“Happy Anniversary,” she says in a dull tone, as if announcing the time or the weather or any other mundane piece of information.
He breaks away from his book, the first time in a solid hour, and looks at her. Watching her settle a small plate of cupcakes in front of him, he waits, choosing his words carefully. “I’m sorry? What was it you said?”
“Happy anniversary,” she repeats, pretending not to notice his quick decision to pretend not hearing her the first time. “Six years ago today we went on our first date.” She speaks the words in a matter-of-fact tone, like a newscaster casually breaking the news that the local sports team lost or that the stock market tanked during the day’s trading. “Can you believe it?” she asks, not caring to hear his answer. “It’s crazy, right? How fast time goes by.”
Agreeing, he nods out of habit. “It is,” he says, working hard to conceal his disappointed surprise. “It really is. I guess it’s true what they say.”
“What’s that?” she asks quickly, hoping to catch him off guard.
“Oh, you know,” he says, “the older you get, the faster time goes by.”
Together on the porch, bathing in another setting sun, she settles down onto the outdoor couch, making sure not an inch of her skin comes into contact with his. “My grandparents used to say the same thing,” she laments, wishing her grandparents were still alive, wishing that the last six years had not gone by, wishing that anything could be salvaged from this obvious lie. “I can still hear them, ya know? I can hear my grandpa telling me, ‘It goes by so fast.'” She forces herself to laugh, though it’s the last thing in the world she’d like to do. Inside her lungs, an eternal scream of frustration blooms. “And now here we are,” she says, ignoring the emotion boiling inside of her. “We’re just like them, aren’t we?”
He glances at her and catches her gaze. It’s a look he’s seen a thousand times before, and like always, he ignores it again. She’s just pining, he thinks. She’s just wishing our lives would go the same way theirs did. It’s normal, he reassures himself. Most girls want to live out the fairy tales of their parents or grandparents lives. It doesn’t matter that times have changed. It doesn’t matter that my love has drifted and died and blown away. That’s how love was back in those days. Passive, obligatory and altogether pointless.
“Don’t you think?” she asks, urging his reply. “I mean, can you believe my grandparents were married before they were both nineteen? And here we are, ‘so mature’ as my mom likes to say, taking our time and making sure everything is just right.”
He closes his book, his thumb holding the page to which he’ll soon return, and looks at her. “What a different time it was back then, wasn’t it,” he asks, his question the tried and true way of disarming her intentions, her implications, her every attempt to pressure the situation.
Disappointed yet again, she smiles. “It was,” she says, not agreeing in the slightest. “It really was. Still,” she tries, “six years is pretty impressive.”
“It is,” he says, opening the book to its saved page again. “We’ve been dating longer than some of my friends have been married.”
She doesn’t look in his direction, and she doesn’t say a thing. Instead, she simply nods in hateful spite. She nods, taking the words as a brutal strike against her character and her potentiality of being a wife. “Yeah, those poor things,” she agrees in a dry tone. “It must be hard, their marriage not working out. They must feel so disappointed.”
“They must,” he says, already forgetting the topic of conversation, his book regaining dominance in his mind. “Such a horrible situation,” he says as he turns another page.
She looks over at him, disdain filling her eyes, and unwraps a cupcake. Taking a bite, the taste is sweet and bitter and absolutely disgusting, filling her mouth with six years of rot.