Cory missed his chance a year ago. He had the single rose ready, a ring box in his pocket. He’d practiced the same four word questions a hundred times.
There’d been no need to invent some excuse to trick Lindsay into visiting him. They saw each other every day as a matter of course.
And the rose and ring wouldn’t have come as too much of a shock. Lindsay knew how he felt about her. She had to have seen the proposal coming from a mile off.
Still, he loved the idea of proposing on a designated day: an unofficial holiday in the first week before Valentine’s Day, when thousands of young people around the world would kneel and hold a single rose before the person they love, all of them asking the same question, hoping for the same answer.
And every year, when that Propose Day anniversary rolled around, they’d remember that special day,
It turned out to be a different kind of day, unfortunately. On the way to his house, her car hit a patch of ice, slid into the barreling path of an 18 wheeler. The wilting rose became a symbol of his grief. He laid it over her coffin at the burial service.
But he’d kept the ring.
The box was in his pocket today. He held a fresh rose, and kneeled in the manicured lawn.
The bronze marker was cool to the touch as he traced the first letters of Lindsay’s name. He spoke to her, as he often did, mentioning how much he missed her, how much things had changed for him since she died.
“It’s like the world ended.” Cory kneeled and held up a fresh rose. “Then it’s like it was reborn with strange new rules.”
He turned his attention to the metal rod planted beside the marker. A long string threaded through a loop at the top of the rod, leading deep into the ground.
Cory tugged on the string. The faint, hollow echo of a small bell rang from beneath him. He tugged the string again.
Then he waited for the sound of fingernails on wood, followed by hands through soft earth.
Cory practiced his smile, rehearsed the question in his mind. He waited for her to rise.