He was hanging upside down from the tree, and I was laughing. I was laughing so hard I thought my brain was going to pop out of my ears and I had to bend over and put my hands on my knees because if I didn’t I was going to fall down.
"It’s not that funny, Dee."
He looked crestfallen, the great display of bravery in the face of a big challenge gone all wrong. I knew he wasn’t hurt because if he had been he’d have been yelling about it. He was just stuck. And as I didn’t have either a ladder, a jet pack or a Bowie knife, I figured I’d have to wait until the instructor came down off the top of the hill to extricate him.
"Dee…" he was losing his sense of humour. Must have been the blood rushing to his head. The thing is, this was all my fault. We’d agreed that this Saturday, we would each choose a surprise for the other, something neither of us had ever done before. My surprise for him had been a morning of paragliding, something I’d always dreamed of doing but never had the nerve to try. I took to it like a pig to mud, but it hadn’t worked out too well for Mike.
"Darling it’s okay. Someone’s coming now. You’ll be down in a minute." I swallowed the laughter. He wasn’t seeing the funny side.
Upright and a normal colour, Mike regained his equilibrium, both physically and emotionally. He even admitted that his hundred yard descent before becoming entangled in the trees had been ‘thrilling’, but he didn’t offer to have another go. The morning was over. It was his turn to take charge.
He drove me deeper into the mountains beyond the paragliding club. After half an hour I got restless.
"Where are we going?"
"Surprise," he said, pulling up in a parking space at the bottom of an extremely acute cliff. Several brightly coloured blobs could be seen clinging to the dizzy heights, fingertips and little metal spikes the only thing between them and certain death. There was a cabin style hotel before us with a mountain view.
"Close your eyes."
I shook my head. "I’m sorry for what I did to you this morning, but I’m not climbing that."
"We agreed, we’d each do the other’s thing, whatever that was. I was game this morning, despite almost strangling myself. Well, now it’s your turn. Close your eyes."
He was very firm and though I was prepared to refuse to do anything that resembled insanity, I obliged, cautiously.
He led me from the car and I stumbled on his arm like a blind geriatric. We climbed some steps onto a wooden deck. I heard a chair scrape and he eased me into a seat.
"Okay. Now, for the mountain." he said.
I opened my eyes, heart thumping, and gasped. Before me was the most exquisite lunch table set with crystal champagne flutes and bone china. In the middle of the table was a bottle of Dom in a bucket of ice and beside it, on the snowy tablecloth, a small red box. Beyond us lay the mountains beneath a deep blue sky. It was a stunning setting.
"I’m asking you before we climb the mountain, just in case one of us doesn’t make it," he said, very seriously, "Dee, I love you desperately. Please will you marry me."
I opened the box, my mouth agape. We’d been together three years, but I’d never really wondered when or how he would do this. Living together had been okay, we were best friends and content, but this was fantastic. I peeked inside. Couched in a bed of black velvet was the most exquisite diamond engagement ring, a solitaire, set in the centre of a celtic knot of white gold. It was perfect.
"If I say yes, do I get to keep my feet on the ground?" I said, looking up at him and trying not to smile like an idiot.
He smiled. "Say yes."
He leaned over me and kissed me then. Afterwards he was laughing.
"What’s so funny?" I unfolded my napkin and took hold of the champagne glass with relish.
"There never was any mountain climbing." He said, "this was the thing I’d never done before."
Tiffany D. Stacpoole,