Engaged

“Where have you been?” I asked R, as he settled down on the sofa next to me.   It was the day before Easter, 1996.

I knew what he’d been doing, of course.  It became obvious to me when my sister stammered out a not very well played lie as I called her house during my egg dying disaster.  She had mentioned something about needing to go out and get ingredients for the recipe she was making to take to her in laws for Easter dinner tomorrow;  she couldn’t name what she was making or anything she’d spent over two hours shopping for on one of her husband’s rare Saturdays off.

When I pressed her, she made me swear not to tell R what she told me.  She’d met him at a jewelry store earlier that day, to help him choose my engagement ring.

“Best Buy,” R responded to my question. ” Today is the last day of the sale week, and they had some of the 80s compilation CDs I was looking for on sale.”  R could deadpan with the best of them; he really should  have taken up playing poker or something.

I turned my attention to the TV, wondering how he would play it out.  My mind raced; where was the ring?  Was it in his pocket?  We weren’t going anywhere today, was he going to give it to me over dinner?  Or was he waiting for tomorrow, when we’d be with his whole family, including people I hadn’t even met yet from Toronto?

Oh, God.  What if he proposed to me in front of his whole extended some of them not even speaking English family?  15 first cousins, five aunts and uncles, plus everyone’s significant others.  A lump rose quickly into my throat.  I wasn’t sure I could handle that.  I could feel the sweat and bright red cheeks breaking out just thinking about it.

“What’s got you in such a state?” R said, taking in my obvious change in demeanor.

I looked at him, my eyes full of knowledge.  “I hate surprises, you know that, right?”

He nodded, blankly.  “Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear on many occasions,” he answered smoothly.

“So if you were say…planning some sort of big surprise for tomorrow…that would freak me out right in front of your family.  You know that too?”

Something flickered in R’s face.  He knew.  He knew that I knew.

“What are you trying to say?” he asked, a note of suspicion blackening his tone.

The darkness of his tone threw me.  He was indeed planning something for tomorrow.  Maybe if I just had a preview, I wouldn’t be as tense tomorrow.  “Do you have it?  Do you have it with you now?”

“Have what?”  He was going to hold out as long as possible.

“I know that you went shopping with my sister today.  I know that you bought a ring.  And I’m begging you to please not spring it on me in front of your whole family tomorrow.  You know I hate being the center of attention, and you know that I hate surprises.  Please…if you have it now, please just tell me.”

I could see R deflate in front of me.  Clearly, I’d just ruined his plan for all of this, for the ring, for the moment, for everything.  Why did I have to be so neurotic?  Why couldn’t I just go with the flow?  Why did I have to ruin everything?

He reached into his pocket and took out a small box.  Irritated, he dropped it into my still open hands without a word.

I looked at the small box, a ring box.  This moment should be different.  I should give back this box and let him do this right, his way, however he saw fit.  I should be able to swallow my discomfort, for this, for him, to remember this moment without a stain on it.   But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t stop myself from opening the tiny box and seeing the perfect, half carat solitare ring staring back at me.  It was real.  It was an engagement ring.  In my hands.  R sat across from me, still looking irritated.

“Do you want it, or what?” he asked.

My cheeks glowed.  “I do,” I answered quietly, trying to not hate myself for ruining the moment and not succeeding.

R slipped the ring out of its satin home and onto my finger.  “So we’re engaged,” he said simply.

“We’re engaged,” I answered.

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