I clasped both his hands before he could open the boxes. Stopping him in his hurried tracks.
“Daniel,” I said, “we really need to talk.”
Daniel stood and I scooted over so he could sit down. “Yeah, I figured,” he sighed.
I remained silent, trying to formulate the words before I spoke. “I don’t know how to say this, actually,” I chuckled, feeling the seriousness of the heartache. It was starting to make me feel a little woozy. “It’s a lot different now. I think I had it all figured out before, what I was going to say, but now it’s all muddled.”
Daniel laughed. “You’re nervous.”
“So nervous,” I breathed.
“And you’re worried about me,” he said, continuing the assistance.
“So worried,” I agreed. “Especially after all you’ve done.”
Daniel nodded. “I’m worried about you too. After what you were going to do.”
“I’m going to move to New York one way or another. Either way, I’m there. No need to worry.”
Daniel held my hand in his and smiled. “You have no need to worry as well.”
“I hate this,” I confessed.
I placed my head on his shoulder for a brief rest. In that time, Daniel stroked my cheek. The sensation burned, because I knew it was the last time he’d ever touch me this way. I closed my eyes in remembrance.
“I hate this too,” Daniel said. I lifted my head to gaze at him. “It’s simple though. It’s all the same, well, usually. All you say is, ‘Daniel, I love you very much…’.”
“Daniel, I love you very much,” I repeated.
“’And I know you love me…’.”
“I really do know you love me, Daniel,” I squeezed his hand and he smiled.
“’But it’s just not working out for us right now. At least not for the time being…’.”
“…We’re at different places right now,” I continued, nodding.
“…We both have different lives,” he said.
“…This isn’t to say we didn’t try,”
“…Because we tried very hard,”
“…But there is just so much we need to work on, that we can only do separately if we actually really do want to grow,”
“…Like trees,” Daniel smiled, squeezing my hand.
I laughed and sniffed. The tears now making their appearance. “Like trees,” I agreed. I sniffed once more. “I want to love you like I used to so badly.”
“I know, baby,” he kissed the top of my head. “I know. We just can’t force it.”
“How come you still brought me out to Egypt though?” I asked.
Daniel shrugged. “Because I only just figured out you can’t force it?” I laughed with Daniel. At least we were ending on good terms. “Honestly? I don’t know. I guess I thought everything would have disappeared by now and we would have rekindled the spark. Gone back to the good ‘ole days.”
“And the engagement rings?”
Daniel laughed. “Stupid, huh?”
I shook my head. “It’s actually kind of sweet, all things aside.”
“All significantly important things aside,” Daniel laughed.
“Yeah like our future together,” I joked along.
Daniel’s laugh turned breathy as did mine. “No big deal or anything.” We were laughing so hard tears started to well up.
Oddly enough, I was pleased that the tears were brought about by laughter rather than deep sadness.
“And you bought two,” I stated when the laughing subsided.
Daniel cleared his throat. “Yeah, I, umm, I didn’t know which one you would prefer, so I bought both.”
Shit. “Damn,” I said.
I squeezed his hand again. “If it’s any consolation. Thank you. Not just about the double-ring extravaganza. But for everything as well. I loved our time together.”
“I appreciate that,” Daniel said. “I love you and our time together as well.”
I returned my head to its spot on his shoulder. Nearly falling asleep as I closed my eyes.
“What are you going to do now?” I asked. “Are you going to go back to New York straight away?”
Daniel shook his head. “I think I’m going to stay in Egypt for a while. Get my shit together; especially my communication skills. Relationships aren’t my forte so clearly I need some work.”
“What a better way to figure that out than in a foreign country?” I grinned. Daniel laughed.
Is it weird that I loved that we were laughing so much and it was so light-hearted? I knew I’d feel the ache of everything in the morning, or even possibly later, but I was glad that for now, it didn’t hurt so much.
“What are you going to do?” Daniel asked.
“Go back to California,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to free ride this vacation.”
“You wouldn’t be.”
“You say that and then…”
“—I really mean it though,” Daniel said. “No rush. I just want you to be okay.”
“I will be.”
“Hey,” he said, shaking me out of my near-sleep again, “want to see what it feels like?”
“See what feels like what?” I asked. I shook my head and straightened up, licking my lips from the dry state and taste. “I meant to ask that in a less loopy way.”
Daniel chuckled. “See what proposing to feels like?”
I smiled and stared at him. “Seriously? Isn’t it bad luck or something?”
Daniel shrugged. “I don’t think so. Why not?”
“Do you want to know what proposing feels like?”
Daniel took a minute to think about it and then grinned. “Yeah, I kind of do.”
I nodded. “Okay then.”
I wiped whatever tears I could that wasn’t encrusted to my cheeks yet and positioned myself in the middle of the ledge. Daniel shuffled down to the floor and onto his knees. Opening both boxes and placing them in the palms of his hands, he lifted them up to me and asked, “Anna Parker, will you marry me?”
I never wanted to say ‘no’ to Daniel, just to leave the conclusion open for unknown possibilities, but I didn’t want to say ‘yes’ either; so I kissed him. In a resort hotel in the middle of Egypt, North Africa; a place where ancient history is born and raised, Daniel and I held our last and lasting kiss.