The Answer

Thomas Bryan

She felt like she was in a fifties film with the way the grey light poured into the room and drained most of the color from it. The walls, which were normally a bright pink, were dull. The snow white covers she sat on brought no cheer. The room felt cold, and time seemed frozen. She looked into the large oval mirror that sat on her white dresser and looked into the world gazing back at her.

Mirrors are funny things, she thought. It’s like you’re finally able to be above your own world and watch it just like any other bystander.

She looked down at her empty hands and continued to mull over the question that had been plaguing her mind since its asking three days prior.

“Will you?”

She could almost hear his voice asking it this time, and she tensed with a start. The lone tear rode down the curve of her cheek. “Why is it such a hard question?” She asked aloud.

They had been walking through the park on that autumn day, three days ago, beneath the orange and red canopies. That day had been grey too, but the emotion was different. There had been peace that day. She had worn a red toboggan and a black coat. His coat was brown, and a blue scarf rested on his shoulders. The shuffle of the leaves and the tap of the concrete underfoot kept time like a metronome.

“You’re thinking of saying something,” she said.

“Am I?” he said rhetorically.

She said nothing, and they continued pace. Finally, he turned, and said “let’s sit down.”

She raised an eyebrow but said nothing as she followed him to the wooden bench on the side of the path. He gestured for her to sit, and she did. She brushed her face with her woolen mitten as he sat down. She laid her hands in her lap and attentively turned towards him. He turned forward and away from her and leaned his lips on his folded hands. They sat for several silent moments, and she waited patiently.

He broke the silence: “I don’t know what I’m gonna do next year. In two months, we’re gonna be graduated, I’m gonna have a degree in biology, and I have no clue what I’m gonna do.”

She turned and watched a leaf as it skipped down the path in the wind. The wind stilled. They had had this conversation many times before, and she prepared to give him the same answer she always did.

“You could be a teacher.”

“No, I couldn’t do that. I’ve tried it.” He shook his hands out of frustration. “Kids just don’t wanna learn anymore.”

She gave a small sigh. The conversation was about to head in the same direction it always did.


This is different, she thought, and she looked at him as he finished.

“… but… there is something I want to ask.”

Her eyes widened, and her cheeks grew warm.

“Look… will you… can we get married?” He struggled to get the words out, but once they were, he gained composure and looked her straight in the eyes.

She looked into his and searched—she didn’t know what for. “I…” She looked away. She pursed her lips and then bit her bottom one. “I’m inclined to say no.”

He sighed and returned to his pensive position.

“But…” she said.

He raised an eyebrow.

“At least, not yet,” she finished. “At least… I don’t know. I need to think about it. Can you give me a couple days?”

“Yeah,” he said, still facing forward.

She looked him over, still searching for something she wasn’t sure of. Then she gave a small smile. She leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheek.

He turned and smiled, pitifully.

The vision faded, and a small knock came from the bedroom door.

“Honey,” came her mother’s voice. “Are you ready?”

She sat in the unspeaking quiet. The knock sounded again.

She brushed the skirt of her black dress flat as she stood from her bed. She looked out at the autumn-colored oak standing in the front yard. Then she looked over at the picture of him sitting on her bedside table. His soft smile stood out amongst his blue eyes and brown hair. She leaned over and set the picture down on its face, the stand of the frame now facing the ceiling. She turned and walked over to the door and opened it.

Her mother stood there with saddened eyes. She too was wearing a black dress, and her hair was done up, and her lips were painted a dark red.

“You know that his parents are coming here before the funeral, right?” She watched as her daughter shifted uneasily against the sullen backdrop of her room.

“Yes, ma’am. I know.”