I woke up a few minutes before the alarm signalled that it was 6:45, and time for me to kick Jared's butt out of bed, But I really, really didn't have the energy for it. So I just groaned and rolled over.

"Ugh, I SO don't want to go to work today!" I said loudly, burying my head in the pillow as far as it would go.

Jared, in all his wisdom, propped up on one elbow and said simply, "then let's not go to wok today."

"Are you nuts? I have to go," I protested. In my department, I am the only sane and qualified person - even still, perhaps I took my responsibilities too seriously."Not everyone can live - or work - like you, you know." Sometimes, there was just no reasoning with the man. Sometimes the way he shirked responsibility really enraged me. Jared shrugged..

"What if I told you that I asked Roy to give you the day off, so you're already off the hook?"

"Don't lie to me," I threatened, daggers in my eyes.

"No, I'm serious. You can call him right now," he said, returning my threatening gaze as if it were nothing. I've been known to make small children cry with just a look. I think he was telling the truth.

"Really? You did that for me?" I started getting excited. It wasn't my birthday, it wasn't Christmas... but it sure felt like it.

"Yeah really," he laughed. "Now, I made some other plans for us. You'll need to pack a bag - and bring something nice, just in case." I nearly jumped out of bed.

"WHAT? Are you serious?" I was grinning so hard my face hurt. "No one's ever surprised me with something so nice before!" I was almost to the bathroom when I turned, all daggers again. "You better not be lying, because I'll kill you."

"Damn, Iris, just pack your bag, and stop threatening me!"


We showered quickly and ate some breakfast. We brought our bags downstairs and loaded up the car. For som reason, the garage door opener wasn't working, so Jared jumped up to push the manual activation button. However as he did this, he accidentally scraped his wrist against a sharp edge. He was cursing and bleeding.

"Ow!" I said when he showed it to me. It was long and rather deep. "Do you want to go back in and clean it up?"

"No, I just want to go. Shit!" I thought he was taking this accident a little too hard. He held a napkin against his wrist while he drove using his injured hand. I wanted to insist that we bandage it up properly, but Jared's face was pretty angry - he was in no mood to negotiate.

We drove in silence for about half an hour. By this point, I had a fair idea where we were going - down the coast to Carmel, perhaps? Or would we continue south to Sana Barbara? Anyway, it would be beautiful, and fun and romantic - Jared in true form. We were a little outside of Carmel when I asked him to stop at the next gas station.

"Aw, babe, we're almost there. Can you wait?"

"No, I'm really hurting," I said urgently. "It just hit me, although I didn't have that much to drink." He sighed. A few minutes later, we pulled over to a small but tidy gas station, and I ran in to use the bathroom. There wasn't much, but oooh, it stung afterward! What the hell?

Actually I knew what it was. I had a bladder infection once before, and they are damned uncomfortable. Refusing to believe I needed a hospital on a beautiful day like this, I said nothing as we passed Pacific Grove hospital. Maybe it would go away, I wished desperately.


Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the Highlands Inn. The small resort is perched upon a steep cliff and overlooks the Pacific Ocean A/N: if you're ever in this area, you must check this place out. It's absolutely stunning. For late November, the gardens were still in full bloom. Azalea, violets and towering monkshood blended with the coastal wildflowers. I could hear the waves and smell the pines in the cool air. I breathed in the place, and felt so happy and light. A valet took our car and we went to check in.

I could have lived in this lobby. It was relaxed yet gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows that faced the Pacific Ocean; a small gallery of photographs by local artists; a black grand piano and small telescope; and large, plush leather sofas. With all this luxury I was sure the staff would be snooty, especially to the ratty-looking kids that just walked in - however they were just as nice and laid back as anyone could imagine.

We were taken by golf cart to our room - it really wasn't that far, and in fact was a nice, scenic walk. The room was small, but beautiful. The king-sized bed dominated the room, which also held a small table - made even smaller by the huge bouquet of red roses - with two chairs, and a wood-burning fireplace. The bathroom was all marble and walnut - there was even a small CD player on the nightstand, and binoculars on the table. Everything about this little hotel was perfect. I kept telling him that no one has ever done anything so nice for me in my life, and he kept grinning each time he heard it.

The first thing we did, of course, was light a fire and break in the bed. It was so soft, and the sheets so buttery - not to mention that Jared always managed to turn me on - I just couldn't resist. But afterwards, when I used the bathroom, the burning feeling was even worse - it made me yelp, in fact. Because everything was so beautiful, and because Jared was already acting so strange, I didn't want to say anything. But this was making me miserable.

"Uh, Jared? I'm really sorry about this, and I hope this doesn't ruin our time here," I started. He cocked his head curiously. "But I think I have a bladder infection,. I need antibiotics, or else I'll start screaming every time I pee." He scowled slightly.

"Is it really bad? I mean, do we need to go to a hospital right now, or can it wait until we go home?"

"Well, I won't die from it," I said a little hastily, "but I'll be pretty miserable if we don't take care of this. I'm really sorry."

Jared pulled on his jeans and sweater. "Well in that case let's go. There's a hospital not far from here." I smiled in relief that he didn't freak out - at least, not externally.


So back up to Pacifc Grove we went. It's only a twenty minutes drive, but Jared and I could think of a thousand other things we could be doing at that very moment, so it made the time pass even more agonizingly slow.

We sat in the waiting room for quite a while, but I won't bore you with details about the waiting room decor. Instead, I'll tell you that, while we were sitting in this boring room, Jared realized that this was the hospital at which his grandmother, Claire, passed away several years ago.


Grandma Claire was the interior decorator for all tasteful Louisiana homes back in the 30's. She had natural grace and culture, and wasn't ever afraid to speak her mind. This delicate yet independent woman could sketch anything from memory, and ancouraged young Jared to draw and discover his creativity. When she'd visit, Grandma Claire would sit at the kitchen table - the table Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind at - and draw rockets, robots and jets with Jared. She taught him how to use color to get the best effects, and other drawing techniques.

When Jared's parents divorced and his world began to crumble, Jared stopped seeing Grandma Claire. It saddened her, and she tried to reach out; however, Jared was so angry at how his life had changed, and couldn't see her and be reminded of happier times.

Later on, she moved into a small tonwhouse in Carmel, where she lived the rest of her life. I think this is one of Jared's biggest regrets - not spending more time with his Grandma Claire.


Finally, a nurse led us to an exam room. A few minutes later, a docter who looked like Captain Kangaroo appeared, and asked what was wrong.

"Well, I think I have a bladder infection." Dr. Kangaroo stiffened. "Well, I have the burning sensation, and feel like I have to pee all the time, but nothing's there. I've had one before, so..."

"I see," he finally said, then scribbled a prescription out. "Yes, once you've had one before, you pretty much know if it happens again." He scribbled some more. The silence made me uncomfortable.

"So," I started, "how can I prevent these in the future? And how do people get them in the first place?" I was just trying to make small talk.

Dr. Kangaroo was suddenly very uncomfortable. "Well," he stammered, "the best thing to do is wipe from front to back. Also, you can - uh - void after having sex." He looked as if he expected to be beaten to death after the last sentence. A wicked look spread across Jared's face, but he said nothing. I took the prescription from Dr. Kangaroo and thanked him.

As we walked through the waiting room to the pharmacy, I asked Jared what that look was for.

He grinned again. "I wanted to say 'but we've never HAD sex!' but I think it would have killed him." I laughed out loud. I almost wished he said it.


Back at the hotel, we had a few hours before dinner. So we spent it the best way we knew how - in bed, with the fireplace crackling. About an hour after we stripped naked, someone knocked at the door. I hid under the covers - because even though I live in a modern age, I still felt ashamed to be caught "in the act" - as Jared answered the door.

I heard the man at the door say "DeMartino" a few times, his tone growing confused as Jared whispered back to him. Finally, I thought I heard Jared hiss "Go Away!" and the man made a hasty retreat.

"What was that?" I asked, thoroughly confused. Jared looked distracted, a little chagrined - but just waved it off.

"Wrong room," he said curtly.

Half an hour later, there was another knock. Jared looked exasperated. Again, I hid while he answered the door. Again, there was a hushed exchange. This time, Jared retreated. His shoulders sagged slightly. He closed the door and turned to me, holding up a bottle.

"Look, champagne!" he said with false excitment.

"Wow, neat!" I said happily. I saw him tuck a card under the fruit basket on the table, but didn't think anything of it. "Did the guy that came before him want to give us free stuff to?" I asked, suddenly embarassed at the way I sounded. Jared frowned and said nothing.


That evening, Jared wore his black double-breasted suit, and I in a black velvet dress. His hair was slicked back perfectly and a cloud of cologne floated around his neck. We had reservations at eight, and walked the paved path down frm our room to the restaurant, located just behind the lobby.

We walked in near silence, holding hands. Jared was fidgeting with something in his coat pocket - I assumed it was our camera. The hostess sat us at a corner table with a 270 degree view of the ocean. I watched the waves crashing against the rocky cliffs for several moments, completely in awe that such a beautiful place existed on Earth.

"This table gets booked up months in advance," Jared said quietly, as he leaned in to kiss me.

"I can't believe you did all this for me," I breathed, pulling my gaze away from the sea to look at Jared. "You must have been planning this for so long."

"You have no idea," he smirked, then turned a little sober. "There was supposed to be chocolate in the room, too - I asked the concierge, and she said it wouldn't be a problem."

He looked very disappointed, as if the chocolate were a vital part of our weekend together. I shrugged. "Who needs chocolate anyway," I smiled, "we scored some free champagne, and this place! It's unbelieveable. I think you've done enough." Jared smiled.

He slipped off his jacket carefully, checking to make sure the camera was secure.

"Why don't you just put it on the table?" he looked up at me, a little startled, then took the camera out of his pocket.

After that was done, he turned to me and took both my hands. He kissed them several times, whispering how much he loved me. Then he started kissing my face and my neck, again whispering about his love. I started to feel uncomfortable. There were all these people...

I kissed him back. Now he was whispering something different. "I want to ask you something," "I love you so much," "I need to ask you a question..."

He was making me crazy. I didn't dare wonder if he was going to propose. I didn't want to be disappointed. So what was the question? Was he going to ask me for a three-way? To have sex with a woman while he watched? With a dog? WHAT?

He suddenly dropped to one knee. I let out an excited giggle, which sent him back to his seat in alarm. Oh my God, he's going to ask me to marry him, my brain screamed. I bit my lip, trying to control the urge to giggle and squeal. He got his bearings again, and went back down on one knee.

He slid a small mahogany box across the table to me. "Iris, will you be my wife?"

My eyes widened. It felt as if that second stretched out. I noticed the people at the other tables staring at us, the maitre'd standing behind Jared, champagne and glasses in hand...

"Yes," I managed to say, as if it were a major feat of strength to even speak.


And I will hear this, for as long as I live:

"I can't believe you LAUGHED at me. You're supposed to cry, Iris! Hell, even if you peed your pants, that would be better than laughing...."