"It's official, we're lost," Ellie sighed as she leaned back in the passenger seat closing her eyes.
"I wouldn't call this lost, just directionally challenged in a land of no cell-phone signal," replied Eric with a smile on his face. He reached his long jacket covered arm over her shoulder transferring some much needed heat to her. "Look at the bright side. At least we're together."
Ellie sunk further back into his arm with a groan. Opening her eyes, she regarded the wilderness around Eric's truck. Surrounding the old, dirt road, snow-laden trees leaned towards them. The moonlight reflected everywhere giving the snow a soft, silver sheen. It was all so quiet, and serene and that scared her more than it should.
"If you hadn't been in such a hurry, I would've had time to grab the GPS! And then we would be together and in civilization."
"I never understood your love of non-adventure."
"I like adventure just fine," she replied. "It's dying in the wilderness I don't exactly care for! We're going to be so late."
"Babe, it's a party, not a exam. Lateness is perfectly acceptable."
"It's a New Years party, it sort of implies we have to get there this year…which ends in, oh, one hour and forty-five minutes."
"Elle, it's gonna be okay," he replied while stroking a lock of her long brown hair that had come loose from the braid she had hastily made earlier.
"So, how are we going to get out of here, Mr. Genius?" She asked, fiddling with the too short hem of her party dress peeking out from under her winter coat.
"Well, I was thinking we should continue down this wonderful road and see if we can find a house somewhere."
"A house, presumably occupied…in the middle of the woods…on New Year's Eve?"
"And you love me anyway," he replied, wiggling his eyebrows slightly to emphasize his point.
"Maybe we both should lock ourselves up in an asylum? Oh, wait, we still have to get out of here to do that." Ellie retorted; still not enthused with their current location.
"Maybe, you should trust me a little bit more."
"Eric, I do trust you. I just don't trust mysterious dirt roads in the middle of nowhere where apparently cell-phone signal is a myth."
At that Ellie sat back in her seat and stared resolutely at the zero bars at the top of her cell phone, praying to the telecommunications gods. Eric sighed and they continued driving in silence through the woods. After another forty minutes, Ellie shouted out, yelling at him to stop. He calmly pulled the truck over to the side of the road.
She held her phone up towards the roof of the truck and screamed out, "A bar! One glorious bar of service, suck it being lost in the woods!" Ellie quickly gave Eric a peck on his cheek before turning back to the task at hand. She began searching her phone for their location, thoroughly enjoying being in contact with the outside world again.
"So, my fair lady, where are we?" Eric asked after a few minutes of her searching.
"We are only thirty minutes away from the party…if we travelled straight across that lake on the other side of those woods, over there," she replied pointing to their right.
"Baring religious interference or a fortuitous ice skate discovery, how far are we?"
"Um, two and a half hours."
"So, no party."
"Not this year." Ellie quipped back, unbuckling her seat belt and throwing her cell-phone back in her purse on the floor.
"So, what are we going to do?"
"We sit back and say hello to 2014 right here," she replied, pulling the tie out of her hair and releasing it from its braid. He watched her quietly, thinking to himself.
"I have an idea," Eric finally responded after a couple minutes of comfortable silence.
"Oh boy, is it better than driving through the Muskoka's in the dark to a cabin we've never been to before to a party hosted by your strange cousin."
"Much better," he replied.
At that, Eric popped off his seatbelt and slid his tall, thin frame out of the truck. Ellie could hear him fiddling with something at the back of the truck. Looking backwards, she saw that he had lifted up the truck bed cover. He opened the driver's side door and heaved himself back into the truck. Turning the battery power back on, he fiddled with the car radio for a second before a familiar song came on. Ellie recognized it from their first date almost six years prior.
"Slow Show?" She asked as he turned the music up to its full volume.
He laughed and whispered into her ear, "Of course, only the best music for you Elle-belle." He offered her his hand and asked in his smooth, deep voice: "Care to dance, milady?"
"Good sir, it would be my honour." Ellie replied with a giggle, taking his hand in hers. He brought the dainty hand up and kissed it gently. Letting go, he leapt out of the truck and ran around to help her out. Lifting her out into the snow, he pulled her towards the truck bed which was illuminated by the glow of the tail lights. Eric quickly kisses her before helping her up into the back of the pickup.
He pulled her close, taking her hand in his and wrapping his other arm around her jacket clad waist. She allowed herself to be led in the gentle sway of the dance, letting her forehead fall to his black wool coat clad shoulder. They revelled in their shared warmth, while snow began to fall above them. Gradually, the music changed but they stayed locked in each others arms. Eventually, even clinging together wasn't enough to stave off the chill so they broke apart, and headed slowly back to the warmth of the truck.
Eric paused before opening up the passenger door for her and scratched the back of his neck not covered by his scarf. His moment of indecision over, he grabbed her hands and captured her curious gaze.
"Now, Elle-belle, I know you don't exactly enjoy when I ask you big questions."
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
"It took four months for me to find a way to get you to stand still long enough to ask you out."
"Eric…" Ellie half-heartedly interjected, a smile forming on her lips.
"I had to take you to a skating rink so you couldn't run away before I finished. Generally, I have to wait for you to wear uncomfortable footwear before I tell you anything important. I told you I loved you for the first time when you were breaking in those disgustingly high heels."
"I love those shoes," she replied with a twinkle in her hazel eyes.
"Me too, but that's not my point."
"Then make it."
"My point is, Ellie Berenson," he paused while running a hand through the dark brown fringe of hair falling on his forehead, "I have a rather huge question to ask you."
"Oh no." Ellie exhaled softly.
"Yes. So if you would just follow me about ten paces through here, I think your abnormal flight response can be suitably at ease and my penchant for the dramatic appeased." He said while pulling her gently past the side of the road. She laughed at his rhyme, grateful as ever for his strange sense of humour.
"You did this on purpose." Ellie said not accusingly, but with admiration.
"Of course I did. Watch your step." Eric continued, leading her through a short stretch of trees into a small glen that had been hidden from the road. "Do you know how hard it is to find the one place in this forest with only a hint of a cell-phone signal? Stay here," he said and let go of her once she was centered in the cleared area. A sudden shiver hit her and she wrapped her arms around herself to ward it off. She seemed unsure whether she was trembling from the cold or out of anticipation. He ran quickly to a dimly lit post at the edge of the glade, only slipping a couple times on the icy ground, and flicked a switch.
Ellie gasped at the sight of thousands of twinkling lights surrounding her reflecting against the glistening snow and ice. The frosty air whipped around her as she twirled to capture every angle. Finally Eric came back to her and grabbed her shoulders, steadying her. Her stared at her straight in the eyes before taking a huge gulp as if preparing for war.
"Ellie, I have been in love with you since the second day of university when I drunkenly wandered into your room and asked if you knew where my shoes had gone. I knew I could never live without you the first time you laughed at one of my stupid jokes. Most importantly, the day I knew I was going to ask you this question, this big, scary, life-altering question, I realized that my happiness was completely and inextricably contingent upon your own."
Eric kissed her softly, wiping the tears off of her face with his gloved fingers. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he sunk down onto the snow-crusted ground on one knee and looked up at this girl that had entirely bewitched his heart. He opened up the little velvet encrusted box in his hands and a simple, silver ring with a sparkling diamond in the middle was revealed.
He grabbed her one hand and asked her with his green eyes piercing into hers, "Eleanor Elizabeth Berenson, will you spend the rest of your life with me?"
For both Ellie and Eric, the next moment which in actuality lasted less than ten seconds, seemed to last an eternity. Their hot breaths danced in the cool night air. Finally, Ellie bent down to join him in the snow, not caring about the cold anymore.
Kneeling before him, she crushed him in a hug before whispering in his ear. "Yes, Eric Ulysses Walker, I will marry you."