By Katie Lane Dei

Originally published by cc&d magazine at

I step out of the warm Australian bungalow and am slapped in the face by a gust of cold air. I pull the collar of my jacket up higher and my beanie down lower. I squint my eyes and see her standing there in front of the ocean, the sun just peaking above the water, dressed like marshmallows bouncing from foot to foot. I sigh and start walking toward her.

“We had to come in the off season, didn’t we?” I call out as she comes into hearing distance. She turns at my voice and smiles wide. I shake my head and sidle up next to her. She has her hands wrapped around herself, but her left hand is tapping her arm as if it’s typing on a computer. I look from her hand to her face. Before I can really study her face the wind picks up and her hand stops as we brace against the cold.

“What are you doing out here so early? It’s brutal.” I step closer and wrap my arms around her, slide my hands up and down her arms for a couple of minutes as we look at the sunrise. She taps my hand and I let go, step to the side. I involuntarily shiver. Despite us standing out here looking like two Michelin tire mascots it’s too cold. She looks over at me and her lip has a little blood on it, not a lot and it’s mostly dried, but enough that I can tell she has been biting it. I stick my hands in my pocket, pull them out, put them back in. 

“Your lip is bleeding.” I say but I don’t look at her as I say it. I look at the sand, the ocean, back toward the bungalow.

“I ruined everything.” She sighs, and I whip my head around.

“What are you talking about?” 

She turns to me completely and I can see now what I missed. I thought she was nervous, but she is angry. Now I am more confused and get angry myself. This is not how I wanted to spend our 5-year anniversary. We were supposed to be doing something small and sweet biding our time until it was summer here and we could sit out on the beach in our bikinis. Not cold and angry next to an ocean we can’t swim in without freezing to death. She throws her hands up,

“I LOVE YOU, AMELIA!” She yells at me angrily. I step back.

“I know.” I say, calmly.

“I love you and I have spent years loving you and I think I will love you forever. Okay?” 

I just nod my head because I have no idea what I am supposed to say. They are sweet words, we have said to each other before and try to say often, but it is a little perplexing to hear nice words being yelled at you.

“Are you mad that you love me?” I ask timidly. 

“I’m not mad that I love you. I’m mad that I’ve messed up such an important event.” She huffs.

I release the breath I was holding and step toward her more confidently now. Her being mad at me is hard to diffuse, her being mad herself is great for me. Not great, I don’t want her being mad at all, but I can talk her down from this ledge way more easily. I pull her in to me and hold her close.

“You did not mess anything up. I was the one who said I wanted to celebrate our anniversary in Australia. Of course, we would come on the actual anniversary and not wait until it gets warmer. It’s a…a fun experience. Now we’re here. No harm done. Yet.”
She pulls back and looks at me with knitted eyebrows. 

“Yet?” She asks quietly.

I smile at her as I say, “Hannah. If we stay out here too much longer one of us is going to get hypothermia. Why don’t we head inside?” 

She pulls away suddenly, fiercely and I sigh. Almost, I almost had her. Wrong time for a joke apparently. 

She looks away from me out at the ocean and despite the cold, the wind, and her anger, it is beautiful. The sun is still rising slowly but this sunrise is unlike any we have ever seen. Pinks, oranges, yellows dusting the sky cause the water to twinkle in its otherworldly teal yet glassy blue. I cross my arms and we stand in silence listening to the waves crash and I close my eyes. I can hear her bouncing next to me as I try to focus on the waves. After a few minutes, I open my eyes.

“It is amazing out here.” I whisper loud enough for her to hear me.

I hear her take a deep breath and release it in a huff. I glance at her and she is staring at the sea and nodding her head frantically. I uncross my arms and shake my hands out at my side, stick them in my pockets and pull them back out. I have no idea how to calm her down or talk her back inside.

“Ok…alright. Just say it. Ok.” She whispers to herself loud enough that I can hear her, but I don’t think she realizes it. I turn toward her fully.

“What’s going on?” I ask quietly.

She turns to me and smiles and then stops.

“This is so stupid. It is beautiful. It’s really beautiful. But it’s freezing and look at us.” She gestures to our big puffy jackets, fleece pants and winter boots. I look down at our clothes and back up at her.

“We are on a beach and we look like we are meant to be standing on a mountain. This isn’t how I wanted today to go.” She is almost laughing but still sounds angry. Vacations are supposed to be good for people, but I fear that this trip has turned her psychotic. 

“It has still been great. We have stayed inside and had breakfast while looking out at this view. Spent all day cuddled up together. Seriously, I think it has been a great anniversary trip and one we will talk about forever. Right?”

She laughs at this and nods. 

“Yeah. For more than one reason I hope we talk about this trip.”

I cross my arms again and look at her. 

“What do you mean?”

She takes another deep breath, “I love you. And I didn’t want to do it this way. At all, not dressed like this in the freezing cold.”
“Do what?” I say anxious now. 

“Here goes nothing,” She mumbles.

She starts to bend down and is having trouble not falling over. She stands back up straight, but her bundled clothing has made her stiff. She tries again but when she she starts to fall over, I grab her and help her stand back up.

“Oh, for crying out loud.” She throws her arms up and then looks at me.

“Will you please help me? I’m trying to sit down, sort of.” 

“It is going to be tough to get up and I don’t want to be out here that much longer, please, just, can’t we talk inside?” I plead, my hands still holding her.

I see the anger in her eyes.

“No! I’m doing this right here, right now, and you are going to help me.” 

I sigh and roll my eyes, helping her bend toward the ground. Once she is kneeling, she waves me off. I start to bend down to sit on the ground, but she whacks me.

“Don’t sit down.”


“Just stand up, okay. Please. Just listen to me and we will be inside soon.”

I huff and stand up looking down at her kneeling in front of me. She bites her bottom lip as her hands fiddle in her pockets. She starts to lose her balance again and I grab her. After a minute of rifling in her pockets she smiles and looks at me nodding to let her go. I let her go and step back. She looks ridiculous right now, the ends of her dark shoulder length hair wisping around her face and her beanie has started to rise up on her head, sticking up in the air and she is kneeling in a snowsuit in the sand. She looks like she is—

“We have been dating for 5 years, but we have known each other for almost 10 and I have loved you for some unknown number of years in between.”

Unbelievable. She is kneeling, crying, in a snowsuit, on a beach, in Australia. She is proposing. No way. I crinkle my eyebrows.

“Are you—” I start to say, but she holds up a hand to quiet me. 

“If you would let me, yes, I am trying to.”

I nod and shut up.

“Anyways, I don’t know when your friendship turned into something more, but it did and I’m incredibly thankful for that. I loved you long before you loved me and that’s okay. I wanted you to say it first which was tough to do, but finally, after a year, a whole year, you told me that you loved me and that was just the start of us. We have been through so much together since we have started dating and even before. We started in college as friends and by graduation we were in love, we got adult jobs, moved in together, and fought a ton in between. There have been a lot of fights, some important, most were stupid fights, but more than that there has been laughter and pranks and fun. Loving you has been a roller coaster and while I hate actual roller coasters this one, I have enjoyed it. I’m freezing and I had so much more to say and probably in a better way but I’m rambling, and I didn’t want to do it like this, but I love you. I have always loved you and I will always love you, so will you marry me?”

Katie Lane Dei is a storyteller currently living in New Jersey. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Writing from Kean University and is working towards her MA in English Writing Studies where her focus is on diversity in literature. When she isn’t writing short stories or working on her own novel, she is writing and consulting on episodic scripts and editing fiction novels. Besides writing and consuming stories, Katie Lane Dei enjoys trying new hobbies (currently learning to crochet) and drinking copious amounts of tea. You can find her on all social media platforms @katielanedei.


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