That warm night in May, when the stars lit up the sky…
That...that was the moment. The moment I will never forget.
If I remember correctly, and I’m fairly certain I do, she wore the lavender dress. The one with small little straps that fell so gently on her slender shoulders and that hugged her curves in all the right places.
There was a gentle breeze that coaxed the trees and flowers to dance around us, pushing us closer and closer to the little outlook over the lake. I could swear the wind was whispering to me, encouraging me forward when half of me wanted to flee in terror. Her delicate hand pulling mine was what kept me going, following her down the path both of us knew so well.
I remember passing all our ‘special places’ as we liked to call it back then. That old pine tree that we had studied countless hours under in high school. Around the bend the tire swing we had set up in college still sat empty, waiting until we hopped on again. The stretch of shore where we had our first kiss…
“It’s so lovely at night.” She had said, drawing me away from my wandering thoughts and back to the present. I discovered we had arrived on the little dock that jutted out into the lake, and she let go of my hand to rest her own against the railing. A content sigh escaped her perfect lips as she surveyed the crystal water and I mimicked her without realizing it, though the two sights we were admiring were very different. I couldn’t see her face, but the long brown locks I’d come to love so much coiled behind her as rays of moonlight shined atop her head. I think I responded with a word or two, but what had been spoken is lost on me.
I wanted to join her by the railing, but I stopped myself. Oh, how hard it had been to resist wrapping my arms around her slender waist that night. I was here for a reason, I told myself. Everything had to be perfect.
I could feel my heart hammering in my chest as I took shaky breaths. There was an endless stream of words in my head and I forced myself from the distracting thoughts. I knew what I wanted to say by heart. I had practiced it over and over until I was sure I could recite it backwards in my sleep. And so I withdrew the little black box from my coat pocket.
It took several attempts to simply say her name, my mouth dry with sudden nervous fright. I swallowed several times in a small effort to regain my senses.
At the sound of her name, her beautiful name, she turned in curiosity. I was immediately captured by those deep emerald eyes and, for a brief moment, I forgot where I was. With a tiny shake of my head, I forced myself out of my trance.
“What is it, Henry?” Her silky voice asked. That voice I could only compare to the chorus of angels.
On shaky legs, I slowly sank to one knee on the deck and brought up my hands which held the little box. Opening it seemed to happen in slow motion, until the lid was fully extended and the ring inside shone in the moonlight.
“Maria.” I started again, and by this time her graceful hands had moved their way over her small mouth. The sight left me speechless, the immense beauty the whole scene exuded, and for an agonizing few seconds the practiced speech I had been painstakingly been reciting and memorizing for weeks disappeared from my mind. I berated myself mentally, willing myself to recall the words that I was determined to remember. And in that instant, that glorious instant, I did. And I continued on.
“You are my everything. You are the sun, the moon, the stars, and every other beautiful thing that I have the privilege to lay eyes upon. But words would never be enough to express to you just how much I adore you, just how much I love you.” It was at this point a small sniffle sounded from behind her hands and my arms started to shake.
“I could never be as amazing or as deserving of happiness as you, Maria. Your kindness and spirit could bring the worst of men to the light. You have touched others with grace, and you have touched me by just existing. You give me hope when I never believed myself of deserving of it.
“And so I have to ask…” I took a breath, preparing for the most important of words in my entire speech. “Maria, would you give me the honor of being your husband? Will you marry me?”
A choked sob broke through her then evident tears and I panicked for a brief second that I had said something wrong. Half rising, however, I was almost knocked over by the force of her wrapping her thin arms around me and burying her face into my shoulder. Her sob turned into the cutest of laughs and I hoped that I would be able to hear that laugh for the rest of my life.
But my observation of her beauty was interrupted by her voice. And never, before that time or any time afterwards, have I ever heard anything more joyous or beautiful or wonderful as her answer to me then. Never would I cherish anything more than that word to me.