Warning: I've been spoiled, and therefore have a tendency to be kind of mushy. If mushiness makes you gag, do not read on.
It all started in London. By the time I was dazed and speechless in Roy’s arms in the Heathrow airport, we both knew this was it. It didn’t take any romantic European atmosphere; poor Roy hadn’t even seen the British sunshine yet. We were in a congested airport with thirty-three different languages loudly blabbering away from all directions. But somehow as soon as he came through those doors and we were in the same room, everything melted away. The only thing that mattered was that we not be apart again.
Too bad we still had two and a half months on separate continents after his visit was over. -_- So we hunted down the one material thing that can almost completely guarantee we won’t be apart ever again: a diamond ring.
I think it was his third day in the UK when we decided to go ring shopping. Well, I actually decided. I planned on surprising him by taking him to Hatton Garden, which is a whole street of nothing but jewelry stores. Just to look. But of course, I got us good and lost on High Holborn first.
After Roy got us out of that mess (we had to ask a pair of bobbies in a sweets shop for directions) we found the street. It was way more perfect than I had anticipated. The narrow cobblestone road was lined with several blocks of expensive jewelry stores. The next few blocks after that were cheaper stores, then antique stores, all the way down to the equivalent of pawnshops. It seemed like if our ring were ever in the UK, it would be somewhere in Hatton Garden.
Roy was impressed and I pretended that I had known from the beginning exactly how brilliant my plan was to come to this impossibly perfect jewelry lane. We spent hours there looking in almost every shop. Ring shopping is way more fun than I ever thought it would be. Finally finding our ring was thrilling, too. A tiny Russian-speaking girl helped us find “the one”. It was petite and elegant. So European! (Or at least that’s what we think.)
We went back after it had been sized and then couldn’t keep our eyes out of the little blue box all day. Part of why we fell in love with it is because it’s seriously the sparkliest thing ever.
While relaxing in a Starbucks we made a pact. No telling anyone about the ring. Oh- except it was a little too late for that. When Roy used his card to buy the ring with his very American money, his bank made a security call. His cell phone didn’t work out of the country, so naturally they called his parent’s house. It was something like three o’clock in the morning when his poor parents were rudely awoken by frantic bankers wanting to know why so much money was being spent at a jewelry store overseas.
Well, Laura and Dennis are pretty smart. They knew exactly why so much money was being spent at a jewelry store overseas. They were able to get the bank nice and calm, but we soon got an email from Dennis that said; “So, you must have got your mom something real nice over there, huh?”
So our secret quickly became a well-known fact in Oregon. Now we just had to keep that from happening in Arizona.
I hope I’m not publishing crime here but… Roy totally snuck our ring through customs. He didn’t want to have to deal with the logistics of customs and having purchased something valued over $800. So he stuck it in his pocket and brought it back to the states.
It wasn’t easy to keep that ring a secret in Arizona either, especially since Roy was coming to Tucson for Christmas and all. I just wanted to spill the beans to Alexa, Mom, and Lynn about the ring. Oh well… I decided to wait.
A few days after Christmas, the whole family (including Roy) drove up to the White Mountains for some snowboarding and family bonding. Edmonsons, Reays, and Herberts– nearly everyone was up there at Grandma and Grandpa’s cabin.
After our second day of snowboarding, Roy already had carving down. He’s naturally good at pretty much anything he tries, so I guess it didn’t surprise me so much. It was snowing when Mom came to pick us all up from a long, good day on the slopes. Mason, Alexa, Roy, and I all crammed into the truck and slowly made our way out of the parking lot, nearly getting stuck in a snow bank.
It surprised me when Mom said, “Dad and Zac are checking out the horse ranch so we have to go pick them up.” My immediate reaction was to ask how the heck all seven of us were supposed to fit on five seats. Roy, however, was extremely excited. He wanted to know if we would be able to go check it out too.
“I want to ride a horse!” Alexa nearly screamed she was so excited.
“No, it’s way too cold out,” Mason complained. And it’s true, we were barley creeping along the icy road and snow swirled around the truck. But I could tell Roy wanted to go. Specifically, he wanted to go on a sleigh ride. Still feeling some Christmas spirit, I decided that a one-horse open sleigh would be fun.
When Mom pulled up to the barn with peeling red paint I caught a glimpse of Dad and Zac each riding a small horse. But by the time we convinced Mason to get out of the car and have a good time with us, both Dad and Zac were off of their horses and walking toward the truck.
I was worried that they’d had their fill of horses for the day. But, to my surprise, Dad said we could all take a ride. When they arranged for Roy and I to go on the sleigh and for the rest of my family to be on horseback I didn’t think twice. I figured Roy wanted to cuddle and the rest would rather experience riding horses. But still, when we were climbing into the creaky sleigh Roy asked, “I wonder why no one else wants to ride the sleigh…” Even then I continued to be oblivious.
Two Native Americans ran the little place. One was a short, broad, younger woman. She made sure we were comfortable with a few blankets to keep warm under. She also introduced us to our driver, who was very tall with wrinkles and a cowboy hat that covered his greasy white hair. His name was Bobo.
While Bobo stepped onto the front of the sleigh in one giant stride, Roy was all but freaking out. I mean, I thought sleighs were cool too, but he was so giddy and excited that it was just ridiculous. Bobo whistled and muttered some words in the Navajo language and the wooden sleigh jerked forward with a groan.
I remember thinking it was cool how easily the sleigh slid over the powdery ground as we headed into the heavily wooded forest. Roy was holding my hands tightly in his. The pine trees were all white and more fat snowflakes were falling silently from the sky. At first my family rode closely behind us, their skinny little ponies knee deep in snow at some parts. But, gradually, they began to fall back. It looked like the short, round lady (who was breaking her little pony’s back) was stopping them occasionally to give them some kind of instruction or tour. Bobo, on the other hand, pressed us forward in was silence.
Roy and I were silent ourselves for a few minutes while we observed how beautiful it was in the woods. Well… I was observing. At the time I thought he was too, but who knows what he was running through his mind. It still blows my mind how silent it is when it snows. I caught snowflakes on my tongue and watched my family disappear behind us while listening to the sleigh bells and Bobo’s occasional Navajo commands.
Roy and I started talking about something… something that now I cannot recall. I was in mid-sentence when I saw a large white banner with red letters strung up between two pine trees. I let my words drop dead in my mouth when I realized what the banner said: “Elliot, Will You Marry Me?”
My mind was swimming; I didn’t even notice the sleigh stop moving. I barley comprehended Roy’s huge smile and then it hit me fully. Roy was proposing… even though he told me he wasn’t going to propose until February…
I watched him jump down from the sleigh into the deep snow and run toward the banner. I couldn’t stop staring at it. It even blurred for a moment and I realized I was teary-eyed. Weird.
I was laughing by the time Roy was scooting his was back to the sleigh through the snow. He had a dozen red roses tied with a ribbon in one hand and he was swinging it through the air while he tried not to fall. I was standing, clutching the blankets in one hand, by the time Roy reached the sleigh. He handed me the flowers and told me how much he loved me. Then he dropped down onto one knee, sinking into the fluffy snow, and pulled out the little blue London box that I hadn’t seen in two months.
“Elliot, will you be mine and marry me?”
I jumped out of the sleigh and wrapped my arms around his neck. I said yes somewhere between laughing and hugging. When we were done celebrating I looked up to see a sudden gust of wind rip my name right off of the banner. It freaked out the horses, and the sleigh almost took off without us. I was glad the thing stayed up long enough for me to see it.
My family came around the corner on the other horses just then and I could see my siblings looking a mixture of awkward and happy. Ah, I’m the oldest. No one knows how we are supposed to approach this engagement thing. Wow- engaged! I kept looking at the beautifully petite ring on my purple finger. Yes, I needed to get my hands warm.
Roy made sure I got some gloves, but they didn’t stay on long. I had to show Mom and everyone as soon as we were all snug in the truck. Now the last thing on my mind was the fact that there were seven of us squished onto five seats.
When we got back to the cabin the driveway was alight with sparklers. My cousins had gathered outside, sparklers in hand and cheering for us when we got out of the car. Everyone wanted to hear exactly how it went down. We went inside where it was warm and played catch-phrase beneath our “congratulations” banner. There was even a toast for us with sparkling cider. We ended the night with family pictures. Roy was in them. Weird… but perfect. It was such an awesome surprise engagement party! I love my family.