Trees blur into the dark background encroaching on the edge of the road. The sun sets below the horizon, bathing the sky in a fiery haze. Dark blue sky peaks through a break in the clouds. He looks up and sees the beginning twinkle of stars. He steps on the gas. The white car is a blur on the empty highway, a mirage to any onlooker.
He takes his eyes off the deserted road to check the time.
“Almost there,” he says, a smile breaking out on his face.
He thinks of the woman waiting for him back at home. He can’t wait to see her shy smile and warm, inviting brown eyes. She’s the love of his life, and he can’t wait to have her in his arms.
He remembers the moment they met, all those years ago. She was working as a bartender to put herself through school. It was her second week on the job and he could tell. If not by her flustered appearance, then by the time it took her to pour a drink.
“Sorry for the wait,” she said to him, offering up an apologetic smile.
“Dont’ worry about it. I have all the time in the world,” he replied, matching her smile with one of his own.
That slow Wednesday evening started a routine between the two. He would help her remember drink ingredients and she would help him with his papers. It only took him six weeks to build up the courage to ask her out. But if you asked her, he needed some prodding.
* * *
He turns off the freeway, bringing his mind back to the present. He pulls into a diner parking lot, intent on getting a cup of coffee. He takes a seat at a warn blue booth. A waitress comes by with a pot of coffee and pours him a cup. He takes a sip and thinks back to the day she first said those three little words.
She was wearing a black lace dress, her hair bouncing around her shoulders in soft, delicate blonde curls. The light of the restaurant was dimmed, but ot him, her beauty lit up their table.
“You look stunning,” he said. She blushed.
The evening went well, with laughs and smiles, and more blushing. They made their way to her apartment, and walked up the steps to her door. His jacket was draped over her shoulders, while she held onto his arm.
“I had a wonderful time tonight,” she said, looking up into his eyes.
“Me too,” he replied.
He gave her a hug and a kiss goodnight. He pulled aaa and she followed, not wanting the kiss to end. She leaned back against her door as she watched him walk down the steps.
“Hey!” she called to him.
He turned around to see her peaking her head out from behind the front door.
“I love you,” she said. She closed the door before he could say anything in return.
* * *
He pulls out of the diner parking lot after two cups of coffee. The road is bathed in darkness, the only light comes from his headlights and the stars above. He looks at the small velvet box on the dashboard.
“Tonight’s the night,” he says to himself.
He imagines her surprised face, both hands covering her mouth, and eyes bright with unshed tears. She nods her head profusely, not trusting her voice. She wraps her arms around his neck. He holds her tightly from his position on the floor. His shoulder becomes damp from her tears.
He feels a vibration in his shirt pocket, breaking him out of his fantasy. He pulls it out and slows the car. He takes a quick look at the nearly empty road in front of him before looking down at his phone. On the screen is a text. “I love you,” is all it says, and he immediately knows it’s from her. He opens up the message to reply, takes another look at the road, and begins typing.
He types out the words “I lov–”
A horn blares and his eyes immediately snap up to the road. He sees a semi-truck coming at him head-on. The headlights are the last thing he remembers before it all goes black.
* * *
A woman looks at her phone for what seems to her like the hundredth time.
“Late again,” she says to herself. She downs her glass of wine before blowing out the candles on the table. She grabs the bottle and walks down the hallway.