Although I’d told him not to get me anything, I am secretly buzzing inside. Right there, on the dining room table, in the middle of two beautiful place settings and a chilling bottle of bubbly is a small black leather box, encircled with a bright red, glossy ribbon.
Am I ready? Oh hell ya, I think. Four years together and I’ve been waiting at least three of those for this day.
“Honey?” Brett calls from upstairs. “Are you home? Do not go in the dining room!”
I tiptoe out of the room I’m not supposed to be in and call out; “I’m starving! When’s dinner?”
There’s a familiar creak from that fourth stair and there he is, curled lip, white teeth and a shock of chocolate locks. The smell of fresh laundry mixed with his cologne tickles my nose.
He still makes me shiver. I am so ready for that ring.
He crosses the floor in two strides and his tanned arms encircle me like the ribbon around the box.
“Hey, babe. I’ve been waiting for you. Dinner’s ready.”
He twirls me around to face the dining room and guides me from behind, a hand on each of my hips.
“Sit,” he commands. “Dinner in a minute, but first…”
I close my eyes. Here it comes, I think. Oh my God, I am about to be proposed to. I am about to be a fiancé!
The pop of the cork makes me jump and my eyes fly open.
“Oh, I thought we’d do that after.” I say, confused.
“Absolutely not!” He says, seemingly appalled. “Champagne with dinner is a must.”
Brett is head chef at the local Indian Fusion and we bask in Vindaloo smothered Basmati, crispy meat-filled Samosas and crunchy vegetable Pakoras dripping in Tamarind.
I eat a lot more than I should and drink a little more than I mean to. My eyes keep veering over to the box. I cover my impatience by pulling out the card I bought him from the back pocket of my jeans.
Hi rips through my leisurely scrawl and pulls out the content of the envelope.
“Nice.” He says from behind the big red heart on the front of the card. “I love you too, sweetheart. Which is why…” He finally hands me the box. “I got you this.”
As I open it, I can’t help but think it’s weird that I am the one doing this while he just sits and stares, rather than getting down on one knee, but I put that out of my mind. I quickly realize it’s not what I want to be thinking while I ponder an impending lifelong commitment.
I’m blinded by the glint created as the light from our chandelier bounces off the large jewel in the box. It takes my breath away.
“Do you like it?” He asks hopefully. “There’s a card too. Here, open it. It’ll all make more sense.”
I put the box down, tears welling, and read the card he’s handed to me.
“I don’t get it.” I say, my voice strangled with emotion.
“It’s white gold and a real diamond, but if you don’t like it there were lots to choose from. We can go in together…”
“Like it? We’ve had this conversation a thousand times. No, I don’t like it. I…”
“Babe, it’ll look good. I know it will.”
I fight with the lump in my throat and somehow manage to swallow it down. I watch as he takes the gem out of the box and then dangles it in front of me.
“Just try it, honey. For me. C’mon, I don’t ask much.”
I look down at the piece of paper in my hand and see he’s booked me in for tomorrow morning. No time to waste. No opportunity to change his mind. No chance to stick to my guns.
I close my eyes again. The red place mats he’s bought especially for tonight, the way he’s folded our napkins into Birds of Paradise, the meal he cooked, the music he played, the champagne I drank. All of them gang up to make me slightly lightheaded.
“Alright,” I tell him. “Tomorrow it is. Tomorrow, I guess I will officially be one of those girls with bling in her button.” I try to smile. He grins.
I take another long sip of my now warm, sour champagne and wonder if this is the first or the last time I will pretend to be something I’m not.
And I shiver.