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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Worried for Nothing by Beth Caudill

Jane clicked through the TV channels in a fruitless quest to find something to watch. Another boring Wednesday night.

"So what do you want to watch, Pepper?" she asked her dozing black and white Jack Russell terrier.

He barked as she flipped by Animal Planet showing a large snake swallowing a rat. Ugh, it seemed every male, even those of the canine variety, liked reptiles. Picking up her book, she left the show on for background noise. With nothing else on, at least one of them should enjoy the boob-tube.

Involved in a battle between elves and dwarves, she jumped as Pepper started barking. The energetic dog ran to the door and bounced up and down wildly yapping. Now that she had been pulled from the story, Jane heard the knocking at her door. Unsure who would be at her door, she crossed the room with butterflies in her stomach. All her friends had other plans and her boyfriend was working overtime. Again.

"Easy, Pepper," she murmured before checking the peep-hole. Taking a step back, she grabbed Pepper and pulled the door open. "Shawn! What are you doing here?" Jane shivered as a gust of cold November air blew through the entranceway.

"What you're not happy to see me?" Shawn quipped, closing the door behind him and then setting down the brown paper bag he carried.

"Of course, I am," she exclaimed before releasing Pepper and giving Shawn a hug.

Pulling away, she smiled as the dog hopped, almost like a dance, around Shawn's feet waiting for him to pay attention. She headed back to her usual spot on the sofa. Buried under a blanket, she watched as Shawn took off his coat and then, without a glance her way, kneeled on the floor to play with Pepper.

While happy to see Shawn, something seemed off. He didn't smile even though he seemed to be having fun. Time passed and neither one spoke.

"Okay, sport, enough," Shawn told Pepper with a final pat on the animal's head. He sat next to her on the sofa but left a space between them.

Pepper woofed. When neither reacted, he picked a ball up in his mouth and carried it to his doggie bed under the end table where he curled up.

Unable to stand the silence anymore, Jane asked, "What's wrong?"

Shawn took her left hand into his and rubbed across the knuckles with his index finger sending little electric sparks up her arm. "Nothing's wrong." He turned his head to watch the TV, which showed a large, murky river and a tiny brown snake swimming in it. He neither asked for the remote nor commented on what she watched.

"Oh, God," she thought, "He's going to break up with me."

Gazing at her again, he held tightly to her hands and said, "You know, Jane, we've been seeing each other for a long time now."

"Unh-huh," she mumbled steeling herself for the painful words to come.

"We enjoy each other's company, and you are my best friend."

She nodded, feeling the same way. Tears threatened to fall at the thought of losing him.

"I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"

Jane stared at the ring he'd slipped on her finger, not really believing what was happening.

"Are you going to answer my question?" he entreated, a hopeful note in his voice.

Her blood flowed faster as relief spread through her body. "Of course I'll marry you!" She jumped on him, wrapped her arms around his neck and engaged him in a long kiss.

As they pulled apart, he wiped at the tears falling from her eyes. "What's wrong, honey?"

"Nothing." She gulped. "I'm just so happy. I love you so much, and I thought you were breaking up with me."

"Not on your life. You're stuck with me now." He squeezed her hand. "Almost forgot, I bought stuff to celebrate with."

While he took the nondescript brown bag to the kitchen, she couldn't stop herself from watching the light reflect off the facets of the diamond. An oval-cut, very clear stone set in platinum. Exactly what she wanted—simple but elegant.

Shawn walked back to the couch carrying a silver tray with two plastic glasses filled with something bubbly and a bowl of strawberries. After setting the tray on the floor, he handed her a glass, picked up his own, and then clinked their glasses together. "To us."

"To us," she repeated before taking a sip of champagne. He touched a strawberry against her lips and she took a bite of the sweet fruit. Snuggled against him, she realized she'd worried for nothing.

About the Author: Beth grew up in West Virginia but now resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Reading has been her favorite activity for as long as she can remember and her home has more books than shelves to store them. While being a fulltime parent, she is pursuing a writing career. website: blog:

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