Callie could hardly contain her excitement. She meticulously packed items in the large, wicker picnic basket. Ham sandwiches, pickles, potato chips, bottled water and cookies. Lastly, she placed on top of the entire food menagerie, paper plates, plastic utensils, napkins and candy hearts. After all, this was the big day for she and Rodney, wasn’t it? She’d never forget this May afternoon for her entire life. She just knew this was the day he would pop the question. Taking a deep breath, Callie completed the process, shutting the basket with a sigh. Today, a beautiful Saturday in May, she would soon become the fiancée of Rodney Tudor. Rodney, the handsome, debonair, up and coming executive, was to finally become totally hers. Oh, but he’d been rather illusive these past few weeks. Yet, she knew he had to really think about this decision he had made. That was how Rodney was. He thought long and hard about things. She loved that about him. Now, he had made up his mind. The day had arrived. Blowing out her breath, trying to calm her excitement, Callie headed for the bathroom to complete her makeup and touch up her hair. Ten more minutes to primp before she needed to leave and meet him at the local park.
Driving slowly along suburban streets, Callie clenched the wheel as her mind thought back on the past week. She hadn’t heard from Rodney since last weekend and then suddenly last evening he asked to see her. He had something important to ask her, he said. Rodney had often stuttered a bit when nervous and he had certainly done so when talking with her on the phone. Oh, she hoped he wouldn’t be too nervous to ask her, after all it had been over a year they had dated. Well, at times on and off but she just knew he loved her. Why would he have taken her to visit his parents recently and why else would he be so distracted lately? She noticed him at their last meeting eyeing her rings. Of course, he wanted to guess the size. What would her diamond be like? Or would it be a diamond? She liked pearls actually, but she’d accept his offering no matter what. He was everything she wanted in a man and future husband. Callie bit her lip as she thought of their last kiss, well weeks ago now but it said everything to her. The passion, the intensity. He felt as in love as she did, of that, she was sure.
Pulling into the park, Callie noticed she was right on time. Shutting off the car she looked around the lot to see if she could spot Rodney’s jeep. A bright red, jazzy little thing, she couldn’t miss it. Nope, not here yet. She’d phone him to see if he was on his way, but then thought better of it. Best not to be too anxious. Best to just let him be a bit nervous. Callie giggled. Oh, she loved this exciting day in her life, this utterly romantic new beginning. Eyeing herself in the rearview mirror, she touched her hair, making sure all was in place. Straitening her blouse from the seat belt wrinkles she looked around. He still wasn’t here. Well, she thought to herself, perhaps I’ll set up the lunch and just wait on him outside. The weather was amazingly perfect, just right for the two of them on this special day.
Callie headed for a giant oak tree near the small pond ahead and noticed there were no other picnickers in sight. Good. They needed privacy for their embrace after he popped the question. Would he get down on one knee? Would he pretend it was just another day at first? Laying out the quilt she had bought just for the occasion, one they may use again and again as they relived this special day in the future, Callie placed the basket atop of the quilt and sat down facing the parking lot. She’d see Rodney when he drove into the park this way, and she’d nonchalantly pretend she had also just arrived. Ten minutes passed; Callie fiddled with her phone. Should she call him? Fifteen minutes passed and Callie watched another family gather at a picnic table nearby. Frowning, she looked at the time on her phone for the hundredth time. Rodney was late, not really like him. Was he really that jittery? She punched in his phone number. After several rings she finally heard his voice, raw and irritated. “Hello?”
Callie said as sweetly as she could, “Rod, I’m here at the park. You running late?”
“Oh Callie, sure, yeah, sorry. I should have called. I’m almost there. Got a late start. Sorry. Hope you don’t mind but I’m bringing Digger. He’s in need of a good romp today.”
“Digger?” Callie asked surprised. “Oh, well I guess.”
Rodney hung up abruptly. Callie felt a quiver of irritation. Digger was coming with Rodney. The large Labrador retriever was as hyper as any dog she ever knew. Rodney loved him though. Callie guessed he must want him along to calm his nerves? Seemed a downer to add the dog to their special day, but she must accept how he loved his dog. She must become a dog lover but this certain dog did nothing but get on her bad side. “Well,” she said quietly to herself. “Well, I’ll just have to learn to love him as Rodney does.” A small price to pay for Rodney.
Callie took out her small compact mirror and checked her face, applied some lip gloss and looked around. No Rodney still. Finally, ten minutes later, standing and stretching, she saw his jeep pull in and park. Rodney, tall, dark and hanging on for dear life to the leash of the black dog. Was he smiling or grimacing?
Callie felt an edge of irritation. He was late and here he was with the dog. She bit her tongue to not say anything negative and put on her best face. “Hi Rod, what kept ya?”
Rodney sat down near Callie after tying Digger to the nearby tree. The black lab panted and pulled for a good five minutes, but finally settled down. Rodney looked at the food Callie had now nicely distributed among them and said, “Thanks,” hastily taking a large bite out of the sandwich in front of him. “Great Callie! Nice going.”
Callie smiled and laid her hand on his. “I wanted today to be really special, Rod. Isn’t it beautiful out?”
Rodney nodded his mouth full, eyeing the cookies. “Hope you didn’t wait too long, Cal. I had a last-minute errand to run before I met ya.” Rodney drew a small box from his pocket.
“Oh!” Callie exclaimed. Her heart beat quickly in anticipation.
“Yeah, need your opinion on this little gem I picked up.”
Callie smiled coyishly, “My opinion? Little gem?”
“Yeah,” Rodney continued. “Let’s finish the meal and you can tell me what you think.”
Callie eyed the box suspiciously. It was small. Small was good. Engagement rings weren’t large.
Digger started to whine and Rodney threw him bits of his ham sandwich and potato chips. As he started to get up and untie Digger, Callie said sweetly, “I haven’t seen or heard much from you this week Rod. What have you been so busy with?”
Rodney stuttered a bit as he answered, “No…no…not much” and took off with Digger pulling him towards the pond. Callie got up quickly and followed them, running to keep up. “Wait for me!” she shouted laughing. Yet, a small part of her was hiding her hurt. Why . . .they had finished the meal. What of the box?
Ten minutes later, Digger lay next to the large oak panting and Rodney lay face up on the quilt with his eyes closed. Callie lay next to him and jabbed him in the ribs. “I like being cozy like this with you, Rod.”
“So, Ca al… “Rodney stuttered; his eyes closed. “What can you tell me about Liz Matthews? You know Jake’s ex.”
“Well,” Callie replied, trying to snuggle under Rodney’s outstretched arm. “Well, I don’t know her very well. She is very pretty I guess.”
“She is,” Rodney agreed a large smile on his face. “I’ve been invited to her get together tomorrow evening, it’s her birthday party.”
Callie looked up at Rodney and frowned. “You have?”
Rodney sat up quickly and drew the small box from his pocket. He opened it slowly and Callie held her breath. Why would he choose to talk about Liz Matthews now? Callie closed her eyes to concentrate on this special moment . . . finally, she opened her eyes to view a pair of gold earrings. The small box held a pair of gold hoops, not her desired engagement ring! Callie’s mouth felt suddenly dry and her chest began to feel tight. This was no engagement celebration.
“So, I got these for Liz, Cal. What do you think? Do you think she will like them?”
Callie sat up ramrod straight and looked at Rod, her bottom lip trembling. “You bought these for Liz Matthews? You are giving them to her? Earrings?”
“Well, yeah, I wanted your opinion, Cal. You are so fashionable and you know, up on the styles. They are rather simple. You think they are a good idea? Too personal? I’m just getting to know Liz and you know, we haven’t been seeing each other that long.”
Callie’s face was as white as snow. Her blue eyes turned stone cold with anger. “What? Seeing her? This is what you wanted to ask me?”
Rodney shut the small box and looked at Callie queerly, his mouth twisted in confusion, “What’s the matter, Cal? You act like a jealous girlfriend or something!? Geez, you’ve been my friend for so long, why would you care if I see Liz. I mean, it’s not like we’re engaged or anything!”
Callie felt hot tears on her cheeks. The only thing that came from her trembling mouth was, “But the kiss, the kiss . . . it told me much more.”
Rodney’s face flamed red. “Well, Cal, I’ll admit that was something. But, one kiss? You think that sealed it for us? I got a bit carried away then, I know. But it wasn’t any more than a kiss.”
Callie began to pack the picnic basket quickly and would not look at Rodney. Her heart was beating furiously and her eyes were dripping tears she couldn’t control. She had to get away, get out of the park. She had to get away from him. She felt Rod grab her arm.
“Whoa Cal, I’m sorry. I just thought, you know, we’ve been friends for so long and I never told you I loved you or anything.” Rodney’s face was a blur to Callie. Tears and sadness were blinding her. She only knew she had to leave this place and this huge disappointment immediately.
Rodney’s voice calling her name from behind her was a strange echo as she walked quickly towards her car. Throwing the picnic basket, quilt and her purse into her car, she sat in the front seat for a good five minutes, trying to stop crying. Then she heard a tap on her window. Looking up she saw Rodney. He was smiling, holding Digger who was tugging on his leash as usual.
“Cal, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do anything hurtful. But honestly, what do you think about the earrings?” Rodney showed them to her again, oblivious to her pain.
Taking a deep breath, wiping her eyes with her hand, Callie looked at her former boyfriend steadily and replied coldly. “They are perfect, Rodney.” She took them from his hand and pretended to examine them. She saw Digger squat at the end of his lead.
Rod turned and grimaced. “Awe Digger, not here boy.”
Getting out of the car, Callie walked to Rodney and his dog. Looking intently at the earrings again, she slowly removed them and held them up to his eyes before depositing them both into the large, odorous pile Digger had just left on the ground. “Yes Rod,” she bristled. “Quite the loveliest birthday present you could ever give Liz.” Entering her car, Callie gunned the engine and took off.
Rodney stood speechless, hands shoved deep into his jean pockets, looking at his spoiled gift. He certainly wasn’t touching those earrings now. Was this the way to treat a friend? Rubbing his temples and shaking his head he stared at the mess before him. What was the matter with that girl? You’d have thought he had cheated on her or something. Well, now the earrings were ruined. So now what should he get Liz? Pulling Digger away from the mess, Rodney strode to his jeep, Digger walked quietly for a change, apparently sensing his owner’s displeasure. What a wasted day this was - not to mention the money he’d lost on the earrings. Patting Digger on the head, he quipped unhappily to his dog, “What cha think ole pal? Guess we are back to square one. I’ll call Cal later, hopefully she’s just in one of her moods.”