The Beginning I

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One week later

The steady drip of the water droplets from her fingers failed to calm her erratically beating heart. She stood hunched over the kitchen sink, her eyes closed and her bottom lip trapped beneath her teeth.

She heard the soft padding of bare feet on the floor, then it stopped. She willed herself not to jerk her hand away when his fingers landed on it. It was expected but her fear didn't leave any space for intimate gestures.

"Did I say something wrong?" His voice was low and laced with concern, but all it did was make her feel worse.

"No."

"I don't believe you. Babe, talk to me." He pulled her away from the sink and hugged her close. "What's bothering you?"

Zelah just shook her head and gently pushed him away from her. The ring that sat on her finger grew heavier every minute. "It's nothing, I'm fine."

"That nothing made you to jump out of my bed after I asked you a simple question. I'm not buying it, Zee. Is it the marriage thing?"

Yes.

"Sam, it's really nothing. It just brought a lot of thoughts in my head that I'm not sure I'm ready for." She shrugged but he just kept staring at her. He wasn't buying it.

"I don't want this to become an issue," he began, "we've had communication issues for months and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. What do I have to do to get you to talk to me?" His voice raised with almost every word.

"I do talk to you, this is just—"

"If you have something to say to me, I'm listening. I'm jumping to conclusions and I don't want to." He crossed his arms and stared her down.

She fought back a smile as she stared at him. The fact that it was seven in the morning was imprinted on his face. He had sleep lines on one side of his face and he still looked like he wanted to sleep. "I can't take you seriously when you look like that."

He walked away, shaking his head. "Nevermind, Zelah."

"Baaabee, wait!" She scurried behind him, laughing. "I'm sorry, I'm not laughing at you."

"No, you're making a joke. Out of a situation that's really serious. Which, by the way, has become your trademark in the last few days! It's not funny!" He went into the bathroom and tried to slam the door but she stopped it.

"Sam. You need to breathe." She watched him at the sink, trying and failing at applying toothpaste to his toothbrush. His hands were shaking badly, and he clenched his fists. "Babe.."

He ignored her and brushed his teeth, with her staring at him carefully. The seconds that ticked by seemed to be the longest for Zelah but she held her breath and waited for him to speak.  

"I don't want you to leave," he said finally, staring at the water that ran from the pump over the sink.

"I'm not going anywhere, babe. Heyy, stop that," she went and stood in front of him, trying to get his attention. "You can trust me."

"Can I? Zelah, all I asked before you freaked out on me was, 'so when do you want to get married?' Did we not talk about this? Why is it something that you can barely talk about now?"

She sighed and hugged him silently, thinking about the words she wanted to say. They stood in front of the mirror with her arms around his torso, and him trying not to hug her back.

"It's...hard to say this, Sam. I know how much you want this, and I do too. It's just...I can't. Not right now."

"You can't what?" He peeled her off him and made her look at him. "You can't marry me? Is that it?"

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