This is my worst nightmare.
“What do you mean it’s not here?” The clerk is looking at me with his eyebrows pinched together, worrying at his bottom lip.
“We lost it,” he explains again, and my vision whites out for a second. “We’ll of course give you a full refund, or you’re more than welcome to pick out one of our ready-made designs –“ the clerk continues but I’m no longer listening. The ring. The ring is gone. My plan is ruined.
Today was going to be perfect – like a set of dominoes, all lined up, one after the other. Ring, suit, restaurant, photographer, friends. But now – now, it’s going to be a catastrophe. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
As I head out of the jeweler’s, onto the street, I feel numb. It’s cool outside, the fall breeze whipping my scarf up into my face. As I brush it down, I flag a taxi driving by. The day is overcast, grey skyscrapers casting their shadows over grey streets against grey clouds. The trees are turning, and the hues of yellow, orange, and red stand out beautifully against the grey backdrop of the city. It’s the perfect day for a botched proposal.
The driver asks where I’m going, and I give him the address for the dry cleaner where my suit is waiting. I bought the perfect suit. A crisp black that’s both slimming and classic, and it makes me look like James Bond. I’ve already been to the hairdresser and my brown hair is perfectly coiffed, falling just-so over my forehead without covering my blue eyes, which I know Jaime likes.
The people at the dry cleaners are nice enough. My suit looks neat and clean beneath the fabric of the garment bag.
When I get back to our apartment, I head over to the landline that Jaime insisted we have, despite my protests that we both have cellphones, and pick up the receiver. I’m seriously contemplating calling this whole thing off. But the restaurant is reserved, and I know Jaime will be disappointed if we cancel – and ask why. The photographer won’t give me back my deposit since it’s less than twenty-four hours’ notice, and I’ll have our friends climbing down my throat to find out what happened. With a sigh, I set the receiver back down and go change into my suit.
Looking at myself in the mirror, it’s as flawless as I imagined it would be. I recall trying it on in the store and how wonderful it felt then. It’s even better now that it’s mine. The fabric is silky against my skin and the cut of the suit is as flattering as possible, sitting elegantly on my shoulders, and trimming in slightly at my waist where the waistband of the pants rests.
I finger the pocket where I would have tucked the ring box and feel myself start to sweat. Which is just. Not allowed in this suit.
It’s only an hour until I meet Jaime at the restaurant. But maybe, if I think about it hard enough, I can figure something out. Looking back, I probably should have just gone with one of the ready-made designs at the jeweler. But nothing seemed right, and this day has to be absolutely perfect. Of course, it’ll hardly be that without a ring.
An hour later I’m at the restaurant doors, armed with nothing but roses and a faltering sense of confidence. Jaime looks radiant. Red hair lighting up under the restaurant chandeliers, freckles bright, honeyed eyes playful and rich. I would die for that laugh.
Dinner passes in a flash, and I’m too nervous to even think about ordering dessert. Our conversation has been light, mostly surface stuff since I’m too preoccupied to fully engage. I’m worried that Jaime has noticed. I’m also worried that I’ve been glancing at our photographer, sitting discreetly at another table, too often. And that makes me worry that I’ll be found out. But that makes me think about my inevitable question, which makes me sweat more, which makes me wonder why Jaime would ever say yes to a sweaty disaster like me who can’t even accomplish a proper proposal, which brings me back to the ring. But then I’m worrying that if I think the words ‘proposal’ or ‘ring’ too loudly Jaime will hear them and I’ll be found out, and so the cycle starts anew.
“Morgan?” Shit. Jaime is looking at me. I try to recall the last few seconds of conversation, but I’m drawing a blank. Nervous laughter bubbles out of me and Jaime’s eyebrows shoot up. “You ok?”
“Fine, fine,” I say, while internally, I scream.
“You gonna repeat everything twice?” I laugh again, shifting in my seat.
“Sorry, just nervous,” I say, like an idiot. Jaime looks even more confused now.
It’s now or never. Before I completely blow my cover, I pluck a rose from the bouquet on the table and pull out my chair.
“What’re you –“ and then I’m on one knee and Jaime is gasping and I’m holding up the stupid rose instead of a ring and I’m saying,
“Jaime, I know I’m an idiot and I don’t have a ring – long story – but I love you so much – I love your laugh and your sense of humor and your outbursts and your passion and your freckles and your terrible cooking and your kindness and your joy, and I’ve never felt this way about anyone else. So, Jaime, will you –“ and then Jaime is interrupting, flinging arms around me, and somewhere off to our right a camera is clicking like crazy, and people are clapping, and I think I’m crying. I think we both are.
And somehow, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a ring. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t perfect. In fact, nothing seems to matter at all except Jaime’s arms around me and the whispered words ringing in my ears. Yes, yes, yes.