A beautiful hotel just twenty minutes from home. Two nights together, just the two of us. A romantic dinner for two in the hotel's classy restaurant. I thought I knew what this was about. "You alright?" I asked, sipping on a small glass of white wine. "Bit nervous." he admitted.
I bet you are, I thought. I smiled at him.
So, he was nervous, but that wasn't the only sign. Only a couple of days ago, he'd gone to see a cricket match with his Dad. He got back just before 10pm and put his arms around me, giving me a big hug. "So how was it, then?" I asked. "Did you enjoy it?"
"It was good," he said, "but on the way there, all I could think about what where I'd like to take you on our honeymoon."
"Really?" I asked, "Where?"
Wow, I thought. Things were definitely looking up. We had been talking about getting married almost since we'd first got together, but he still hadn't popped the question. It was driving me crazy. Every time we'd go out for a meal or did something special together, I'd be sure it was going to happen. And each time, I'd been wrong. But this time he'd been so keen to arrange this romantic break together and now he was talking about honeymoons.
I was confident that something special was brewing. And clearly I wasn't the only one who thought so. Apparently, his work colleagues had got wind of our upcoming romantic break and had teased him with renditions of the Wedding March. Dum-Dum-dee-Dum! His boss even joked that he should leave early to buy me a ring. I smiled when he related this to me. I really hoped that this would be the time. I really hoped so.
We chatted easily, happily. Our starters arrived. I was enjoying every moment, even as the rain fell outside, soaking the plants and flowers. Sweet, summer rain. The main course came. It tasted wonderful.
Ed excused himself. I figured he was still nervous and was going to compose himself. I smiled to himself, thinking that it would be very sweet if he did get down on one knee, because he'd 'slid out' at a roundabout earlier in the week on his commute to work and his knee was still very raw.
He returned and seemed more at ease. He sat back in his chair and carried on eating. Time passed. The waitress cleared our plates.
I realised my chances were ebbing away. Surely he wouldn't propose over desert? I sipped my mint tea, trying to keep my cool as he tucked into his apple and rhubarb crumble.
"Delicious." he proclaimed, pushing the dish away.
"I guess that's that, then." I said, quietly.
"Yep." he said. He leaned back in chair and rubbed his belly, looking full and content.
I managed to keep a certain level of composure in the restaurant, but back in the room, it was obvious that something was wrong. He watched, alarmed, as my face broke into tears. "What's wrong?" he asked.
I pulled away, still sobbing. "I can't talk about it! It'll ruin everything!"
Except not talking about it would mean he'd be left to guess, which might make things a lot worse. Dammit. I would have to talk about it. I met his eyes, took a deep breath and told him, straight. "I just thought that this was it! I thought you'd ask."
He let my words sink in and then spoke slowly, carefully: "You thought I would ask you to marry me." I nodded. The tears kept coming. He watched, helpless.
"I'm so sorry." he said, meaning it. "Please don't be sad. I love you so much and I really do want to ask you."
"I know." I said, sighing. I tried to smile, but with no success.
"Oh no!" he said, suddenly. "These last few days, you must have thought I was giving you signs." I nodded, then blew noisily into a tissue. I let my shoulders drop. "Well, yes... but, people often see what's on their mind. It's like when you break up, every song is about heartbreak."
I was so annoyed at myself. He was a good man and not only had I ruined our romantic break, but I had also screwed up any future proposal.
A good friend of mine advised me to forget about a proposal now. She pointed out that men have very different ideas about things and cannot be relied upon to know what is going on in a woman's head. Her now-husband had tortured her by nonchalently displaying the engagement ring in its little box on their mantlepiece for three whole months before proposing.* She suggested that I opt out of the pain of waiting and just discuss what it means to get married like adults, decide whether we want to and take it from there.
That sounded good to me. What a ridiculous charade we put ourselves through, anyway! Dreaming of fairytales. Ruining perfectly good realities with impossible expectations. I decided to reject romance for a more realisitic outlook and proposed this alternative to Ed.
My handsome young man thought it over. He said that this was all very well, but he'd already decided what he was going to do and that actually he'd been thinking about it for months. I felt a dawning sense of regret and apologised, sheepishly.
"Don't worry," he said, cheerfully, "I'll just have to surprise you."
So romance isn't dead after all. Although it looks like I'm back to waiting.
*Although she now gets her revenge by reminding him of this fact whenever she likes, which luckily he takes in reasonably good humour.