The Proposal (a short story)

Samantha had trouble keeping a straight face. In the hustle and bustle of the university coffee shop, on a Sunday afternoon a little past noon, the question had come like a whisper. At first, she hadn’t even heard it. She’d been thinking about getting a boob job. And then she had looked over at Tom with his soft, almost feminine features and then it registered.

“‘Will you marry me?’ Is that what you asked?”

She thought about it a second longer and was about to laugh, but then she held back. She was sure that if she had she would have seen him fall apart.

“No. No. No. Sorry, what? Why would you even ask that?” Even that had been a bit harsh. His face showed a few cracks, but he held up.

“Listen, Tom. You know me. I like to do things my own way.” Harley Davidsons on Saturday, never with Tom. “I’m a career girl.” Sales. Hence the boob job. “I’m independent. I also borderline hate men. Sometimes, I think I’m a lesbian that dates men for sadistic purposes. Don’t you think so, too? Why would you want to marry someone like that?”

Tom nodded his head very seriously. He was always doing that even when she spewed shit from her mouth and rained fire on those beneath her.

Finally, he responded. “I don’t know what that means. I mean for you and me. You don’t hate me. At least I don’t think you do.”

Now there was food for thought for poor Samantha, Sam to her friends. No, she didn’t hate Tom. She may have even loved him in her own way. After all, he was nothing like her stepfather. The over-sexed womanizer who’d put his hands all over her and had cheated on her mom with no less than a dozen other women.

The first time she had had sex with Tom she was pretty sure he’d been a virgin. She had asked him a day afterward and he had said no, but the way he said it made her think that he was lying.

“Should I go? I think I should go.” Tom said this with a look that was equal parts thoughtful, stoic, and defeated.

“You do whatever you want, but I think we should just forget you asked the question and get the fuck on with our day.”

He considered this deeply. A typical Tom move. He could think deeply, but he couldn’t penetrate deeply. That last thought made her smile a little too cruelly.

“Now, time for the real question.” She pointed to her boobs. “Time for an upgrade?”

“What?”

“I’m thinking of getting a boob job.”

“Are you making fun of me?” And there was that dour face again, so gentle and ready to cry.

“Oh, sweetheart. I’m not. This is a serious question for me. I’m in sales. My looks are my currency, just like your brain is when you’re studying your physics shit. Think of all the money you’re going to make.”

“Actually, physics professors…”

“Honey, stop trying to tell me how poor you’re going to be in the future. Not a turn on at all…anyway, how did we get off the subject of my boobs?”

Tom was getting up to leave. He looked now like he really was about to cry. She thought about how shy and clumsy he’d been the first time they’d had sex. Shy and careful Tom. Where would she find another one like him? Who else could she have dominated so easily?

He was almost out of the coffee shop when she shouted. “Wait!”

Her shout was loud enough to get the attention of the entire shop. All of them turned to face Samantha, including Tom. His face had this look like it might break out into tears at any moment.

“Don’t go! Maybe not marriage…but…but…I’m ready to discuss matching tattoos.”

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