He took the stairs two at a time. He hadn’t seen her in four days. Four incredibly long, excruciating days but he knew once he explained his absence she’d understand. He’d missed her. Not the way she missed him of course, but he loved her after a sort. Stopping at the front door he straighten his time. He couldn’t propose with a crooked tie. Smiling to himself he took out his key and unlocked the door. The light was on in the living room but he could tell she wasn’t home.Sighing a little from disappointment he jogged up the stairs to his office. He wanted to write out his thoughts, no jumbled up proposals from him. No way, not when she would tell her friends about this. His brow creased at the thought of her friends. He thought she needed better ones but they were her friends. Far be it from him to make demands about her friends…before the wedding. Smiling he set to work ignoring the manila envelope beside him.

She knew he was home from the moment she opened the front door. She could smell the a casserole in the oven. One she’d already prepped and stashed in the freezer for days when she was too tired to cook. Stepping into the room she side-stepped his shoes. Frowning, it wasn’t like him to leave his shoes in the middle of the room. He must’ve been in a hurry. She put the shoes beside the coat rack and went into the kitchen to check the casserole. He hadn’t set the timer but she figured it could use another twenty minutes. Leaving the kitchen, she returned to her discarded briefcase and climbed the stairs.

She heard the shower running and smiling, shook her head. He’s certainly making himself at home. At last. After three years this was the most invasive he’d ever been and she couldn’t be more thrilled. Their recent conversations led her to believe that she might have reason to hope for more intrusions in the future. Her heart warmed at the thought. Leaving the bedroom to went into the office. She noticed his writing pad but was more intrigued by the manila envelope she’d brought in the day before. It was addressed her but she hadn’t opened it. Picking it up she brought it and the rest of the mail downstairs.

He found her seated at the set dinner table. He loved how formal she could be at times. The casualness of it but their was elegance too. She certainly made a fine picture. A candle setting off the the warm undertones of her skin. She looked mysterious. Her eyes were so serious. A trickle of alarm skimmed over him but he brushed it aside as nerves.

Taking his seat he noticed his mail. They’d made this silly habit of opening mail together. She thought it cute but he thought of it as another step, getting her accustomed to life together. He was growing quite fond of it too. What had started off as something he needed to get ahead in the workplace was fast becoming one of the highlights of his day.

Without thinking he blurted it out. His desire to marry her. How he’d written out a speech but nothing sounded right. He apologized for his lack of finesse but hoped she could see the purity of his heart and the sincerity of his affection. He stopped his rambling and looked at her. Her response wasn’t what he’d expected. No smiles, no squeal of female laughter he’d grown accustomed to. Silence. She looked up. Eyes fierce. Three words left his world crumbling apart.

“Who is she?”

He had but to look quickly at the photo to recognize himself and brief former flame. A longer look at his would be fiance’s face told him what he feared. As she ran from the table he looked at his written proposal, the unfinished dinner, and the photo of a woman he’d long since forgotten. The dinner might be ruined but he was determined their relationship wasn’t.