Sparks the Matchmaker - By Russell Elkins

Chapter 1

A few months’ salary was a lot to pay for an item so small, but Ollie felt it was exactly the right prescription for their ailing relationship. He stuffed the little black box into his pocket and rehearsed once again the words he’d say after going down on a knee in front of Anne. He had spent all morning going over the details of his plan to make sure everything was just right. With their relationship as delicate as it was, there was no room for error. Having watched the minutes tick down to when he would pick her up, he smiled when he saw that the minutes had dwindled down to just ten.

“You sure you don’t want us to help?” Keith asked. “You’ve got a couple of roommates who play guitar— you’re not gonna take advantage of that?”

“Yeah, and I could sing,” Richie added. “Keith and D play guitar, and I sing. There’s no way she could say no.”

“No thanks, Richie,” Ollie said. “I’m proposing, not trying to freak her out.”

“Whatever. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a good singer.”

Keith laughed. “Richie, you don’t want to be responsible if she says no. C’mon, Ollie, picture it. You’ll be walking down the pathway through the canyon and when you come around the corner… surprise! D and I are playing guitar. She’ll melt for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean— ‘if she says no?’” Ollie asked.

“I was just making a point. That’s not what I meant,” Keith said.

“She’s gonna say yes,” Ollie said, but Keith and Richie looked blankly at him, obviously hoping the other would say something. “Right? Come on here. You’re my roommates. You’re not doin’ a lot for my confidence right now.”

“Yeah yeah, we know she’s gonna say yes,” Keith said.

“What do ya mean we know she’s gonna say yes? You didn’t sound so sure about it yesterday,” Richie said to Keith. “Maybe she wanted platinum. I told you to let her pick out her own ring. Yellow gold is so—”

“Shut up, Richie,” Keith said.

“I’m serious,” Richie said, “he—”

“Richie! Shut up!” Keith said.

“No, no, Keith. Let’s talk,” Ollie said. “I wanna hear this. What did you say yesterday about Anne and me? You don’t think she’ll say yes?”

“I’m your best friend. I wasn’t saying anything like that,” Keith said. “Don’t listen to Richie.”

“Yeah, well, Richie may not have a filter between his brain and his mouth,” Ollie said, “but at least he’s straightforward. If you’ve got something to say, say it.”

“Help me out here, D.” Keith turned toward the largest of the roommates, the one with his nose buried in a textbook. “Did I ever say anything like that?”

“Leave me out of this,” D said. “I hardly know her.”

“Hardly know her?” Ollie was a little confused. “We’ve been dating for, like, a year and a half.”

“Yeah, but she’s never over here,” D said. “You’re always over there at her place.”

“I guess that’s true,” Ollie said.

“I know something for sure, though,” D said. “It won’t help your chances if you’re late.”

Ollie looked at his watch and then ran out the door.

His car was meticulously cleaned inside and out, to make sure everything was perfect for the day. Halfway to Anne’s apartment he realized his detailed planning had left something out: the gas gauge was pinned by the letter E on the dashboard. His confidence was spilling over, though, and because he was certain nothing could possibly go wrong on a day like this, he wasn’t willing to stop and risk being even a couple minutes late.

Before long he found himself parked outside Anne’s apartment. This is it. Wait till she sees the ring I picked out. He strutted up the sidewalk and grinned as he knocked right under the number nine on her front door.

“Come in, come in, come in.” Anne’s roommate seemed over-excited to see him, especially since she usually didn’t give him the time of day. “Anne’s back in her room on the phone. What are you guys planning to do today? Anything romantic?”

“Romantic? I guess so, yeah. We’re just gonna take a walk up through the canyon. Should be great,” he said.

“That’s it? Nothing else? It’s a little chilly out there just for a walk, don’t ya think? What else are you doing?”

“It’s not too cold. It’s barely even sweater weather right now.”

“Here maybe, but in the canyon you can bet it’s colder.”

“We’ll be fine. We’ve been up there lots of times.”

She kept her eyes fixed on him, but he wasn’t spilling any more information.