**The Admiral issued the challenge: pickles, a movie, and Schenectady. And for a bit, I was, admittedly, stumped. And then, as the ideas often do, it hit me. So here you go. Enjoy!**
I stood in front of the refrigerator, the glow from the light inside the only illumination in the dark kitchen. I was feeling peckish, but I wasn’t actually hungry. I peered inside, perusing the contents, trying to decide what I wanted to eat. A glass jar caught my attention. Aha! Perfect. I snatched it up and didn’t bother to close the door as I twisted off the lid and reached inside.
“Dan? Honey?” my boyfriend of three years called out. “Want to watch a movie?”
“Can we watch Frozen?” I called back, teasing. I nearly dropped the jar in mirth at Hank’s disgruntled murmur.
“I already have one picked out,” he yelled.
I shook my head. No doubt something with a lot of action and explosions. I sighed quietly. “I’m eating!”
His laugh was loud and boisterous, and I loved hearing it every time, even if it was at my expense. “Bring it with you.”
I shut the door with my hip, left the lid on a counter, grabbed a paper towel to use as a napkin, and sauntered into the living room. Hank was sprawled out on his couch, his massive seventy inch TV ready to play whatever movie he’d chosen and the remote in his hand. I hoped he hadn’t turned on the surround sound. It definitely made for a better viewing experience, but my ears always rang for hours afterwards from all the mayhem and destruction.
Hank quirked an eyebrow. “Pickles?”
I shrugged, and plopped down next to him. I liked pickles. They were one of my favorite treats. These were whole, and I pulled another one out of the jar, sliding it between my lips and sucking off the juice while keeping my gaze fixed on Hank. He swallowed hard, but an amused grin lifted his lips as he shook his head. He nudged me with his foot.
“Eat your damn pickle and watch the movie.”
I waggled my eyebrows, and then crunched down as I turned my attention to the screen. Hank pointed the remote at the screen, and a second later, the movie started. Where I expected opening credits, there was nothing but a blue screen for a few moments, and then a home video started playing.
“Hey! That’s from our trip to Schenectady!”
“Yeah,” Hank rumbled.
I finished eating my pickle as I watched the screen. Several months earlier, we’d spent two weeks visiting with his family in the picturesque town. I’d loved playing tourist, and even now, I couldn’t be embarrassed about my giddy actions on screen. It had been a blast. I was amused at my effervescent behavior as I fawned over some of the old buildings in the historic part of town.
The camera panned to the right, and then focused in on Hank’s face. I sucked in a breath. On screen, his attention was fixed on ridiculous me, but his expression was filled with such love and affection that it took my breath away. I didn’t often see him looking at me like that. Sure, when we were in bed, I got those lovey and sultry looks. But out in the open? It didn’t happen much. It was a good thing I didn’t notice that day or I probably would have tackled him and taken him right there on the street.
From there the scene shifted to the previous Christmas, me sitting on the floor in front of Hank’s legs as I opened the Christmas gift he’d gotten me. A handmade cuckoo clock painted to look like a scene from the Black Forest. It was a replica, but it was stunning, and I’d squealed like a little girl when I opened it. I wasn’t embarrassed about that either.
The scene shifted again, more of our lives over the past three years, clips of videos interspersed with pictures, and a song, our song, started playing on the soundtrack. Pickles forgotten, I threw myself sideways into Hank’s arms though I couldn’t tear my attention from the TV. Hank just gave a little rumble of contentment and pulled me in tight.
It took me a few minutes to realize that it was our time together in reverse. It was like watching our courtship play backwards, and my eyes got wet. Neither of us were perfect, and we’d had some rough times, but we were committed to each other and we’d worked through them. This, on the screen, was showing our best times together. And I was amazed at how often Hank had been captured wearing that look of adoration on his face as he looked at me. The farther back it went, I kept expecting that look to change, but it never did.
Then the final picture came up just as the song came to a close. It was the night we met, and I’d been a little drunk, but not overly so. Despite that, I was standing on the table in our friend Pete’s living room, it had been his birthday party, and singing at the top of my lungs. The look of carefree abandon on my face was amusing, but what caught my attention was the corner of the picture. Hank was standing off to the side, staring at me with that exact same look on his face. If I recalled correctly, it wasn’t until after my exhibition that Hank and I had officially met.
The screen went black, and I turned fast. Fast enough that I caught the look on his face. And for once, he didn’t try to hide it. I dove in, kissing him for all I was worth, and only pulling back when I needed more air.
“I love you,” I breathed, searching his face. I was overwhelmed and touched and I didn’t know what else to say.
“As you can see,” he started, then had to stop and clear his throat. “I’ve loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you.”
I nodded fast, and leaned forward to kiss him again. But he held me off with one hand. With the other, he reached behind his head and picked up something from the end table. He flipped open the little hinged box and then set it on his chest. I looked down to see two platinum rings nestled on black velvet.
“Yes,” I breathed.
His breath whooshed out on a chuckle. “I haven’t asked yet.”
“Good. I want to look at you like that for the rest of my life.”