impatiently waiting

He waited for an hour, a painful hour. And during that painful hour, he reread the note in his mind 227 times. Two hundred and twenty-seven!

Meet me at Wal-Mart 2nite—school supplies aisle.

He agonized over it. Maybe he should have made it sound more like a question. Meet me at Wal-Mart 2nite? Maybe he should have said Target instead. Margret Ann’s family probably shops at Target.

He paced among the back-to-school clearance leftovers, willing her to show up. Margret Ann may not have said “yes” exactly, but she hadn’t said “no” either.

When he finally saw her bouncy red curls and eight-year-old swagger turn the corner by the spiral notebooks, he shoved the pink gel pens behind his back. Waiting until her red Converse with the rainbow laces were just inches from his flip flops, he presented them like a bouquet of fresh carnations.

These are for you.


Eight Years Later

He waited for an hour, a lingering hour. Because that’s how long it takes high school girls to get ready.

So even though she said Pick me up at 7:00, he sat with her parents through Wheel of Fortune AND Jeopardy.

Margret Ann’s parents weren’t quite sure what to make of sixteen-year-old Toby Malarky, frozen on their couch with the best posture they’d ever seen. His favorite shirt ironed crisp and tucked into his “nice” blue jeans. Hair slicked to one side, school-picture-day style. Cologne overdosed by about two and half pumps.

When Margret Ann finally came down the stairs, pink lips the color of those gel pens in his memory, all the air Toby held inside his whole body seemed to get vacuumed out in an instant.


(Still) Eight Years Later

He waited for an hour, an indecisive hour. Before texting her after that first date.

He’d heard his buddies say, Don’t call her for at least three days, Malarky. At LEAST three days.

But they didn’t say a damn thing about texting. So Toby wrote, revised, erased, and rewrote texts for 60 fat minutes before settling on one identical to his first draft.

2night was perfect.

U r perfect.

<3 Tobes

Margret Ann danced around her pink bedroom before flinging herself on the bed, giggling with glee.

Ur perfect 2. xoxo -MA


Two Years Later

He waited for an hour, a panicked hour.

Sweat ran down his face like condensation on a Coke bottle. He wiped it away with the cloth napkin every chance she looked away, but she wasn’t looking away enough. She hardly ever looked away.

Margret Ann prattled on about Yale or Georgetown or even NYU. Five acceptance letters had arrived just that week. Her freshly-painted pink fingernails flew through the air with every animated word.

Toby couldn’t focus on her excitement. He nodded and smiled and munched on the most expensive meal he hoped he’d ever have to pay for. But all he could think about was the ring in his pocket, the question on the tip of his tongue.

After one hour and four courses he cut her off mid-sentence and blurted it out.

Margret Ann, marry me.

Immediately, he wished he’d made it sound more like a question.


One Year Later

He waited for an hour, a terrifying hour. Smack-dab in the middle of First Presbyterian. Standing by the altar with two best friends by his side, Toby’s insides bubbled like a pot about to boil over.

At first they said she was just running late, but as minutes swelled into half-hours, he knew it was something else. He saw concern and pity beginning to fill the eyes of the guests.

Staring up at the rafters of that old sanctuary, Toby willed her once again to appear. With his mind racing and face growing hot and pink, Toby pulled his phone from his jacket pocket. His fingers flew over the keys; he knew what she needed to hear.

Margret Ann, you don’t have to do this if you’re not ready just yet.

I’ll wait for you as long as it takes.

<3 Tobes

Minutes passed. You could hear a pink gel pen drop in that airy church.

And then you could hear the soft buzz of a phone vibrating. Toby took a deep breath and looked at the text.

On my way! Sry I alwys keep u waiting. xoxo -MA

Toby just shook his head smiling.

No need to be sorry, he thought. I love every horrible minute I spend waiting on you.


37 thoughts on “impatiently waiting

  1. I really loved this, incredibly talented writing – the way that the pink kept tying everything together, all the way to the end; the way I kind of kept holding my breath, while you teased out the will she or won’t she every step of the way; the way you made him romantic and her a little flighty, without detracting from either characters likability – you’ve got mad skills and a wonderful flare for storytelling.


    1. Oh man. Thank you so much. I’m going to re-read this comment every time I feel discouraged. Thank you for reading and for your kind, thoughtful words. I’m so glad you liked it. :)


  2. This was a fun read! I loved how you envisioned the progression and tied things together. His character was well defined and grew as the story did – nicely done!

    One thing about the progression bugged me and because it also confused me for a bit I thought I’d mention it – I did not like breaking your established format with (still) Eight Years Later. I think you have to pick one of the two stories for eight years later if you want to stay true to the form you are using. Just my two cents :)


    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind words and your constructive feedback as well. I thought of the (Still) Eight Years Later as being more playful and less disruptive, but it’s very helful to know that it interrupted your flow as a reader. Much appreciated!


  3. A fantastic synthesis of the prompts! The repetition of the first sentence followed by the description of his mood worked so well, Genna. My only critique is for Margret Ann: shame on you for making your groom wait on his wedding day without saying something to him first!


  4. I thought you handled this story with real skill. Taking such a sweeping overview of characters and their relationship always runs the risk of feeling generic, but your acute observations (“Sweat ran down his face like condensation on a Coke bottle,” “You could hear a pink gel pen drop in that airy church”) made sure the story stayed particular and personal and really enjoyable.


  5. A breath of fresh air, Genna! This was so beautiful and touching and happy – a lifelong love is a special thing. I was crossing my fingers for him early on because I had a feeling she’d keep him waiting at the altar, and then I was cheering for them at the end. I love the way you echoed the first section, with the pink gel pen, the waiting, the texts, the wishing he’d asked instead of stated. Very nice :)


  6. So sweet, Genna! I love the passage of time and you’ve got some really beautiful descriptions in here. “Sweat ran down his face like condensation on a Coke bottle. ” “Immediately, he wished he’d made it sound more like a question.” And what an imaginative take on the prompt that you use with effective repetition. Nice!


  7. This was wonderful – simply beautiful. The pieces flowed so smoothly from one to the next. PInk gel pens throughout…the waiting…the love…the innocence. Dare I say you made me tear-up a bit? Great piece – thanks for writing it.


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