The ceremony ends and my mother and I make the rounds shaking hands with my teachers and the administrators. One of them hands me a bouquet of white roses. He’s giving them to all of the girls. Once we’ve spoken to everyone, we move toward the door.
“Rose, wait,” a voice calls out from behind me.
I spin on my heels and come face to face with Jared Thomas. My instincts tell me to scan the room for Ryan. I locate him chatting with a cluster of students who have already removed their caps and gowns.
“What do you want?” I pray that this fool won’t cause a scene at graduation, but I can’t trust that he’ll be smart enough to behave like an adult.
He holds his out to me and says, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry. The goat thing was stupid, and I should never have sent you that text. Cool?”
Still not certain that this isn’t the start of one last prank, I reservedly take his hand. We shake and he says, “Congratulations.”
Relieved, I respond, “Yeah, you too.”
* * *
Ryan completeshis responsibilities at the school and picks us up at my house for dinner. I’m wearing a knee-length burgundy dress that’s a perfect match to his tie. The plunging neckline shows off my new necklace, which sparkles when touched by the light.
“You both look lovely,” Ryan tells us.
“Thank you for inviting me.” My mother leans in and kisses his cheek.
“Of course. We couldn’t possibly celebrate without you,” he replies.
I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to Ryan’s taste for fine dining, but my mother and I are both impressed by the restaurant that he’s chosen for us tonight. Valet parking, the maître d complete with a French accent, and waiters in black tie and tails set the mood for a very upscale evening.
In true form, he orders our meals for us. Course after course of exquisitely prepared food comes to the table.
“It’s called Service a la Francaise,” Ryan explains.
From the first course of escargot and French onion soup to the café gourmand with Crème Brule, chocolate mousse, and fresh berries, the meal is impressive.
When we finish, the waiter returns with a bottle of champagne and three glasses. He pours a glass for each of us and scurries away.
Ryan raises his glass and begins, “We’re here to celebrate a milestone in Rose’s life. Her hard work, dedication, and commitment are the reasons that she’s ending her high school career in the top five percent of her graduating class.”
“To Rose,” my mother adds.
“While we’re all together, I’d like to say something else. From the moment Rose and I met, I knew that she was someone special. She’s bold, beautiful, intelligent, and strong. When we’re together, I feel like she’s part of my purpose. It’s only been a few months, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her. So, now that we’re all here together celebrating one milestone, I’d like to propose another. Rose, will you do me the honor of being my wife?”
The world around me fades away, and all I can see or hear is Ryan standing before me holding a diamond ring in his hand. A marriage proposal was the last thing that I expected so soon, but somehow nothing has ever felt so right. When I told him that I wanted to belong to him, I meant forever.
“I love you so much, Ryan. Yes, I’ll be your wife.”
He slides the ring onto my finger and wipes away the tears that are rolling down my cheeks.
“I love you, baby. I promise to provide for and protect you for the rest of our lives.” He holds my face and seals the commitment with a passionate kiss.
My mother, who had silently witnessed my marriage proposal, hugs me and tells me, “I wish you happiness, Rose. I think you’ve found a wonderful man.”
Having her approval is the icing on the cake. She may have made mistakes, but she sacrificed and struggled to do her best for me, and I want her to be proud.
We drop Rose’s mother off and go to my place to celebrate our engagement. I’ve been waiting all day to have her to myself, and I don’t want to waste another minute.