It started with a series of lies.
Elaborate ones. Thomas wasn’t comfortable resting in vague excuses and dodged questions. Instead, he crafted a string of startlingly realistic fake Facebook messages, pre-recorded sound bytes of him practicing piano, and fabricated text messages. I had no reason to doubt that he was in Texas, but if I did, he had stores of evidence just waiting to be deployed.
So, when I was waiting for Rebekah to pick me up for dinner, I didn’t have the slightest clue that anyone other than her would be picking me up. I was leaning against a pavillion in the overflow parking lot, hoping that none of the drunkards and youths that frequented that area made eye contact with me, when a car slowed down right in front of me. I readied myself to mean mug the driver. My scowl transformed into wide-eyed surprise when the window rolled down, revealing Thomas. Thomas, who had been in Texas when I’d talk to him twenty minutes earlier on the phone. I blinked hard. He was dressed in a black suit and skinny tie, holding a bouquet. There was a long scratch on the side of his nose.
“Do you need a ride?” Thomas asked.
I paused for a moment, rendered immobile by surprise and disbelief.
“Yes,” I said and got in the car.
I climbed into the passenger’s seat and continued to stare at him, speechless. I put a cautious hand to his cheek, sure he would disappear the moment I touched him. He didn’t. He grinned at me. I asked what happened to his nose and he said, simply: “Bar fight.” I blinked a couple more times.
Finally, I took his face in my hands and said, “Look, Thomas, I’m so happy you’re here. But I’ve had this dream a lot, and I’m not entirely convinced that this is actually you.” I looked at him very seriously. “So, I need you to prove it. Tell me something that only Thomas would know.”
Without missing a beat, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an orange-and-blue blindfold. “You remember this old friend?” he asked.
I did. It was the same blindfold that he’d used on our third date, when he’d led me down a flight of stairs, into his car, down some roads, and into an chartered airplane that he had arranged to fly us to Gulf Shores for the day.
“Yes,” I said.
“And you remember what to do with it?” he asked.
“Oh, I remember,” I said, and he stopped the car to tie it over my eyes.
And we drove. He offered me a cup of coffee and shot the breeze, as cool and calm as could be. Meanwhile, I was still dizzy with disbelief and restless with curiosity. Eyes closed tight under the blindfold, I relished the feeling of his warm hand in mine after so many weeks of only seeing it through a computer screen. I sat back and listened to him talk, waiting for the rest of the adventure to unfold.
He stopped the car and helped me out. Being led in a blindfold, even by someone you claim to trust with your life, is one of life’s most humbling experiences. I compared it to a giant version of the game we play on dates where one person closes their eyes and has to hunt for their drink using only their face. I stopped abruptly every few steps, sure that he was planning on letting me topple over a curb so that I could get some scrapes to match his mysterious injury. I tried to shake off the suspicion but I still limited myself to 3-5 steps at a time, so the journey took a while. He coaxed me on until we reached two iron-wrought spiral staircases. We climbed the first one, reached a landing, then climbed a second one until we reached level ground. He lead me down a path and then gently put his hands on my shoulders to turn me around. He reached up and untied the blindfold.
I gasped. The first thing I saw were thousands of lights. We were on a rooftop in Opelika that was blanketed in beautiful, flickering white candles. The treetops that brushed against the roof were covered with twinkling lights. A small fire gave off warmth and a gentle red glow. The effect was breathtaking. The rooftop was overlooking town square, with its beautiful fountain and lanterns, and in the distance I could see the steeple of the church where Thomas and I first met. He took my hands and gave an incredible speech that I loved too much to try to recreate here.
Then, he got down on one knee and said, “Lane Scott Jones: will you marry me?”
They say in moments of high emotion and adrenaline, time moves more slowly. You notice a tremendous amount of sensory information in a matter of seconds. In the few moments between him asking and me giving an answer, I somehow took in the dreamy glow of the rooftop, the golden glimmer shining out from the little black box, the look on his face, and the overwhelming sensation of feeling like everything was exactly how it was always supposed to be – how my heart had always yearned for it to be. My first thought was, “Of course. Of course it’s Thomas; it’s always been Thomas.” My first word was, “Yes.” My second word was “Yes.” In my pure jubilation, I ignored the ring completely and met him on the ground with a kiss. He lifted me into an embrace and we stayed there for a long time.
Finally, he asked, “Do you want to see the ring?” I stepped back and squealed my answer. He slid it onto my ring finger and I marveled at it and what it meant. I looked up at the boy I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
“Would you care to join me for dinner?” he asked, grinning. Behind him was a table for two, draped in his mother’s white tablecloth, and a bottle of wine waiting to be opened. Thomas’s best friend and our waiter for the night appeared at the top of the spiral staircase carrying a basket of bread. We hugged him and celebrated. He spent the evening running from MaFia’s back kitchen and up onto the roof carrying our beautiful entrees, drinks, and desserts. Thomas and I enjoyed a lovely, romantic dinner out on the rooftop. We called our parents. We danced next to the fire to our favorite songs. We talked about the adventures we would have together. He finally revealed that the battle wound on his face had happened during the day’s set-up when he lost a wrestling match with a piece of lattice at Lowe’s. At one point, I had him show me exactly where we had been standing when he proposed because even during dinner, I still couldn’t quite believe it had all happened.
Sitting on a couch in the incredible apartment below, after dinner but before we met all our friends to celebrate, Thomas and I reveled in the glow of everything that had happened. Thomas looked at me. I looked at the ring. It was perfect: thin gold band and teardrop shaped diamond with a point so sharp it could double as a weapon (a requirement that I ask of all my jewelry).
At the same time, we both started to say something. He said, gazing at me with a tenderness I had never seen before, “Lane, I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you,” as the exact same moment that I announced, “I am going to kill a man with this ring one day.”