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December 25



     "Keep your eyes closed..." Daniel said, drawing forth the small box he'd kept hidden in his gym bag for the past two weeks. He snapped the lid open an glanced up, making sure that she still had her eyes closed. She did.
     He could feel the tension in the room. A thrill shivered down his spine. "Mary-Sue, I-"




     The lengthy speech he'd stayed up half the night composing in his head was suddenly cut off by the sounding of the doorbell. He snapped the box shut and shoved it under his leg, tucking the fabric of his pajama pants around it. The doorbell rang again; several more times in rapid succession.
     "Oh, god," he mumbled, recognizing the signature doorbell melody of Mary-Sue's parents.
     She recognized it, too, getting up to answer the door. Her surprise present had been instantly forgotten.
     "Surprise, honey!!" Coral gushed, holding out an elaborately-wrapped gift.
     "Merry Christmas!" Herb added, raising his own holiday offering: Jello. 




     "Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. and Mrs. Oldie," Daniel said with a strained smile. "What a...nice...surprise."


January 1



     The countdown on the bottom of the television screen read 6:54. Each second that ticked by brought them closer to midnight. From the kitchen, Daniel watched the program's hostess bouncing around from person to person as the crowd cheered in the background.
     He stirred the bowl of cookie dough as calmly as he could, trying to ignore his racing pulse.
     It was quiet, save for the low volume of the TV. He stirred and stirred, listening as the countdown to the New Year got increasingly lower...
     6...
     5...
     4...
     3...
     2...





     1...
     Happy New Year!

     He abandoned the bowl on the counter, swooping around into the living room and down onto one knee in one fluid motion. "Mary-Sue," he began, reaching into his pocket to withdraw the ring box.




     His chin dropped to his chest and all of the blood rushed from his head when he realized that she'd fallen asleep. The crowd on the TV cheered incessantly, but neither that nor his own failed declaration caused her to stir the least bit.
     "Well, Happy New Year," he whispered. "I guess."


January 19



     Look up, Daniel urged silently. Please, look up.
     He stood in the middle of the soccer field, waiting for practice to resume. The stands were mostly empty, but he'd managed to convince Mary-Sue to tag along and watch his team . Waving emphatically, he managed to draw her attention away from her conversation with Bella. He pointed wildly up at the sky.




     Her gaze followed his gesticulations, landing on a small plane in the distance. It was the only thing in the cloudy sky. She waited for it to come closer, finally able to make out the words when it was directly over the stadium. Marry me, Carrie? Love, Lou.
     She shrugged her shoulders, unimpressed.




     Daniel cringed. A couple of his teammates, who'd known about his plans for the day, laughed.
     He'd explicitly told the lady front desk Mary-Sue, not Carrie-Lou. And how did they ever manage to get two names out of that?
     Stupid discount planes...


February 14



     The waitress stopped by their table, dropping off a pair of champagne flutes with a practiced smile. She flitted away to the next table immediately, leaving Daniel to shift nervously in his seat. There were no more distractions.
     The restaurant had been packed full for Valentine's Day, but the din of dozens of couples' intimate conversations faded into the background. All Daniel could focus on was the beautiful woman sitting across from him.
     He raised his glass and took a deep breath.
     "Happy Valentine's Day, hon," Mary-Sue said, cutting him off before he could even begin. Daniel locked his eyes on her glass, desperately searching the bubbly liquid as she raised it all to her lips and took a sip.
     Empty.




     A large commotion erupted behind them. Daniel pressed his eyes shut, knowing exactly had happened without even having to look.
     "Oh my god, Thomas," the lady from the table diagonally behind theirs exclaimed in a loud, derisive tone. Multiple forks dropped simultaneously and a shocked silence fell over the room. "I'm married."
     She scooted out her chair and fairly ran from the room, her heels echoing rather loudly in the quiet dining room. Everyone else exchanged awkward glances before turning eventually back to their plates. Gradually, the noise level rose once again.




     Presently, Mary-Sue excused herself to visit the restroom. Daniel hailed the waitress. "I'm going to need you to get that ring back for me," he said, motioning to the table in the corner and the poor man who was slumped over his bowl of soup.
     The waitress, realization dawning on her, blushed bright red. "Oh, I am so sorry, sir."


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