2 years later
I was shuffling through the mail and stacking it into separate piles on our old kitchen table. A beautiful, pearled envelope struck my attention and I tugged it out from between the bills; a wedding invitation. I furrowed my brows, something registering about a recent conversation I'd had with Grandma where she'd mentioned a wedding.
As I tugged at the flap I said, "Ethan, do you know anyone that's getting married?"
He stood up from the couch, setting aside his laptop, and joined me at the table. "Nope,"
he answered as I opened it and two sheets tumbled out into my hand. I scanned the engraved invitation, marveling at its lustrous appearance.
I let out a low laugh. "Oh, it's Riley Tirrel," I said, starting to smile. "Do you remember her?" Ethan shook his head and I went on, "We went to high school together and were pretty good friends – but we sort of lost touch after we went to different colleges. I had no idea she was getting married." I scanned the invitation, letting out a low whistle. "To a Carmichael at that…in Malibu!" I'd forgotten that Grandma mentioned something about this a long time ago. The Carmichael name was well-known in California and in my little hometown too. I turned the card over in my hands, marveling at how the light caught the paper and made it sparkle. "I guess she did pretty well for herself," I murmured.
Ethan put an arm around my shoulders and turned me to face him. "Do you ever regret that you didn't end up with someone who had more money?" he asked, his grin belying the fact that I knew he was partly serious. Our apartment was miniscule and we shared a car, both of us graduate students now at the University of Southern California and my loans to cover tuition would have bought a house back home. Ethan had an unpaid internship and I was working part-time at a local bookstore. I'd never been happier.
I put down the invitation and placed my hands on his face, pulling him toward me and resting my forehead on his. "Not for a second," I said truthfully. I kissed him and he slipped his arms around my waist, pulling me close. He broke away from my lips but continued to hold me for a moment. I dipped my head and looked at him questioningly. "Are you ok?" I asked.
He was starting to smile and the familiar ruddy pink spots began to form on his cheeks. "What do you say we celebrate our anniversary a little early? I want to give you your present."
"You weren't supposed to get me anything!" I protested, but weakly as I'd saved for six months to buy him a used guitar that I'd had refurbished and re-strung and was waiting to be picked up at the store. We had planned to take a picnic basket of wine and cheese to the very bench where we'd shared our first kiss, two years ago, outside the overgrown VFW hall in Fresno. The date was actually today but we'd agreed to make the three hour drive over the weekend when our schedules were less busy.
He said nothing and took my hand, leading me toward the door. We lived in the upper half of an old duplex and had to go single file down the tiny staircase. At the outside door, he moved to my side again, grasped my hand, and led me around toward the parking area in the back. He grinned at me I and marveled that he could still melt my heart instantly with one smile that touched his blue eyes.
My hand flew to my mouth when I saw what was parked haphazardly in the small driveway behind the house. Ethan cuffed me on the shoulder jovially, a tradition we'd kept since the time of our road trip, then stepped back as I moved forward to inspect the shiny, red, vintage Volkswagen Bug that sat in front of me. Its curved chrome bumpers sparkled in the California sun and I peeked in the front window to find a yellow daisy sitting prettily in the flower holder that was the signature of the tiny cars. Turning around I felt a smile forming on my face, even as tears prickled in the corners of my eyes.
In his typically low-key fashion he merely shrugged and said, "I got it about six months ago and I've been working on it at a friend's place. She runs pretty well now…" he trailed off and pulled a set of keys out of his pocket.
I took them and threw my arms around his neck, burying my tears in his familiar scent. "It's not just because you got me a car, Ethan, but I have never loved you more than I do at this moment," I said, planting a kiss on his neck.
He laughed and pulled away. "Then there's one last thing you need to see." He took my hand and led me around to the back of the car where I hadn't even noticed the finishing touch on my gift; my very own personalized license plate, printed simply with the letters "MRRY ME."
Ethan slipped his arms around me from behind to whisper in my ear, "Well, you always said you didn't want a ring."
First I feel the need to explain about the reference to two seemingly random people who've I never mentioned before in this story. I posted this particularly story along with a few others at another site and Riley and Charlie are a reference to one of my other forays into fiction. I may post it here…but it's not particularly polished so maybe not. :)
Well, we are now at the end. I want to thank you all so much for sticking through my long-windedness and reading the whole thing. A handful of you faithfully reviewed and I sincerely appreciate that as it's your words of kindness that spur me to write in the first place.
And in case you were wondering, Keri and Ethan's soundtrack was Nick Drake's album, "Pink Moon. "
I miss Keri and Ethan. I hope they're still happy somewhere in sunny California. :)