Emily was running late, so late. She was supposed to meet Charlie, whose friendship has blossomed into more than friendship over the past several months; but no, first she had a tryst with Oliver in Central Park. She couldn't imagine what he was up to, although she had some idea, and was sure beyond a doubt that whatever he had planned, it was going to be just ridiculous. She rounded the path on the Literary Walk and the statue of William Shakespeare came into sight, along with Oliver, who was pacing by the statue nervously. She couldn't figure out why he had wanted to meet here, of all the places in the park they could meet; it was where they had met a little over three years ago, and besides that insignificant detail, meant little more to her than any other place they had gone together.
Well, she thought to herself. Now is as good a time as any to end it. I mean, he has to know. It's been over for a while. If he didn't know, then he was just plain stupid, or in some major denial. It was now or never. She gathered her bearings, and, with a deep breath, brought herself into his range of vision.
Upon seeing her, Oliver immediately got down on one knee, presenting her with the bouquet of roses she hadn't noticed in her pre-meeting observation with one hand, while with the other hand he dug in the lapel of the ridiculous suit he was wearing. The sight of him down there on the ground would have been almost comical, though he had surprisingly good balance. And then it hit her, what was going on here. Oh, Jesus, she thought.
"What are you doing here?"
It was the only thing she could think of to say without acknowledging what was about to happen.
"Isn't it obvious?"
He gestured to the box she presumed was holding a ring with a jerk of his head, and tried with further effort to hand the roses off to her.
"I suppose that's what you want people to think," she responded, placing one hand her hip and waving her free hand towards the only two people in sight, an elderly couple on a nearby bench, who, with one look at each other, rose in silence and vacated the lane.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Oliver pleaded with her. He was starting to sweat. His glasses were askew and his cowlick was starting to stick up, despite the massive amounts of hair gel he had applied in order to get his hair to stick to his skull earlier that day.
"Oh, sure, play dumb. That's your response to everything, isn't it?" She was thinking again of Charlie and wondering if it was possible that he really didn't know. It was pretty obvious to everyone else.
"No, I have another one."
He searched for the words and, after a long pause, retaliated with, "I often tell people to...shut the hell up."
With his rise in temperament, he had finally fallen over, though with a vain struggle to keep upright. It had all happened so fast. The ring box had gone flying, and the roses, which had managed to come undone from the arrangement, despite Oliver's clutching at them, were now strewn in all their beauty, sporadically along the base of William Shakespeare. It was as though his body had succumbed to a state of defeat and rejection, long before he had even considered it.
Emily rolled her eyes impatiently. She didn't have time for these games, and she rather annoyed at Oliver's feeble attempts at winning her over, to say the least.
"I see how it is." If this turned into a fight, if she made it his fault, maybe she could avoid telling him outright.
Oliver had managed to regain his composure somewhat, and had placed the ring back in his inside pocket for safekeeping. Now wasn't the time, obviously. He began trying to reassemble the roses into some kind of order, and looked towards Emily.
"So are you going to help or are you just here to distract me?" He said this gently, almost teasingly.
He was trying to make jokes now. Well, Emily wasn't going to stand around for that. She looked at her watch. I'm just going to have to tell him and get it over with.
"No, I have to go. Charlie is waiting for me."
"Yes Charlie," she snapped. "And he's waiting."
"Who's Charlie?" this quietly, truly defeated. He knew. Somehow, inside, he must have known it all along. It was really over, after all these years.
She couldn't do this any more.
"I have to run. See you."
She turned to go, and he called after her with false hope.
"Maybe you will."
"Maybe I won't. And, oh, one last thing."
She searched for something to say that wouldn't sound too harsh, and as she struggled to find the right words, her eyes began to well up.
"What is it?" Oliver prompted, half with worry, half with hope.
Maybe she would change her mind, and with his pent up eagerness at this thought, he squeezed the handful of roses around the stems, no longer in their packaging. He winced as he felt the thorns pricking his fingers. He had forgotten about the thorns.
She reached for his wounded hand and placed in it a few tissues from her coat pocket, for the blood that was now oozing from his fingers.
"Be careful with that."