Hurry up. I’m freaking freezing, I said, one sopping March evening before the North Dakota rain turned to snow.
We’d just dined with his parents and were headed to our vehicles, nestled next to each other in a restaurant parking lot, just like us, arm-in-arm, side-by-side. At 9 p.m., the hour exceeded darkness by Twilight standards and flirted with my bedtime. My belly was full and my body fatigued.
Seriously! I said beneath a hood so big two Vikings helmets could fit beneath it. Brrrr!
Hold on, he said, holding up his hand like a state patrolman on a closed highway. I have something to tell you.
He bent one knee, genuflecting in his jeans, soaking them in a pavement puddle. He reached into the coat pocket I’d been sitting beside throughout our entire three-hour meal. And I gasped.
I don't want you to be my girlfriend anymore, he said.
He opened the box but I couldn’t see. He kept talking... something about “Katherine Eileen” and “wife” but the world was aflush with snowflakes, and my vision terminated with wet concrete and dark skies.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so cold.
Put it on me! I said, with the hustle of a mother of triplets on the first day of school. Right now. Right now!
And get up! I said. Get up Get up! I want to see it.
He slid the ring he'd purchased five weeks prior... waiting for the optimal opportunity. He'd even sought the help of friends to help decide, to make sure this ring was right for my left hand.
Between the midnight of the sky and the black concrete, I saw nothing but sparkle.
So, what do you think? he asked.
I thought of the jobs I’d applied for in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and the opportunities I thought I’d missed. I thought of my junior-year aspirations to see the world while writing about it, advancing the ranks of the newspaper world city by city, country by country. I thought of my first months, my first winter and my first car trouble in North Dakota and how I vowed I’d never stay.
I thought of our first date, he in boots of leather and hide, and mine of pointy-toe. This will never work out, I told myself back then.
I thought of the flood and the mud and the sandbags and the stories. I thought of how it ripped my insides, watching people lose their homes, their heirlooms and at times, even their minds. Out of all the bad that came from the flood, those people say, he and I are one of the good.
I thought of our future, our fortune and our unborn children.
Well? he asked.