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110 Oak Street, Apartment 11B
The sound of the newspaper slapping their granite countertop had essentially become an alarm clock letting Caroline know that John was home from work.
“Why do you insist on getting a physical newspaper every day?” she asked while paging through Real Simple on their couch. “Do you even read them, honestly?”
John picked it up from the counter and unfolded it while walking over to the couch where she sat. He plopped down on the couch, almost as if to intentionally inconvenience her with the might and force he used.
“You know,” he began with a cocky tone, “As long as work pays for ’em, I’m going to keep getting ’em.”
She rolled her eyes.
“And,” he continued, “From all the appearances they’ve made with your coffee in your Instagram stories, I don’t think you actually want them canceled.” He slapped her on the knee with the newspaper and sprung up from the seat he’d just taken. “Now what’s on the docket for dinner?”
She smiled at him. “I hate you,” she joked while glancing over his dinner question.
As John untucked his button down shirt from his dress pants, he surveyed their living area looking for the remote. “I could do Thai food,” he started while still gazing across the room, “or maybe some sushi,” he continued, “or, I don’t know, we could Postmates some pizza from that new brick oven place on 35th.”
“Pizza” got Caroline’s attention. She picked up her phone while telling him, “Ohhhh, that sounds good – let me see if I have a promo code. Actually, wait, have you talked to Todd today? We could just see if they want to go to the place.”
John grunted and turned the right side of his lip up to show disgust with the idea of meeting another couple out for dinner. “Do we have to?”
“What’s with that look?” she clarified with him. “Does a double date sound that bad to you?”
“I just…” John hesitated, “I just don’t feel like dealing with anything tonight. Going on a *date* just makes it a *thing*, and before we know it, we’re out $120 all because we didn’t feel like having a quiet night at home.”
Caroline shrugged, “Well, fine by me – you can be out $40 once you order us a Napoletana and a Prosciutto Pie.” She mispronounced the words, but John knew exactly what she meant.
“Fiiiiiine,” he labored. “Toss me my phone.”
“You sure you don’t want to just go with them?” she asked one final time. “It could be fun!”
“Babe, it’s not going to be fun,” he explained. “We’re going to get there and one of us is going to be late, thus pissing off the other couple. Next thing we know, we breeze through one bottle of wine and have to order another. Then, we do the same thing and order a third. Next thing we know, we’re waking up tomorrow hungover before work regretting everything.”
“Okaaaaaaaay,” Caroline mocked. “I get it.”
“Besides,” John continued, “I think Todd’s parents get into town tonight – they’re probably meeting up with them.”
Caroline, pretending to be upset they weren’t going on a date, began flipping through Real Simple again but couldn’t help but piece together what John had just said to her. Without looking up – enforcing how little she cared – she quietly brought up something she’d wanted to ask all week.
With an intentionally slow delivery, she asked, “Say, John, Todd isn’t going to… you know… this weekend, is he?”
“The pizzas going to be here in 45 minutes,” he answered.
“Ughhhhhhh, 45 minutes?!”
“If we went out to dinner with them,” he told her while fake looking at his watch, “we wouldn’t eat for another hour and a half.”
“Okay, whatever,” she dismissed. “But what about Todd? Is he proposing this weekend with his parents in town?”
John smiled, but she couldn’t tell why.
“Todd?” he laughed off. “Proposing?”
“He is!” she exclaimed. “Isn’t he?!”
John kept laughing, half-messing with Caroline and half because of what he was about to tell her.
“Caroline, I’m going to tell you this and I want you to take what I say to heart.”
She repositioned herself on the couch and slapped the top of the magazine like a frustrated puppy begging for a treat. “John! Come on!”
He couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin off his face. “Caroline, no,” he laughed out. “Todd isn’t proposing this weekend.”
“Goddammit, John!” She threw the magazine onto the coffee table. “Then why are you smiling like that?!”
Despite feeling bad for misleading her with his initial reaction, John couldn’t help but smile at what was unfolding in front of him.
“You know she’s literally going to fucking kill him if he doesn’t propose soon, right?” she asked. “Like, she might actually kill him.”
“I know, I know,” John confirmed. “Trust me, I’ve told him all of this. Todd’s not an idiot. He knows.”
Caroline put her hand in the air, palm up, as if to ask, “So why the fuck hasn’t he done it yet?”
John looked down at his phone. “Frank accepted our order, I’ll text him to see if he can get it here in 44 minutes instead of 45 for you.”
She squinted at him playfully, knowing that John knew exactly what he was doing by messing with her. “Seriously, John, just tell me. Does Todd talk to you about this stuff?”
He walked back over to the couch and set his phone on top of the Real Simple she’d just thrown. Kicking his feet up onto the coffee table and putting his hand on her thigh, he was intentionally drawing out the conversation despite having no real knowledge of when Todd was actually planning on doing it.
“Babe, you know I’ll tell you anything,” he stated, “But I have absolutely no fucking clue when Todd’s going to propose to her.”
Her head tilted back in frustration while letting a groan.
“How? How is this even possible that you just don’t know? Has he talked about it?”
“Yes,” John told her. “Of course, he’s talked about it.”
“Then how can you just not know?”
“I don’t know, Caroline, he plays his cards close.”
She again repositioned herself, preparing to say something with more intent than the rest of the conversation had. “John,” she began to lecture, “You need to talk to him. I’m serious. The last thing we need right now for this relationship to erupt and leave both of them single.”
Excitement wiped over John’s face. “Ohhhhh,” he busted out, “but Single Todd is the best Todd!”
“Seriously, John,” she said while standing from the couch, “that’s not even funny.”
“I know, I know,” he repeated.
“But I’m serious. If you don’t talk to him, I will. They’ve been dating for, like, two years and I’m pretty sure she’s expecting it at every turn.”
“Ya think?” John mocked, knowing that she’s been expecting a ring since the second they matched on Hinge, or whatever dating app they conveniently met on.
“Okay,” he told her. “I’ll talk to him and see where his head’s at. Okay?”
“Okay,” she responded approvingly. “But I want to know every bit of information you get out of him. Are you texting him now?”
John looked up from his phone with the same smile on his face.
“Nope, texting with Frank – said he’d be here in 43 minutes. The things I do for you.” .