“Mm, and don’t forget that we need toilet paper… and more Lucky Charms!” Jack dribbled milk down his chin as he talked through a mouthful of cereal, waving his spoon to get Alex’s attention.
“Anything else, your highness?” Alex retorted, grabbing his shopping list off the kitchen table and going to get his jacket. “I should only be gone, like… a couple of hours?”
“That’s what you said last time and it took you five,” Jack reminded him, spooning more cereal into his mouth. “Five, Alex. Five. It does not take five hours to pick up groceries and essentials for two people.”
“Then maybe you should move your fat ass and do the shopping next time, hm?” Alex raised his eyebrows, buttoning up his denim jacket without looking away.
Jack grinned at him. “You love my ass. My bony, furthest-thing-from-fat ass.”
Alex rolled his eyes as he walked over and kissed Jack’s forehead. “I would love your ass no matter how it looked, but seriously, you’re shopping next time. And put your bowl in the dishwasher.”
Now it was Jack’s turn to roll his eyes. “Yes, Mom…”
“Don’t even bother or I’ll call up your actual mom and tell her you’ve only been brushing your teeth once a day and you haven’t cleaned out your ears in six months,” Alex warned, scanning his list for anything they might have forgotten to write down. He sighed and stuffed it in his pocket, looking back up at his boyfriend. “What are you gonna do while I’m gone?”
“Well, since I cleaned the house yesterday while you were at work, the chores are all done,” Jack said proudly, gesturing around at the gleaming kitchen. Alex had to admit, their rented home looked great. When Jack cleaned, he cleaned. “So… probably watch a movie?”
Jack was the biggest television addict Alex had ever met. He would cycle through entire series of TV shows in just a couple weeks. He’d seen just about everything popular on television and every other possible platform -- Netflix, Amazon, NowTV, Hulu, they had it all. Nowadays he would re-watch things and force Alex to as well, or get into watching really obscure stuff that nobody else had ever heard of. And when he was sick, he’d watch kids’ programmes. Cartoon Network was his favourite go-to for them. And his DVD collection? It took up the entirety of their spare room. Every time they’d moved apartments or rented spaces together, it was the first thing he packed up, so slowly and so carefully. Alex dreaded to think how much money he’d spent on movies and his favourite TV box-sets over the years.
But it made him happy, and Alex loved to see him happy.
“I’m glad you said that, because I got you a new DVD on the way home from work the other day,” Alex smiled. “I forgot to mention it. I put it in the cabinet under the TV.”
Jack looked delighted. “Awesome! What did you get? I hope I don’t already have it.”
Alex had found out about Jack’s film obsession during their first Christmas together five years ago, when he’d gotten him a bunch of DVDs and it turned out Jack already had all of them. They returned them together and bought ones he didn’t have, but still. That year, Alex had learned to be very selective if he ever bought Jack a movie to watch.
“Oh, you won’t have it,” Alex said coyly. “I’ll be back later.”
Jack was about to respond, but Alex was already out of the livingroom. He heard the front door open, then close, and the house was silent. So he went back to his cereal, opting to finish it before putting on this mystery new DVD. He finished in a hurry, putting the bowl down with a clatter on the coffee table before he thought better of it and took it to the dishwasher.
He rushed back to the livingroom, digging around in the television cabinet. There was one case in there, with a blank white cover, and in Alex’s scrawled handwriting: “I LOVE YOU.” And a red heart beside it. Puzzled, Jack opened the case and popped the disc out, putting it into the player.
He took up a seat on the couch, remote in hand, ready to press play when it got to the menu, but there was no menu options. The footage began playing right away, and Jack had never been so surprised… or confused.
It was Alex, sitting in the very spot Jack was sitting in, on their couch. It was daylight, but he had three candles lit on the coffee table, and some rose petals sprinkled around his feet. He wasn’t dressed too fancy, but still too nicely for it to be casual -- he was wearing his best (read as: not faded) black skinny jeans and a red button down shirt.
Jack was so confused. Alex was a bit of a hopeless romantic and often made little gestures for Jack like getting him a bunch of flowers or a nice bottle of wine to share, or making pancakes for breakfast in bed… but this seemed abnormal. He’d went to the trouble of making a video, and for a moment, Jack panicked that he’d forgotten a special occasion. It wasn’t his birthday. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t their anniversary.
“Hi, Jack,” Alex grinned from the screen. “I know you’re probably wondering what this is all about.”
“You’re telling me,” Jack muttered, twiddling the remote in his hands.
“But this will only take a few minutes. I just wanted to make you a video to tell you how special you are, and how proud I am of us. Do you remember when we met? Five years ago… it doesn’t seem that long. Summer fling at college, right? That’s what we said. That’s what we intended. Do you remember when we made a pact? That we would sleep together and have fun and then when college started back, we had to buckle down on our schoolwork, so we’d just stay friends. Yeah, that totally went to plan.”
Jack laughed. They’d managed to be ‘just friends’ for two weeks after college started back, but there was really no keeping two love-struck twenty-year-olds away from each other. They’d reunited after a bar crawl and confessed just how deep their feelings were for each other, and they’d been together ever since.
“It was rough, though. I know we loved each other, but it was hard trying to keep a new romance alive and stay on top of school, and work… it was really hard, but we did it! And we both graduated. And we managed to move in together and live in harmony, somehow, even though we’re so different. Our interests are different, but we have things in common. You’re more happy-go-lucky and I’m kind of anxious all the time, but that compliments us. I help you to think things through when you get a crazy idea, and you help me to be more carefree. You know me better than anyone else on this green Earth and I’m just so glad we took a chance and got together. The last few years have been amazing. I never had much luck dating when I was a teenager and I think when we met, I was starting to feel like romance wasn’t for me, but you changed that. I know people say summer romances don’t last but we did. Our fling turned into something way more, way better. I want to spend the rest of my life next to you. You’re the one, Jack Barakat.”
Jack sniffed, biting his lip to hold back tears. He didn’t cry often, but when he did, it was for good reason. Hearing Alex recite their story, their beginning… it was touching to hear it aloud, even if he already knew it himself by heart.
And then his stomach felt like it dropped, when Alex moved from the couch, and got onto one knee, bringing a little white box from behind one of the couch cushions. Jack hardly dared breathe.
“Jack, I wanted to do this on video, because you love movies so much. You always said your favourite shows and movies got you through some tough times in your life; watching them comforted you and made you feel better. So I couldn’t think of a better way to ask you to marry me, than to put it on camera. I want you to be able to look back at this footage whenever you feel sad, or just when you want to reminisce. I want us to be able to watch it together on our first wedding anniversary, and our fifth, and our tenth, and our twentieth… I want to be able to show it to our children someday when they ask about our story, and I want to be able to show our grandchildren… even though, DVDs will probably be obsolete by then, but hey, we can make copies, right?”
Alex laughed on the television, and Jack laughed too, even though tears had started pouring down his cheeks.
On screen, Alex opened the box, a slim ring glinting in the candlelight.
“Jack… will you marry me?”
The final shot showed Alex still grinning at the camera, and then the screen went dark.
Jack jumped up from the couch, making some indiscernible sounds of delight. He fumbled to get his phone out of his pocket, ready to call Alex and tell him to get home right this second, so Jack could say a very enthusiastic yes to his proposal.
But of course, Alex had never left the apartment. He re-entered the livingroom seconds after Jack hit the call button.
Jack dropped his phone to the couch, running for his boyfriend. “You never went shopping!”
Alex laughed as Jack barrelled into him for a hug. “Of course I didn’t! I was hiding in the bedroom praying you put the film on right away. So the answer…?”
“Yes! Of course it’s yes, you dumb-ass! I love you so much, I-- yes! I know I’m biased but that was the best proposal… ever. Like, ever. When did you film that?!”
Alex smiled and pulled the box from his back pocket, opening it so he could slide the delicate ring onto Jack’s finger.
“A few days ago, while you were at work. I secretly booked the day off for myself so I could do it. I wanted to take a whole day so I could do a few takes… but I ended up doing it in one take and I felt like it was perfect. I didn’t want to change anything about it. I didn’t even prepare that speech… just spoke raw. Straight from the heart.”
Jack could’ve melted in his arms. “I love you, Alex.”
“I love you too, future husband.”
With a soft smile and a lean-in that Jack had perfected over the last five years, he kissed his fiance.
It was like the first kiss all over again, way back during that one hot summer when two kids met and accidentally fell in love. When two kids met, not wanting or looking for anything more than casual.
And yet, look how far they’d grown.