I Do, Esme
This has to be perfect. Esme is coming in a couple of minutes, and my girl is never late. Which means I don’t have long to finalise the dinner preparations.
“Okay, cutlery, check. Fairylights, check. Food?” I glance at my Rolex, “Hmm, dinner will be ready soon, that’s what the Head Chef said. Flowers? Check. Myself? Check.” The doorbell rings through the second floor’s intercom speakers, and I peer at my reflection, with my phone’s camera. Hmm, could’ve fixed my hair a little, but no matter, she’s here!
“Hi, Witchy. You look ravishing,”
“Rich Boy, how wonderful to see you again. As do you, you look most charming,” The butler who opened the door gives us mildly perplexed looks but doesn’t ask any questions. We both burst into laughter, and I hold my arm out to my girlfriend.
“Ok, ok, when we get to the second floor, you have to close your eyes, is that alright?”
“Am I getting a surprise?”
“How vague, Ry. I expected more from an honour student like you,”
“You’ll just have to trust me on this one, Es, you cheeky honour student,” She giggles at that, knowing full well we both write long essays in all our classes. We both walk up a flight of stairs, and I can’t help but notice everything about her. The cherry-red halter dress she’s wearing, with cherry earrings, and white peep-toe wedges. The faint red hue of her eyeshadow, her long lashes, and her pale pink lipstick. The best part is that she’s wearing the ruby (her favourite gemstone) necklace and matching bracelet I got her. Yes, I am knowledgeable in all degrees of fashion, you can thank my mother.
“Are you admiring my wonderful fashion sense, or checking me out?” She asks me slyly, and I hum with delight.
“Both. Kidding! It’s the first,”
“Well, your mother does take her job very seriously,”
“She’s not a rich fashion designer, model, and jeweller, for nothing. Ooh, okay, we’re here! Close your eyes, Witchy,” I cover my girlfriend’s eyes with one hand, and use the other to open the door to the ballroom. Which has been converted into a dining room for today’s date.
“Okay,” I grin, “You can open your eyes,” I take my hand off her eyes, and let her take in the sight of everything.
“Oh- wow. This… it’s so beautiful, Ryder,”
“All prepared by yours truly,” Esme kisses my cheek.
“Well done, yours truly,” She jokes, “Now, I want to see what we’re eating!” Like a true gentleman, I pull out her seat, wait till she’s seated, and then I sit down across her.
“Is this a dining hall?” She asks,
“No, actually. It’s a ballroom, except I took one table from the luncheon room, so it’s like our own private booth. Except replace ‘booth’ with ‘entire restaurant’,” Esme laughs and then takes a look at the menu card.
“I’m guessing this menu card was also made by yours truly,” I nod, smiling like a madman.
“They sound great, can I meet them?” I cough, covering my laugh, trying to sound serious.
“He’s an extremely busy guy, has an amazing girlfriend, I can see if I can get in touch with him,”
“Really?!” Esme gasps, “That. Would. Be. Amazing!” We both chuckle, and Esme reads the menu.
“Pumpkin soup, hmm, simple, but nice. Excellent choice. Then, grilled chicken, an assortment of vegetables, and elegant sauces. Sounds fancy, and finally, dessert! Chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis and white chocolate meringue drops. This sounds so posh!” She exclaims, looking at me with wide eyes.
“Flip it over, there’s something else on the back,”
“Oh?” Esme flips over the menu and then smiles. “A surprise?”
“Ooh, is that a waiter?” I turn around and see a waiter coming through the doors.
“Guess so,” I mutter, not realising Father had hired an actual professional waiter.
“For you Mademoiselle,” He places Esme’s entree in front of her, “And you Monsieur,” We both look at the food, and her stomach growls, loudly. Esme laughs.
“Thank you!” She tells the waiter, and as soon as he leaves, we both start eating.
“So, how are your classes going?” I ask her, drinking my soup, watching her smile.
“Eh, pretty normal. Lots of note-taking, drinking coffee, pulling all-nighters, all the good stuff,”
“That entertaining, huh?”
“Yep. What about you?”
“Same things, honestly. How come all the assignments are due on the same day?!” I complain and Esme shrugs.
“It’s university, Ryder. We’re honour students, it’s normal at this point,”
“True,” I agree sadly, as the waiter comes back with the main course.
“So, how are Mila and Aspen?”
“Mila just got her double piercings, and Aspen is thinking of being a teacher. They both said hi,”
“This is going to sound rude but… is it okay if we stop talking? The food is really delicious,” I laugh, only Esme would ask permission for something like that.
“Of course, of course. The faster you eat, the sooner you get your surprise.” Esme’s eyes widen slightly, and she continues to cut her meat.
Once we’re both done, (Esme wouldn’t stop gushing about the dessert) the waiter takes all our dishes and two butlers come in to pack up the table.
“Is it surprise time?” Esme asks, and she looks ready to jump up and down from sheer excitement.
“It’s surprise time!” She cheers with delight; she’s so cute when she’s excited.
“Take off your shoes, Esme,” My girlfriend follows my instructions, and I do the same, then roll up my sleeves. Music starts playing from the speakers.
“I… It feels like I’m in a movie,” Esme breathes and I smile softly.
“Well, milady? Shall we dance?”
“Of course, dear sir.” At first, we don’t say anything. I lead Esme as we waltz to the ballroom music. The lights are slightly dimmed and it reminds me of Year 12 formal. It’s strange knowing that I didn’t know Es back then. After the ballroom and classic music plays, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ comes on and Esme sighs happily.
“I love this song,” She whispers, resting her head on my shoulder as we sway to the music.
“That’s why I chose it,” I murmur in her ear.
“Thank you, Ry. This is amazing,”
“Anything for you, baby girl,” Esme kisses my earlobe, and then trails down my neck, tickling my skin.
“Do you think…” I begin, as Esme kisses my cheek. “Ed Sheeran wrote this song about you?” She smiles, shaking her head.
“You flatter me, Ryder, but no,”
“You can’t weave your way out of this one, Es. I know you like flattery,”
“To an extent,” She winks as the song reaches the chorus.
“‘Darling, you look perfect tonight.’” I say, looking at Esme the whole time.
“I love you too, Ryder.” She presses her lips against mine, her hands in my hair, and I give myself up to her. She is my home, my comfort, my peace of mind. She pulls away, gasping for breath and I lift her up, swinging her off her feet.
“So, you decided to literally sweep me off my feet,” I can’t help but laugh.
“Well, I’m glad you did. It feels like I’m in a dream,”
“It’s my pleasure. Besides my parents love catering for dates like this, they love you,”
“You can come over to my place next time. I won’t be as elaborate as yours but-”
“Whatever you provide, I’ll be satisfied,”
“Aww thanks, Ry.” And we go back to dancing in silence, our smiles brighter than the moon outside. Our movements and heartbeats synchronised as one.
-- 5 years later --
Everything is so different now. Esme and I have moved in together, in a large house my parents gave to me. Esme is still studying since her medical degree takes years, and I’ve completed my Masters. Plus, I co-own my father’s business, his excuse was, “I’m getting old, Ryder. You’ll have to help your old man out.”
“Esme,” I say one crisp afternoon.
“We’re twenty-four this year, can you believe six years ago we met at the graduation lunch?”
“Six years?! Goodness, that makes me feel so old!”
“We’re going to be middle-aged soon, oh Lord!”
“Hah! I can see it now, you in a suit, walking to your business and everyone will know you as the big boss.” I laugh,
“Well, I suppose that’s a nice thought.”
-- 2 years later --
“I know… it’s crazy and frankly, a little early, but…” I get down on one knee.
“Will you marry me?”
“Oh my God… Yes! Of course, how could I say no?” She laughs, wiping her eyes, “I’m going to cry… Gah, you’re making me cry, Ryder!” She whacks my arm and I laugh, before pressing my lips onto hers. I slip the ring on her finger, a gold band with a small ruby on it.
“I have the whole collection now!” She exclaims, hugging me so tightly I can barely breathe.
“I love you, Esme.”
“I love you, Ryder.”
“I know this isn’t a traditional way of starting your vows. Especially when these are the words you live with for the rest of your life. So, here goes nothing. Hi, Witchy,” There’s laughter from the crowd, and Esme doesn’t even try to hold back her smile.
“I can’t believe seven years ago, we met. I think if we hadn’t, my life would’ve never changed. Thank you for being ‘you’, Esme. I love you for who you are, you make me the happiest person alive, and I would never change that for the world. I do, Esme. I do, so many times, even more times than Phillippa Soo sang in Helpless,” Esme grins at the musical reference.
“You light up something inside of me. A burning passion that longs for you. I love you, Esme Peltonen.”
“Hello, Ryder. Ry, Rich boy. I have so many things I want to say to you. You have given me everything I could’ve ever wanted. When Mila told me that afternoon, “Es, try to make some conversation with our fellow cohort!” I realised something. That was my last chance, the last thing I would do in high school. So, thank you, Mila!” She waves to her cousin, who’s grinning like her ship has sailed. Which it has.
“I’m so glad I met you, Ryder Nibali. You’ve only changed me for the better. It looks like you’re stuck with me forever.” She smiles widely as the audience laughs again, and we exchange rings.
“You may kiss the bride.” I don’t hear anything when I kiss Esme, no cheering or clapping, just the sound of her heart hammering like mine, as the wedding bells go off.
-- 1.5 years later --
“Esme? I’m home!” I peer into the kitchen, only to find no one, where is she?
“Esme!” I call, and search the house, dropping my laptop bag onto a chair. I walk into the bathroom, and Esme has a hand clamped over her mouth, as tears run down her face.
“Esme!” I rush over to her, “Are you alright?” My voice goes an octave higher in desperation.
“What if I’m not good enough, Ryder?! What if I can’t do it?”
“Do what, Esme?”
“Be a mother!” She sobs, and I laugh a little.
“Oh God, darling, girl, you’re the most competent person, I know. You’re going to be fine, okay? I’ll be with you, every step of the way.”
I hold her hair back as she throws up.
“I hate this,” She groans, and I sigh.
“I know, baby girl, it won’t be for too much longer,”
“Thank God,” She whispers. After a pause, she adds.
“If it’s a boy, I call dibs with Landon,”
“You can’t call dibs on our kid’s name, Esme!”
“Yes, I can, and I just did!”
“I like Eli, though,”
“Fine. Landon Eli. Oh! Cassie if it’s a girl,”
“And her middle name is Monica after your mum,”
“Okay, so if it’s a boy, Landon Eli, and if it’s a girl, Cassie Monica?”
I smile fondly at the photo frame on the counter.
“Daddy? What are you looking at?” I turn to see my son, and I lift him onto my lap.
“This is your mum and I on our wedding day,”
“Ooh, Mama’s so pretty!”
“Isn’t she?” I kiss the back of my son’s head, hugging him gently. “I love you just as much as I love your mum,”
“Woah, that’s a lot of love, Daddy. You love Mama soooo much!”
“It sure is bud. One day, when you’re all grown up, you’ll understand how much I love her,”
“But I’m already grown up, Daddy! I know how much you love Mama, so much, you would build her a new planet!”
“A new planet?”
“Uh-huh! A big purple one that has lots of stripes,”
“Okay, Landon. That’s a little far-fetched. I don’t have the power to do that, buddy,”
“Sure you do! Besides, it’s a good idea for a seven-year-old!”
“True, you’re very smart for your age. You follow your mum after that,” We hear keys jangling in the front door, “Speaking of your mum, she’s home!”
“Hi, Mama! Hi, Mama!” My son races to the front door,
“Hey, Landon! How was your afternoon with Daddy?”
“Awesome! He’s going to build a new planet for you!”
“Oh?” Esme raises an eyebrow at me, and I shrug.
“Welcome home, Es.” I say as the two of us hug Landon, as we share a loving look. The photo frame remains on the table, our smiles matching the ones we have right now.