“Why him?” he asked, stopping by the edge of the doorway. He gestured at the mirrors in the thrift shop’s narrow entryway, pointed at his many reflections. “Why are you marrying him?”
Amused, she quirked an eyebrow. “Is that a serious question, or your way of telling me I could do so much better?”
“The first,” he replied sardonically.
“Hmm, let me see.” She shifted to stand beside him and dutifully observed his reflection in her I’m-busy-thinking pose – forehead scrunched, thumbs tucked in jean pockets, lips pursed. “You know what,” she said after a lengthy, pensive but hopeful pause, “you’re right, I don’t see the appeal, either. The nose is too crooked, eyes too dark a brown. And don’t even get me started on the curly hair–”
She broke off when he caught her in a headlock, dissolved into laughter. Ignoring the looks from passerby’s, he pulled her further into the store, stood her in front of a wide, golden-framed mirror. Their joint images bounced back at him from all angles, blindsiding him with their many facades and the broken possibilities of his own.
“Seriously, look and tell me. Why me?”
“Why does the wind move and cells multiply? Why do black holes suck in light and supernovae burst? Why does Jupiter have 79 moons, Saturn 62, Mercury and Venus none and Earth just the one? Why–”
“Do you always answer a question with a question?” he retorted.
“Same reason. Because.” She smiled at his groan, looped her arms around his waist. “Are you getting cold feet?”
“No, I’m worried because you aren’t.”
Her mouth dropped open a moment before she edged away from, cocked a hip. “I can say, without a doubt, you’re the only man in the world who’d want that to happen on the day before his bloody nikkah.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Agitated, he backed away, walked the few steps to the nearby stairs and perched down on a tread. “Of course I don’t want that.”
She heard the exception, called him out on it. “But?”
“But it’ll make more sense if you did,” he confessed, the words tentative and slow, gentle swing of a autumn leaf falling to the ground. He knew the repercussions of revealing doubts. The chinks couldn’t be hidden away again.
She sighed, moved to sit beside, linked her arm through his. “When are you going to believe that I care for you just as much as you care for me?”
“Maybe the day you can make yourself say the words I and love in the same sentence, hopefully directed towards me.”
“So, never, you mean.”
Shock rendered him speechless for a long minute, the silence no longer soft and expectant but harsh and disturbed. “I can’t believe you said that,” he breathed. “I mean, seriously? You never plan to say ‘I love you’ to me?”
“Why would I? You know how I feel about this. Love is the most over-used word in the English language, right up there with ‘interesting’ and ‘sorry’. And–”
“People say it when their feelings get entangled and you’re not indecisive,” he finished. “Yes I remember. Doesn’t really make me feel reassured.”
“And saying three words I don’t believe in will?”
He pressed the bridge of his nose. “You know what, forget it. Doesn’t matter.” He made an attempt to push away but she tightened her grip on his arm.
“But it appears it does,” she whispered. “And I’m not sure I understand why.”
“What do you mean, why? Because I love you and listening to silence every time I give you the words terrifies me. I was hoping you’d at least try for my sake. How’d you feel if I never said it again?” he demanded and watched closely for her reaction. He could feel the gears of her head turning, imagining, examining the scenario he’d just suggested.
To his surprise, she shrugged. “Honestly, it wouldn’t matter. Not as long as you showed me.”
“Saying is a part of showing,” he retorted.
“No, its an escape. Do you know how many men say ‘I love you, honey’ to their wives every night but never help do the dishes or laundry? Most of them,” she added before he could reply. “Now guess what I’d prefer.”
“So what you’re saying is that washing dishes together is equivalent to saying I love you?” The twist of his mouth implied the ridiculousness of what she suggested. Love, his love for her, was a frenzy. A cyclone-shaped rift deeper than oceans, wider than mountains. It could not be declared by wiping dishes or folding clothes.
She shook her head, leaned closer to butt her head with his. “No, its more. Action outweighs the noun,” she informed him methodically.
“Love is a verb,” he corrected with a defeated sigh.
She grinned, slid her palm down his arm to link their fingers together. “Yes. Exactly.”
It appeared his nervous system registered her words before his brain because every nerve in his body froze in pleasure. His heart skipped a beat as the weight finally settled there. Overcome, he angled his head to press his lips to her temple. “You know,” he began when his throat could work again, “I’ve never been able to decide if you’re a cynic or a romantic.”
She tucked her head on his shoulder. “You have a lifetime to figure it out.”