“Why, Julia? Why would we want to do something like that?”
“Well, Charles, we have been together for three years. Don’t you think its time to start considering it? What do you have against it?"
“Julia, let’s just drop it and try to enjoy the rest of the evening. Things are fine the way they are, aren’t they, honey? Come on… let’s head over to the diner for a late dinner.”
As they sat at the counter at Phillies and placed their orders, Julia pretended quiet indifference, yet her insides were in torment. Why was Charles so against marriage? It was as though he wanted to keep things the same forever. The weekly Saturday night movie and diner date, the occasional Sunday dinner after church, the lunches in the park once or twice weekly. Although she enjoyed all of the time she spent with Charles, Julia would return home after each meeting to the apartment she and her mother shared in the northern part of Chicago, feeling empty and alone.
In the beginning, it had been wonderful. She had met Charles at the department store where she worked as a clerk. He came in looking for a gift for his niece’s birthday. They had hit off immediately, talking and laughing as she showed him items from beneath the counter. When she went to wrap up the necklace he had chosen, he asked if he might call her sometime. Smiling shyly, she wrote her number down and handed it to him with the package.
Two days later, after Julia had finally convinced herself he wasn’t going to call, Charles called. He asked her to a movie for the following Saturday. When Charles came to pick her up, he complimented her on her new dress and told her that she looked very lovely. He opened the car door for her and waited until she was safely in. As he walked around the front of the car, he looked at her through the windshield and gave her a smile. A warm feeling came over her. After the movie that night, they continued laughing and talking and decided to head over to the diner for a late night milkshake. As they sat at Phillies, just as they were tonight, Julia found herself falling for Charles. His quick wit, handsome features, and his honest nature instinctively told her that he was a wonderful man.
For the next few months, they enjoyed a variety of outings. Julia introduced him to her mother, and there were nights where the three of them gathered for dinner and a game of cards. When a year had passed, friends and family began to whisper that surely an engagement announcement would be forthcoming in the year. At the close of their second year together, Julia began to anticipate that moment with all of her heart. She watched Charles closely for any signs of the impending question, yet he never varied in his manner or activities.
Now, here they were, well into their third year together, and nothing had changed. Julia noticed Charles looking at her and turned to face him. “You have been pretty quiet. What are you thinking about?” he asked her with a smile. Julia took a deep breath and decided to broach the subject of marriage again. “Charles, what is it that you have against marriage? Don’t you want to marry me?” Julia asked with a pleading note in her voice. Charles heaved an irritated sigh and dropped his forehead into his hand. “Look, Julia, why is this so important to you? Don’t you think we have fun? Don’t you enjoy just being together? I do. Why isn’t this enough for you? Why do you girls all want to get married?” he said quietly, yet impatiently. Julia looked at him and suddenly felt like crying. “Well Charles,” she said, mustering a smile, “you know that it’s every girl’s dream to have the wedding, the husband, and the picket fence!” Charles looked at her steadily. “Yeah, I know, but I thought you were different from those girls. That’s one of the reasons I liked you so much!” he said. Julia’s face reddened in humiliation and rage. When did she ever tell him that she wanted something different? What gave him the idea that she would want to be different from any other girl out there? She stood up stiffly and gathered up her purse. “What are you doing? Come on, Julia, sit down. You are overreacting to this and causing a scene!” Charles hissed at her. Julia hurried toward the door and out into the dark night, tears gathering in her eyes. Charles hurriedly laid some bills on the counter, gathered his coat, and went after her. Julia was walking quickly up the street, desperate to get away and hide in the safety of her room at home. Charles long legs caught up to her, however, and he tried to take her arm. “Just leave me alone, Charles!” she said as tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks. “Julia, what is going on with you? Why are you suddenly so struck on the idea of marriage? You never said anything before!” he questioned her impatiently. “WHY should I have to say anything, Charles? Why, I ask you? Isn’t this supposed to be how it all goes? I thought we were in love! Why haven’t you asked me already? Isn’t us being together hint enough for you?” Julia was crying freely now. She swiped angrily at her eyes and continued walking briskly. “Julia, it’s just not something I want to do right now-“ he began. “Then just forget it! I don’t want to see you anymore. Please leave me alone!” Julia wailed. She broke into a run when she saw her house was nearby. Charles threw his arms in the air and yelled to her. “Julia! Please wait…there is a reason. But it’s not you!” She stopped and turned to look at him. The streetlamp illuminated his face. It looked agonized and pleading. Julia walked slowly back towards him and faced him squarely. “Alright, Charles.” Charles took a deep breath and plunged into an explanation “Julia, this won’t make any sense to you, but I need you to understand and just listen to me. Several years ago, I was married.” Julia’s face registered shock. “I know we have never talked about this, but the marriage wasn’t going well. We decided to separate, for just awhile, then see how things went. Apparently, she fell for another man during that time. She ran off with him and I haven’t seen her since. I, well, I didn’t know how to tell you about this,” he said quietly. Julia felt as though she were unable to grasp his meaning. “Charles, how long have you been divorced?” she asked breathlessly. Charles looked at her and took both of her hands in his. “Julia, I am not actually divorced. Lily ran off before-“ Charles stopped in mid-sentence when Julia’s angry cry broke through. She snatched her hands from his and ran up the street towards her apartment. Charles was left on the sidewalk, alone.