Ben - June 2015
I pulled into Jessica's driveway and checked my pocket for the twentieth time since I had left the house, feeling the outline of the item it held. I swallowed hard and turned up the music, trying to calm my nerves. We both graduated from college yesterday, and we were setting out to celebrate together. I was about to get out of the car and go to the door when the porch light turned on.
The inside door opened, and Jessica came walking down the front steps. She looked amazing, her long blond hair flowing freely behind her, tight jeans that hugged her in all the right places, and a white T-shirt with a matching jean jacket overtop. I watched as she bounced down the stairs and smiled as she waved excitedly at me. Seconds later, she pulled the door open and hopped in, my car filling with the light scent of the jasmine perfume I had gotten her for her birthday a few weeks earlier.
"Hey," I said, leaning over and meeting her lips. "You ready to go?"
"MMMM... yes." She hummed as she kissed my lips. "Exactly what did you have in mind for tonight? Where are we going?" she asked, kissing me one more time before pulling her seatbelt across her.
"Let's go find out, shall we." I winked and reversed out of the driveway.
We drove up the coast, Jessica looking out over the water at the sailboats that were making their way into the harbor. It was a sight I would never tire of. I loved our small town and looked forward to settling down with Jessica by my side. I reached over and took her hand in mine as I turned down an old dirt road and continued driving until we came to a crossroads. I made a left and pulled the car into a makeshift driveway.
"I thought we would come out here, to the site my dad and I have been working on. This way we can have some privacy, and I can show you what we've done to this old place."
"You guys are working on this? I've always loved this place. From the time I was a little girl I always wondered who used to live here, what they were like." She undid her seatbelt and slowly climbed out of the car into a field of overgrown grass. She smiled as she shut the door and looked in the direction of the old house.
We'd come out here last summer, and she had talked about what it would be like to fix up this old place together. She meandered toward the house, smiling to herself.
Reaching into the backseat of my car, I pulled out the red-checkered blanket and the picnic basket that I'd packed earlier and caught up to her. She was already up near the frame of the recent addition that we'd added. She looked around, a slight smile on her face.
"You're adding on to it?"
"Yes, it was rather small, so my dad decided it would help sell if it was larger. It's only a frame now, but once the walls go up, it will be so much easier to envision," I said, dropping the blanket and basket down in a grassy area that had been recently cut.
I walked over and began showing her where things would go. "I know it doesn't look like much now, but just wait."
"I'm sure it will be amazing. It's a shame though, I always loved this old house the way it was, but I can't wait to see what it looks like once it's finished."
She had looked around a little more, and I took the opportunity to spread the blanket out on the ground. Then I walked over to where she was standing and grabbed her hand. "Come with me." I said slightly pulling her in the direction of the blanket. "I brought us a picnic."
"That sounds wonderful. What are we having?"
I waited for Jessica to sit down first, then she patted the space next to her, looking up at me with her blue eyes. I knelt down, removing the small light from the picnic basket, and turned it on, lighting up the area in which we sat. I pulled out our dinner and opened the lids on the containers. "I hope your hungry and that roast chicken and potato salad are okay?" I questioned.
"That sounds wonderful. I'm so hungry. It was so busy at work today that I didn't really have time to eat."
I reached into the basket and pulled out two forks, handing one to her. Then as we always had done, we each took turns digging into each dish. We ate, talking about graduation and our plans for the future, as the crickets started their evening song. Once we had finished dinner and we put the containers back in the car, I rolled my jacket up under my head and lay back, staring up at the stars, Jessica cuddling into my side.
"One day, I want us to build us a house like this," I whispered, kissing her forehead. "Our master bedroom will have a skylight so we can fall asleep looking up at the stars like we've done since we were kids. I will give you your dream country kitchen that you've been telling me you want. We'll have a second bedroom for when our little ones come along, and in the backyard, I'll build them a tree house, like the one I had in my backyard growing up," I whispered.
"You mean like the one I fell out of when I was ten and broke my arm." Jess laughed into my neck.
"If that is how you remember it, yes." I laughed, squeezing her side playfully. "It was also one that you would sneak into on a weekly basis to fool around with me after our parents thought we were fast asleep. The same one Jules caught us in." I said, kissing her.
A cool wind blew over us, and Jess snuggled her nose into my neck and kissed me lightly on the cheek. "I'd love that. It will be like our dreams come true."
I wrestled with giving her what was in my pocket, until my stomach turned rapidly, threatening to redeem its contents. I had saved almost every penny I made working for my father over the last four years for the ring and I prayed that she liked it. She hummed lightly in my ear while she rested her head on my shoulder, and that was when I decided I needed to take a chance and do it.
I reached my hand into my pocket and felt the ring that had been waiting there for me. I pulled it from my pocket and pushed myself up on my elbow, carefully holding her.
"What are you doing?" she asked, looking up at me.
"I know it's not much, but it's what I could afford right now," I said, holding the ring out for her.
Her fingertips grazed mine as she took the ring from me. "It's beautiful."
"I want to marry you, Jess. I want us to start our lives together."
I dropped the ring into her hand, and she slipped it onto her finger, then held her hand out to look at it.
"It's just a promise ring." I swallowed.
"It's perfect for now, but, one day, when I can afford it, I will get you a genuine diamond ring, thats just your birthstone."
"It's perfect, Ben. I love it, and I love you."
I leaned down and kissed her deeply, then I lay back once again, pulling her against me, and we looked up at the night sky.
Into the Sunset will publish May 10, 2022
It is available on all platforms.