“Let’s go, we’re going to be late!” Isabel yelled as she sprinted down the street.
“I’m coming,” I called back, forcing my legs to move faster than I wanted.
I followed with everything I had, but my body was not made for running in the loosest sense of the word. I was sweating just walking to keep up, and she expected me to run, so I did, of course. She turned to the right side of Monument Square and down the hill, so I turned to try to keep up. The slope was steeper than I remembered, and at the speed I was moving, I couldn’t even read the names of the stores we ran past over the red brick sidewalk. I could feel the people staring at me, the fat kid that was running and trying to keep up with the small blonde that had already reached the bottom of the hill.
My breath came is great heaves by the time I reached three-quarters of the way down the hill, and I felt a cramp starting on the left side of my ribs. I couldn’t push myself any further, I knew it. So I stopped at one of the benches and gripped it, feeling a wave of nausea wash over me.
“Ian?” Isabel yelled back the hundred or so feet from me as she turned around.
Don’t come up here, I’m a mess, I thought as, sure enough, she jogged back up the hill to me.
“Are you okay?” She asked, putting her hand on my back.
My face was already red from the brief run, and if it weren’t, it would have been from the embarrassment of her checking on me while people stared.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, “you can still make it to the movie. I’ll be just a couple of minutes. It’s only a block away now.”
She shook her head, “I told you we’d go together. I’m not going without you.”
Great, now she’s not going to see the whole movie because of me.
“It’s fine, really,” I managed between the big heaves of air. My heart was racing, and I felt dizzy. I turned and sat on the bench.
“It’s not fine, Ian. I told you we’d go out for a date, and we would be there already if I hadn’t taken so long,” she said, smiling at me as she intertwined our fingers.
I could feel the judgment of the people passing by. They feigned not looking at us, but I could see it.
“What are you thinking?” Isabel asked.
“The same thing everyone passing us is, why are you with me?” I replied.
“For so many reasons, Ian,” she said. “You’re sweet and kind. You were the only person to visit me at the hospital when I had my surgery. You always stand up for people, even if it’s against someone much bigger than you.”
“Not many people are bigger than me,” I said.
“You know what I mean, goober,” Isabel said, leaning into my shoulder.
“There are so many things that are wonderful about you that make me want to spend every minute with you,” she said.
“But I’m so ugly and fat,” I argued.
“Stop that,” she said, lifting her head to look me in the eyes. “You are perfect in every way.”
I watched a guy pass by on a skateboard that seemed to have lost his shirt. He was thin but muscular with short hair and a tan.
“I wish I could be that for you,” I said, nodding toward the guy.
“I don’t need that,” Isabel said, putting her hands on either side of my face, “I need you.”
“I think we can go to the movie now,” I said, pushing myself up from the bench.
“We don’t have to see the movie,” Isabel said. “We can wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray and watch it at your apartment.”
“What do you want to do then?” I asked.
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“I want to spend time with you,” I replied.
“Then, we should spend time together. Do you want to go get some ice cream? Or there’s that barbeque place around the corner, the something pig? What sounds good to you?” she asked, grabbing my hand once more as she stood up. “The world is your oyster!”
“I-I don’t know,” I said, a million thoughts going through my head at once.
She came around to the front of me and kissed me. It was one of those kisses that stop time. I was oblivious to the world for what seemed like an eternity until her lips left mine. I lost my balance for a second and stepped back, blinking like a flash had gone off right in front of me.
“Wow,” I said.
“Let’s go for a walk,” she said, beaming at me.
“O-okay,” I stuttered. “Where to?”
“Just a walk,” she said as she practically skipped next to me. “We can go at your pace. I’m not in a hurry anymore.”
“You’re either totally bat-shit crazy, or I don’t know what,” I said, a smile spreading across my face.
“Probably crazy,” she said, “crazy about you, at least.”
I felt my cheeks warm again.
“Isabel, can I ask you a huge favor?” I said.
“Anything,” she replied.
“Will you help me lose some weight?” I asked. “I’ve tried a thousand times, but I’ve never gotten anywhere with it.”
“If it’s important to you, then I’ll help you the best I can,” she said as we started walking. “Let’s start with this walk, and we’ll see where we can get to from there.”
2 Years Later
“What’d they say?” Isabel asked as I climbed in the car. Her eyes were just as bright and happy as ever.
“I’m down a hundred-fifty-two pounds,” I said, tears running down my face.
“I’m so proud of you, Ian!” she said, throwing her arms around me in the car.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” I replied, kissing her cheek.
“You would have done it one way or another,” she replied, “You are an amazing man, and I consider myself lucky to have you next to me.”
“What do you want to do now?” I asked.
“Anything and everything,” she winked at me.
“Marry me?” I asked.
“What?” She said, raising an eyebrow. “Ian Guster, are you proposing to me?”
“You make me want to try harder and be better at everything. You are-”
She pulled me into a kiss. Even for her small size, she was much stronger than I remembered. Her kisses still melted all of me and made me dizzy. They were sweeter than every dessert I had refused since we started dating and filled me so completely that I wouldn’t feel hungry for at least an hour.
“Yes!” she said, releasing me, leaving me on the passenger side of the car, trying to discern up from down. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask! We’re like cake and ice cream, can’t exactly have one without the other.”