Elizabeth smiles at me, the glimmer in her eyes showed this sense of… well, want. She looked happy with me. Happy to be in the presence of me – er, us. She smiles and raises a glass to us at our three year anniversary, her red hair glistening like flames, and she was deep in this love of what we are.
I held the glass of wine in my hand, and I nodded, raising it to her.
About a year ago we sat in her car and screamed back and forth at each other. This anger was cropping up in me, boiling over as the car reeked of potato chips and old fast food from the nights before. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about. We were just fighting for the sake of fighting. I think it was probably because I had an issue with how she had gotten a nose piercing without my knowledge, while she was out with friends.
I am so gifted at finding things I hate. And I sighed as I looked at Elizabeth today, the ring dangling from her nose being a constant reminder of that fight.
“How do you even put up with me?” I asked after our first sips of wine. She looked at me while her eyebrows furrowed, tilting her head to the side.
“Braedon, what?” She huffed out, “I put up with you because I love you, sweetheart.”
I looked at the ground. The pianist had started to tap on the piano, starting to figure out what he should play.
“I mean. I just-” I was a bit frustrated at the confusion in her voice, “I can just be the worst, y’know?”
Flashback to the time we fought over her going to a party without my knowledge again. I sat in my room the whole night while she was out living a free spirit. I couldn’t hold her down; it was never my place. But it had stung. It had shattered me into a million pieces to learn that she had a whole sleeve on her arm of all these numbers.
I bared my teeth at her and my face grew red with anger. Frankly, I lost control of my strength and willpower. I cried and I was freaking out. The anxiety was getting to me, what if she goes to one of these other guys? I felt my nose start to sting again, and I started to ask myself if I was really going to start crying over something that happened nearly six months into our relationship. It’s three years. We’re out at dinner, we’re about to graduate. There’s no need to worry about this now.
… Then why is the wound opening up like this?
I took another sip of the wine as the tears started to form in my eyes.
“Baby, what’s up?” Elizabeth asked. But it was barely audible through the static going through my head.
“No, something is up. You’re crying.”
“I’m just… so happy it’s been three years with you sweetheart.” I lied. These tears falling down my face were full of times we had shared when I wasn’t happy to be with her. Where I was hurting, where I had to just take it. I had to understand she was her own person too. But I had issues with the changes she was making from the Elizabeth I knew.
She pursed her lips and started to cry too, “Stop, baby…” She said, “You don’t need to cry…”
“I know I don’t. It’s just- it’s so great. You still put up with me because you love me. I just think that’s sweet.”
“I will always love you.”
Did she think that when she went to that party so long ago? When she got the piercing? When all of these things she did, was I not a thought that ran through her head? I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like. I hate it. I hate myself for putting up with it.
“You still want to be with me, right?” She asked.
I looked up at her, and I smiled, the tears drying on my face. I was silent. I didn’t know what to say for a bit. She looked so pretty and happy, but in this light and with that question, my silence was worrying her. The flame that was her hair seemed to dwindle.
“Of course. Forever.” I mustered, knowing full well that I won’t be the one to leave, but not knowing what I’d do if she would.