“I can’t do this.”
Probably not the best thing to blurt out to ones mirror, but nothing else came to mind. Unsurprisingly my reflection agreed. Shaking his head right along with me. I couldn’t believe it. There I was, a grown man, sniveling like a baby. I fumbled with my shirt briefly, to make sure my tie was straight and then I tried again. My mouth opened, yes, the words were about to shoot forth, and… nothing.
I did manage to release a guttural groan from deep down within my belly, but a mere groan wasn’t going to work as a proper proposal to my dear girlfriend. I gave my reflection a pleading gaze, as if to say “for the love of Berry, help me out here”, but still, only my silence echoed its reply. An unexpected voice radiating from the direction of my bed, swiftly yanked me from my downward spiral into hopelessness, with four little words.
“She loves you right?”
I shook my head quickly returning back down to earth. “What? Of course she loves me. Or at least I think she does.”
“Well, then what are you worrying about? If she loves you, which I have not a doubt in the world she does, she is going to say yes. So just ask her. Smile and ask. Besides after she sees what you have set up, how could she possibly refuse?”
Waterlily’s confidence only seemed to shatter my conviction. She made it sound so easy. So why did it seem like the impossible feat when the words bounced around in my head.
“Try again. Pretend I’m not here.”
“How about if you weren’t here? Maybe that would be easier?”
“No, you are going to have an audience of one, when you ask Fern, so you need an audience of one now. It will get you over your nerves. Promise.”
I turned to face the mirror once more.
“OK. Fern will you…” I clapped my hand to my face. “Ahhhh! Why is this so hard!?”
Sensing my desperation, Waterlily joined me next to the mirror. Placing a firm hand on my shoulder, she did her best to settle me out, but there was no getting around the fact that my nerves were shot and I felt as if my heart was going to leap right out of chest. Not even her gentle touch seemed to be enough. A wince of regret stretched tight across my face.
“I’m sorry. Maybe this will be easier, when it’s the real thing. You know?”
A smile ran to her lips. “It will.”
There was something about her smile that troubled me. Hidden under the surface. I caught a quick glimpse of it a few times, but before long it had gone again. A fact that should have relieved me, but didn’t. Something other than her maturity her was weighing her down.
“Everything alright sis?”
“Of course. Why?”
“No reason, you just seem…I can’t really put my finger on it. Preoccupied.”
“Nope everything is fine here. Couldn’t be better.” She smiled again, but this time, it was obvious how forced it was. I had run out time to dig any further in my investigation though, so I had no other choice then to leave it at that. I slid my phone from my pocket, checking the time.
“I got to run. Picking up Fern in fifteen. You sure you are OK?”
“Yes! Now stop worrying about me and go get your woman!”
I nodded and then started out the door, but the ring still sitting in the top drawer stopped me dead in my tracks. I quickly swiveled on my heel and retrieved it from my dresser. Shaking the little velvet box in my hand, I hastily left the room.
“Kind of need that!” Lil teased as I exited the room.
My nerves thankfully settled out the moment I found myself around my dear girlfriend again. She looked so beautiful in her emerald green dress, it was hard to think about anything else. I had mentioned that it was going to be a special date, but for the most part, I had kept my hints subtle. I didn’t want to give away the surprise, so I just casually brought up the fact, it would be nice to get dressed up, and go out.
A hint that worked wonders, because when she walked onto her front porch, my eyeballs almost popped right out of my head. And by the time we had reached the park, I could scarcely keep my hands off of her.
“Fern? Hang on a second.”
“Yes.” Her voice flowed through my body like a fine wine.
“You remember this place don’t you?”
Fern gave a sideways smirk as she pretended to look around the grass.
“Hmmmmm, I don’t know… Could this maybe be where we had our first date? Just a guess though.”
I could feel the ringbox jiggle in pocket as I let out loud a laugh.
“It could be. Yes.”
With her hands in my own, I squeezed them gently and lowered my gaze to watch them.
“I hope that after today, you will know just how much I love you.”
“Probably just as much as I love you.” She gleamed.
“Well then, I think we have some lunch to attend to.”
I took her hand, and we walked across the grass heading over to the set of steps that lead out to the Twizzlerbrook beach. I could hardly contain myself. Waiting for that exact moment when she would see all that I had prepared. She looked back over her shoulder at me. “You know, if this was a really special date, you could have taken me to a real beach.” But her tease slipped right out of her mind the moment her view returned to the front again.
I watched excitedly as she froze in her steps. Shoulders squeezing closer to her neck. I could tell she was just as excited as I had hoped she would be.
“Prelude? Did you do this?” She squeaked.
I joined her on the large flat step, wrapping my arm around her waist. “It’s possible, but if you would rather go to a “real” beach, we can go to car right now.”
She giggled. “No, I think I would prefer to stay here.”
Once I had situated Fern at the table, I ran back to the car to get the ice chest I had stuffed in the trunk. After lugging it all the way back down the steps, I set it carefully next the grill. All the fixings for a proper and hopefully romantic salmon lunch inside. I only hoped that I didn’t mess up the fish or I was in serious trouble.
My high school cooking classes seemed to have deemed their worthiness, because within a few minutes, I had some wonderful looking salmon steaks ready for paper plating. I organized both of our plates and set them down one to each side of the table.
The easy part was now out of the way. She ate her meal and I did my best to force mine down. Due to the knots that had dropped into my stomach, it was no easy task.
Finally I couldn’t wait an instant longer. I set down my plate and nervously stood from my chair.
“Fern, there is something I wanted to ask you. It’s pretty important.” I grinned, dropping down to one knee.
She started to say something, but the second I dropped down before her, she knew.
I pulled the ring from it’s hiding place. The moment of truth was upon me. Pass or fail, it was all up to me.
“You see, I met this really cute girl down at the pool one day. She was the sweetest person I had ever met. I knew instantly we would be good friends, but what I didn’t know, is I would one day grow to love her. Love her more deeply than I could have ever dreamed possible.”
“So, what I am trying to say is, Emerald Fern Killarney, will you Marry me?”
I opened the box revealing the little gold banded, blue diamond engagement ring. It glistened brightly in the afternoon sun, making it look even prettier than it had in the shop.
“Yes! I will, Yes!”
My heart sang with those four little words. She said yes. I kissed her gently before sliding the ring around her lovely finger, but that was when I realized it was slightly loose.
I gave it horrific gawk, but she just smiled and twisted it softly using two of her fingers. “We will just have it sized down. It’s beautiful Prelude. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent together. Enjoying the warmth of each others company, and me drinking in all that I adored about my dearest fiance.
“I did a pretty good job picking that out.” I said my voice beaming with pride.
“Amazing would more be the word I would choose.”
“Not as amazing as the girl who is wearing it.”
The afternoon stretched on into the evening, and I still did not want the night to end. Even knowing I would have many more chances just like it awaiting me, none of them would ever feel quite like this.
Everyone was already waiting in the living room when we finally returned home. Squealing and laughing commenced as soon as we walked through the front door. I guess they figured if she was with me, she must have said yes.
“Soooo let us see!”
Fern flashed the ring for all to see, before bringing it back so she could get another look at it herself. Again all the girls squealed with joy. Mom and Dad looked just as excited, though they were slightly a bit more contained.
“Congratulations Son.” Dad smiled.
“Oh Prelude, I am so proud of you.” Mom looked so happy I thought she might cry.
But there was a face among that masses, that caught my attention immediately. Lil’s smile from earlier had disappeared entirely and in its place was that flash. Only now it was clearly visible. I always hated to see any of little sisters looking sad, but it seemed to bother me more when it was Lil.
In the middle of the excitement, Lil excused herself and headed upstairs. I probably waited all of a minute before I ran after her.
I knocked lightly on the door. When no one replied, I carefully opened it to step inside. This was pretty much our routine since childhood, when ever Lil was feeling down. She would either ran to her bed, or the “Zen room” out back. I felt a feeling of contentment at the thought of how little things had changed in all our years. Sure we were older, but some things seemed to remain the same.
I stood close to the ladder of Lil’s bunk bed. Grabbing the first rung I paused. “Can I come up?”
She gave me a small nod, and then I climbed on up. It had been quite a few years since I had found myself sitting at the edge of her bed. Everything was a bit more cramped than it used to be.
“Ok, I am fully convinced something is up with you. So, what is it?”
“It’s nothing. I swear. Just have a lot on my mind.”
“You seem to have a lot of things on your mind lately.”
Lil dropped her elbows on the railing in a defeated slump. “I just…”
“I just, really don’t want to talk about it right now.”
Well from years of experience, I knew when I would be able or not be able to pry something from her. She clearly wasn’t ready to discuss it. So I gave her a few more encouraging words before going off to find Fern.
“Goodnight Lil. Don’t forget I will be here when you are ready to talk.”
“Thanks. Goodnight, Prelude.”
It was close to 1:00 am before, Fern and I piled into the car to take her back home. I wanted desperately for her to stay the night, but with how strict her parents were, it would have been a waste of my time to even ask. I was lucky enough to receive their blessing, I was not about to push it any further.
“Can we stay here a little longer? I’m not ready to go in just yet.”
I squeezed her tighter. “We can stay as long as you like.”
I mean, how angry could they get if we were in the front yard? Right?