Based on a true story
A Surprising Proposition
Months passed and Mark, the kids, and I had begun to feel like a real family. Things went exceptionally well, until one day in mid-December....
I headed out the door and Mark nervously asked me where I'd be and how long I'd be gone. "I need to run some errands and make some copies of paperwork for my boss. I'll probably be back around 2. Why?" I asked.
"Ummm. No reason." He fidgeted suspiciously, maybe even looking guilty—of something.
After finishing my errands, I rushed home, wondering what I would find. There sat Mark, grinning over leftovers from a restaurant.
"Oh! You went out to eat?" I asked.
"Yeah. And it's none of your business who I went with." I think it was meant to be a joke, but it wasn't funny. My eyes studied him, and how he appeared obviously amused, dreamily peering out my front window.
What the Hell? I wanted to scream, Are you cheating on me? But after months of counseling—and being the good woman that I occasionally am—I donned a too-happy smile. "Neat!"
His eyebrows furrowed and he gauged my reaction. "Do you know where I was?"
I cleared my throat. "I have an idea."
"Huh," he said, then began staring out that freakin' window again like he saw Jessica Alba or something.
He seemed so twitter pated. Maybe he HAD been out with someone else!
As the next few minutes passed, I tried very hard not to let my mind go wild with assumptions, when Mark suddenly said, "You'll go see the Christmas lights with me?"
"Ummm...Sure. Let me go change. I'll be right back." And I put on the cutest red outfit ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. If he was seeing someone else, I'd show him! Make him want me, and if he didn’t he could: Take. A. Hike.
I'd worked myself up so much, by the time I came down those stairs, I knew I looked pretty, with big red lips and perfectly smoky eyes—and enough base to last through an atomic bomb. My boobs were pushed so high, they practically hit my chin.
I smiled snidely as Mark's jaw dropped. "Holy shit, you look good." Hopefully better than the "Betty Bimbo" he'd been out with earlier. "Where did you get that..."
"Outfit?" I batted my recently acquired fake eyelashes. "I've had this thing forever." If forever meant two days....
Although I might have looked pretty, I didn't act it. I was pretty...irate.
We drove in silence, then after about thirty minutes, Mark parked and dragged me to a huge park lined with people, trees, and a Christmas village. Twinkling red, green, blue, purple and white lights dangled from every tree.
I wanted to stay quiet, and elusively mad. But instead I couldn't help getting lost in the beauty around. Snow drifted onto my face, dusting my fake eyelashes. I giggled, spinning, looking up at the majestic twinkling lights.
Mark held my hand. "Come on, baby!" he said, "Look at all of these lit-up houses."
We walked past dozens of houses. Each "home" stood about twelve feet squared, displaying various scenes of families at Christmas. And seeing each tiny Christmas house, I couldn't help grinning up at Mark.
He held me, nestling his chest into my back and holding his hands in the front of my waist.
"I love you," he whispered, holding me so tight that I never wanted him to let me go.
"I love you too," I whispered back. He had started leading me to a clearing in the middle of the houses and copses of trees when I couldn't stay quiet any longer, "Mark. Where were you today? I don't want to be a nag, or seem accusatory... But it's bugging me. Can you please tell me who you were with? Is she pretty?"
He looked like he'd swallowed a frog. "Well... I wouldn't put it that way—at all. You really want to know?"
"I'll tell you later."
I groaned and let go of him. But it was freezing standing alone and a shiver went up my spine, making me shake from the cold.
"Your hands are turning blue, Gina! Why don't you put them in your pockets and warm them up."
He said it really weird, like he needed me to put my hands in my pockets more than he needed oxygen. "Ummm.... I'm okay."
He frowned, his face framed by lime green lights that twinkled just above his head.
This whole conversation reminded me of another time I'd been out in the cold with Mark. He'd slipped hand warmers into my pockets, in case my hands were cold.
My breath suddenly caught, and no more misty clouds came from my frozen lips. Oh my gosh, I thought. Mark had probably slipped something into my pockets! More hand warmers?
"Seriously, why don't you warm up your hands?" he persisted.
"I'm really okay!"
I saw the longing in his eyes and bit my lip. "Gina..."
Stilling biting my lip, I slowly slipped my hands into my pockets and felt two hand warmers. As my hands fumbled in my pockets, I realized one of the hand warmers had something tied to it. My eyes closed and I shook myself. Was this a dream?
There was A RING tied to one of the hand warmers.
My hands shakily withdrew from my pockets and I looked at the ring laying in my palm.
Not from the monetary worth, or visible value therein the diamonds sparkled more than any of the lights above us.
"Gina," Mark said, kneeling down in the snow, in the middle of all those lights and Christmas houses. He didn't seem to care who saw him, or what they thought. He just stared up into my eyes, more serious than I'd ever seen him.
"I went to lunch with your dad today."
I gasped even more stunned.
"I wanted to ask him a question...."
Silence—for once in my freakin' life I had no response.
Mark on the other hand, had no problem talking. His low voice was so clear, so perfect, as his every word made my world shine for him and him alone. "I know it won't always be easy," he said. "Life can be uncertain and hard. But I wouldn't want anyone else by my side, through the good and bad, the thick and thin. My life is so different with you and your kids in it. I love all of you so much. And I can't think of anything that I want more than the chance to try to make you the happiest woman, for the rest of your life."
I refused to tear up. And I tried so hard, that I forgot to say anything. A bunch of people around, who had heard the whole spiel, leaned forward almost as anxious as Mark. One woman squealed, "John, why didn't YOU propose like that?"
I laughed at her words, as I continued peering into Mark's eyes.
"So?" he asked, slowly standing up, all of the color draining from his face.
"Of course!" I whispered, then threw my arms around his neck and squeezed him tight.
As we walked back to his truck that night, the lights seemed to twinkle even more. Children's laughter rang clearer than normal. And my heart fluttered with such a peace.
"What did my dad say?" I asked. "When you asked him for my hand in marriage?" I could just imagine Mark asking my father—who happens to be an awesome—albeit very intimidating—old-school construction worker.
"Your dad said he'd leave it up to you, but that he couldn't imagine you finding a better man."
"I can't either," I said, then looked down at my ring. I loved the ring so much, not because it was more than anyone had ever spent on me, or because it was absolutely breath-taking—I loved it because that little ring meant I'd get to spend the rest of my life with Mark.