We went out to the garden after the last waltz and he asked me to marry him. He really thought I’d say yes. And I might have done. It was this time of year. If he’d asked in spring probably I would have said yes. But it was fall, and I thought how there were so many things I could do, and so little time; and if I married him that would be part of all the rest of my time, would change what I could do, make some things real and cut some things off; and how could I be sure that was what I wanted? For all my life? And I did want it, and that made me afraid. I just stood there and looked away from him, because I couldn’t stand looking at him. If he had just asked again, tried harder, or if he had started to leave—but he didn’t, he stood there and looked at me, and he asked what was wrong, and I told him.
And then he was so quiet that I turned to see what he was thinking. I could see my face in his eyes, we were standing that close. He laid his hand on my cheek, and I thought he’d tell me again that he loved me, and then I’d have to tell him I loved him, because I did, and that would be the end of it; and I didn’t know if I loved him or hated him more for being able to do that to me. But he just barely touched me, and he said “Live forever, Corinna, if you want to.” And then he pulled his hand back as if my skin had burned him, and he went away.