On September 16, 1993, I had the whole world at my feet. Gone was the lost boy of the past. The worrywart was wounded and withdrawn from a wondrous life. I was a new man. Now if you think that I’m gloating just a little bit, you’d be right. I could. Because I had it all: school, friends, a car, a job, and the girl of my dreams…who was not a dream but true flesh and blood, and I got to see her every day.
However, if I was going to be truly honest with myself, I didn’t want to just see her at school, or call her and talk on the phone for hours: I wanted it to be more than that. So on that Saturday afternoon, I dragged Keith—with the promise of pizza—to assist me on a quest that would rival Bilbo Baggins.
The trip into Montgomery from Prattville took about thirty minutes, finding a parking place took considerably longer. We walked into the mall and down the central corridor. I was a man on a mission that day.
“So what’s here that we couldn’t have stayed in town by going to Wal-Mart?"
“Something very important.”
“I’m going to do it, Keith.”
“I’m going to ask her.”
“Ask her what?”
“You seriously have to ask me that?
“I can think of a lot of things you’d ask. Consider my point of view: I don’t understand half the things you do anymore.”
I then abruptly turned and walked into a jewelry store.
“Hello? Don’t you recall what happened with the roses?”
I looked at the various rings behind the glass as Keith continued his lecture:
“You’re a junior…in high school. You have your whole life in front of you and…and I’m standing in a ring store with you. You’re absolutely crazy, you know that?”
“A bit? No, a bit would be to let her drive your car whenever she wants to. You’re sixteen. You don’t think about these things until, I don’t know, twenty-five?”
“She means too much to me.”
“You do know what this means, right?”
By then, we had garnered the store manager’s attention. He walked over to us without a word.
“It means a lot of things. Can I see this one please?”
Twenty minutes later, we sat at a table in the bustling food court with a large pizza sitting between us.
“So how far does that set you back?”
“I’m all for you, man, you know, whatever makes you happy, but—”
“You’re really that serious.”
“So has she hinted to you that she wants this?”
“She doesn’t know.”
“Dude, you probably just spent—”
“And like I said, that doesn’t matter.”
“So you’re just going to hope she says yes?”
“What are you getting at?”
“You have been with Tiffany for how long?
“Four years, three months…”
“Yes, yes, I know you have it down to the nanosecond since you first saw her. Okay, thank you. Now, in that time you haven’t thought about anyone else?”
“Okay, let’s stop and think about this for just a moment now…since you haven’t been thinking clearly for quite a while. Life, like this pizza, is out there for you to enjoy. And you’re going to just let it sit there?”
“First off, I’m not going to compare Tiffany, or anyone else for that matter, to a slice of pizza.”
“But I’m talking about pizzas with lots of cheese, pepperoni, and perhaps ones with big tomatoes on them.”
“Your train of thought has derailed before it’s even left the station.”
“I’m just saying you’re taking a big step.”
“About how much thought have you put into this?”
“Right. Allow me to remind you about how much ‘thought’ you put into our biology project.”
“Better be, since we got a freaking D minus on it.”
I took the ring box, opened it, and looked at the reflection in the diamond.
“I know it’s a risk. There is a chance that she might say no…if so, then I’ll wait for her.”
“For how long? I mean, what if she wants to tour Europe or go backpacking in the wilderness for a few years? Maybe join the Air Force or go to Belgium or something?”
“I haven’t thought of that…because I know that it’s not going to happen. We will graduate together and…”
“I don’t know…I just know that I’ll have her by my side.”
“If you say so.”
I nodded as I closed the ring box.
We drove back to Prattville, and I dropped Keith off at his house.
“I’d wish you good luck, but instead I’m warning you.”
“Warning me of what?”
“Don’t give that to her. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Rings make girls mad.”
“Like, crazy mad?”
“That, and just mad, mad. It changes them. My sister got married, and she’s—well, I don’t think it’s going well for her.”
“What about the guy?”
“It’s worse for him.”
“I don’t think she’s going to beat me up if I give a ring to her.”
“Perhaps not physically.”
“You will be the first person I call if she puts me in the hospital.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of the morgue…when she says ‘no.’”
“Wow, aren’t you a shining beacon on a hill right now?”
“Thanks,” I replied as I drove off.
As I turned the corner and onto the highway, I took a glance at the glove compartment where I had stashed the ring box. Keith had some good points, but if I thought about every negative thing that could happen, then I never would have tried at all.
I walked up to the front door of her house, rang the doorbell, and then took a step back. The lock clicked and the door swung open.
“Hey. Umm, I came by to see if you wanted to go out tonight?”
“Sure, where to?”
“You pick. What’s your pleasure?”
I had always made it a point to ask her where she wanted to go. Yeah, I could have made all of the decisions, but I was assured a long time ago that Pizza Hut was not the most ideal place to go out on a serious outing, so it was best to let her decide. Besides, I didn’t want to get pizza sauce on a gold ring.
“There’s a place in town I’ve always wanted to go to. It requires a little dressing up on your part though.”
“Well, I did just buy a few new T-shirts and shorts.”
“It’s more like a coat-and-tie type of place.”
“Okay,” I replied, “so, like some of the choir things we’ve done, we should coordinate on color and all that?”
“That’s a good idea. I’m thinking red.”
“Red. Sounds good,” I replied, remembering that I had absolutely nothing that was red except for a T-shirt that I used to mow lawns in.
“I’ll see you then.”
I kissed her lightly on the lips and then walked back to my car. I was glad I didn’t have the ring box with me, as I would have probably given it to her right then and there, but where was the romanticism in that?
We arrived at the requested elaborate establishment at about seven. I got out the car, rounded over to the other side, and opened the door for her. She had chosen a beautiful dress that only added to her radiance. I had decided to wear black slacks, a white dress shirt, and a tie—just to complete the ensemble. Fortunately, it was the same shade as her dress; that’s always a good thing.
“I can’t believe we’re actually doing this. You should have talked me out of this.”
“What? Coming here?” I asked as I opened the menu.
“Have you looked at the prices?”
“I’m not going to look at any prices until I get the check.”
“I’m about to get even braver.”
“And what does that mean?”
“You know me. I’m unable to describe exactly how I feel.”
“You’d rather show it.”
I nodded as I looked at her from above the menu.
“Why do I get the feeling that you have something else up your sleeve?”
I have to admit, I always had an issue with keeping secrets, and that afternoon, I was dangerously nearing my threshold.
“Me? No, I’m just going to be a stuffy date. You know, stare at my menu and not say a word.”
“You say one thing, but your eyes are lying.”
“I just can’t seem to keep a secret from you.”
“I’d like some things to be secrets. Like on my birthday or Christmas.”
“Since it’s not either of those, I can give you this.”
I reached into my pocket, pulled the case out, and opened it in front of her.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Just because I have small box that contains a round, shiny, gold…thingy in it.”
“And with this round, shiny, gold…thingy, you’re asking me what?”
“I’m asking for your hand and the rest of you too.”
“And you want me to say yes?”
“I was hoping for a yes. You can say ‘oui’ or ‘si’ or another equivalent if you want to. But I’ll have to warn you: that’s my limit on foreign languages unless we’re planning to go to Taco Bell later on.”
I walked over to her side of the table and saw, out of the corner of my eye, a teenager running through past the tables. He ran at lightning speed and then, seemingly, vanished.
“I don’t suppose you’ll take a no?” Tiffany asked as I stood next to her.
“Are you giving me one?”
“No? Yes, or no, no?”
“No to the no.”
“Let’s start over. Hi, my name’s Jason, and I would like to marry you.”
“So you really are asking me?”
“Do I really have to go down on one knee?”
“It would prove that you’re really serious.”
What could I do but follow through to what she asked?
“Well, what do you think?”
“I think you’re insane.”
“You’re actually the second person to tell me that today.”
“Yes, I will.”
The other patrons in the restaurant clapped in a thunderous applause. I could not have planned it any better.
I turned around to see a black-haired teenager, about my age, wearing blue jeans with a scabbard hanging from his beltline. He looked vaguely familiar, but I could not place him. He pulled a chair out from an adjoining table and sat down.
“Who are you?”
“Excuse me?” I asked in reply as he picked up a fork and took a stab at my dinner.
He then proceeded to take a bite of my steak.
“Jason what?” And with that, he took the whole plate.
“Ahh yes, and obviously, you’re Tiffany Creighton.”
“How do you—”
“This is great. Very tender. Angus?” He then stood up and motioned for us to get up as well. “Come with me.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m sorry to tell this to you, well, no, not really, because it’s true: this is all wrong.”
“What are you talking about?” Tiffany asked as he grabbed her hand and looked at her ring.
“This. Cannot happen.”
“Who—?” Tiffany asked before being cut off by the interloper with a sword on his belt. He sighed in annoyance and looked at me.
“Five years ago. We talked about something, do you remember?”
“Didn’t think so.”
He had the two of us by the hands, leading us through an insane “yellow brick road”-like dance as we weaved through the dining area.
“Can I get clued in and ask what you are talking about?” Tiffany asked as she stared at him.
“Ask him,” he glanced toward me as I broke Tiffany and myself away.
“Let’s go,” I replied without answering.
Tiffany walked away with me as the teenager stood on top of a glass table.
“Before you go,” he bellowed out while teetering back and forth. “I need to ask you a few questions. Humor me for a moment, please. How did the two of you first meet?”
“At a weekend camp,” I answered.
“Nineteen eighty-eight,” Tiffany responded, beating me to the answer.
“What’s her brother’s name?”
“I don’t—” I began as he turned and performed a perfect somersault off the table.
“Strike one!” He bowed slightly and continued the interrogation. “Okay, color are her eyes?”
“Strike two!” He then turned to Tiffany as he paced around us. “What month were you born?”
“Strike two and three quarters! And for the icing on the proverbial wedding cake, what’s your middle name?”
Tiffany looked at him and then to me with a quizzical look on her face.
“You don’t know the answer to these questions because this future was written by someone with a very limited view.”
I stared in shock and disbelief at this stranger as he kept walking around us.
“What do you want from me?”
“I can show you both how this future ends, but you won’t like it.
“How can you show us our future?” She asked.
“Not yours, just this one. Every page of it has been written, but only up to a point.”
“You sure you want to know?”
“Fine. Good thing you’re dressed. We have a wedding to attend.”
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