“Olivia, did you hear me?”
“What? Oh sorry. I just….never mind.” She waved a hand in front of her.
“I was thinking about….work, sorry. What were you saying?”
The truth was she hadn’t been thinking about her work at all. A weird sensation, like she’d lost something or someone had caused her attention to wander away from whatever Noah had been telling her. For some unknown reason, she had felt really sad, like all hope was lost and she was all alone in the world. Which was nonsense. Olivia wasn’t alone and she was being rude to Noah.
Now she also felt guilty. She’d cooked a nice meal for her boyfriend to celebrate some good news about his job and she was doing a poor job at celebrating.
“…by the end of the month but don’t worry, I expect to be here for your friend’s wedding.”
Wedding? Right, her best friend, Tracy, was getting married after Thanksgiving. Since she didn’t really want to upset him by asking where the hell he was going to go before that, she just nodded and poured more red wine into both their glasses.
Trying to steer the conversation clear from her lack of attention, she looked at his almost finished plate of lemon-chicken and rosemary potatoes.
“So, how did I do?”
“You know you’re an excellent cook. You know you didn’t have to go to all this trouble for me.”
“You’re never any trouble, Noah. And I’m happy for you, I know how hard you’ve worked in negotiating those contracts.”
When he only smiled at her, she let out an internal relieved sigh at having said the right thing. It was part of her job, in a manner of speaking. She had to be focused on many different things and pay attention to all the comments her students made during class so she could incorporate them into the lesson as she went along. Though sometimes her students all wanted to give their opinion at the same time, hence her good grasping abilities. She also had to find ways to keep them engaged in the class most of the time. She loved her job but she was no wonder woman, either.
Olivia was a middle school history teacher at Virginia Falls High. She was the youngest among the group of teachers that taught there. She was twenty-eight years old and had gotten her college degree in history as well as a masters in education and social studies. Her students were kids between the ages of twelve and fourteen years old. She taught seventh and eight grade, and despite the challenge of that particular age range, there was never a day she regretted her decision of becoming a teacher.
Olivia studied Noah’s face of contentment as he ate the last of his lemon chicken and enjoyed a drink from his cabernet. She knew if there was ever a good moment to broach the subject that had been swimming inside her mind since he arrived at her house, it was now. The truth was this meal hadn’t been solely for the purpose of celebrating Noah’s good news from work.
During the entire time it had taken Olivia to prepare tonight’s dinner, she’d rehearsed the right way to phrase what in her own opinion and Tracy’s, was normal and natural for two people who’d been dating for several years. It was probably also normal to be somewhat nervous, since this would be the first time she and Noah would really sit down and discuss this very important matter outside the occasional mention of it with friends or during family reunions. Both their answers were tailored to stave off curiosity and get off the hook.
Clearing her throat that had gone dry as if she’d been eating sand instead of chicken, Olivia took one big gulp from her own glass of wine and was grateful for the warm relaxing effect the wine was having on her jittery nerves.
“So, uhmm….There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Noah McCourt, who was a year older than Olivia, knew by the way his girlfriend furrowed her brows together and twitched her mouth to one side that whatever she wanted to say belonged to the serious talk category.
“Okay, go on.”
Why am I so nervous? It’s Noah for god’s sake, he loves me. This should be easy enough.
“Like I said, I’m very excited for you. It looks like we both are moving forward in our careers. We’ve been through many stuff together. I think it is time we look forward to other important things for us. Personal things. Actually, I’m just referring to one thing in particular.”
Stop it Olivia, you’re rambling like a car out of control.
“Noah, I think it’s time we start laying the ground for our future as a couple.”
“I don’t think I’m quite following you here.”
Neither am I. Damn it. Come on Olivia, relax.
“What I’m saying is, I believe we are ready to begin making plans for our life together, you know as husband and wife.”
His confounded expression was not one she’d braced herself for, as she’d rehearsed this speech over and over inside her head hours before. His eyes went huge, as if she’d just said. “I think I’ll start teaching my classes naked.” His entire face was paler than the cream colored walls of her living room. What was more, Olivia swore part of him had already fled her house like some cartoon character and had left Noah’s shocked smoke-shaped body behind.
Something told her Tracy’s warnings about how men cringed whenever the “m” word was spoken out loud were not even close to how freaked out Noah was. But there was something else, something elusive she couldn’t quite pinpoint that was more unsettling.
All Olivia could come up with was Oh boy…