I kept looking at the door expectantly, watching the people come in and go out of the restaurant. I could feel butterflies in my stomach, and I wondered if I’d even eat tonight. I was nervous — not even the light instrumental music playing in the background or the bright little candles dotting every table could make me calm down — but it was a good sort of nervousness. Looking around, I noticed that there were a few families, but most of them seemed to be couples, all of which were busy chatting or clinking their glasses together and cutlery on plates filling the air with the sound of dining. The waiters bustled in and out of the kitchens, some even skilfully and effortlessly balancing a number of platters on both their hands and along their arms, making the aroma of food waft around the place. After watching a few clever balancing tricks, I shifted my gaze back to the door.
Knowing that watching the door wouldn’t bring her here any sooner, I started giving my favourite watch, which she got me, more attention than a watch would usually get. I looked up at the door again. She wasn’t late, it was just that I was quite early. I checked my watch again. It read 7.28, two minutes before the time she said she’d get here. I often wondered how we ended up together; she’s the life of the party, a social butterfly, and I, shy and reserved. Once we went hiking in the coast and there was this huge rocky cliff that looked way too sandy and brittle for climbing. But Jen bugged and begged me to climb it with her. I gave in and on the way up I shouted, “I’m going to fall Jen, can we please go back?” like a frightened five-year-old while she laughed and dragged me to the top despite my complaints. We sat down there, where there was this terrific view of the sea, and we watched the sun turn a brilliant orange, bathing the world with its homely glow, as it set in the horizon. I joked that she should propose to me, because she was more like the man here, and she giggled about it for ages — I’m pretty sure she was still laughing when we climbed down, but that’s possibly because I started grumbling saying, “I knew I should never have climbed this thing.”
I patted the little box nestling in my coat. The pretty little ring inside it would be going to its owner today, and I bet it was just as impatient as me. I looked back at my watch which read 7.30 now. It was our sixth-year anniversary, another anniversary, but one I’m sure both of us would never forget.
Sensing movement at the entrance, I looked up and there she was, dressed in a deep maroon dress that fell down gracefully to her ankles with her hair flowing down in tight brown ringlets and a broad smile set across her face. Flawless. The whole world faded, and it was only her that I could see in my dizzying excitement. She knew right where I was the moment she came in. I don’t know how she did that. She walked over and I stood up to greet her with a peck on her cheek. Placing her clutch on the table, she smiled which made the butterflies flit around like crazy. “Let’s sit down, shall we?” she said laughingly. I must’ve stared a bit too long.
"Oh, yeah, sure,” I said. I had seen her like this a couple hundred times before, but I was still taken aback by how beautiful, well, absolutely stunning, she looked tonight.
And then it struck me. Although I had gone over what I called the “proposal process” painstakingly, I had missed one very important detail. I hadn’t thought for a second when I’d propose to her. “Before or after dinner?” I pondered, my palms beginning to sweat and I could even feel my blood pressure rising. I woke up from my coma of fretting when she touched my arm. “Tom? Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yes, I am. Why?” I asked, pretending as if I had totally not freaked out only seconds ago.
“You looked worried.”
“Oh, never mind. I’m fine,” I smiled and she smiled back but she didn’t look convinced. The look on her face was one I knew very well — she was going to pester me about it later.
Back to thinking about my question of when, I settled on after, wanting this to be a really good surprise. “So, how was your day?” I inquired casually.
“Went pretty well. Had a meeting in the morning and that was rather boring and tiring. Went out for coffee with Cassie and then went back to work. Uneventful but a pretty good day,” she said. I tried my hand at making small talk to make her feel at ease and to show her that I was actually fine (though in reality, quite nervous).
The waiter appeared moments later carrying menus. “A drink first?” asked Jen.
“Sure,” I said.
“You choose. I think I’m getting a call from Mum,” she said as she fumbled around her clutch. After going through the menu I ordered some champagne and when I turned back, her mouth had curled into a mischievous grin, replacing her usual angelic smile.
“What?” I asked, laughing. She produced a little box with a ring in it. My eyes widened as I touched my coat in a flurry, where the box should be. But it was still there. And she was holding up a different ring. “What?” I repeated, dumbfounded.
“Will you marry me?” she asked. I stared. “Tom, please don’t make your eyes so wide. The waiters will take them away thinking they’re saucers,” she quipped. I reached into the depths of the silky interior of my coat and took out my box.
“Will you?” I asked, speaking off the cuff. Now it was her turn.
“How- she stuttered.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“But you asked me to propose!” she exclaimed.
“No! I was joking, honey.”
I stared into her eyes, trying to fathom how on earth she had decided to propose the same day as I, and why she had taken everything so literally.
“Yes!” she said, finally breaking the silence. And we burst out laughing, constantly questioning each other with "how did you"s but neither of us quite answering them; we were too busy enjoying each other's company, savouring the moment as much as we could. The waiter set our glasses of champagne down on the table with two sweeps of his hand. We clinked our glasses and she said, “To a lifetime together.”
“With surprises,” I added.
How this happened, I still don’t know and probably will never know. I don’t believe in coincidences but instead believe that there’s a reason as to why things happen. I'd say we were meant to be, but meant-to-be situations are just way too ordinary. We were more than meant to be.