hair down, something she had not been doing recently. She had also touched up her eyes and cheeks, giving her a warm glow.
“We’ve been dating for two months now. You’ve never even pecked me on the cheek.”
”Don’t you think that’s a little fast?”
“No, not really. I mean, not all girls at school think that the ideal way of dating is to keep the daters at arm length from each other.”
”I’m just not sure if I’m ready yet.”
“Not ready yet? When then? When we graduate? We’re out of here in three years.”
“Two and a half”
“Point is that we’ve got no time. We’re second semester sophomores for crying out loud. Now is the moment we live in.”
“Are you saying this on your own, or have your friends been blabbering to you again?” “Friends, but that’s not the point.”
“I’ll kiss you when we’re ready.”
She sighed and looked back down at her half eaten plate of food.
“Ok. I trust you.”
He continued picking at the food, scrapping his potatoes over his steak.
“Why are you taking it so slow? I mean, you hardly even hold my hand.”
“Do we have to talk about this now?”
“Yes. Otherwise, I’ll forget later.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Oh come on. I’m your girlfriend. If you can’t be straight with me, who are you gonna be straight with?”
“You really want to know?”
“I’ve just had relationship problems in the past, that’s all.”
“Like what? Did your ex have clinging issues or something?”
”Well are you going to tell me or not?”
“Lets just say my last girlfriend moved a little too fast for me.”
“What did she do, hold your hand on the first date?”
“No, it’s not that …”
“Oh, I know, she tried to get you to kiss her hand.”
“Angela, that’s not it …”
“Or better yet, she tried to dance with you, with less than a foot in between the two of you.”
“She tried to have sex with me, ok?”
She sat silently. His eyes had begun to water and were starting to overflow down the side of his cheek.
“Oh. I, I didn’t know.”
“I thought I was going to be meeting her parents. We had been dating for almost a year and she said that I should meet her parents. So she drove over and we went in. I sat in the living room. She comes in, sits next to me and starts kissing. She whispers that they couldn’t make it, that we had the house to ourselves. Before I knew it we were on the couch, me shirtless. Then I lost it; I freaked out. I got up and started to put my shirt on. ‘I can’t do it,’ I kept saying. She said ‘I thought this was what you wanted baby.’ She tried to touch me but I shrank away. I just ran to the door. She drove me home and that was that. We broke up three weeks later.”
Angela stood and moved over next to him.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. We can go as slow as you want. I’ll wait for you. I really love you, and I’ll do what ever it takes to keep you.”
“Why would you want to be with a guy like me, with my past? I almost did it.”
“Almost did. Besides, if God can forgive, so can I.”
He wiped his eye, looked over at her and smiled.
“Who would have thought that we would be dating? Do you remember freshmen year? With your soda?”
“And you putting a spice cocktail in there? How could I forget. Or sophomore year, when I put that worm in your salad?”
“Do we have to talk about that?”
The laughter and smiles prevailed, and the happiness overcame the sorrow. The date ended when Francis’s car pulled into the girl’s parking lot. Right before she could get out of the car, he gave her a small kiss, not an elaborate one, but not an overly conservative one. Just right. She smiled all the way back to the dorm, whistling an unrecognizable tune.
The crisp fall air tickled Francis’s nose as he threw a stone at the dorm window. He had been standing outside this particular room for several minutes now, trying to decide on whether he should throw the stones in his hand and risk a fine or just walk away and wait for her at dinner. He knew she would prefer the rocks. She always found the rocks more romantic, like something from a medieval romance story. He was pleased to do whatever she wanted, anything to make her happy. So he threw rocks, rocks that were not just pieces of the earth, or some girl’s doorbell. These were rocks that symbolized the love Francis and Angela showed each other. This was how they saw it and this was how it was.
The window opened and a head popped out, like a curious chipmunk.
“Francis? What are you doing here?”
”Hey Isabel. Is Angela there?”
“Didn’t you tell her to meet you by the river?”
“Yeah, but I figured that she wouldn’t have left yet.”
”She said she had something to do first.”
”If she comes back, I’ll tell her you called upon her.”
“Could you do that? Thanks.”
The window slammed shut, just as a small gust of wind picked up. Francis picked up the basket at his feet, brought the jacket closer to his body, and walked down the sidewalk towards the woods. He passed the parking lot and stopped at the gym. He walked in and went into the weight room. Paul and Simon were lifting together, while loud rock music blared from the stereo. The room smelt of sweat and bodies straining against metal. After lifting a few waits and chatting, Francis left the room, exited the building and continued on his walk down to the river.
The trees had just turned their colors, and the forest seemed alight with burning branches. The rocks were slippery, the result of the early morning rain. A squirrel scurried out of Francis’s way, content with his simple life of forging and climbing. A bird swooped overhead, calling to it’s companions. All animals felt the coming winter; even some students seemed to act like the squirrels and gathered food into the cavern of their dorm room.
He rounded the corner and saw the marina. This was once just a piece of riverbank, overlooking the ancient river as it passed on its never-ending journey. Francis himself, along with some of his friends, had personally built a small dock. Here students could launch their canoes or rafts for an afternoon ride. Some fished from the edge while others used it as a diving board into the deep, murky water.
This was also a special place because it was here that Francis had asked Angela out that special day, after arriving back from Christmas break, sophomore year. She had said no at first, and then agreed to try a week later. They had been dating ever since, still pulling jokes on each other. They had acted together in three plays now, and possibly were going to act together in a fourth in the coming spring.
This had been his plan: once they had gotten comfortable there at the river he would propose to her, on the river bank. Then they would go back up the path to spread the good news. This had been the plan a few days ago. He had it all planed out, down to the minute detail. Then he went to get the ring. It was then that he found out about the jewelry shop’s policy on specialized rings: that he would receive a notice when the ring was completed, along with his bill. He would then have to pick up the ring at said jewelry shop. The problem was that Francis had prepared this event in detail, and had forgotten about the ring. He would not be able to get it at least until next month. Angela was of course still going to be at the river and he would have nothing to give her.
So he had packed a picnic lunch and brought it with him. He could not propose without the ring, but he could at least promise himself to her. His roommate told him that it was stupid and that the girl was ruining his life. Francis had shrugged him off and continued with his adjustments to his plan.
Angela then walked down the path, trying hard not to slip on the wet rocks. She called to him and he walked over to her. As he reached her they looked around them and seeing no one else, quickly kissed. She took his hand and the walked over to the prepared lunch.
“Well this looks very nice.”
“Thanks. I tried to make everything just the way you like it.”
“Aww, thanks sweetie.”
They sat down and ate. After the lunch was finished, they talked, discussing class and anything else to pass the time. Finally Francis gathered the courage and went in front of her.
“I want to say something.”
He lead her up and took her hand. He went down on his left knee, reminding himself that his right was for God. She held her other hand over her mouth.
“Francis, what are you doing?”
“I’m making a promise to you, that I will love you forever, until the day I die.”
“Um, that sounds a little cheesy”
They both begin to laugh.
“Yeah I know. I’ll propose to you later. I’m just making sure you know how I feel about you.”
She knelt down in front of him and looked him in the eyes.
“I know you love me. I love you too, and will love you forever.”
Standing, they took each other’s hands and embraced. She went over to the basket and removed a napkin. Tying it around his finger, she murmured something.
“This is a makeshift promise ring. If what you say is true, this will stay on your finger until we’re married. The only other reason you can take it off is if we are not together anymore.”
“What about showers?”
She laughed. “Ok, I guess that too.”
“Thanks.” She gathered up the remaining materials from the picnic and walked with him up the path, towards the school.