His hair was mussed up and messy that night; brown curls just a little bit too long to be acceptable. His eyes, frequently fleeting from green to blue to gray, were a strange mixture of all three.
It was a simple dinner date. We had been dating three years then, as of that day. We didn't overdo it. I was eating a simple chicken salad and he had the same, minus the chicken because meat had always disgusted him on some level that I could barely comprehend.
He had been fumbling over himself the whole night, but I had enjoyed the night regardless. His nervousness showed in shaking hands and fumbling toasts to all that was good in life; that table-sheet will always have faint stains on it from the wine he spilled. I had chuckled and smiled at him indulgently; David had been a clutz, but he was my clutz.
I remember he told me I was beautiful that night; three times, each with an overeager fervor that made me wonder what he was buttering me up for.
It was dessert.
We had Devil's food cake, because I liked the chocolate and David liked anything with an excess of icing. The conversation had become oddly stilted and broken; he was nervous.
I had not an idea why; that is, until he stepped out of his chair on shaky knees and knelt before me, holding out a small box.
He didn't say anything, but the open and honest look in his eyes said everything;
'I love you. I need you. This is perfect. We work. Marry me.'
And I froze.
He opened the small black velvet box haphazardly, showing me a beautiful white gold band with a small ruby.
His hands were shaking.
I was terrified.
I loved David, I did. It should've been easy. I should've said yes.
Instead, these are the words I heard flowing out of my lips:
"David, I-- Can you give me some t-time? This isn't a no, just--- I need time."
I had watched his heart break behind eyes that quickly turned gray. Regardless of his pain, he nodded, pressing the ring into his hand. He would give me all the time I needed.
When I tried to give him back the ring, he shook his head softly.
"I bought it for you, and it will always be your's. Whether you accept or not."
It only took me the hour after he had left of restless pacing to know with an absolute certainty that I should've said yes. That, the moment he came home to the apartment at eight, I would tell him so.
I had just been scared. That was all.
Confident in this, I took a small sabbatical in my room, writing feverishly on a new novel I had started.
I didn't even notice he was late to be home until it was near 4pm, an hour after he should've left his work. Fourty-five minutes after he should've gotten home.
I assumed that his work had called him in late and that he had simply forgotten to call me. I went back to writing.
At 8pm, I started worrying. I called the office phone at his job, but all I got was a woman's detached voice telling me that phone had been disconnected. I called his mother, who apparently wasn't home.
I drove to my brother's house, knocking on his door, which slid open to reveal his wife's tear-streaked face.
"Oh, Leah," she said softly, grasping me in a tight hug. My blood went cold.
"Where's David?" I whispered. She pulled back to look me in the eyes.
"You don't know?" she said. "It's been all over the news..."
"I-- I was writing all day," I stammered. "Where is he?" I said it a little too loudly, and I heard a faint echo bounce off the silent streets around us.
Her eyes were so sad.
"Come inside," she told me in the tone someone uses right before they tell a child their pet dog died.
I followed her numbly, trying not to think.
She turned on the TV. A news cast blasted across my senses, saying;
'...plane crashed into the world trade center...'
'Nearly 3,000 victims...
'...unknown who is to blame...'
'...bodies still being found...'
I stared blankly at the television for a very long time.
Then again, perhaps it was only a few minutes.
You never know just how much time you have.