Ray sat as still as cold stone in the seat of the diner, waiting for her to return from the bathroom. He dared not breathe, nor think of doing anything more than grip the edge of the table tightly with his wet palms, nor did he contemplate leaving, for he knew an important moment was at hand. A lone thought fought to gain entrance to his mind and he knew, knew what she wanted even before he watched her gliding slowly towards him, her blue eyes sad and wet as if from crying. She looked paler than usual, but still looked beautiful to him, the smallest of smiles forming upon her face as she slid into the booth opposite him.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. A tear dripped out of her eye and she brushed it away with the sleeve of her black dress.
“It’s ok, Rose. Tell me how you found me,” Ray said. He remained still, fighting the inner turmoil building in his stomach and rising in his blood.
“I talked to Sean, Ray,” she said. The words seemed to explain all, tell Ray every bit of the story he expected to hear if he asked the next question. He tried to focus and took a slow deep breath. He held it inside for a few moments, until he felt the pressure in his face.
“Why?” he asked simply. He felt faint as he exhaled and gasped for air.
The air felt thick between them and silence took hold for some minutes. She looked away, more tears fighting down her cheek and she put her hand out towards him, which he took quietly and slowly, carefully placing his hand on hers.
“I’m pregnant,” Rose finally said. Her words felt like the color of steel upon his ears and he recoiled as if she slapped him. He jerked his hand away from her and pushed himself as far back in the booth as the ragged green cushions allowed.
“I can’t breathe,” he said to her, once again gripping the table’s edge for support.
“Not the reaction I hoped to receive,” she said, fighting tears again. She balled a hand into a fist and smacked it softly against the table, her eyes closed. Ray looked around the diner; they were alone. The waitress scurried into the kitchen when his looked in her direction.
“Give me say ten seconds to process this information. We were only together for one night, so forgive me,” he said. He felt a flare of anger in his blood.
“So you’re a man now, not the writer that can fall in love at first sight?” she said with a sneer twisting her red plump lips. She ran a hand through her blonde curls, all the while her eyes attempted to bore holes into him, seeds of energy trying to imprint on his soul.
“Do not mock me. Nothing can break or change what happened between us...”
“Save you never speaking to me again,” she interrupted.
“What do you want from me?” he yelled. The waitress peaked out of the kitchen at him and again ducked from his gaze.
“Marry me,” she said.
“Marry you?” he repeated.
“This isn’t 1965,” he said, regretting it the minute the words were spoken. She crossed her arms and stared at him once more, as if waiting for him to retract his statement. He sighed in frustration and ran a hand over his cropped head. “Do you really want to get married?”
“Yes,” she said with a glimmer of happiness in her voice. She again wiped tears from her eyes before once more extending her hand to him.
The man fell silent and slumped into his chair. His eyes seemed to sink into the sockets as if trying to disappear. The girl looked around her, as if waking from a dream. She moved her chair closer to the table and reached her hand towards the man, touching him, as if to wake him from sleep.
“Ray?” the girl asked, her blue eyes shining in the bright sun.
He focused upon her once more and frowned, his hand rubbing his beard with nervous contemplation.
“What?” he asked, almost as if he’d forgotten her presence. He looked at her hand upon his and back up to her eyes.
“If you want to take a break, do so,” she said.
“No,” he responded. “I will tell it to you. I want to be done with this and get it over with before I lose my nerve. It has just been a long time since I heard my name is all.”
She looked at him, confusion sweeping over the delicate features of her tiny face. She waited for him to continue, not wanting to say anything to make him turn back from the story.
I didn’t want to see my father and I didn’t want to have a wedding. I wanted to get it over and be married. Let’s get on with the misery I told her as we discussed the plans later in the week. It took me a few days to grasp it all, to accept fate, but once I did I pushed hard to bend Rose to my plans.
I refused to speak with my father and let Rose handle what arrangements I told her to make with him, which involved money.
“He paid for everything without question or demands,” she said the night before we were to be married. We lay naked together in my bed, smoking and staring at the darkened television screen.
“Father of the year.” I said with derision as I felt sleep coming for me. “Wake me in time to shower before the flight.”
“I will,” she promised. She kissed me on the cheek and shut off the lamp.
Leaving for the airport before the sun turned hot and before my cell began to buzz with texts messages from everyone she explained the plan to over the last few days, my blood tasted like fear as I read the many panicked attempts to steer me from my choice. Did they think I’d change my mind? I’ll always be amazed by how little the people who surround us know the inner truth of our being.
I slept on the plane, as if trying to shorten the hours until the ordeal, I mean wedding, could end. We walked in silence through the airport and out into the heat of summer to meet the limousine my father had provided.
The heat slammed into my cheek and the sun gouged at my eyes as we waited for our driver to pull closer to the curb. We got into the car without waiting for the driver get out of the car seeing as we had only one shoulder bag each. And as I’ve said, I wanted it to be over.
The driver made his way casually through the city, almost as if to give us opportunity to take in the sites. However, neither of us felt inclined and I stared into her eyes for the duration of the trip.
After getting the marriage license at the courthouse, the limo finally came to a stop outside The Little White Wedding Chapel on Las Vegas Blvd. I closed my eyes before opening the door, gathered my courage and stepped into the heat of high noon.
“What happened?” the girl asked. Ray looked at her and shook his head to gather his thoughts.
“When it came time I said I do and she said something along those lines,” Ray said with a grin.
“Come on!” she exclaimed, slapping the top of his hand. “You can’t do that to me mid story. I want to hear it all.”
“I’m not skipping over anything important. We see weddings on television. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.”
“Boo!” she said, smiling. Ray hushed her with a sharp glance.
The limo took us to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I think we picked the room based on the availability of a balcony. Rose complained of nausea, so I brought her up to the room. I felt energy pulsing through my veins and a nervous excitement to see something, do something.
“Go down and blow some of your father’s money,” she said to me, kissing me on the cheek.
I took her in my arms, squeezing her. I kissed her, parting resistant lips that tasted like strawberries.
“I’ll see you in a few hours,” I said to her.
I took the elevator to the casino, the loud rock music lifting my spirits. I made for the poker room, hoping for some action to clear my thoughts and provide distraction.
I played in silence for an hour, drinking the complimentary cocktails the waitress kept forcing on me. I finally won a hand and my tension seemed to abate. The player I beat in the hand asked me what brought me to Vegas and I, out of character, told the table of the wedding.
“Congratulations,” the man said to me. He was a middle aged man with a thick mustache and beer belly. “You should be enjoying the night with you wife.”
“Thank you,” I said. “She is not feeling well.”
“Sorry to hear that. Tell me, how does it feel to be married?” the man asked.
I thought about it for a few moments, imagining Rose and her eyes and her pretty pale skin and I felt a flood of happiness.
“I’m married,” I said to nobody save myself. I threw back the drink in front of me and made my way back to the room.
Ray walked towards the room, excitement filling him, growing within him. He thought for a moment that maybe they could have a real wedding back in the east in a few months. He inserted the card key in the door and entered the room as quietly as he could, not wanting to wake her.
He could see she was not sleeping, indeed not in bed at all. He heard her voice out on the balcony, so he walked towards her, the words slowly becoming clearer.
“He will never know, I promise you. By the time he learns of the truth, we will be well married. I will make him love me, do not worry.”
There was a pause, one that Ray took for Rose listening to someone on the other end of the line. He could see her standing in a hotel robe, holding the phone to her ear, leaning against the railing of the balcony. Ray struggled to breathe, to comprehend.
“He will never learn the truth. I’ll tell him I had a miscarriage. I’ll never tell him I had the abortion,” Rose said.
Ray fell to one knee and clutched his chest. He shook his head, as if to erase the statement from his mind. It did no good and he heard the words again, echoing, ringing inside his skull, a sharp piercing pain. …I’ll never tell him I had the abortion…
Ray felt his consciousness waver for a moment and he gripped the bed for support. His strength was failing him, but enough remained to hear her words.
“I just want my money,” she said before lapsing once more into silence.
Ray forced himself to stand and with great effort. He felt a slow rage entering his body and the sudden desire to push Rose off the balcony. He stood still and silent for a while, listening to her haggle without hearing many of the words. He shook his head in anger and staggered towards the door. He ran down the hallway of the hotel and screamed at the top of his lungs when he was safely in the elevator.