Countdown to Love

“It’s your birthday!” Martin smiled at Carly as he poured her a glass of wine. “We’re celebrating it, even if it’s only for ten minutes.”

“But, what if it is for only ten minutes?” Carly swirled the red liquid for a moment, then placed the glass down on the coffee table without a sip. The mid 20s man shrugged at her question.

“I doubt the world’s ending,” he replied. “A 24-hour countdown seems kind of generous for that. If it is? Well, that’s why we’re celebrating right now instead of tomorrow.” He raised his glass at her.

“You’re right.” Carly relaxed on the couch, then she reached for the wine. “So?” she raised an eyebrow at Martin. “What’d you get me?”

“Wait here,” Martin laughed and went into his bedroom. He returned carrying a small red box; it was slightly larger than a credit card.

“You got me a gift card!” Carly laughed. “I hope I get to spend it.” Martin shook his head. He knelt on the floor next to the couch instead of sitting next to her.

“For 18 of my 26 years, you’ve been my best friend,” Martin glanced at the clock; 5 minutes left. “You’ve always given me what seems like unlimited support and encouragement.

“YES!” Carly shouted. “If you’re asking me to marry you, yes! Why’d you wait so long, idiot!” She tried to scramble off the couch to give Martin a hug, but he held her in place and shook his head.

“Let me finish,” he said.

“You’re…not asking me to marry you?” Carly asked.

“Let me finish,” Martin repeated. “Along the way, somewhere in those 18 years, I fell in love with you.”

“Me too,” she whispered. Her eyes remained glued on the red box.

“But, you know me. Before I could tell you, I needed a way to prove it first.” Carly shook her head but did not interrupt. She knew he needed to prove it as much as he knew she didn’t need him to. “Ideally, I wanted to be able to give you the world. To be in a position to give you absolutely anything you ask for.” Carly giggled and glanced at the clock.

“I ask for the world not to end in two minutes. Hurry up,” she said.

“I love you more than anything in the world,” Martin tapped the red box. “And I feel like I can prove it with what’s in this box.” He held it out to her, but he grabbed her hands when she reached for it. He held her hands and stared into her eyes for more than a minute before he let her hands go.

“10” a voice filled the air to countdown the last remaining seconds.

“If the world ends before I see my gift, I’m going to be so mad at you,” she said, then leaned forward and kissed Martin’s forehead.

“9”. Carly lifted the red lid.

“8”.

“What’s this?” She reached in.

“7”. Carly pulled out a card-sized, transparent pane of glass.

“6”. She lifted it and looked through it at Martin, then she flipped it over and tried looking through the other side.

“5”. 

“Well?” she asked.

“4”.

“Well, what?” Martin replied.

“3”.

“Well, what is it?”

“2”.

“It’s your gift. It’s me telling you that I love you.”

“1”.

“Alright. What can I do with your love, then?” Carly asked.

“0”.

“Anything you want,” Martin smiled.

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