Funny Romance Suspense

“It has to be perfect, Mick. Absolutely perfect!”

“Perfect’s an ideal. You’ll never quite get there, man.”

Stevie shoot a look at his pal. Mick leaned casually against the doorframe that entered into Stevie’s hotel room, the very picture of chill, as unfazed as one could be.

“Cut me some slack on the deep thoughts, Mick. Not now.” Stevie took in a lungful of the salty air. “Tomorrow's gotta go off without a hitch. I’ve poured my heart into getting every detail right for months.” He swiveled around to drink in the view in front of them—a sprawling canvas of twinkling stars scattered across the night’s ceiling. The moon hung heavy, a luminous orb casting a silvery path across the undulating ocean. Down at the beach's edge, a man’s laughter mingled with his dog’s joyous barks, the pair lost in their own little world of fetch.

“For almost a year, I’ve saved up so that I could bring her here, to Hawaii, where she’s always dreamed of vacationing.” Stevie murmured, picking at the steel railing of the balcony. “I want it to be just like she’s talked about picturing it being when she was a little girl. That ultimate sunset proposal on the beach, pulled straight out of a romance novel, right after the most enchanting evening.”

“Dude, sounds like you’ve got it figured out. Why the freak-out?” Mick quizzed, an eyebrow raised in amusement.

“Because there’s a canyon-wide gap between plotting and pulling something off, Mick. Look, I’ve booked a table at Saltwater Dining for five sharp tomorrow… but what if we hit a delay, end up walking in at half-past, and she’s sour ‘cause we had to linger in the lobby... or what if the meal’s a total bust, despite the rave reviews online… or-”

“Or the Rapture happens, and you miss your shot to pop the question?” Mick interjected, his chuckle breaking the tension. “Ease up, Stevie. You’re winding yourself way too tight. It’s all gonna be cool. You love her. She loves you. Even if it skews off-script, it’ll be your kind of perfect.”

Stevie let out a sigh and leaned back against the railing, eyes shut, letting the symphony of the waves whisper reassurance.

“Yeah, I get that’s your take, Mick.” He murmured. “But my life’s been like a trainwreck on a loop. My dad was a drunk who only had kind words for me when he needed help staggering out of his own mess… Mom spent all her time fretting over him. I got the dregs of her love... Then Hailey comes along... and she—it’s like she shined a light on me, made me feel valued, like I was someone. I just… I really want to nail this proposal, for her.”


Stevie stirred awake, his body enveloped in a cocoon of warmth. As consciousness took hold, he realized the source of his comfort was the plush hotel bed he was sprawled across, and even better, Hailey was curled up beside him, her breathing steady and peaceful.

Stevie's thoughts instantly became a fuzzy mush at the sight of her. But then, a nagging question poked through his morning brain fog.

"Hailey, when did you sneak in here?" Stevie rolled over and groggily began smacking at the bedside table, searching for his phone. 

“Well, it’s nine thirty.” Hailey laughed. She propped herself up on one elbow, a fond smile playing on her lips. “I woke up and thought you looked cold. Like you could use a snuggle.”

Nine thirty? Stevie glared at his phone. I set an alarm for eight! We were supposed to have breakfast at eight ten and then go meet Mick and Jacy at the pier for slushies at nine and-.

"This hunk of technology was supposed to serve one job," Stevie grunted. He plopped the Android back onto the table with a soft thud.

Hailey let out a yawn. She swung her legs over the bed, her movements deliberate and languid. 

"See? That’s why you need to switch to Apple,” she teased. She hopped out of bed and groggily stumbled over to her own a few steps away, with only a stream wide gap of white carpet acting as a barrier between the two beds. 

Though they’d been dating for two years, Hailey’s family and Stevie’s mother were all in agreement about a handful of old fashioned romance etiquette.

Not sleeping in the same bed until marriage was one of those things, and Hailey agreed she wanted to wait.

Stevie snorted at the usual jesting regarding his choice of phone provider. He rolled his eyes, "Apple, Android—They're all the same." He stood up in a hurried motion, scrambling to get himself ready for the day, determined to make up for lost time.

"All of it, just unpredictable," he grumbled.

Hailey chuckled. "Now you're channeling my dad with his tech rants."

She sat on her bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, then she began getting dressed herself. Stevie watched her, his heart skipping a beat. Hailey moved with a natural grace, her red hair a wild, fiery cascade that tumbled over her shoulders. Her eyes, those emerald globes, twinkled with the same mischief that had captivated him from day one. She only needed a dab of makeup; her beauty was the effortless kind that could turn a simple morning into a memory worth savoring. And as he stood there, half-dressed and wholly awestruck, it struck him all over again just how perfect she was. 

That was why this had to be perfect! 


But perfect seemed to be becoming more and more of… what had Mick said? Ah, yeah. An ideal. 

The hotel's breakfast buffet had long since packed up by the time Stevie and Hailey made their way to the lobby, forcing them to substitute anticipated morning romance with a practical drive-thru at Wendy's.

At Wendy's, Stevie ordered two burgers with French fries. 

To his surprise, they handed him two fish sandwiches with tater tots. 

He tried to return the error of a meal in exchange for his correct order, but they insisted on having a receipt that he hadn’t had the earlier foresight to get. A snobby teenage employee with a face. overtaken by pimples told him, "You might be trying to scam us for free food." 

Ironically, this was the same kid who had taken their order.

But, not wanting to ruin the day by getting an assault charge for taking the kid’s face and shoving it into a fish sandwich, to assure him that it was, most definitely, not a burger as they’d ordered, Stevie gave up the fight, and he and Hailey ate the sandwiches.

They both hated fish. 

At the pier, Mick and Jacy were already sitting down at a table waiting for them. Stevie had told the couple that he and Hailey would be late, so the two had gone out for a breakfast of their own before meeting them at ten thirty. 

“Hailey, that necklace is stunning!” Jacy commented, as they all sat overlooking the ocean and sipping slurpees. 

"Thanks, J," Hailey beamed, touching the pendant— a fox— with the sort of affection reserved for a treasured gift. "It's from Stevie—he got it for me on our first year anniversary."

And it hit him—a fleeting lapse in memory. Yes, he'd chosen that piece with love in his heart and a skip in his step.

He played it cool, though, lifting his raspberry slushie in a toast-like gesture. "Oh, I was about to say—it looks absolutely breathtaking on you, Babe."

The exchange earned Stevie an eye roll from Mick and a slightly skeptical, though amused, look from Hailey. 

“Men,” Jacy muttered, giving Hailey an exasperated shake of her head. “As unobservant as a race of blind monks.” 


Leaving the pier, while Jacy was giving Hailey a hug goodbye, Mick's hand landed on Stevie's shoulder with a brotherly thump, his voice a hushed murmur of support, "You got this, man. Good luck." Stevie was starting to have trouble breathing quite right. He dipped a hand in his pocket as he and Hailey walked down the pier together. 

"Everything good?" Hailey's voice laced with concern as she eyed him. 

He flicked a glance her way, quick and furtive, his mind a whirlwind of what-ifs. What if she says no? What if I mess it up? What if she doesn’t like me that much? What if I’m not worthy of her? 

It all surged like a riptide, threatening to pull him under. His fingers grazed the velvety box in his pocket, and he managed to get his voice out as an unconvincing whisper, "Just feeling the heat, that's all."

Hailey linked her arm with his, a touch playful yet full of tenderness, "Aren't we all? It's sweltering!" But her smile waned, her laughter lost in translation as Stevie's response was nothing more than a forced chuckle, hollow and half-hearted.


Back at the hotel, the couple went down for a soak in the hot tub. 

The hot tub's warmth enveloped them, a liquid cocoon of tranquility. Hailey rested her head against Stevie's chest.

In this quiet reprieve, memories unfurled within Stevie's mind. Memories of when he’d first laid eyes on Hailey Smith.

He’d been eighteen, fresh out of high school and newly moved to South Dakota. He’d had to get out of his parent’s house. 

He couldn’t live under the same roof as his dad. Not for another minute. 

He’d been flat out broke before he’d got his current job as a school bus driver. 

Back then, he’d been jumping from job to job, and living in low-rent motels and rooms that played host to more bed bugs than guests. It was during this nomadic chapter of his life that fate decided to toss Hailey into his path.

The vision of her was as vivid in his mind as if it were happening right then: Hailey, a hotel maid, marching confidently with a mountain of fluffy, white towels in her arms, destined for the poolside cabana. Meanwhile, Stevie was engrossed in a fiery exchange with his mom on his cell phone, lost in frustration and not watchful of where he was going until — bam! A clumsy collision, and the towels took a dive into a hot tub.

"Aw, crap," Stevie could almost hear his past-self groaning. He'd quickly ended the call, his face a mix of embarrassment and concern as he turned to the victim of his distraction. "I'm sorry about that... Let me help you out with those," he had stammered, eager to make amends.

But Hailey, a striking figure with her vibrant auburn hair and emerald eyes that seemed to peer into his very soul, brushed off the mess. "Don't worry about the towels. I've got that covered," she had assured him with an unexpected warmth. “But how about you? Are you okay? That didn’t sound good.”

Are you okay? Not your usual start to a romance that would last for years… but that’s exactly how it had been for them.

Hailey had this expansive heart that could prioritize a stranger's hurt over the inconvenience he'd just piled onto her shift, and it was that very heart that had drawn him in, and kept him there, all these years.


Stevie jumped, yanked out of his whirling thoughts. Hailey was frowning at him in concern.

“Sorry, Babe. I was daydreaming.” He gave a ridgid smile. “It’s like a little taste of heaven in here.” 

Hailey peered at him.

“Are you sure you're alright?” She asked. “You looked pretty out of it, Steve.”

“I’m fine! Absolutely fine!” Stevie kissed her forehead. She tasted so good… like vanilla cupcakes mixed with honey and spiced up with sugar. “I promise.”

At least I will be, as long as tonight goes the way it’s supposed to. 


Dinner went fine. They got seated at their table at five o five… fashionably late. The food was good, not great, but good. There was a candle in the center of the table that had a sweet aroma of lavender to it. Classical music was played live on a stage in the center of the restaurant. The waiter, a veritable linguistic maestro, pirouetted between languages like French, Spanish, and Italian with the ease of a seasoned diplomat.

Only problem was.

He. Did. Not. Speak. A. Word. Of. English.

Hailey spoke some French, enough to clarify what she wanted to eat. Stevie had a problem when the waiter turned to him.

“Uh… I’ll have the… uh..” He found rather quickly that most things on the menu were written in French. “This.” Stevie pointed at the first dish that happened to catch his eye. The waiter nodded, jotting down the order. 

“Est-ce tout ce dont vous avez besoin?” He asked. Stevie blinked.

“Uh… medium rare?” he ventured a guess.

“Non, monsieur. Est-ce que cela sera tout?”

“Or well done, or rare… or whatever works?” Stevie coughed, not knowing what on earth he was saying, or what this man was saying.

Hailey, bless her heart, saved him just in the nick of time. 

“C'est tout pour le moment. Merci!” She said, smiling. The waiter walked off. Stevie gave her a puzzled frown.

“What was he saying?” He asked. 

“If, well, if that was all you wanted.” Hailey’s lip twitched, her eyes sparkling. “I don’t think ‘medium rare’ quite answers that question.”

Stevie wanted to sink down through the floor and die.

This was not going the way he’d planned it. 


After dinner, Stevie drew up all his courage. He led Hailey out to the beach. The sun was setting over the water, casting an orange stain upon the waves. Hailey took out her phone, snapping a few photos of the scenery.

“Say what you will about technology.” She murmured. “I love being able to capture moments like this forever.”

The wind brushed past them. Further down the beach, that same man and his dog that Stevie had been watching the night before plodded along. The dog’s yapping made him scowl.

Again, that was not a part of the way he’d planned this. 

He reached into his pocket and touched the box. 

“Er,” Stevie cleared his throat. “Hailey?”

Hailey stopped taking pictures of the sunset. Playfully, she turned the phone towards him and snapped a few photos. Stevie's palms grew sweaty as he tried to gather his thoughts.

“Um…I… I wanted…” Suddenly, it felt like there was a frog in his throat. He coughed. Hailey raised both eyebrows.

“Are the snails not sitting well?” She teased, referring to his random choice of French cuisine— escargot.

“No!” Stevie rubbed his throat. This was not going to happen. He was not going to let his own nerves ruin this moment. “No. I wanted-.” He started to pull out the box.

Get down on one knee first, you idiot! His mind snapped.

Stevie dropped to his right knee. Hard. He winced as his kneecap thumped into the sand. 


"Will you," he began shakily, his fingers trembling as they revealed the box and its precious cargo: a diamond ring that shimmered with the intensity of his earnest heart under the waning light of day. "Will you marry me, Hailey Smith?"

Stevie tried to look at her face. It was blurry. His heart was pounding in his ears, his stomach curled in knots. He saw her mouth move, a vague shape of red.


Something whizzed through the air, hitting Stevie clear in the side of the head. A cry of pain escaped him as he toppled backward, a whirl of fur and paws clambering over him with exuberant barks.

“Steve… oh my goodness…”

Stevie peered around him, dazed. He saw the tail of a dog. The dog turned to face him, a sandy, slobbery, frisbee in his mouth. Stevie was holding the ring with one hand. With the other he felt along his chest.

His suit, which he’d rented out for this evening, was covered in paw prints. 

I just got hit in the face by a frisbee and then trampled by a German Shepherd while proposing, Stevie closed his eyes. This can’t get any worse. 

“Sorry about that!” The dog’s owner yelled. Stevie clambered to his feet. The dog bounded back over to his master. 

Stevie glared at him.

“Yeah. No big deal. Not like this is the most important moment of my life or anything.” He muttered.

“Stevie! You are so…” Hailey was doubled over laughing. Stevie's face turned crimson with embarrassment.

“Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot, I ruined it… I…I’m sorry.” he mumbled, feeling defeated.

“I was going to say you're amazing.” Hailey stopped laughing, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. “This evening has been absolutely perfect!” 

Stevie gaped at her.

"Perfect?" he scoffed. "Are you kidding me? We missed breakfast, Wendy's messed up our order, I didn't even notice your pendant, I've been a nervous wreck all day, I can't speak French, I ate snails, and now I've been bulldozed by a dog. And you... you think today was perfect?"

Hailey gently took hold of both his hands, her thumb lightly caressing the ring box.  

"Yes," she whispered, her eyes filled with undeniable love and longing. "It was perfect. Stevie, don't you understand? I never want you to change for me. I fell in love with you because of who you are! You're funny, lighthearted, and you have your own special way of doing things. And that's exactly what today was – special! It was special because we experienced all those things together, whether they were good or bad, and anything I do with you is perfect." Hailey moved her hands from his to cup his face, leaning in to press her lips against his. When they pulled away, she gave him a tender smile.  

"Yes," she whispered. "I will marry you, Steve Northfield."  

She kissed him again, and Stevie kissed her back, sliding the ring from the box onto her finger.

And everything was perfect.

February 17, 2024 04:58

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Kristi Gott
15:16 Feb 17, 2024

What a wonderful, uplifting story! Life can be perfect in its imperfections. Well done! I enjoyed this story.


C.N. Jung
14:59 Feb 26, 2024

Thank you, Kristi, for reading! Yes, Life is truly beautiful, even though it doesn’t always work out the way we plan for it to. Your feedback is much appreciated, and I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed my story!


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Alexis Araneta
15:14 Feb 17, 2024

Perfect (hahahaha!) ending there !


C.N. Jung
15:01 Feb 26, 2024

Thank you, Stella! 😂


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Dylan Martin
00:36 Feb 22, 2024

Hi C.N., you're in my critique circle this week :) Lovely little story! I liked the suspense that built up to him popping the question. And it was an interesting choice to begin with the dialog between friends (though the end of it feels a bit expository; why is he dumping his backstory on his friend like this?). I really loved this line: "her beauty was the effortless kind that could turn a simple morning into a memory worth savoring." And the imagery of him smashing the kid's face into the fish sandwich gave me a laugh. The beach scen...


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Mary Bendickson
15:54 Feb 20, 2024

Charming! Even if he wasn't quite the prince he wanted to be. Thanks for liking my 'Alyce's Restaurant'.


C.N. Jung
15:06 Feb 26, 2024

Thank you, Mary! Stevie really put a lot of pressure on himself, thinking he needed to be perfect for Hailey. But in her eyes, he was already everything she could ever want. I appreciate the feedback!


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David Sweet
14:08 Feb 18, 2024

Yes, nothing seems to go to plan but works out great. I messed up my proposal to my wife too, but here we are 34 years later! Thanks for the story. It was real. Very rarely does ideal happen, but that's life. Thanks for sharing this story.


C.N. Jung
15:13 Feb 26, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to read, David! It's wonderful to hear that you found a connection with this story. I can only imagine that you have your own fascinating tale to share about an intriguing proposal! 😁 I appreciate the feedback!


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