Stifling hot leading yanking on the collar of my freshly pressed dress shirt-check
A marching bland playing in my head-check
A circus performer on trapize in my stomach-check
Yep, it must be official, I'm about to propose.
I picture the look on Jason's face when I broke the news last month while we were watching the Indians crush the Braves: 4-0. Jason was devestated since Ruiz just missed celebrating a no-hitter. I was too nervous to really care.
Between nachos and stale beer, I blurted out, "I'm going to propose to Mallory."
Jason's bushy eyebrows rose and his mouth dropped open, catching flies for a moment or two. Then he laughed so hard, he knocked his wings onto the floor, gaining the attention of the other patrons inside Patty's Grille. I ducked my head while our waitress Carol came over to mop up the mess. Man, I hate attention."
Jason sat back, staring me straight on. "You're serious aren't you?" His question was amusing since it's his sister whom introduced me to Mallory nearly a year ago.
"Yeah man, I am." I glued my gaze back to the screen but felt a bit judged by my best friend and confirmed bachelor. Didn't he like Mallory?
"If marriage is what you want then I'll cheer like the best of them," Jason stated, a smirk on his lips. "Just don't try to set me up with any bridesmaids. I don't want a 'ball and chain.'
I shrugged a shoulder, letting his comment slide. Mallory was it for me and not even my best friend could talk me out of it.
My lucky penny must be hard at work because the weather is beautiful despite a 40% chance of thunderstorms. A few cottontail clouds pass lazily across the sky and the sun shines warm on the flowerbeds surrounding the gazebo I'm standing in. Even the daffodils and petunias appear to be smiling.
Thirty-two years ago, a shy man and his gregarious love committed their lives to each other, standing right here in the middle of a beautiful gazebo next to a small pond in a community arboretum. They were young and poor but nothing could stop their love. It blossomed and grew until four kids and three grandchildren joined the family.
And right here, where my Dad stood staring into my Mom's eyes, I stand, waiting. Waiting for Mallory to figure out my clues. Waiting to know if she is ready to commit a lifetime to a computer programmer with a penchant for BBQ, music and baseball.
Did Dad feel as if his knees would buckle right underneath him? As if his heart would jump right out of his chest and fly to the moon?
10 clues, 10 stops, 1 ring.
Waiting, hoping, wondering. Hoping that Mallory will love the scavenger hunt to the 10 most meaningful places in our relationship-ending right here at the Gazebo where I first asked her to be my girl.
I impinge Mallory laughing as she stops at Triangle Fountain, the place where I cemented my darkness by falling into the fountain fully clothed. Who knew clumsiness was a Walter family trait?
It is easy to picture her finding the next clue under computer number 7 in the college library where we met often to study for our college courses. Many of our coffee dates were spent analyzing body parts and systems for our anatomy class.
So many memories swirling around like leaves tossed in the wind. Some short and sweet as our first, tentative kiss. Some rough and worn as in our first fight over a miscommunication about our date time.
The blaring of a short, low horn resounds. A black compact car pulls up to the curb, stopping in the crosswalk.
A whirlwind of blond curls and long legs races up the winding sidewalk leading to the Gazebo. She leaps up the four steps before skidding to a stop in front of me. Her sea green eyes sparkle and in her hands are folded pieces of paper, my scavenger hunt clues.
My hands tremble but I manage to hold my guitar in place. I clumsily strum the strings before gaining my bearing. Meeting Mallory's terry gaze and wide smile, I begin to sing.
The melody of Jim Croce's "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song" floats about, wrapping Mallory and I in a cocoon. Amazingly, my voice doesn't waver or crack like a broken egg. I am able to make it though the entire song without messing up a single note.
I gently lay the guitar aside as the final note fades away. Going down on one knee in my best suit (my only suit), I pull out my grandmother's ring. A single round solitaire surrounded by eight small rubies, it is barely a glimpse of the magnitude of love I hold in my heart.
The frog in my throat threatens to stay but I force it out so my words flow fast and low. "Mallory Jane, I never imagined how great my life could be until you entered. I don't have the fancy words you deserve and I can't tell you all the ways you bless my life because its too many to count. What I do know is that I want to spend my life showing you every day just how wonderful life can be when two soul mates journey together. Mallory Jane Stevens, will you marry me?"
The 'yes' I'm waiting for is lost in the flurry of tears and body parts as Mallory throws her arms around me, knocking me two steps backwards before kissing me unreservedly.
Never have I felt more alive and scared at the same time. This woman is everything I have ever wanted and more valuable than a my autographed baseball. She. Is. My. World.
I hope this means yes.
Yes to new beginnings. Yes to fulfilled dreams. Yes to a lifetime of adventure.
I'll never forget my notes in time.