I stared down at her, not sure what to say. She looked nervous and afraid. We had stopped dancing and she was slowly stepping away from me, putting a hand over her mouth.
"I just fucked up," she breathed. "Oh, God, I'm sorry."
"No, no," I said quickly and grabbed her hand. "I-I just wasn't expecting that, is all. I didn't think that...."
"I was ready?" she whispered and I nodded. She laughed a little. "I didn't either."
She bit her lip and looked away.
Now's the time.
I took her hands and pulled her to me, kissing her deeply.
"I love you, too," I whispered, my eyes closed.
She froze. I didn't want to open my eyes. I was probably more nervous than she was. I had never felt this way about anyone and it terrified me. Did it scare her, too? Were we in the same boat?
She still hadn't said or done anything so I opened my eyes. She was crying. Shakily, I wiped her tears from her face.
"If you don't mean it, that's a terrible thing to say," she breathed but I kissed her again.
"I mean it. With all my heart, I mean it."
"Even though I'm... flawed?" she whispered.
I chuckled and wrapped my arms around her tightly. "You're not flawed, Deidre. I'm the flawed one here. Frankly, I never thought you'd love me."
"I'd come around eventually," she said.
"That's not what I mean." I sighed. "My early 20's was such a clusterfuck. I was an idiot. I still am. Not even my mother trusted me to find someone on my own. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad you're in my life. I think that's why I was so mad when she told me she picked someone for me. It was basically her saying she didn't trust me enough to pick the right one so she decided to do it herself."
"You're not an idiot," she said and I laughed.
"Do you still think that after Julia?"
She repositioned her head on my chest. "It still upsets me but I know what it's like to have someone able to manipulate like that."
I knew she was talking about the chaser and I tightened my hold on her even more.
"You're going to crush my lungs," she said and I laughed again.
"Sorry," I said and loosened my arms. I sighed and kissed the top of her head. "So what now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we both love each other and the announcement of our engagement is next week."
She looked up. "Has it really been two months already?"
"Time flies when you're having fun."
She giggled. "You're such a cliché."
I pecked her lips. "But that's why you love me."
For a few days, things were great. I was spending a lot of time with Nancy. We became fast friends. My relationship with Artemis was stronger. I had been terrified when I confessed my love for him.... But to hear him say it back and truly mean it was amazing. That night, I had told my mother and she cried. Then I got a gift.
"It's a smartphone," Evelyn explained. "You can text, call people, and surf the web."
I accepted it with shaking hands. "Wow. Thank you so much!"
"I've put in everyone's contact information," Evelyn said and passed a phone to my mom, too, who stared at it with wide eyes.
"Thank you," my mom whispered and Evelyn beamed.
Monday was my new day off and, though he offered to stay, Artemis went into the office with his mom. Mom had work, too, so I sat in the living room, learning how to use my new phone. I had a bowl of popcorn in front of me and I was still in my normal pajamas: fleece pants and a tank top.
Someone knocked on the door and I hesitated. I listened for the sound of people talking but all I heard was a cough and a sneeze. It was just one person so I opened the door. I almost dropped my phone.
"My little Dee," my father said, smiling down at me.