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Engagement, Pt. II

I did not tell Stephanie that I was working nights as a janitor. It wasn’t a hard secret to keep since we lived in separate cities. We would talk on the phone at the end of the day, say goodnight, and as she fell off to sleep I would fall behind a mop.

Usually alone in the quiet of an empty building, I worked for hours at a time, cleaning and thinking of her. At one point, during a visit to Abilene, Stephanie discovered that I was saving money. She asked with a hopeful lilt in her voice what I was saving for. I explained that I was finally saving for a set of Bose 901 speakers, a plausible excuse since she knew that I had wanted them for a number of years. She believed it, and wept disappointed tears. If I had it to do all over again I would have traded a little less surprise for a little more compassion.

Stephanie’s birthday that year fell on Easter weekend. She and I had planned to drive to a Hardin-Simmons owned cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico, for the weekend of her birthday. We had been planning this for a while, and I knew it was the right time for a proposal. Stephanie had Good Friday off, so on Thursday afternoon she drove from Dallas to Abilene as soon as she was finished teaching.

I had everything planned for her arrival: Hardin-Simmons has a modest sized chapel with a truly grand stained glass window that is probably thirty feet high by twenty feet wide. I had told Stephanie a number of times that I wanted to photograph this window as the sun was setting behind it. I knew this would be a plausible excuse for going there and the ideal setting for a proposal. I recruited my good friend Forrest to assist me in preparations. I asked him to wait up in the choir loft and operate the sound system, on which we had queued up a specific audio track, a Chinese song called "Bright Moon" from a movie we had seen together. I also had the ring planted there by the altar.

Stephanie finally arrived, a little later than expected. As soon as she pulled in to the parking lot, I jumped in her car, told her to drive around to the chapel, and led her inside. I took her arm in mine, and as we walked down the long center isle, the music began to play, filling the otherwise empty room. When we arrived down in front of the altar, where we might be standing if we were actually performing the wedding sacrament, I began to recite the translated Chinese lyrics:

Far away the clouds are fading
My lover appears in the moonlight
Tonight we are happy, together again
On the crystal water swims a pair of ducks
Green leaves, red petals
The lotus flowers open
A pair of ducks and you and I together
The playful breeze caresses the flowers
And our love lights up the world

After that, I said some other stuff that I’m not gonna share here, and presented the ring to her. The next day, we were on our way to New Mexico. It was a gorgeous spring day, we were in Stephanie’s new red Celica convertible with the top down, and we had six hours of highway in front of us. Stephanie called a number of her friends and family to share the good news. As I drove, she stared at the ring for a long, long time.

About halfway to Ruidoso, three hours into a six-hour drive, I remembered that the keys to the cabin were sitting on my desk in my apartment in Abilene. We discussed possible solutions, but the only thing to do was turn around and go back. We were in too good of spirits to let this dampen our day. We simply turned around and drove back to Abilene, picked up the key, and headed on our way again. I was driving pretty damn fast under the exultation of the weather, the car, the day, and the occasion. We still arrived in Ruidoso, mildly sunburned, in time for dinner.

Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 08:15AM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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