Note: I have a good friend who likes to play writing games. Recently she sent me this writing prompt (You are a 23-year-old translator, and you do not want to translate something that has just been spoken.) and challenged me to write a short story. This is what I wrote. Enjoy! And in the comments, let me know how you think the story should end.
I heard the words, but I couldn’t say them.
She had no idea what he was asking. As far as she knew, he wanted to buy another Haori or take another stroll around the village. She sat there, straight, smiling, and waiting for me to enlighten her.
“What are you waiting for? Ask her.” Logan nudged me, but kept his eyes on Aiko. Not that she was looking at him. Between fiddling with the Kansashi in her hair and shooting her impatient eyes at me, the only thing she did to indicate she even noticed Logan was smile. “Ask her.” He whispered it in my ear this time, and my entire body felt his breath. Will I ever stop tingling like that when he gets near me?
I swallowed, nodded toward his true love, and forced my quivering body to face him. “Are you sure about this?” My voice sounded lower than my normal dulcet high. I think it was the lump in my throat and the fact that at any second I could explode into tears or melt away to nothingness. I hadn’t quite decided which direction this was going to go. “I mean. You just met her. For all you know, she’s been arranged away since she was two. Don’t you think you should take a step back? Think about it. Learn to speak her language.”
He ran his long fingers through his black hair. I knew the look on his face. I could tell exactly what he was thinking. He was just trying to figure out how to word it so I would do what he wanted. Let him connive. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t ask her. I shouldn’t even be here. This definitely wasn’t what I was hoping to get from this trip.
I examined the wrinkles in my skirt and moved on to picking the sushi remnants from my fingernails while he hemmed me in with those soulful, pleading eyes.
“Annie, I can’t explain it. I know I just met her, but there’s something about her.” His baby blues were actually glistening with tears. How can I love him so completely and want to smash my clipboard upside his head at the same time? “Just ask her. If it’s crazy, then that will be it. But if it’s not…if she feels it too, then maybe…maybe this will be the one.” He took a step back and turned his attention to his precious Aiko.
This will be the one.
Elise wasn’t the one. Abigail wasn’t the one. That senator’s ugly daughter wasn’t the one. I’ve known him for five years. Five true loves, and now he’s figuring this girl who can’t understand him, and who, I’m pretty sure, hates the English is going to be the one.
Someone needs to tell him that love isn’t a fantasy that’s only real when you close your eyes to sanity. Someone needs to point out to him that people who love you stay by your side when you’re sick, listen to you go on and on about football, remind you to call your mother, and sit next to you holding the tissues when your heart gets broken. People who care don’t run off with your best friend, steal from your dad’s safe, or expect you to be their alibi when the latest scandal breaks. And people who love you usually know how to pronounce your name.
Someone should tell him. But not me. What good would it do for me to tell him? He hasn’t listened to me so far. How can he be so smart and so blind at the same time?
“Please Annie. Ask her to marry me. ” He pulled me in with those eyes again. Maybe I should just kiss him. That would send a message. Press my lips to his and let my dream fill the world around us. But then there’s that nagging feeling that tethers me back to singleness. I’m worth more than this, and if he doesn’t see me then…well, that’s as far as I go.
Aiko hadn’t moved. Sometimes I wondered if she actually understood every word we were saying, but then I find it hard to believe that anyone could have kept up such a masquerade for two weeks. And judging from the things she did say, I’m not getting that her sense of adventure goes very far beyond the huge garden that surrounds her rich daddy’s home.
Besides, being a paranoid, skeptical translator hasn’t really been working for me, so I’ll believe her to be what she appears to be, an innocent, 22-year-old, princess to one of the wealthiest families in Japan, and the second female to be on the receiving end of a marriage proposal from the most eligible bachelor in England (except for prince Harry, of course, and those five One Direction guys).
Okay. Deep breath.
I glanced back at my dear friend. He brought his hopeful gaze to me, and then his countenance shifted.
Maybe it was the look on my face, but something changed in his. A hint of recognition, a suspicion blown through the back alleys of his mind carried on conversations and jokes, hugs and tears. Something settled into his eyes, and he didn’t turn away from me.
Four words. Four words to translate, and then what?
They say life can turn on a dime. And there it did. He stood there suddenly not looking as sure as before, and I knew what I think I’ve always known. As I swiveled on my bare foot to face his future, my life changed, and I made a decision I’m pretty sure I’ll never regret.