THE PROPOSITION

"Are you not freezing?" Taylor held himself on the edge of the couch. "It's at least fifty degrees in here."

I grinned at him and told him I could sacrifice warmth in the name of new plaid pajama shorts.

"God, just looking at you makes me cold," he shivered again.

"Want me to cook something warm?" He lifted an eyebrow, wondering, I'm sure, if my culinary disasters could constitute actual cooking. "Because I can cook now."

"Sure you can't."

Challenged, I jumped off the couch and crossed the living room into his makeshift kitchen. "Where do you keep the macaroni?"

He spattered out laughter, "Do you really think I still allow myself to eat macaroni?"

"It's a staple food product for people like me who've just graduated from milk and dried bread to carbs and melted cheese."

He rolled his eyes and followed me into the kitchen. "You aren't going to find what you're looking for."

"Please, you're a guy, of course I will." I squatted in front of his cabinet and began stripping it of its contents, determined to find a small blue box with yellow shells on the front. When I resurfaced the dusty box of mac and cheese, Taylor blushed and claimed he bought it in a moment of gastronomic weakness.

I stood up and began emptying the dehydrated cheese dust and elbow pasta into the smallest pan I could find.

"Kate, are you cooking in heels?" Taylor grinned, undoubtedly slightly turned on by the spectacle.

"What? I like these shoes; they make my calves look hot."

"How come you've never cooked for me in heels and pajamas before?" Slowly, he inched towards me and filled the space behind me.

"Ooh, I don't know, possibly because you remind me at least twice a day that I'm the worst cook ever."

"I promise I'll lie to you next time if you wear that ensemble."

"Gee, thanks."

"Anytime," he gently nipped at the base of my neck.

"Down, boy!" I poked him with the wooden spoon he insisted on me using claiming it added a heartier flavor to any cooking.

He poked out his bottom lip in that typical pitiful fashion before retreating to the broken couch. "I just won't touch you, then!"

"That's fine!" I threw over my shoulder as I stirred the macaroni.

When my gourmet concoction had finished marinating itself in boiling water and cheese dust, I helped myself to a healthy portion and joined the still-pouting Taylor. I smiled as I shoved the meal into my mouth, regretting being stubborn enough to cook the expired box but smiling to spite him. Letting himself relax at the hint of my dissatisfaction, he laid his head in my lap.

I watched him for a while before shifting my gaze to the stacks of papers now lining the walls. Since an independent label had asked him to write some new material for the demo tape, he'd extended the cataclysm that was the piano room into the other four rooms in the apartment. As I continued chewing, he began softly drumming out his latest creation on my bare leg. I giggled and relinquished forcing the macaroni and cheese in my mouth.

"Okay, truth or dare?" I set the bowl on his coffee table, covering a few pages of rejected sheet music that was quickly becoming a protective layer on all of the furniture.

"Are you kidding me?"

"No, truth or dare?"

He let an exasperated sigh, but humored me anyway. "Dare, of course."

Of course. "I'm never good with dares. Truth or truth?"

"Oh, come on, you can't change a timeless juvenile game on your own whim!"

"Of course I can; truth or truth?"

He rolled his eyes at me and continued laying down chords with his left hand on my leg.

"Why don't you ever talk about your family?"

"Same reason you don't talk about yours."

"And that reason would be?"

"It's just easier," he quickly jumped to his own question, avoiding further prodding. "Truth or truth: you find me absolutely gorgeous naked."

I snorted, "That wasn't even a question!"

"Sure it was."

"Then false," I laughed as he turned around and started tickling me.

"Fine, that's the last time I strip for you."

"Is that a promise?" He glared at me, resuming his all too familiar pout on the corner of the couch. "Okay, is it true that you iron your socks?"

Immediately he blushed, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You do, don't you!"

"…Maybe."

"Why would you iron your socks? Are you honestly that insecure about your feet?"

"I happen to like my feet," he shifted his weight on the couch and slowly crawled toward me.

"You would."

"Truth or truth, Kate," he placed his face directly in front of mine, "what are you hiding in your closet?"

"What kind of question is that?" I whispered, filling in the space between our faces.

"Yeah, everybody has something to stuff away in the corners; what are you hiding?"

"I'm not hiding anything, Taylor." I silenced him with an appropriately anticipated kiss. "What are you hiding?"

Growling, he snatched me off the couch and declared that he could show me something he'd been hiding. Kicking in a fit of hormonal laughter, I was thrown over his right shoulder and hauled into his room where he suggested we further discuss our hidden secrets beneath the sheets.

"You know, you can learn a lot about a person by looking through their sock drawer," I let my fingers dance along his now bare shoulders before springing to his dresser.

I reached for the handles as he leapt from the bed and placed himself behind me. "Wouldn't you rather just get naked and rub up against each other?" He buried his face in my neck as he spoke.

"Mm, no thanks." I started pushing his boxers around in the drawer. "This is disgusting; who the hell organizes their boxers by color?" I unfolded a pair, "Are these pleated?!" I began waving the underwear in front of his face. "You ironed them, didn't you? You freak."

Defensively, he snatched the skivvies from my hand. "Well they're not pleated now, thanks."

"What other dirty secrets are hidden in here?" I began tossing socks and shirts on the floor hoping to find a stuffed animal or some argyle socks.

"Wouldn't you rather get cozy?" he kept trying to distract me which only piqued my curiosity.

I turned around to bluntly deny him sex, when my finger grazed a stiff sheet of paper. My eyes must have widened and my mouth must of formed and exquisite "Oo" in delighted anticipation, because his face immediately dropped. "Kate-"

I revealed the new finding from the corner of his top drawer, pulling it closer to my face for inspection. At first, I was expecting a nude photo of a matronly actress, but I was sorely wrong.

"Molly?" I gripped the photograph tighter without turning to him.

"I told you we knew each other well…" He was searching desperately for an explanation I would buy.

"Is that-" I began gesturing with the picture in fury, "Is that a ring on her finger?!"

"I-"

"Oh my God!"

"Kate, don't overreact," he squeezed his eyes shut, knowing me all too well.

"Were you engaged to her, Taylor? Is that who she was, my fucking whore of a roommate who doesn't believe in pants!?" I flicked the picture at his face, suddenly piecing together the evidence: that tattered shirt she claimed was hers, that sympathetic gaze he threw her way, that little moment backstage. "Oh my God…" I backed away slowly from him.

"Don't do it," he almost begged himself it was so quiet.

"Did she feed you bread?!"

"Kate, come on."

"Who are you?" I, for one, was furious.

"Engagement to Molly doesn't change who I am, Kate."

"What the hell is wrong with you? What could possibly attract you to her?"

"We broke it off."

"Was it the bra!?"

"The what?" He laughed, obviously unfamiliar with that lacy red undergarment I'd forced myself to wear so many times on his behalf.

"I can't do this. I just can't." I shut his drawer and stormed out of his room.

"Don't do this again, Kate, don't leave just because of this!"

"It isn't going to happen, Taylor!" I slammed the door behind me, charging down the stairs and ignoring the driving rain outside of his apartment. Enraged, I stumbled a few times in the heels I'd chosen to wear that night and opted for bare feet on frozen cement as opposed to broken ankles.

My, my, this scene was familiar.

I kept marching, though, in anger, in fury, in arrogance; I didn't turn back.

"Kate, stop!" Taylor emerged from his apartment, having grabbed a coat.

I crossed to the opposite side of the street to escape him, still walking as though I'd never heard him call my name.

"You're just going to regret this later."

What a prick. "This is never going to work between us, Taylor, I'm just going to keep running away from you."

"What if we ran away together?" He yelled at me through sheets of rain from the other side of the street.

"Don't be fucking ridiculous," I stopped and pulled the partially frozen hair from my face.

"I'm not being ridiculous, Kate. Damn it."

"What are we supposed to do? Torture each other until we die?"

"It's better than not being with you, honestly."

"That sounded rehearsed," It sounded as though I was being playful by laughing, but I just wanted to maim him.

He paused under the nearest street light and watched me shift my weight back in forth waiting for a retort. In our silence, there was a soft plinking of frozen rain on the iron street lights. I never rationalized why that detail was so significant, but it was so prominent in our stillness. "Be with me forever, Kate."

"You don't know what you're talking about." I was doubled over yelling, I was so furious. "You just want to hear yourself say these things, but you never mean them!" God, I imagined his proposal to Molly was somewhat parallel to this situation.

"Marry me."

"Never!"

"Marry me, goddamnit! Suck up your raging individualist feminism pride and just do it!"

"Why!?"

"Because we need each other!"

"How fucking cliché."

"It's the truth, Kate."

At that, my knees buckled and I slid down my light pole to the water-logged cement. "I can't do this; I can't keep fighting with you about this shit. I'm exhausted."

"Then don't fight me anymore." Cautiously, he crossed the street and squatted in front of me. "Just stop running away."

I'd buried my face in my hands to hide the shameful crying I'd never admit to doing. He reached out, enveloping me in his drenched arms. "Just stop running away."

At a complete loss of repartee, I continued stuffing my face into my hands.

"Marry me, Kate." This time he didn't scream it to me from the opposite end of the street, he didn't kick puddles of water in frustration; he just whispered it into my stringy wet hair.

I managed to pull my head up from my palms long enough to answer. "Okay.

 

THE END.