On Second Thought(5)By: Kristan Higgins
I’d been hoping to find this box for years now, and especially these past few months. But it was so like Eric to wait for tonight, for his “To Life” party, for a crowd. He’d definitely developed a flare for the dramatic since being diagnosed with cancer. And I had to hand it to him. Proposing to me tonight, celebrating not just his life, but our life, and our future...it would be perfect.
“Hon?” I yelled to ascertain that he was indeed downstairs, rearranging the photo montage for the tenth time. Our dog, Ollie, the world’s sweetest little dachshund mutt, was lying on the bed with the ratty blanket he dragged everywhere. He pricked up his ears, thinking I was talking to him.
“Yeah, babe?” Yep. Downstairs.
“Oh, never mind. I couldn’t find my phone,” I lied. “Got it right here.”
Should I wait to see the ring? I should. Eric wanted to surprise me, and I should let him. “Should I wait?” I whispered to Ollie. He wagged his tail. “I don’t think so, either.”
After all, I’d opened other turquoise-blue boxes before, and they hadn’t contained engagement rings. On our fourth Christmas together, upon seeing the small box, I burst into tears and threw myself into his arms.
Gold hoop earrings.
On my twenty-ninth birthday, an opal pendant.
Both lovely, mind you. Just not what a woman expects when presented with a box of a certain shape and color. So tonight, if there was anything other than an engagement ring in that box, I needed to know before a hundred people watched me open it.
Like a cat burglar, I slid the box out of the drawer and removed the turquoise lid. Inside was the black velvet box, just like those that had held the earrings and pendant.
I peeked, then inhaled sharply.
It was an engagement ring.
The diamond glittered at me, pulling me under its spell, the depth and sparkle of it, the mystery. It was perfect. A gorgeous solitaire, simple but so elegant, tiny diamonds on the band, the bigger stone dazzling. And big. A carat and a half. Maybe more. Oh, Tiffany! Well done!
“Check this out,” I whispered to Ollie, showing him. He licked his chops, and I idly petted his silky little brindle head, staring at the ring.
My eyes were wet as I closed the lid and replaced the velvet box into the blue one, then put the package back under the boxers.
Then I pumped a fist into the air and did a little end zone victory dance around the room, happy little squeaks coming out of my throat. Ollie joined me, whining with joy, as he himself was an accomplished dancer.
At last! I was getting married! And the ring was flippin’ gorgeous! And it was about time!
Eric was the love of my life. We’d been together since our senior year of college (eleven years ago, mind you). There’d never been anyone else. He’d been the third boy I kissed, the first boy I slept with and the only boy I’d ever loved.
And after the past year and a half, during the terror of his life-changing diagnosis, during the treatment and illness, I wanted to be married more than ever. No more partner, no more boyfriend, no more significant other. I wanted him to be my husband. The word was as solid and comforting as a bullmastiff.
In my heart, we already had a marriage-level commitment, but I wanted the whole package. You know how some people say, Heck, we don’t need a piece of paper to show our commitment! They’re lying. At least, I was lying and had been lying for, oh, ten years now.
The wait was over.
I glanced at my watch, then bolted into the bathroom. If I was going to be an engaged woman tonight, I was also going to get laid tonight, and I had to shave my legs. All the way up.
* * *
Two hours later, the party was in full swing. I wore a white dress (bridal, anyone?) and red heels, and I was nursing a glass of cabernet, feigning calm, though my palms were sweaty and my heart stuttered and sped. Ollie wandered around, greeting guests, sniffing shoes, wagging his tail, all shiny and sweet-smelling, since I’d given him a bath earlier that day.
This was Eric’s big night, and soon it would be our big night.
The house looked fantastic. It wasn’t as big or fabulous as my sister’s new place, but it wasn’t shabby, either. And unlike Kate’s home, my house was lovely because of my work. Kate had walked into a fully furnished showplace designed by her architect husband, filled with custom-made furniture and tasteful modern art paintings.