Steam rose from the paper cup sitting on the low table by Derek’s knees. He watched the coffee scented mist swirl into the air while people bustled around him; chatting, laughing, eating. He could hardly sit still for the excitement of seeing her after so many weeks.
The answers he’d been looking for came out of the blue in the end. All he’d needed was a little space, just like he’d said. He’d expected the epiphany to happen somewhere obvious, like while he was chatting up a girl in a bar or something. Actually, truth be told, he hadn’t been sure what conclusion he would reach in the beginning.
Then, one morning after a rough night and some disturbing dreams, he’d set out two coffee mugs instead of one and it had suddenly become very clear to him how much he missed her and that settled it.
Now he knew what he wanted. He could tell her that he loved her and he wanted to be with her. He wanted a house and a life, and maybe kids when they were ready, everything. He slipped his hand into his pocket and fondled the smooth gold band and the setting for the small diamond; his grandmother’s engagement ring.
The steam from the cup subsided and his enthusiasm cooled with it. Of course, she’d accused him of running off and running away. That wasn’t it at all; he just needed some time to think things through. He had to be sure it was what he wanted; otherwise he’d go through his life wondering if he’d made the right choice. Why couldn’t she understand that?
A bunch of keys crashed onto the coffee table and he jumped.
Marie sat stiffly in the armchair opposite with her handbag on her knees. She kept her grey duffle coat and red scarf on. Half of her sandy blonde hair spilled over the scarf while the rest was tucked in.
“Hey sweetheart, you look great,” Derek said. And he meant it. She looked less tired than he remembered; her cheeks glowed, although that was probably a combination of make-up and the cold weather.
“Don’t give me that. You wanted to tell me something?”
Derek shifted forward on his seat, elbows resting on his knees. “Yeah, I’ve been thinking.”
Not a flicker of a smile touched her lips.
“I’ve been thinking about us, about you and me and about the future.”
Now a little smile appeared, but there was no warmth in it. “Go on,” she said.
He took a deep breath and reached into his pocket for the ring. “Well, I know I said a lot of things about not being ready to settle down and stuff, but that was just… Well it doesn’t matter anymore. I know what I want now. I want us to be together. I love you, Marie.” His fingers clasped the ring and he slowly withdrew his hand from his pocket.
Marie sighed and pressed her lips together. “So he finally knows what he wants, whoop-de-do.”
Derek froze with his hand still partly in his pocket.
“Did you enjoy your space? Did some soul searching, did you?”
“I ‒ ”
“Well what do you think I was doing while you were off on your own? Did you think I was just going to wait for you?”
“What? No… that’s not… I just needed some space, to work it out in my head. It was only a little space.”
Marie stood up and looked down at him. “It took you six weeks to work out that you loved me. That’s pathetic. You either love someone or you don’t, you shouldn’t have to think about it, not for six weeks.”
“I had time to think things through too, you know. You pretty much gave me no choice, but I bet you didn’t even think about that. And you know what I realised? I have better things to do with my life than wait around for you to realise what you have right under your nose. Keep the apartment; I’ll have my stuff moved out by the end of the day.”
He looked down at the keys on the table and when he looked back up she was already half way to the door.
He set his grandmother’s ring on the table beside his cooling coffee and the keys. “But, all I wanted was a little space.”
Marie stepped out into the chill air and smiled. She could barely contain the excitement; she knew what she wanted and she could get on with her life. All she’d needed was a little space.