Vienna walked through the doorway of Marshall’s studio apartment, and after one glance around the foyer, she felt an ache in the pit of her stomach—it was officially over. It was too late to leave, but she knew that every step she took inside would lead her closer to a man that seemed to be looking for a way out. Sometimes the buildup to a breakup is worse than the actual act of breaking up. Unless the person being kicked to the curb is blindsided, a breakup can deliver a sense of relief because the relationship that died eight weeks ago is finally being buried. Vienna did not want an ounce of that relief if it meant losing Marshall in the process.
She eyed his hallway table and felt that a decision had been made that no longer included her. The black table always had a light layer of dust atop of it, but now there were three clean outlines where her gifts had stood tall and proud throughout their relationship. The Billy Joel mug that she broke when she knocked it off the table during their first fight and then glued back together for him when they made up, was nowhere to be found. The dog figurine she bought for him after little Cooper passed away was absent as well. And finally, the biggest tip of all, the picture frame that held the photo of their first kiss was out of sight.
“Hey V. How was work? Did Liz make you run her errands again today? It was so hot out all afternoon, you should get hazard pay or something,” said Marshall with a suspicious amount of pep and concern in his voice.
He was unloading the dishwasher as he spoke, his hands shaking as the glass bowls clashed against each other in the wooden cabinet.
“Small talk huh?” thought Vienna. “Is he trying to ease me into it? He hasn’t shown interest in me or my work at the magazine for two and a half months, but how thoughtful of him to feign curiosity and sympathy on our final day as a couple.”
“It was alright today,” she finally answered. “Lots of desk work, but that kept Liz off my back.”
“That’s good. Soon you’ll be running that place.”
“Will you even be around to see that happen?” she mused; desperately wishing she was wrong about her rhetorical thought.
Vienna wasn’t going down without a fight. If they were going to break up, it would be on her terms. The fire of her first love would certainly not be extinguished in a paint-chipped apartment in Brooklyn. She wanted fireworks. Like actual fireworks. If she had it her way, Marshall would make the words “I can’t do this anymore, I’m so sorry” explode across the East River. In lieu of that unrealistic goodbye, she decided she’d settle for a tearful walk in Prospect Park, it seemed pathetically romantic that this should end in the same place it began four years ago.
Determined to leave the apartment, Vienna approached Marshall in the kitchen.
“Hey, let’s get out of here. It’s cooled off outside and we haven’t been to our park in ages.”
“I…I um I can’t today V. After I finish unloading these I have a ton of phone calls to make. Go watch Law and Order or something, we need to talk later, just…not yet. I’m not ready...I...I don’t have time right now I mean,” Marshall’s stuttering made Vienna feel slightly better because it seemed this wasn’t going to be as easy for him as she thought.
Still, a break up on her boyfriend’s faded green couch isn’t the equivalent of being surrounded by elm trees near the gates of Prospect Park. She refused to wait around until he “had the time” just to dump her in the living room.
“Marshall, I can’t wait for the dishes and I can’t wait for whatever mysterious phone calls you need to return. I’ve been overly patient with you for almost three months, but lately you’ve been acting like my time doesn't matter anymore. We were each other’s number one priority for the past four years, can I be yours again for an hour today?” Vienna almost broke down and let tears escape from her green eyes while she uttered her plea.
Marshall knew what had to be done. Once he heard how Vienna’s voice quivered when she spoke, he took her hand and slowly led her to the open window in his bedroom. The two of them silently looked out across the park and waited for a breeze before they spoke again. Vienna looked down and saw that her gifts had not been discarded, but rather moved to the windowsill. However, before she had a chance to scold herself for her irrational assumptions that she made in the foyer, she noticed a fourth item had been added to the collection. A closed, small, blue velvet box was resting on the windowsill.
Marshall had never been one for grace, but he got down on one knee the best that a painfully nervous, 6 foot tall, 29 year old man knew how to. He peeled back the lid of the box to reveal the most beautiful, special ring that any girl could hope for.
“Vienna Rose, I have loved you for four years and I have no doubt in my mind that I will love you for the rest of my life. For the past two and a half months I’ve been working extra hours to pay for the ring you deserve. And I’ve been having endless conversations with your mom on the phone about the ring and the right way to ask you how to marry me, which I’ve since learned is genuinely impossible. So here it goes, will you marry me V?”
Vienna had always been a very strong woman, but she was still human. She let the tears flood down her freckled face and embraced Marshall, trying to pour out every piece of love in her irrational heart. She cried and cried and let him hold her until he eventually pulled away and said “Vienna, honey, I’m going to need a verbal answer here. Can you just try to stop crying for a little and give me clear yes or no?”
Vienna paused and kissed him hard on the lips. “Yes you idiot, yes! Can’t you see I’m busy?”