The gurgle of the coffee pot filled the silence. The clock on the microwave flashed 12:00 over and over. The power had obviously flashed out at some point. She took a step across the room towards the offending numbers and then thought better. She could reset the time in the morning. She turned back to her coffee. It was spitting and sputtering and dripping. She watched as the pot grew steadily fuller and reached to the cupboard above her head for a mug. Snatching the pot out from the drip she poured quickly, not quite enough for a full cup, but enough to kick start her. She listened as the drops hit the hot plate, sizzling and cracking as they evaporated. She replaced the pot, she couldn't waste good caffeine.
Taking a gulp of the burning liquid, she tapped her fingers on the counter, drumming out a complex rhythm as she waited for her java to finish brewing. She looked at her naked, left ring finger. Pondered it for a moment. She'd said no. She loved him. She knew she loved him. What she didn't know was why she'd panicked when he'd asked her.
At least he'd made it private, hadn't asked her at a sports game, or a five star restaurant. He'd just asked her in the back yard. He'd gotten down on one knee in front of her on the porch swing, and he'd looked so hopeful, so proud. And she'd said no. She'd said the words he hated. I can't. He was a sports fanatic, the words I can't were the words he hated most of all.
"I can't," she'd said the first time her piano teacher had given her Beethoven's Opus 7 in E-flat major and she'd refused to even touch the keys.
"You can," he'd insisted. "You just won't."
"I can't," She'd whimpered when the veterinarian had told her that it was time to put her dog to sleep.
"You can," he'd whispered, rubbing her back and holding her hand. "It's hard, but you can."
"I can't wear that!" she'd exclaimed when he showed her the sumo-wrestling suit she needed to wear at the county fair two summers before. He'd only laughed and pushed her towards it. She struggled into it and he'd just grinned, because she could.
"I can't watch," she'd cried when he'd told her he was entering a demolition derby in his Hicksville hometown. "They're going to smash you up. I can't watch!"
"I need you to watch, babe. I need you to. It'll be fun. I'm tough. Please will you watch?" He'd been so proud of his car. He'd painted it all up, tuned the engine, made it rev like a monster truck. It was his pride and joy. And it and he were going to be smashed to smithereens.
"I can't," she'd replied.
"You can," he said, sounding defeated. "But will you?"
The sonata had been grueling. It had taken her months to truly master it, but she had. Putting Pete to sleep was the hardest decision she'd ever had to make, but he'd been there with her, and she knew it was the right decision, so she had said her goodbyes and tried not to look back. Watching Emmett be smashed into by other vehicles, on purpose, repeatedly, had nearly given her a heart attack, but it had been important to him, and so she had never torn her eyes from him.
But saying yes to a ring and a life had been too difficult. It shouldn't have been. It should have been the easiest decision of her life. It was Emmett. He'd been there through every little thing, important and trivial, since she'd met him five years previously. He'd been her best friend, and then he became her boyfriend, and she loved him, and he loved her more. And they'd moved in together. He'd bought a house. They were happy. But she couldn't say yes. She couldn't even say no. She'd said I can't.
The look on his face had nearly brought her to her knees, nearly made her change her mind. The way his smile disappeared as he registered her words, how his eyes had hardened. The way he'd swallowed audibly and put the ring back in his pocket.
"Em," she'd whispered, trying not to sound broken. He'd shrugged her off.
"It's fine." He'd fought to sound cool. He hadn't argued her I can't. He hadn't asked her why. He'd just accepted it and gone inside. She heard the TV blasting TSN. She'd considered leaving, calling up her parents and going there for a while, but she didn't. She didn't want him to think she didn't want to be with him. Because she did, more than anything. She just somehow, couldn't bring herself to accept his proposal.
They'd tip toed around each other for the rest of the evening. She'd retreated to the music room, and he'd stayed watching TV until dinner. They'd shared a pizza, the silence deafening. Afterwards he'd gone for a run. She'd escaped back to the music room and hadn't emerged until she felt the need for coffee. She wasn't even sure what time it was, only that it was late, but she didn't want to go to bed.
The coffee maker gurgled its last and she topped up her cup, spilling some on her hand and cursing quietly. She'd spend the night in the music room, writing and rewriting a bridge that had been bothering her for days, the bitter brew her only company.
The next night was similar, and the next. More than once she let herself doze in her chair, but she woke herself, made a pot of coffee, and continued in her work. Emmett had reset the clock on the microwave, though he'd yet to say anything to her. Once they'd met in the kitchen and he'd eyed the used coffee filters, and then given her a strange, sad look before heading out the door.
She wanted to go to him, to apologize, to be forgiven. But she didn't feel she was deserving of forgiveness, but worse, she was afraid he wouldn't forgive her. So she continued to pull her all-nighters, avoiding the bedroom except to dress in the morning once he'd left for work, and catching cat naps throughout the day.
Five days into the routine she was brewing her midnight coffee, leaning against the counter, trying to keep her eyes open when she heard footsteps. She turned slightly towards him and made a face of acknowledgement. He crossed the kitchen and turned the coffee pot off, mid gurgle. She started to protest, but changed her mind, instead staring at him with her mouth slightly open.
"Come to bed," he requested quietly. It wasn't a question, but she could still refuse. She stayed where she was, closing her mouth and crossing her arms across her chest. She absentmindedly stroked her left ring finger with her thumb, feeling the nakedness beneath her fingertip. He still stood across the kitchen from her. His boxers were wrinkled from being slept in, and his t-shirt was a size too big. He looked tired and dragged down and young. His eyes were begging her to come with him; too wide as he fought to keep the sorrow from showing. The sorrow she'd caused.
She raked her hands through her long, blonde tresses and sighed. "Are you sure?" Her voice was barely a raspy whisper. She hadn't used it in days. He crossed the kitchen towards her slowly, as though approaching a prey animal that might flee at any time.
"I haven't slept in days," he admitted, standing in front of her, looking down at her trembling form. "Please come to bed."
Her huge blue eyes looked up at him through teardrop-graced lashes; her lower lip trembled as she tried to hold back the sob that was trying to erupt from her chest. He wanted her, even now after all she'd done, he wanted her. She didn't deserve him, and he deserved better, but he held out his hand to her and she looked at it longingly. She wanted nothing more than to slide her tiny hand into her larger one and let him lead her to bed. She was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of not sleeping, tired of not being near him, tired of feeling like everything was her fault. She lifted her eyes to his once more, silently pleading with him to understand.
How could they get past this? You don't refuse a proposal and then continue right where you left off.
"Rosalie?" His voice had a worried edge to it that she'd never heard before. She pulled her eyes from his and looked at the floor.