They climbed up through the mountains along the snow covered highway. Rocks draped in ice falls; they got snow early and then held it all the way through spring. The SUV had AWD and it was handling fine though he knew a true 4WD would be better. Every once in awhile they lost traction or slipped sideways on an icy spot but they kept climbing.
He looked over at Rachel; oblivious to his drivetrain concerns, she was reading a book with her feet propped on the dashboard. “Don’t say it.”
“About my legs being broken by the airbag. Just don’t hit anything and I’ll be fine.”
Easy for her to say, he thought to himself. Secretly, he liked her sitting like that because it showed she was comfortable both with his driving and him in general. He stole a glance over, she was wearing red Christmas socks with brown reindeer on them. She was undeniably pretty but just at this moment, sitting like that, her brunette hair cascading over her shoulders the word that came to mind was ‘cute.’
“I know I’m hot but you best keep your eyes on the road mister mister.” Once again she had sensed what he was thinking.
He knew he was a decent looking guy, tall, with an easy grin that made it easy to find girlfriends…sometimes more than one one a time. But she had taken the wind completely out of his sails. She seemed out of his league: she seemed out of everybody’s league. When she had consented to go out with him, she claimed on a dare, he felt like a schoolboy who landed a date with his crush. He had been completely smitten and all he could think of was “please God, let her like me.”
He fingered the little box in his jacket pocket. Just his luck he would lose it. He made good money, but still, it represented a month’s pay for him. He forgot about the box as they crested the final switchback and then descended slightly to a long driveway that led to his Uncle’s cabin. Even though it was snowing, the cabin, just above the tree line had a panoramic view of the green snow covered mountains and the valley far below. The refrigerator had been stocked with enough goodies for the weekend and a bottle of nice champagne to celebrate the big moment. All he had to do was build the fire, they would cuddle up in front of it and it would be game on!
But then he noticed something, smoke was already curling from the chimney above the small living area. What the hell…
“What’s wrong babe?”
He shook his head “Someone is in there. I don’t see a vehicle, they must have hid it in the garage.”
She shrugged “Maybe it’s your Aunt. It’s her place after all.”
“She assured me we would have it to ourselves.”
Rachel screwed up her mouth “hmm. Maybe you should call her. Could be a mix up or maybe someone has broken in…not too uncommon for people to squat in empty cabins during the winter.”
He was already calling. He connected with his aunt. “Yes, of course, I understand. Oh no, that’s great. It will be fun. See you Aunt Vange.” He had to take a deep breath without Rachel picking up on his frustration. It turns out one of his cousins had wanted to use the place and since there were three bedrooms his Aunt saw no problem with them sharing. Not only were his cousin and his wife there but their three small children were as well. His plans were ruined, but he couldn’t betray that. Rachel loved children and would probably think it would be great fun.
He explained the situation and as predicted she was enthusiastic about meeting the children, playing games and drinking with the adults but only after the kiddos were in bed. “What’s wrong? Oh no, you wanted us to be alone! I’m sorry sweetie. We’ll have fun. We can be alone all we want after we get back home.
He nodded, putting a good face on. “Sure. It will be great.”
She gave him the side eye. “Come on, don’t be a downer. Let’s go meet the mob.”
Things turned out better than he thought they would. After all he did like his cousin and his wife was hilarious, and so the afternoon sped by.. Every once in awhile he would look up and see the two women whispering to each other and Rachel paying special attention to him roughhousing with the children on the floor.
Rachel called to one of the little girls “Mary Ellen, come sit on my lap. We have girl things to discuss.” The girl popped on her lap happily and began giggling when Rachel said something only she could hear. “So Mary Ellen, do you think Luke likes me?” The girl nodded shyly. “Why do you think that is?”
“Because you’re a girl and you’re pretty.”
“Mommy says he has a one track mind.”
Rachel snorted “Of course he does. Boys are like that.” Luke was shifting uncomfortably on the sofa opposite Rachel and Mary Ellen. She said something in the girl’s ear again. Mary Ellen giggled. “So what do you think?” She nodded enthusiastically. “Okay. Go ahead and tell him.”
The little girl shuffled over to Luke who scooped her up, thinking he would best Rachel at whatever game she was playing. He asked her “So what do you have to tell me?”
Again Mary Ellen giggled and couldn’t get it out.
“Go ahead sweetie” urged Rachel.
He shook his fist over at his girlfriend “I know you are up to no good.”
Just then Mary Ellen regained enough composure to spit out the message. “Rachel says you’re a dork, but yes, she will marry you.”
For a minute there was silence, but then the room erupted. The rest of the family had been hidden, alerted to Rachel’s plan. There was cheering and of course Luke bounded across the room and grabbed Rachel. “I love you baby!”
“I know” she retorted dryly.
His cousin’s wife piped in “just be glad it went down this way. You would have gomered it up somehow left on your own.” Then she came over and gave them both a kiss.
Luke kept holding on to Rachel “but wait, how did you know?”
“Oh my god. Could you have been more obvious? You were so afraid of losing that ring I would have had to be brain dead to have missed it. Which by the way, you better put on my finger before I change my mind.”
And so he did, and seeing his cousins beaming, and the children running themselves ragged in circles around the room, he saw his future laid out before him. He drew Rachel closer and looked her in the eyes “I am so happy, but I was hoping to make it romantic for you.” One of the children let out an ear splitting scream.
She curled up under his arm…”I can’t think of anything more romantic. You got us up here in one piece and you made a big effort. I love you for that. But you’re still a dork.”
He just looked at her and smiled from the inside out.
© Glenn R Keller 2022, All Rights Reserved