Ellie sat at the top of the hill, looking down at the steps that were carved into the hillside, the triangle stack of rocks that made a pulpit, the wooden cross that sat behind it, and the beautiful dark water of the lake that sat behind that.
Ellie pulled her knees in a little closer to her chest, pulling her hoodie down over them a little bit farther in an attempt to block out some of the night’s chill. She couldn’t go inside yet. Too much was still running through her head to actually head back to bed for the night.
After a little while longer, she heard soft footsteps and knew that someone was standing behind her. She didn’t even have to turn around to know it was Benjamin. Because whenever she was feeling particularly introspective or “thinking meaningful thoughts” it always seemed to be Benjamin who would show up. Her suspicions were confirmed when he sat down on the grass next to her with a thud.
Cutting her eyes to the side for a second, she took his appearance in. Benjamin had clearly attempted to sleep as well. He wore a pair of blue green plaid pajama pants, and a thick hoodie sweatshirt. His hair was sticking up in the back, and Ellie had to wonder if he had been asleep before coming out here.
They sat there in silence for a while before Ellie sighed. It was barely audible, but Benjamin knew it as his cue. He scooted a little bit closer and put his arm around Ellie’s shoulder, and pulled her into lean against him. “So, Ellie, what brings you out here to stare at a lake at three thirty in the morning?”
“You know, I used to imagine that I would get married here,” she offered instead of actually answering the question, “Dad would walk me down the aisle, the edges of the stairs would be decorated in flowers. I could stand on that slight slope so that I didn’t look as ridiculously short in comparison to my husband as I undoubtedly would be. The sun would bounce off the lake and it would all sparkle like diamonds. I used to imagine that it would just be perfect.”
“And now?” Benjamin asked.
“What do you mean? Now what?”
“Well, you said you used to imagine that you were getting married here. What do you imagine now?”
“Oh,” Ellie chuckled to herself, “Now I know I’m not getting married.”
“You don’t want to get married anymore?” Benjamin was shocked. For as long as he had known Ellie, which was most of their relatively short lives, she had always dreamed of being a wife and mother. Not exclusively, mind you, but it had always been a part of her plans. The fact that it wasn’t anymore was simply mind boggling.
“Oh, no. I definitely still want to get married.”
Benjamin opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, before just letting out a breath with a puff. “Okay, I’m confused.”
“I want to get married. But the truth of it is that I am way too picky and my expectations are way too high. I’m never getting married.” Ellie wasn’t saying it for sympathy, or for those reassuring comments like “You’re wonderful!” or “Of course you’ll find the perfect husband someday.” It wasn’t her style to fish for compliments like that. She was saying it because she thought it was genuinely true. Somehow, that just made it that much worse.
Benjamin knew Ellie well enough to know that at this point there was absolute no “right thing to say.” So he just hugged her a little tighter and leaned his head against the top of hers. “Well. We’ll see.’ He whispered.
“Yeah. I think we will.” Ellie replied, snuggling a little closer into his side. They sat there together until she finally fell asleep.
With the well trained movements of an old friend who had done this several times before, Benjamin scooped Ellie up into his arms, and carried her back to her room.