He took the flask out of his inner suit jacket pocket and took a swig.
“Oh. Stop that.” I scolded. “You have nothing to be nervous about.”
I held the two items for him in my hands. A single red rose, and a small velvet box. I twirled the rose between my fingers daintily. “We’ve been standing in her yard for an hour. She’s going to notice us.”
Brandon put the cap back on his flask and put it into his suit pocket, pulling at his clothes nervously. He looked great, his broad shoulders fitted well in a black suit jacket, with matching pants and a light blue dress shirt underneath. He didn’t look quite like himself, but very handsome. The last few warm rays of the April sunset reflected off his firey red hair and beard, making it look more ginger than usual.
I smiled, watching him fidget. I never thought I would see him afraid of anything. It seemed like only yesterday, but at the same time a lifetime ago, when he returned from Afghanistan. The bravest soldier in the USMC. Skinny, tan, and dressed in green, with his close cropped haircut, you wouldn’t even think he was the same person if you looked at the pictures now. And so young. We all were so young then. Shelby was with us that day. Her and Brandon had been friend’s since they were children.
I put my hand on my friend’s arm and smiled. “This is what you’ve been waiting for. She’s the one for you. You’ve known this your entire life.” He didn’t look at me, just tugged at his collar.
“Do you remember when you and she met?” I asked him.
He paused. “When her parents were building their house in the country. They were our new neighbors and came over for a bbq.” A smile flitted across his face. “We caught snakes in a bucket and then i got sap in her hair from the climbing tree.”
“Didnt you get bit by a snake?”
“Yeah, but I was 8 and she was only 7, so I had to be tough.” He said, smiling again.
I handed him the rose, and opened the small velvet box. The beautiful, antique gold and diamond ring still sat inside quietly. “Such a beautiful ring. This is so special.” I whispered, closing the box.
“My mother’s ring.” He said. “I can’t do this. I can’t.”
I looked at him and smiled. “Remember what you told me? Yesterday?” I didn’t wait for him to answer. “That she was the best thing that ever happened to you, and you can’t imagine your life without her. That you love her more than anyone or anything.”
We saw Shelby walk in front of the window of the house, a small, happy young women with her hair pulled back into a high ponytail. We dived behind the bushes to stay hidden.
I put my hand on his face, looking deeply into his dark brown eyes. I took his hand in mine, showing him my large solitaire engagement ring and wedding band. “My wedding day was the best day of my life. And I know yours will be too. This is what you deserve. And this is what you’ve been waiting for. Ask Shelby to marry you.” I put the small velvet box into his sweaty hand. “Now go, it’s almost dark!”
I watch him slowly walk up to the door, looking back at me over his shoulder nervously. I start to saunter down the street into the last fading sunlight, but stop for a moment, and turn and look back. He’s still standing on the doorstep, looking down at the box in his hand. I smile at him, and watch him knock on the door.
I turn and keep walking, and then look back one more time. The door is open. She’s there with him now, and hes down on one knee. I watch as he slips the ring onto her finger, she is crying and laughing at the same time as they kiss in the doorway.
I continue off down the road in the last light of the April sun, and pull a cigar out of my back pocket and light it up. I don’t smoke, but this is a celebration cigar, and one I’ve been saving for a long, long time. I blow a puff of smoke up into the air, and smile.