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A Pact; A Proposal

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8 years was a long time. A long time to date one person, and an eternity when you’re staving off marriage with one hand the same way a rock holds out against a rushing tide. It erodes.

Amy had been dating Paul for a damn long time.

But she’d been friends with Bobby longer.

Sure, Amy and Bobby had referenced the pact before, in front of Paul, even. Laughingly, knowing the pact must lay dead, like a cut fragment of electric wire in a puddle. No need for it. Amy had Paul. Bobby had bachelorhood. The pact fell underneath a pile of clutter, the stuff of a life, phones ringing and concerts to attend and bills stacked on tables. They forgot it. An old college joke.

Now Bobby looked at Amy, trembling in her white dress, and the pact suckerpunched him.

“Amy,” he said, to himself, almost more than her. She didn’t hear. For once she stood stock still, thrown flat out of her usual orbit of panicked chaos. With her eyes closed, slowly unclenching her fists and laying them against her thighs, she could have passed for stoic. Noble. Sure of herself, even.

“Amy,” his voice broke, and now she heard. Her blue eyes opened, but didn’t leave the high tower of the church cathedral, just viewable out their window.

“Marry me,” said Bobby.

“What?”

“Marry me.”

His mind hadn’t even finished the thought when his mouth did it for him. There’s Amy, there’s your best friend, there’s the woman you should marry. Maybe it was always supposed to be Amy, maybe that’s why you see her everywhere you look, maybe that’s why she couldn’t marry Paul after all this time, maybe that’s why she’s so afraid, maybe she loves you the most, maybe you’re always supposed to marry your best friend anyway, maybe that’s all marriage is, an arbitrary friendship made permanent, and ours already is -

A half-manic, half-mad laugh interrupted him. “Wha-“

“Think about it, Amy, please,” and against his will his voice became pleading; he grabbed both her hands in his own and cried “Marry me! And then...everyone will leave us alone!”

He said what he’d thought she was asking to hear. For perhaps the first time in their friendship, he’d truly misunderstood Amy.

She picked up her bouquet of jonquils from the table where she’d discarded them, gingerly picking through their wilting petals. She smiled up at him, eyes shining.

“Thank you, Bobby, I’m really - “ she cut herself off then, and Bobby could have died, would have happily, only to know what lay at the other end of that sentence, but she began a new one: “It’s just...you have to want to marry somebody. Not just some...body.”

And for the first time in their friendship, Amy had truly misunderstood Bobby.

She muttered something, unceremoniously handed her flowers off to Bobby, something about Paul catching pneumonia in the rain, her voice flying up an octave back to its usual neurotic pitch, dashed for the door and at the last moment turned back to face Bobby, head on. “I’m getting married. And he’s so good, isn’t he?”

The world stood still.

“He’s so good,” she finished and nodded, more to herself than him, picking up an umbrella and turning for the door again. Bobby’s arm moved without his telling it to, and his mouth followed. “Amy,” he said, and threw her the bouquet.

She laughed, almost maniacally then, and he knew it was over. “I’m the next bride!” Amy flew out the door into the flooding rain.

Bobby sat back down at the table. Drained what was left of his orange juice. He was still Paul’s best man. He was still Amy’s best friend.

The wedding was still on. And Bobby had to go.