Kayla picked up the box and studied it for a moment. Definitely a ring box. No markings.
“There’s a jewelry store across the street?” she asked.
Danny grinned. “Nope. There’s a small safe concealed in the Viper’s trunk.”
Her jaw dropped. “You’ve had this the whole time?”
He shrugged, still grinning. “You don’t even know what it is.”
She set the box aside, reaching for a bottle of juice instead. “I can wait. I’ve waited this long.”
A flash of panic crossed his face, but he quickly replaced it. “As the lady wishes,” he said, reaching for his own juice.
“Cut that out!” she said. He looked to her for explanation, but Kayla refused to say anything more.
“OK, OK,” he said. He shut the door, pulled the curtain on the hallway window and turned off all the lights. “Hold on,” he said, adjusting the curtains to the parking lot view.
Kayla had to smile at the effort. She was tempted to ask about candles, but didn’t want to spoil anything.
Satisfied, Danny walked back over and sat on the edge of the bed. Kayla took a swig of juice and he took the bottle out of her hand, then kept her hand in his own.
The door swung open. “You need to leave this open,” a nurse scolded, then paused as she scanned the items on the table. “I need to do a quick check on you, but I’ll check my other patients first,” she told Kayla, who nodded thank you. The nurse left the door cracked as little as she could.
“This is the nicest hospital,” Kayla said.
Danny nodded, eyeing the door, then closing it again. He wedged a chair under the doorknob and Kayla laughed.
“I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules,” she said.
“Three minutes,” he said.
“You have this timed?”
He sat beside her again, picked up both her hands in his, and looked at them for what seemed a very long time. Kayla’s heart pounded in her chest. She studied Danny’s face as he stared down, and thought she would explode if he didn’t speak soon.
“Once upon a time,” he said finally, still looking down, “we tried to be together. I know it didn’t work, and I think I’m glad, because I had a lot of growing up to do.”
He raised his head to look directly into her eyes, and she was frozen on the spot. She hardly heard him as he continued, “But I never could get you out of my head. I think I always knew who we would grow up to be, and I saw those people together. I saw them supporting each other, I saw them laughing, I saw them getting very, very old.”
Danny paused, his eyes filling a little. “I know you want more certainty than you have before you decide anything about your future, and that’s fine. But I can’t go another day without telling you I love you” — Kayla drew in a small breath and a tear fell down her cheek — “and that no matter how many days you have left, I want to fill as much of them as you’ll let me. If it’s 20, then so be it. If it’s 20 years, or 50, even better.”
He watched her carefully, then picked up the small box in one hand and placed it in hers, kissing them.
“I love you. I always will. Please marry me,” he said.
Tears poured down Kayla’s face. She swallowed hard, but all she could do was nod.
He smiled but stayed quiet. She laughed a little, wiped her face and nodded again. “Yes. Absolutely, yes,” she said. “And you’re too far away,” she added, reaching for his shirt and pulling him closer.
He scooted forward, careful of her IVs. “You didn’t open the box,” he said.
“I will,” she promised. “First things first.”
This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.