Jack grinned his goofiest, toothiest grin across the table at Jill, who replied in kind. They were six months and two pregnancy scares into their relationship, which began as a surprise after a teasing suggestion that they go on a date to the Hills because of their names, and he was as deliriously happy as he had ever been. Perhaps, he often mused, as he ever would be again.
"When do you know?" he'd asked his mother. It was a difficult subject to broach, requiring courage and a commitment that had surprised them both. It was also a long conversation, occurring in multiple parts over several days, and had finally ended in him buying the delicate golden ring that was hidden away in his shirt pocket.
"Here you go," the young waitress named Jenna interrupted his reverie as she set their food down between them. It was a simple order. Two matching plates, each with two pieces of sausage, three over easy eggs, a helping of hash browns and a single piece of toast.
"Right on time," Jack smiled his thanks at Jenna, who was staring at Jill. Jack followed her gaze and guffawed.
Jill had immediately stuffed a fork full of egg and hash browns into her mouth. She was presently tilting her head, puffing out her cheeks, and crossing her eyes at Jenna. The waitress was at first taken aback, and then matched Jack's reaction. A tiny dribble of runny, yellow yolk was leaking out through Jill's pursed lips. With a snort that would have been a laugh of her own in an empty mouth, she quickly snatched up her napkin and wiped it away.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. It began with the light. That early, golden promise that always charged the morning with so much energy and so many possibilities shifted into an ugly, ruddy orange glow. The thought that flashed through Jack's mind, as on-the-spot descriptive spots often did ("How would I write this situation?" was a question he always held on standby for himself), was that it looked sick. It was as if the sun had suddenly taken ill, and was on the verge of either puking or passing out.
"What the Hell...?"
Jack, Jill and Jenna rushed the eastern facing windows as one, and their fumbling hands managed to pull the blinds down rather than pull them up so that they could look outside.
The sun was just visible, hanging above the trees and the row of small businesses that lined that side of main street. It was so dim that they could look directly at it without so much as spotting their vision. The orb's outer edges were an intense reddish-orange, giving off the glow that had so changed their vision of the world. Inside that, toward the center, it had gone dark, almost black. That ominous shadow churned, swirling dangerously as not only they, and not only the people outside, but every person on the planet who could see the sun at that particular moment looked on.
"It's changing," Jenna breathed.
A pit of dread grew in Jack's stomach. The shadow was growing even darker, blacker than black, and then began to brighten. It was not returning to orange, or red, or brilliant yellow of a proper sun, but toward a particularly intense white that forced them to avert their eyes. Some part of him understood what was happening here. It was not scientific knowledge. He could not explain the process, or guess at why it was happening. What little understanding he did have of these subjects told him that what he was seeing probably shouldn't be happening.
But, really, what did he know? He was a writer, not an astrophysicist.
Jenna darted away from them suddenly, saying something about calling her fiance, John, who was still at work. Jack took that as his cue and placed his hands on Jill's shoulders, pulling her away from the window, and back into the heart of the restaurant's front room.
"Listen to me," Jack said. "Jill, listen."
When she fixed those wide, terrified, blue orbs on him, his heart broke. She knew. Whatever the primal part of him that recognized this event was, it existed in her as well.
"Listen to me. I love you, and I... well, maybe it's stupid to say it right now, but I believe I'm going to for the rest of my life. Maybe even longer. I bought a ring, okay? I bought a ring that I want to put on your finger."
"What are you saying?" confusion had overtaken the terror on her face.
"I'm saying that I love you, and I want you to marry me."
They stared at each other, and the room grew brighter. Tears welled up in her eyes, and a tiny, brave smile tried to turn the corners of her mouth. It was not until he was certain that he would never hear her say it, when the brilliant, blazing light from outside had begun to wash the color from everything around them and he could already feel the heat climbing past the point of human comfort that she finally spoke.
The world went white.