If you have missed any of the first twelve installments to "Our Story," click HERE and scroll to the bottom. Pull up a seat, and a snack…it's gotten fairly lengthy :-) There will only be one installment after this one!
My phone rings and I look at the caller ID: Jared. My roommates’ boyfriend of seven years.
“Hey Kels…is ‘Nae around because if not I need to talk to you?”
“Uh, no. What’s up?”
“Okay….I’m gonna do it. I have the ring and I’m gonna do it!” He sounds like a little kid.
“Really?! That’s awesome! When? How? Does she have any clue?”
He dives into his plan, the details, the ring--everything.
“Well that sounds perfect, Jared. Are you calling for my permission or something?” I joke.
“No…actually, okay, this might be weird but I need you to figure out a way to get her to move her purity ring from her ring finger.”
“I don’t want to have to take off that ring to put on this one…I don’t know…”
“Actually I totally understand.”
“Yeah, and she’s used to your weird ideas so she won’t think anything of it. Just make something up. She won’t have a clue!”
The next day I tell Renae that we are going to have a dinner date and then a “moving of the rings ceremony.” She stares at me blankly. “Come on! It will be fun. We’ll play music, or something…I don’t know the details yet…and then you and I will move our purity rings from our left finger to our right hand. I think it’s time. I mean, I don’t know about you but I don’t want Brent to have to stumble around and figure out the logistics of all that while he’s proposing. And who knows…that could be any time….” I keep rambling.
“Okay! You’re weird, and whatever, but okay.” Excellent. She has no clue.
* * *
I look out the window at the whiteness. The wind howls through the cracks and the snow piles up in drifts. I can’t even see down to the sidewalk below my second story dorm window. I let out a sigh and sit down at my computer, pulling up Southwest Airlines’ website. There is no way I’m going to be leaving Northwest Iowa anytime soon, let alone make it to airport in Kansas City to fly to Nashville. My trip to visit my sister will just have to be postponed. I make the appropriate clicks on the screen before calling and letting her know.
So much for SPRING break, I think as I bring the phone to my ear.
* * *
I throw my bag into the backseat of my blue GrandAm. It has been packed for three days, ready to make the trip home, but the interstates have been closed. I have gotten sick of consoling my stir-crazy wingmates since I, though their RA, have also been going a bit crazy sitting in a dorm that was supposed to be emptied for a week long break.
But now I have checked all the girls out of their rooms, have double checked that the interstates are passable, and talked to my dad to see what he thinks about the roads. I look at the clock on the dash as I start up the car: 9:42. I should have already been in Nashville for over a day. I throw my shoulders back, determined to still make the most of my time off from school. I have called about subbing to make a little extra cash, and Brent has decided to come up for the weekend, so it will only be three and half more days until I get to see him again. I can’t be upset about that!
I glance at my left hand. It has been empty since Renae and I shared our silly “ring-moving-ceremony.” Hers filled up quickly after that with a beautiful diamond from Jared’s grandma that had been put in a new setting, just for her. But here was my empty hand, four months since our silly ceremony, two and half years since he’d said, “I love you,” and over three years since our initial conversation in that cold car in February. Sigh. I pop in a CD and ease my car onto the still-snow-packed local streets, sinking into my seat a bit to get comfortable for the five hour drive home.
* * *
Standing before the band students while substitute teaching, my mind wanders to this afternoon. Brent will finally be here and, since I haven’t seen him for over a month and a half, I can’t help but imagine the feeling and warmth of his arms around me. Even after three years, the sound of his voice still sends tingles to my toes.
My lunch of leftovers warms my throat as I dial his number. He picks up and I take a sip of water to clear my throat. “Hey you, I’ve got some good news.”
“Hey, beautiful! What’s the news?
“Apparently I’m done subbing at 1:30 today instead of 3:00. Which means…I’ll get to see you a whole hour and a half earlier than we thought!”
“Oh. Great. Um. You can go home and change though. Take your time. You don’t need to rush around.”
What? Weirdo. What is he talking about? Of COURSE I’m going to rush around if it means more time with him, and furthermore how dare he………GASP!! Oh my gosh…he’s acting weird which can only mean one thing…he’s going to propose! Why us women tend to go there at these points in time is beyond me, but now I have to feel him out.
“Really? Cause I could be at your house by two?”
“Yeah, I’m still getting around anyway and doing laundry and stuff. Don’t rush. Spend some time with your mom or something.”
“She’ll be at work still…but okay. I’ll take my time. I’ll probably be there by 3 or 3:30 though, is that okay?”
“Ugh…sure. Just give me a call before you head over.”
“Okay. Love you. Can’t wait to kiss you!”
“I know, Squeeze, it’s been awhile.” I smile at the nickname he’s randomly assigned me over the past couple years. I’m still unsure of how he came up with it or why it’s stuck around. “Love you. See you soon.”
Immediately after hanging up, I dial my sister. “Kali! What-do-I-do-I-think-Brent-is-going-to-propose-to-me-tonight-how-do-I-act-what-do-I-wear…”
As I take a pause to gasp for breath, she cuts in, “Woah, Kels. Why do you think he’s going to propose?”
“I don’t know he’s just acting strange and doesn’t want me to rush over which is just SO weird, right? I mean, right?”
She talks me through my excited anxiety, and helps me think of something to wear that is still casual enough in case my rampaging imagination has deceived me and he is, in fact, NOT proposing. The bell rings and I tell her I’ll keep her informed as students trickle back into the classroom.
* * *
I sit in my parked car in Brent’s driveway. Breathe in. Breathe out. Look normal. I expect to walk in to a room full of daisies and Brent on one knee or…something! Instead, as I make my way into the living room, I find him in sweatpants…and a tshirt…folding laundry!! WHAT?!
He jumps up and I bury my face in his neck. Though I’m disappointed by the lack of proposal material that is happening in the room, I feel my body relax as his scent fills my nose and the warmth of his body embraces me. I feel safe, protected, and loved, even without a silly ring on my left hand. I guess I can wait a little longer if he wants to drag this out.
* * *
After visiting three of our nephews in town, we make our way to Fazzolis. Ever since prom, we’ve decided that cheap Italian food is the way to go. I sit across from him in the small booth. As I suck down my fettuccini noodles, he smiles at me. I begin to wonder how we have made the past three years work. It’s as if being in his presence reminds me of his absence in an even stronger capacity than when we’re away. We munch on breadsticks in silence. He reaches across the table and quietly grabs my hand. I don’t need a ring to understand his commitment in this moment.
On the way home we laugh about old memories, and comfortably sit side by side. I’m so completely happy in sharing this car ride with him that I hardly notice him miss the turn that will bring us back to his house. Before I can say anything he is turning into the church parking lot just a block past the missed road. I assume he is going to turn around, but he throws the car into park. Kissing in parking lots is not above us; after all we are college students in love, but in a church parking lot? I mean, I have my standards!
Before I can begin my rebuttal, Brent steps out of the car. I stare at him through the windshield, trying to figure out what is happening as he opens my door. And then I realize it is a good thing I wore a top that I liked because what I thought may be happening this evening may just be happening right now. I tell myself to mentally hold onto every moment, and grab my purse in which I happened to throw my camera before leaving home.
He leads me to a door on the side and before I notice the note stuck to it, I remember that this is the church where my friend introduced me—braces, bangs, awkwardness, and all—to that quiet seventh grade boy eight years ago. I look at the note, then at Brent, who urges me with his gentle, brown eyes to take it.
“Kels, look inside the 1st book in the 3rd pew on the left side.”
He pushes the door open for me and I remind myself not to run. As I locate the proper pew and hymnal, he disappears momentarily into a side room. I peel off the note, which instructs me to turn to hymn #221, off the top of the blue book. 221. Our high school basketball numbers combined. He has thought of everything.
Just as I reach the page number, an envelope falls out. I don’t even notice Brent slide into the pew next to me with his guitar. I tear into it, open the card, and then open the note that is inside:
“...I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed the past 3 years, 1 month, and 1 day. It is amazing to see how God was working internally in our own lives and externally in the events leading up to us being “brentandkelsey”. I have learned so much in the past 3 years about you, love, myself, and God.
...I have been able to study you: how heavy your head is after it has fallen asleep on my arm, how your eyes peek open as you slip into a nap just to see me watch you fall asleep, how your hand rests into mine, how you look at me when I’ve said something that is just like my father, how you love me even though I have sometimes disappointed or failed you, how competitive you get at card games, how your smile can take my heart and create peace within the deepest part of my being, how excited you are to have children, how much you adore your parents, how much you hate dogs, vomit, storms, the feel of jeans, and being away from me, how you love kids, cheese, home, hearing how much I know about you, hearing that you’re beautiful to me, kisses on the forehead, and our Father God, and finally how you look at and adore me.
...I also wanted to thank you for giving me a chance and for believing in me to fulfill that dream guy you have prayed for and thought about since you were little.
...I care so much about you, and can’t wait until I can devote my life to serving you. I want to sing you the first and last songs that I wrote for you to show you how much you mean to me. It has been a blessing being with you for so long and sharing all the memories, laughs, cries, and frustrations with you. I hope you know my love for you and my desire to always pursue you.”
I look up and see that while I have been reading his words through now glistening eyes, he has gotten out his guitar. I reach over and place my fingers on the side of his face, tilting my head and smiling. He begins strumming and I hear the chords of a song that I have cherished now for three years...when I look into your eyes...and soon he is beginning the latest one he has written. Knowing now what is about to happen, I cherish the lyrics even more: There’s a day, and I can’t wait...no more tears as I drive away, and all you want is for me to stay. But today, I wouldn’t trade today, for any day no... There’s a day, and I can’t wait, when a little girl calls me daddy. And her hair, curly brown, and all she wants is to have me around. And there’s a day...when our tired eyes tell you a story of a love old in age, but as fresh as the dawn of day. But today, I wouldn’t trade today...
The tears that have been resting just behind my lids now spill down my cheeks. I make no attempt to wipe them away as I am caught up in the moment. As he finishes the last chord, I lean over and wrap my arms around his neck. He holds me for a moment, kisses my wet cheek, and then hands me another note.
“By the front door, where we 1st met, look behind the picture of the old couple.”
I immediately know the picture he is referring to. It is a photograph I have always loved of an elderly couple that used to attend the church. They are walking away from the camera, and it is almost indecipherable which one is holding up the other as they make their way down the sidewalk. I jump up from the pew and walk the long aisle to the foyer. I see the picture resting in the corner of the shelf and, reaching on my tiptoes, I move it to the side. There, resting in the shadows of the room, is a small, wooden ring box. I pick it up, unsure if I am supposed to open it. I spin around to ask Brent.
He is down on one knee, smiling bigger than I’ve ever seen him smile. I reciprocate and hand him the box. He opens it, and reaches for my hand. “I want to grow old with you, Kels. Will you marry me?” He slides the ring on my finger. It is a beautiful, princess cut on a simple, wide band. It’s perfect. This is all too perfect.
* * *
Grinning and foolish, we tumble back into the car. I want to say something, to thank him, to form some words worthy of this moment he has just given me, but I can’t seem to get my mouth to function with my brain. So I simply reach over and grab his hand. He smiles and then pulls the car out onto the road...in the wrong direction yet again.
He glances in my direction with a mischievous grin. “I have a couple other things in store for you.” I then realize why he panicked when I said I could come over sooner today-- he had a lot of things to get in order.
As the night progresses I find out what “a couple other things” means. First is a starlit dance on a dirt road that boasts the last name we will soon be sharing. Brent has created a mix CD of some of my favorite love songs, and as we dance in the moonlight he whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to give you my last name.” Before we leave he pulls out a huge bouquet of daisies that has been hidden in the trunk until this moment.
“A couple other things” also means a trip out to my grandparents’ land. As we pull the car into park, Brent explains that he is excited to marry me here, where I’ve always dreamed of creating an outdoor wedding. As I look out at the landscape and begin to envision the aisle and chairs in the yard of my childhood memories, he hands me a gift bag. I’m too curious to be patient and soon I am holding its contents in my lap: a pink newborn outfit saying, “Daddy’s Little Lovebug” and a blue one reading, “Daddy’s Allstar.” Slightly confused I look over to my new fiance in the driver’s seat and he smiles and says, “I'm so happy you'll one day be the mother of my children and happy that I get to raise a family with you.”
We sit in the silence for a moment, letting the dashboard lights dance on our ecstatic faces, holding this moment in our hands like sunshine on the first day of Spring.