He flashes his smile at the room and some people chuckle. Lame asses.
“Well,” he says, “I have an explanation. But it’s not for you. It’s for my shining star. My beautiful Amanda Panda Bear.” He gestures to me, and I swear I can hear the sound of thirty heads swiveling at once.
I don’t know how I paste a smile on my face, but I do, even though the room is starting to spin and my head feels like it’s being put through an acidic spin cycle.
This isn’t going to end well.
Then, to my complete surprise, he steps away from the lectern, the microphone going with him. Piano music starts tinkling and he begins to sing.
“I remember all my life,” he croons, wiggling his brow even as a drop of sweat rolls down. “Raining down as cold as ice.”
Holy fuck. Is he singing “Mandy” by Barry Manilow?
Alan comes closer, gliding toward me like he’s rehearsed this a thousand times, and then it occurs to me that it’s Alan, of course he’s rehearsed this a thousand times—he rehearses what he says to his parents before we roll up to their house every Sunday dinner.
I mean, never mind the fact that he can sing, which is something else I had zero idea about.
I’ve been with Alan for four years. I’ve lived with him for one. And I knew him for two years before that. I should be surprised that I didn’t know this about him, but the fact is, I’m not surprised at all. Because I don’t really know him. And he doesn’t really know me. And that’s why I know this whole evening, this whole horrible event flashing before my blurry eyes, is one huge mistake I’m going to have to deal with. Hopefully without tears or a side of vomit.
I’m standing in the middle of what looks to be an epic proposal to a man that I love but don’t want to marry. Alan Kingston is the man my parents wanted for me. He’s the man that most women want for themselves. He’s smart, wealthy, sophisticated, loyal, good-looking, and kind. He’s the reason my mother looks at me with less disappointment, he’s the reason I’m treated with more respect by our peers, why we can get reservations at any restaurant, why I know I don’t have to work a day in my life if that’s what I choose. He’s the reason I should be about to break down in happy tears, overwhelmed with joy over the life we’re about to spend together, that he’s picking me, Amanda Tits McGee Newland, over everyone else. He’s picking the weirdo with her secret hopes and dreams.
But it’s because of those hopes and dreams and everything that makes me tick that I know I can’t say yes. Because a life with him isn’t the life I want. I’m twenty-one years old. I’m young, so young, and I don’t even know who I really am. All I know is the person I am currently doesn’t want the life my parents have tried so hard to carve out for me. It wants something completely different. It wants to be free.
Calm down, I tell myself, swallowing the brick in my throat. He might not be proposing anyway.
Alan drops to both knees and actually slides toward me, microphone crammed dramatically against his mouth as he leans back, eyes closed, and belts, “Oh, Mandy! You came and you gave without taking!”
Oh for fuck’s sake. I’m doomed.
It’s my fault, really. I’d been feeling trapped and claustrophobic for at least the last six months, and I’ve just been too much of a lazy chicken shit to deal with the problem. Besides, the unhappiness has been really good for my novel. It allows me to live in that fantasy world completely and without any guilt. I’m not sure I could actually write if I was happy.