Vol. 8.5 To My Mom

Mom,

Most of us spend our whole lives being afraid of the dark. I know we won’t admit it, but from an early age, many of us used night lights and “can you please leave the door open just a little dad” comments so our rooms wouldn’t be pitch black. The funny thing is it was never the darkness that we were afraid of, because whether someone left a light on or not, we all eventually had to close our eyes to sleep and to dream. But that was our darkness – the darkness of sleep. It’s a place an average American who reaches the age of 80 will spend over 26 years of his life in. We all live in the darkness until we awake.

For some of us, the darkness is the girl you’re too scared to ask out, the job you’re scared to volunteer for, or maybe just getting out of bed. Sometimes it takes a lot of guts just to get out of bed especially when someone has turned out the lights. The people this world will remember will not be those that were afraid to venture out into an unknown darkness but those that did. Those very special few individuals that knew that seeing was best done with your eyes shut and heart open. Today is Mother’s Day. Today is for the bravest person I have ever met who has been given the darkness in the light but has never let her light go out. Here is to my mom—the light that shows me the way so that I will never be afraid of the dark. I love you, mom.

Your son,


Fred

Diamonds are a banker’s worst friend

By Suzanne Kapner


(Fortune Magazine) — On the morning of Sept. 27, 2007, two Merrill Lynch bankers arrived at the Rockefeller Center office of Ralph Esmerian, a jewelry dealer and art collector, and boxed up tens of millions of dollars of rare jewelry. Armed guards loaded the jewels – including a 14-carat pink diamond ring worth roughly $15 million – into a Brink’s truck idling outside. Within hours the gems, some of which had been in Esmerian’s family for generations, had been carted away – seized as collateral for a loan gone bad.

Esmerian had borrowed the money two years earlier to finance the acquisition of Fred Leighton, known as the jeweler to the stars. Back then Fred Leighton consisted of a store on New York City’s Madison Avenue and a second boutique in Las Vegas, but Esmerian envisioned turning Leighton into an international brand with stores around the world.

It was a plan that tantalized a group of Merrill Lynch bankers. Heretofore, these bankers had made money collateralizing real estate, machinery, and other hard assets. But lately they had been making some less traditional plays: They had provided $500 million of financing to United Artists, which used the money in part to produce the Tom Cruise movie “Valkyrie.” The bankers also lent money to the Ranch, a custom-crush winery in Napa Valley.

For the Merrill bankers the deal with Esmerian was their introduction to the byzantine world of jewelry – a world they would regret entering. Jewels are funny things. Most people’s first brush with them is when they get engaged. It’s arguably the most idealistic and least objective moment in a relationship. Business deals – specifically ones consummated when credit is loose – are not all that different. And back in 2006, when Merrill Lynch and Esmerian hooked up, they were blind to each other’s faults. In Merrill, Esmerian (pronounced ess-mary-ann) thought he had found a partner who would stick by him in good times and bad. Instead, he says, he ended up with a bunch of “cowboys” who cared more about generating fees than building a business.

Similarly, Merrill felt comfortable with Esmerian because the deal was backed by millions of dollars of jewelry. In addition to Fred Leighton’s inventory, Esmerian had pledged his family’s cache of 101 jewels, known as the Special Collection, with an appraised value of $89 million. In a deal code-named Project Nile, the bankers agreed to lend Esmerian $176 million, payable over three years. What the bankers failed to detect was that they were funding a serial borrower who already had multimillion-dollar loans from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and who would soon be accused by his siblings of playing fast and loose with, that’s right, the family jewels.

As with so many overheated romances, Esmerian and his bankers now find themselves in court. Merrill Lynch is suing Esmerian in an attempt to recover its money, an amount that the bank claims has ballooned, with unpaid interest, to $192 million. “We are in a dispute with Mr. Esmerian for one simple reason,” says Bill Halldin, a Merrill spokesman. “He failed to make monthly interest payments that he agreed to when he borrowed money.”

Esmerian, 68, is suing Merrill Lynch, contesting the bank’s ownership of the collateral and claiming the loan was faulty from the outset. “Merrill Lynch didn’t understand what they were getting into,” Esmerian says. “But I didn’t understand what I was getting into either. In my business, if you’re late making a payment it’s no big deal.”

Regardless of whose side you come down on, one thing is sure: The company is the real casualty. Fred Leighton has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since April 2008 and is running out of cash. In December the court stripped Esmerian of his powers and appointed a restructuring officer, who is evaluating bids for all or part of the company. Interested parties include Robert Pressman of Barneys New York fame and Michael Steinhardt, the hedge fund honcho, who is a longtime friend and supporter of Esmerian’s. Neither would comment.

The goal is to find an investor who will satisfy the various legal claims and fund the company’s operations until it can emerge from bankruptcy. But given the state of the economy, there is also the possibility that Fred Leighton will cease to exist. The whole sad saga – which features a cameo appearance by Martha Stewart’s former stockbroker – is a cautionary tale in the perils of trying to build a luxury brand from little more than a name. For every success like Burberry there is an Asprey, the jeweler to the British Crown that flamed out a few years ago.

Humble beginnings

Unlike Asprey, Fred Leighton never had an aristocratic pedigree. Instead the jewelry shop was the creation of a New York City cabdriver’s son named Murray Mondschein, who bought a store in 1959 that sold Mexican wedding dresses and artifacts. The store, located in Greenwich Village, was named Fred Leighton after its late owner. Believing that people would be more apt to buy from someone whose name was on the door, Mondschein changed his name to Fred Leighton.

Before long the store began stocking vintage jewelry, and by the 1970s, Leighton was fast becoming a legend in the business. At the time, estate jewelry was not as fashionable as it is today, but Leighton cultivated a celebrity clientele. “People went to Fred Leighton to buy from Murray’s hands,” says François Curiel, Christie’s jewelry specialist and the chairman of the auction house’s European operations.

Meanwhile Esmerian was cutting his teeth in the family business of jewelry wholesaling. Unmarried and without children, he is the last of four generations of jewelers. His great-grandfather was a lapidary in Constantinople in the late 1800s. His father, Raphael, was a respected jeweler and gem dealer in Paris and later New York City. Raphael designed one of the first fine jewelry lines for Neiman Marcus. After Raphael’s death in 1976, Esmerian, who grew up in Paris and New York, took over the family trade.

When Ralph talks about jewels he sounds like a boy showing off his baseball cards. A favorite piece is a pair of horse heads sculpted by Herbert Haseltine for the heiress Barbara Hutton out of 24-karat gold and embedded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. The horses held a mythical place in Ralph’s childhood. His father supplied Haseltine with the stones. Esmerian bought the horse heads from a private dealer about eight years ago.

Esmerian first met Leighton at an auction in the early 1970s, and the two became friendly. Esmerian would drop by the New York store on Saturday mornings to sip coffee with Leighton. Before long he was loaning the store pieces on consignment. By 2005, Leighton was looking to retire, and Esmerian jumped at the chance to buy his company. Through a friend Esmerian had met a Merrill Lynch broker, who put him in touch with Josh Green and Ryan Bell, two young bankers who worked for a division called Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital, which specialized in collateralizing loans against hard assets. (Green and Bell would not comment for this article.)

According to Esmerian, Green and his colleagues were “salivating” at the prospect of owning a luxury jeweler. And on Nov. 4, 2005, Merrill lent Esmerian $56 million to buy Esmerian’s sister, sister-in-law, and her children (his brother is deceased) out of a family trust that owned much of the jewelry that would be used to collateralize the debt. On March 29, 2006, the bank lent a further $100 million, which went to buy Fred Leighton, and also made available a $25 million revolving credit facility for working capital.

As part of the agreement with Merrill Lynch, Esmerian was to hire a seasoned CEO to run Fred Leighton. Overtures to Simon Critchell, a former Cartier executive, didn’t pan out. In December 2007, Esmerian threw his backers for a loop when he hired Peter Bacanovic, who had been Martha Stewart’s stockbroker at Merrill Lynch during the ImClone scandal. Bacanovic had subsequently served five months in federal prison and five months of house arrest for obstructing a government investigation into Stewart’s sale of ImClone stock. Bacanovic also had no retail experience. What he did have was connections, and Esmerian, who had met Bacanovic through his lawyer, hoped the socialite-broker would turn his wealthy friends into clients.

First, though, Bacanovic was tasked with opening a new store in Beverly Hills. According to Tom Shull, the court-appointed restructuring officer, the Beverly Hills store, which opened in December, four months behind schedule, was millions of dollars over budget. “That put a lot of financial pressure on the company,” Shull says. Nicol Bini, the architect who designed the store, says it opened on time and within budget. Bacanovic, who stepped down from Fred Leighton in January, declined to comment.

There were other problems. For years, the business had been largely dependent on Leighton and his daughter, Mara. When they walked out the door, so did a lot of sales. Esmerian had planned to keep the Leightons on as consultants for five years, at an annual salary of $175,000 each. But according to a lawsuit filed by the Leightons, Esmerian never paid them for consulting work and also failed to pay $374,000 owed to them as part of the acquisition. Esmerian says the Leightons were badmouthing him to customers, so he terminated their contract. Leighton says that Esmerian wanted to do things his own way.

The bill comes due

By late 2007, Esmerian was in serious financial difficulty. The loan was crippling for a company of Fred Leighton’s size. In its best year Fred Leighton had an annual profit of $7.6 million, yet Esmerian was required to make interest payments north of $10 million. So why would the bankers make that deal? Merrill Lynch says sales of jewelry from the Special Collection, a separate cache of stones that Esmerian controlled, were also earmarked to pay down the loan.

Nevertheless on Sept. 10, 2007, Esmerian missed debt payments totaling $2.7 million. On the 27th of that month, Merrill seized the collateralized jewels. On Oct. 3, the firm summoned Esmerian to its lawyer’s office for what one source called a “come-to-Jesus meeting.” On one side of a conference table at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft sat Esmerian and his CFO, Satyajit Bose. On the other side sat Merrill’s workout specialists. The bankers listed 21 transgressions, including the missed debt payments, delinquent financial reporting, and the delayed opening of the Beverly Hills store.

Over the next few months attempts at a compromise proved futile. Merrill proposed temporarily suspending interest payments with the understanding that the missed sums would be rolled into the principal, but Esmerian, concerned that he wouldn’t be able to meet the new terms, never signed the proposal. Instead Esmerian spent the remainder of the fall reaching out to angel investors, including Apollo Management and Soros Private Equity, but found no takers. Apollo and Soros both declined to comment.

In January 2008, Merrill lowered the boom: It sued Esmerian and moved ahead with plans to auction the jewelry it held as collateral. Christie’s was hired and spent the next four months putting together a catalogue and traveling exhibition that featured the jewels, including a diamond brooch made for Empress Eugnie, the wife of Napoleon III.

In its lawsuit Merrill alleged that Esmerian double- and triple-pledged the collateral and accused him of secretly trying to sell some of the jewels and pocket the proceeds. One eye-opening moment came when Merrill executives stumbled across a catalogue for a jewelry auction that Sotheby’s was holding in Hong Kong. In the catalogue was a diamond butterfly brooch that was part of the Special Collection that made up the collateral on Merrill’s loan.

Esmerian argued that Merrill’s plan to unload all the jewels at one time would result in a fire sale. Merrill was unmoved. So, hours before the auction was to begin on April 15, 2008, Esmerian played his trump card. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, essentially freezing Fred Leighton’s assets and halting the auction. (With the court’s approval, Esmerian has since sold Empress Eugnie’s brooch to the Louvre for $10.5 million, more than double its estimated value in the Christie’s catalogue.)

Esmerian’s financial problems leading up to bankruptcy created additional headaches for him. Over the past three decades he had run up big debts with Sotheby’s and Christie’s, which serve as de facto bankers to estate jewelers. Traditional banks tend to shy away from the industry because they find it difficult to value the inventory. In January, Christie’s sued Esmerian in an attempt to recover a $7.75 million balance on a decade-old $25 million loan. Three months later Sotheby’s seized the Edward Hicks painting “Peaceable Kingdom,” which Esmerian had pledged as collateral against an $11 million loan, and sold it for $9.6 million. The painting, along with 200 other works, had been promised as a gift to the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

By the fall, Esmerian’s own family had joined the fray. In October 2008 they filed a suit accusing him of misappropriating money from a family trust as far back as 1992. By 2001, the suit alleges, the trust had loans of $28 million. When the stock market crashed that year Esmerian liquidated the entire trust portfolio to satisfy margin calls. The lawsuit says Esmerian never received the proper consent from his siblings for this financial engineering.

In an effort to make his siblings solvent again, Esmerian pledged 101 pieces of jewelry, called the Siegman Collection, to the trust. There was one problem: The Siegman Collection, the siblings charge, is identical to the Special Collection that Esmerian pledged as collateral to Merrill Lynch. To them it appeared that he was double dipping. Esmerian says his siblings gave him permission to borrow from the trust and that he paid them $12 million each to buy out their holdings.

The fate of Fred Leighton

There are, of course, two sides to every breakup. While Merrill’s lawsuit portrays Esmerian as a mountebank who was running a shell game, Esmerian accuses the bankers of knowingly inflating the value of the collateral to win approval from the bank’s internal credit committee. In Esmerian’s suit, which he filed in October 2008, he also raises questions about the loan’s economic viability. One internal Merrill Lynch document cited in the suit warns, “Interest is too high, resulting in insufficient cash flow.”

Esmerian further claims the bankers told him he’d never be able to repay the loan until he took the company public. A spokesman for Merrill Lynch says that charge is untrue and that the loan was later modified to require Esmerian to kick in additional equity to provide a cushion against the debt.

On Dec. 18, 2008, Esmerian suffered a heartbreaking setback. Following a scathing review of Esmerian’s leadership by a Merrill Lynch-paid consultant, the court stripped Esmerian of his management role and installed Tom Shull. A turnaround expert who helped steer Macy’s and Barneys New York out of bankruptcy, Shull immediately slashed $2.5 million in costs by paring advertising, reducing travel budgets, and otherwise tightening belts. He strengthened the inventory management systems and simplified the commission structure. He also started cutting prices. Fred Leighton, which had never before run big sales, in March marked everything in its cases down 40%. (Attention, Kmart shoppers!)

It may be too little too late. Since peaking in 2003, sales at Fred Leighton have halved to $20 million, and after bankruptcy expenses the company is barely breaking even. While Shull acknowledges the high-end jewelry market is likely to remain depressed for a while, he is hopeful that the company will find an investor to keep it alive. Of course, if Merrill Lynch has its way, Fred Leighton’s precious jewels will be liquidated to pay debts. Merrill, now part of Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), has bigger problems than the fate of a few high-priced baubles. It has disbanded the division that made the Fred Leighton loan, and most of the bankers involved in the deal have left the firm.

And what of Esmerian? At best he was careless; at worst he was cunning. Perhaps it was his privileged upbringing that led him to have so little respect for other people’s money – even his own family’s. To Esmerian the jewels he collected were as precious as living things, and it mattered to him a great deal that they reside with those who appreciate their beauty. The downside to such snobbery is that no one is more deserving than the beholder.

In Esmerian’s case, what was his was his, but what was yours was also his. People who know him, however, say his motives were pure. “Ralph is a true lover of jewelry,” says Gail Freeman, a private dealer who has worked with him for over two decades. “He cares more about the art than the business.”

That’s why he needs a good business partner, says Shull, who is recommending that any new owner retain Esmerian as a creative director. “Ralph needs someone who will push back and say, ‘If we take 20% off this item, we’ll sell it.’ In retail you need to move the goods.” That’s true even if those goods are damaged.  

Click here for original article.

6) 3 More Blocks Left

First I want to thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about me and the love of my life. My husband has been an absolute inspiration to me and I love sharing my story to the world to give hope that love is still in existence. I am only 25 yrs old and as a clueless 5th grader, back in grammar school, looking into his eyes for the first time I didn’t know what I had and that I was really looking into our future together. He was about 7 inches shorter than me and had just moved to my town from a near by city. His name was Justin and it all began when asked by a few other boys in the classroom, after only being the new kid for a week, which girl he wants as his first girlfriend…He pointed to me. For the next 8 years he would ask me to be his boyfriend via email, aim, notes (which I have all kept), phone calls, and just showing up on my fornt lawn. He asked me to every dance and for whatever reason I never would take our friendship to the next level.  

Fast forwarding to 5 years out of high school we lost contact and he googled my name online and found my email. He emailed me and after hanging out only one day I told him the scariest thing about us spending time together is that I know now that I will marry you someday. He didn’t know what to do. To this day I don’t know what hit me, but I knew this man would forever change my life. After dating only 10 months I had invited him for his Birthday to the Boston Symphany Orchestra for the evening. He was already late and I was getting angry because I hate being late and we needed to beat traffic. The door bell rang and a man in a tuxedo answered. I looked behind him only to see a white Chrysler stretch limo in my front yard. I was all dressed up and ready to go and this strange man on my porch was telling me he was instructed by Justin to take me to Boston. So I sat in the back of the limo by myself and rode all the way to Boston (about a 1hr trip).  He had left me a scroll that had simply said "don’t call me, I know you want to. I will see you soon, I love you." Once there, the limo pulled up to the coply plaza hotel which had a red carpet stretched out to the sidewalk. Justin walked out onto the carpet towards the limo in a suit with a dozen roses. He took my hand and whispered "I love you" in my ear. We walked inside and sat down to the most exclusive and elegant dinig experience I have ever had. After dinner he called the limo guy up and the car was, once again, waiting outside. We then went to the symphany which was incredibly intimate and romantic.  

It was a Tuesday night about 11PM and I knew we had to be heading home soon because I had just started a new job and had only been there for 2 days. I couldn’t be late or exhausted for my third day. He said ok lets head home but first would you like to get some ice cream. Everyone that knows me knows I never pass that up. So he instructed the limo driver to a certain ice cream place which happened to be where we had our first date. He pulled the car over and we hopped out. I was so busy trying to find the ice cream place that I couldn’t hear Justin asking me to follow him over to this tree that had a river of tulips surrounding its trunk. The tree was lit up with sparkling lights and the site actually took my breath away. It was mid spring and the air was chilly so Justin handed me his coat and directed me beside the tree. Justin then took the ring from the coat pocket and bent down on one knee. He said, "do you remember this tree?" I of course said, "not really" he said, "on our first date when I saw this tree I remember thinking “Great we only have 3 more blocks to walk before we reach the car and I really want to hold her hand," and he did. He grabbed my hand and for the first time in my life I felt like the puzzle of my life had finally fit perfectly into his palm. He said, "Lisa, I have never loved anyone the way I love you and I want you to be my wife forever." He opened the ring box and there it was. My gramma’s ring. My best friend/Gramma had passed away just 2 short years prior and he had her first engagement ring remade to fit perfectly onto my finger. Tears filled my eyes and I knew I would never forget how I felt that very moment. The night ended with Justin saying that we were really heading home only to find out he had rented a hotel room in the Copley Plaza, where the night had started, and had already arranged for me to show up late for my third day on the job. He called my boss and explained everything.  

We have been married now for 6 months and I love him more now than I did that night he proposed to me. He says he always knew what he wanted, he was just waiting for me to see what I was missing in him. He says, "You may think you won the battle but when I got you, I finally won the war."

 

Proposal Story by:

Lisa Rauer

North Dighton, MA

 

5) I Feel Like in a Movie

That thought stayed in my head all day, especially as I arrived at Green Park in London, dressed in a long blue gown, searching for the final clue of my adventure, with Buckingham Palace in view. This was the final stop in my day of surprises.

It had all begun that morning when I was sitting in my room in Oxford, England, where I had been studying abroad for a semester. I heard an unknown cell-phone ringing, a ring predicting the rest of the day, and jumped up to find the source of the noise hidden in my pillow, with a note attached. The note told me to go make oatmeal and I would find my first clue. Inside the bag of oatmeal I found an iPod turned to a playlist of messages and songs of faith in Jesus which had meant a lot to both of us. On the phone, which simply said “Skype calling,” I heard Jeff (now my fiance’!) on the other end, asking “Are you ready for your adventure?” Assuming he was calling from Skype in the USA.

“Of course,” I said yes and he gave me the second clue of the day, “Go to the Oxford library to the very top floor and find the book that you once used to make a birthday movie for me,” he said. I rushed to the library, found the book, and inside was a set of keys and a letter which concluded: “I can offer you these keys in order to complete the adventure, but only you get to decide how it ends.” From there I went to the bus station for my hour and a half trip into London. On the bus I listened to the iPod as the card had instructed me. When I had almost arrived, Jeff called me again (from his own cell phone), giving me directions to the travel station where my next clue would be. Behind the station, I found a canteen bike-locked to the fence. I used my first key to open it and inside was a bag with the next clue.

I threw all the clues into the bag and went to “The Iron Duke,” a restaurant where he had set up a reservation for me. They brought me a book of “Love Poems” of the poet I was currently studying, which I unlocked. He instructed me not to bring any money for the day so inside was a credit card in my name with a picture of Jeff and I on it along with a note instructing me to use it to pay for my lunch, and then continue on to the British Museum. I followed the clues to the Museum bookstore, and behind a stack of Babylon books I found my next package, a book with a picture of the world on it, also locked. I sneaked out of the bookstore, James Bond style, with a huge book under my arm. Sitting in the cafeteria, I unlocked the “world-book” to find a DVD player inside set to play the first of four clips, movies in which Jeff had re-enacted stages of our relationship since our first meeting to our last encounter interspersed with pictures and movie clips of me. From there I was instructed to find the flower stand outside of Herrod’s, the major department store in London.

The lady at the stand gave me a little chest which I unlocked with my second to last key to find two tickets to the show “Les Miserables,” and a baggage claim token to Herrod’s. I took the token to the Baggage counter and they gave me a long, elegant blue dress which Jeff had picked out for me, a white jacket and silver shoes. Fully dressed, I arrived in Green park which was my final destination and sought out my next clue of a statue with a white rose on it. As I wandered around in the park, searching for the statue, I received a final call from Jeff, asking if I had found it yet. I told him I was a little lost, at which point I turned around to see him approaching me in a tuxedo and white rose in hand; he had come to rescue his girl.

After I recovered from my shock of seeing him in London, he told me I had one key left which I could use to decide how this adventure would end, a key only I held. He got on one knee and pulled out a tiny white box with a lock on it. After expressing his deep affection for me he presented me with the last element of the adventure asking if I would like to use my key to answer his question: “Will you marry me?” I grabbed my key and said “yes!” We finished off the night by going to watch “Les Miserables.” From beginning to end I felt like I had experienced one day living in a movie!  

 

Proposal Story by:

Jeff & Aubrey

Wheaton, IL

 

4) A Perfect Proposal

We were walking along the coast line of the beach in my town. It was one of those days where we decided that going to a movie or hanging out with friends was just too overrated. Keith and I loved walking. It was a perfect hobby for us to both relax and let our thoughts intermingle away from the craziness of life. Having twelve brothers and sisters can be stressful and very hard work. And he came from a social background of not being accepted by family or friends because of his indifference to company. We both had needs that the other was fulfilling. Three years we had been together, it seemed so short! The years flew by with so much happiness and very little pain. I smiled as I recall our meeting.

We had been set up on a blind date and it went very badly needless to say. Amazingly he had asked for another date and I accepted. The second one went well and even though we never declared that we were boyfriend and girlfriend we knew in our hearts what we were, and it was more than that. We were partners, for life. My love for him stealthily grew and I knew that his did as well. Because of all the pain in our love lives we took it slow with the intimacy and waited patiently for the other to be ready. It took a year for either of us to even share a kiss. Now here we were three years later very much in love and holding hands on a beach.

The sun was setting making the calm waters reflect yellow, orange, and pink. The stars could be seen peeking out from the clouds as the lady of the mountains lay peacefully across the waters. I listened the waters gently lap against the rocky shore and smiled as a salty breeze brushed through my hair. Keith wasn’t much of a talker so there was complete silence. I shouldn’t say silence because it was full of unspoken words. Then all of a sudden he bent down to pick up something off the shore. “What is it?” I asked.

“It’s some sort of mussel.” He says picking up the shells. He hands it over to me so that I can get a better look at it. I noticed that it was closed. It was a beautiful mollusk with dark blue coloring. Swirls and green and pink outlined the edges. “It’s beautiful!” I exclaimed. “Is it alive?”

“I dont know. Why don’t you see? Maybe it has a pearl inside.” He grins. I flush at his teasing but nevertheless gently pry open the two halves apart. My eyes widen and my hand flies to my throat. Inside, nestled perfectly in the shell was a gold ring with green emeralds. I’ve lost my breath and my heart is pounding fiercely inside my chest. There is complete silence for two minutes. I look up into his loving green eyes and see that he is beginning to worry that I wont answer. “Is it for me?” I asked knowing it was. I just didn’t know what to say. I felt so stupid right now. He grins. “Of course it is for you. Marie, I have loved you from the moment I set eyes on you. I loved you even more after that first horrible date.” I giggle. “Over the years you have made me realize that I am not alone in this world and that I don’t have to be anymore. I want you by my side for the rest of my life. If you will have me, that is.”

“Yes!” I exclaimed. Laughing, I throw my arms around him. He gently puts his arms around me and I can feel his heart beating with my. We were one! He chuckles deep inside and I flush again. I was going to marry the man I loved!



Proposal Story by:

Marie C. Millay

Surry, ME

 

3) Uncertainty

My Mom and Dad got married at City Hall in New York City back in the 1950’s. Mom made herself a dress. I remember it from a photograph, a classic number in pale pink organza. There was a party
afterwards; that is where the photograph was taken. My Dad is in the background eating a breadstick with wolfish eyes drinking my mother in, and Mom vivacious with a glass of something in her hand, red lipstick, mouth open, talking or laughing.

I don’t know how the day started. I don’t know if she wore the pink dress to City Hall. I know they had to wait in a line. While they waited Dad got cold feet so they left the building and walked around the block to talk things over. Neither one wanted to rush into anything unless both were certain. They talked and they walked and finally equilibrium regained they went back inside the building and rejoined the line.  

They advanced. Slowly. Then Mom got cold feet. Again they went outside. Again they traced their path around the block. They talked. They re-resolved. They entered City Hall again and stood amongst the other couples waiting for the paperwork and their turn at the podium.  

How many times this pattern was repeated I no longer remember. What they talked about and what worried them I never knew. But my youthful impression of this story was positive. There was something very human about it. They both had to feel sure. They both had doubts. They were willing to talk about it. They were patient. Their place in line didn’t matter. Their purpose in line was the thing.  

It all ended well. There was a party. I saw the picture. There were children. Here I am. However many years later I had reason to doubt the truth of this story. In fact I had reason to doubt the very

truth of their marriage.

It was the early seventies. My older sister was in college. She threw a party with her college roommates and my parents and my brother and I were invited. My parents were liberals, very hip, very cool. Sitting around with those college kids my father revealed just how cool. I caught bits of conversation that surprised me.  

“When I tried marijuana I wasn’t impressed. It just didn’t do anything for me.” This was my father’s voice. I had never tried pot. Clearly my father was hipper than me. Then the conversation turned to marriage, the legal contract, the social contract and the practice of living together versus social convention. “Well, I don’t know, Rose and I have never bothered to get married and it never caused us any trouble.” This was my father’s voice.

My head swiveled around quickly. I looked at my little brother with what must have been a shocked expression. They have been shacking up all these years? We are all bastards? These were my small conventional thoughts. I said nothing. I didnt have the nerve to question my mother on the statement. She had heard it. She did not contradict it. It must be true.  

Some years later driving with my mother in the car, finally I asked. Her answer was swift. “Oh, he’s always saying things like that. Of course we’re married.” I felt foolish, relieved, confused. At the time she hadn’t spoken up. She let him have his fun.

In all their married life my father never wore a wedding ring. Maybe he didn’t want to wear a sign around his neck. Maybe he felt it left some options open, maybe he just didn’t like jewelry. I don’t know. But on their fiftieth wedding anniversary out he comes with it. Two boxes. Two gold wedding bands inscribed with their names and the number 50.  

It had been an evening of stories, just the five of us seated around a dinner table, the kids asking questions and the parents telling the answers. How they met and how they wooed, the terrors and

pleasures of those early days. He’ll never call me again. Yes he will. No he won’t. She doesn’t like me. She likes me too much. Then the little boxes came out on the table and my father for the first time in fifty years put a wedding ring on his finger. I guess after fifty years of walking around the block and thinking about it he was finally sure. If that’s the case then I say, here’s to uncertainty.

 

Proposal Story by:

Karen Meyerhoff

New York, NY

 

2) Clue

My fiance took me on a cruise to Mexico on March 27, 2008. He invited 8 of our closest friends and family members, but I just assumed they were coming to spend quality time with us. I had no idea he was going to propose, let alone realize they were all in on it for about 7 months. I’m surprised not one person spilled the beans or tipped me off!

This was a Murder Mystery Cruise. It was an adult, real live version of the board game Clue. There was a "murder victim" and a "killer" on board. It was a race to figure out who "did it" over 3 days. The theme of the game was an actual wedding. The actors consisted of a young good looking man who proposed to an older, geeky wealthy heiress. Then we all had our own roles assigned to play. I was assigned to play a photographer, there was a wedding planner and my fiance was the "best man."

The first day we sat in the audience and watched the man propose to the woman on stage as part of the show. He put an engagement ring on her finger and she said yes. The second day the actors played out an engagement party scene. We all played our parts and the groom-to-be asked my fiance, the best man, to hold onto the wedding ring. The rest of the night we received clues all over the ship to help us solve the mystery. The third day was the wedding. It was also a masquerade ball so we all dressed up fancy and wore masquerade masks. I sat in the audience along with all of our friends and family.

My fiance was on stage since he was the best man and needed to be a part of the ceremony. They said their vows and the groom asked for the ring from his best man, my fiance. When he pulled the ring out of his pocket and opened the box the groom gasped and stated, "That is not my ring!" The wedding planner asked my fiance who the ring belonged to. He pointed at me in the audience and said firmly, "It belongs to her!" Everyone stopped and looked at me and at this point it was obvious everyone was in on it as my friend was videotaping the whole thing. The spotlight was on me and his nephew stood up directly behind me to sing the song "Let’s Get Married" in acappella while my man walked over to me with the microphone.

He got on his knee while his nephew sang softly behind me. He said, "You are my heart, you are my soul, you are my inspiration. There is no me without you. Will you make me the happiest man in the world and become my wife?" I was in shock! I thought this had to be a part of the show. Once I realized this elaborate surprise was real and for me I said "Yes, Yes, Yes" and we hugged and kissed. Everyone clapped and hollered and whistled. Then he had to quickly wipe his tears and jump back up on stage to finish the scene since there were 200 other people there for the murder mystery game that didn’t know us. He finished the scene and walked off the stage to escort me to the the top deck of the ship where someone was waiting to do a photo shoot of our special night.

 

Proposal Story by:

Melissa Cook

San Jose, CA

 

1) Timeless Tomorrows

“What do I have to do to get to see you tomorrow?” Kevin asked at the end of our first date. We had met on a popular internet dating site and had immediately begun seeing each other on a daily basis. At the end of each date, he would again ask the same question with complete sincerity.

With each inquiry, I became more awestruck that I was in the midst of a relationship without a trace of “game playing.” We were upfront with one another about how we felt. We didn’t argue or play “hard to get.” There was no room for anything but pure affection and respect in our new found relationship. Then one day, Kevin told me he loved me. He was in the middle of the kitchen preparing our dinner, and he just stopped, looked me in the eyes, and proclaimed his love. I immediately returned the sentiment, feeling like I had already loved him forever. We had only been dating for one month, yet we had not missed a single day of seeing one another. It was simple, but intense. It was timeless.

Two months later, Kevin took me to Maggiano’s, the restaurant where we had just met a few months before. He greeted me that evening with roses. “This is the exact variety you gave me the first time we met!” I exclaimed with delight. Then as we entered the restaurant, my heart somersaulted in my chest, as the hostess sat us at the very same table where we had shared our first dinner together. “What a wonderful coincidence,” I thought naively.

Before I could open my menu, Kevin had dropped to one knee beside my chair. “What do I have to do to get to see you tomorrow and every day after that?” He asked with that same humble sincerity I had seen at the end of each “Good night” kiss since we met. I noticed that his hands were shaking, as he held out a velvet ring box, and then realized with complete bewilderment that he was actually proposing to me.

I frantically shuffled the thoughts in my head until I knew the answer. “Just love me for me, as you have since the moment we met.” Tears of amazement streamed down my face, as he placed the engagement ring on my finger.

“That will be my pleasure, Sweetie. And will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed, joining him on the floor to seal the deal with a kiss in the middle of Maggiano’s.

Kevin and I married just three months later, after having only known each other for six months. Many would argue that we had gotten caught up in a whirlwind of romance and that we had moved too quickly. Had I not known myself and my groom so well, I probably would have agreed with them. For reasons I could not put into words, I always felt a particular urgency when Kevin and I were together, as if we had no time to waste. Neither of us had ever felt that sort of need to experience everything we possibly could together.

Perhaps we knew then what our future would hold just two and a half years later. On my 35th birthday, Kevin and I learned together that we indeed may not have the privilege of “growing gray” together. I felt the tomorrows slipping quickly away, as the oncologist informed us that Kevin was being diagnosed with a deadly and incurable form of cancer. Without a bone marrow transplant, the prognosis was only one to three years of survival. With a transplant, he may have longer, we were told.

Today, almost two years following that ominous diagnosis, Kevin is in remission. After enduring months of intensive chemotherapy, surgeries, a bone marrow transplant, and a clinical trial at a leading cancer center on the other side of the country, we feel as if we have experienced a lifetime of joys and fears together.

As I reflect on our courtship, I am grateful that we didn’t waste a single moment of our time together. Only now, as I look over my shoulder, do I realize the luxury I once had of knowing I would see my beloved tomorrow. And so now, on bended knee, I ask the universe, “What do I have to do to get to see my husband tomorrow?”

“Don’t forget you have today. It will be enough,” the universe wisely reminds me.

 

Proposal Story by:

Cathy Crenshaw Doheny

Charlotte, NC

 

6) He NEVER Dances

We had planned several months prior to go on a cruise for our birthdays. (My birthday being Nov 10 and his being Nov 13th.) So we cruised from Galveston on Carnival Cruise lines from Nov 10th to the morning of the 15th.

On November 11, 2008 Chris and I were roaming around the cruise ship. It was an entire day out at sea before we arrived to our first port of call–Progeso, Mexico. So we’re giving ourselves a tour of the ship, taking pictures, and recording video footage. After lunch, Chris told me that his tummy didn’t feel well and needed to go to the restroom (which really wasn’t the case, as I later found out).

So we stop near a cafe’ on the ship and I waited for him on a bench. As I was waiting, I was skimming through the photos and video footage we had accumulated already…and then at about 2 pm, Chris comes rushing over. He began to tell me that a couple from dinner, who was celebrating their one year anniversary, needed our help. The husband was trying to do something special for his wife and we needed to go meet them in the ship theater where shows are hosted. So we rushed off to the theater because we had to hurry so the husband could do his thing. We got into the theater and there were a few people sprinkled about and the couple was sitting in their seats.

We went over to them and then ‘Step in the name of Love’ started playing. And Chris was like ‘babe let’s dance’. And I’m thinking how I ALWAYS have to beg Chris to dance. So he pulls me up toward the stage..and we pass by the couple..and I say to them "He NEVER dances!"…but I said what the heck and went on to the stage with him.

So we’re up there dancing and in the middle of the song…he drops to one knee, pulls out the ring box from his pocket, and asks me to marry him!!! I was so overcome with emotion that I ended up almost falling to my knees as well! He stood, held me, and through all the emotion I managed to squeeze out my answer–which was of course YES! The audience that had gathered waiting for the next event in the theater began to "awwwwwwww" and clap. Once the song went off, I heard an array of "Congratulations!!!!" Which wasn’t from the audience, but from many of our family members and friends. Chris had secretly recorded them sending their best wishes and congratulations. There were words from My Mother, brother, sister, neices and nephew, my friends, his friends, his family, co-workers, church members, and even Dee and Fred from Diamond Cutters International! Everyone already knew!

After watching the video, we exited the stage, greeted by a big spotlight shed on us, and applause and "congrats" from the audience. Not to mention those who wanted to see my ring! lol It was definitely a moment to remember and one that we actually have on video! The couple that I THOUGHT we were going to help…actually helped us by recording it while we were on stage. So that’s the story!!! We went to the room afterwards and watched the full dvd he had put together, which included an appearance and prayer by my new Fiance’ at the end.

Now we are taking the recorded messages from our family and friends to combine with the proposal footage–to have a dvd that we can treasure forever!


Proposal Story by:

Shayla Ross

Houston, TX

 

5) A Chance Meeting

My boyfriend and I had known each other since we were five years old. A chance meeting in the hospital when our respective younger sisters were being delivered (on the same day!) led to the discovery that our parents lived on the same street and had older children of the same age. Soon, the two families were fast friends and we kids grew up playing and fighting together. My twin brother Avi, Percy, and I were best friends and I never put up with them leaving me out because I was a girl!

It wasn’t until after college though, that Percy and I started to see each other differently. At first it was awkward, but that gave way to a deeper friendship than we’d ever known as children and then something more, love!

Last December, for the first time in years, both of our families would be together for the holidays. Percy & I had moved away from our hometown about a year after we started dating and we were both excited to be home for Christmas but we were feeling a bit down because my twin brother with was in Iraq with his army unit and couldn’t make it home for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, Percy suggested going for a ride in the car. I agreed, thinking it might cheer me up a little since I was feeling my brother’s absence especially that night. It started to snow softly while we were driving around, and looking at the various displays of Christmas lights did make me feel a little happier.  Lost in my little holiday reverie, I wasn’t really paying attention to where we were going. I was surprised therefore, when Percy parked the car, to realize that we were at the town airport.

"What are we doing here?" I asked, confused. But Percy just smiled a little mysteriously and said, "I thought we could watch the snow from the observation deck."

I was perplexed over how that would be better than watching it from the car, but I gamely followed him in… only to find our entire families standing in the lobby when we entered it. They had driven straight to the airport while Percy had been distracting me with Christmas lights. They all had huge grins on their faces in response to my look of utter confusion and when they parted to two sides I saw.. my brother Avi standing behind them. He had managed to arrange last-minute leave and everyone knew except for me!

While I was hugging my brother with tears of joy, he whispered in my ear, "I had to come home, Sis. I couldn’t miss seeing you get engaged." He then spun me around to face Percy, who was kneeling, grinning ear to ear, and holding out a small velvet box. "Marry me?" he asked. "I already have the blessing of our families!"  At this point, I was both crying and laughing so hard that I snorted- which my family still loves to tease me about- before I managed to choke out a, "Yes!"

We scheduled our wedding for the week after my brother returned for good from his tour in Iraq and it was one of the happiest days of my life.

 

Proposal Story by:

J. Davenport

Sunnyvale, CA

 

4) The Game Plan

Adam – “Guy In Love”

Betsy – “Girl He Loves”

Sara/Sam – “Dinner Dates”

Melissa – “Fill-In”

Sim – Betsy’s Favorite Band

For weeks, we were “planning” a date night with Sara/Sam- Dinner and a Sim Concert at the local concert hall. Betsy was EXCITED!

Two nights before the concert, my boss called me with the “bad” news that I needed to fly to Chicago on Friday for a work meeting. I set this story up for a couple weeks and I had been telling Betsy that my boss would have to go to Chicago. My boss now had another engagement and I needed to take her place.

Betsy was understandably upset, but I insisted that she still go to the concert. Betsy complained to Sara about this and Sara suggested that they invite a friend to be her date-in stepping Melissa, ready to accept the invitation.

The day before the concert, I produced a fake itinerary for the trip- departing on Friday, returning on Saturday. I made this official (flight numbers, hotel information, etc.) as Betsy always received my itinerary. I gave her the itinerary while packing and lamenting about missing the concert. The stage was set – I was flying to Chicago on Friday, not returning until Saturday and she was going to the concert with Sara/Sam/Melissa.

I woke Betsy to drive me to the airport. We said our goodbyes and she was set to pick me up the next morning. Minutes after Betsy drove off, Betsy’s mom picked me up and drove me to her house. A few hours later, I left a message for Betsy when I “arrived” in Chicago. In the “hearing,” I couldn’t answer my phone, so Betsy could not contact me.

Betsy went to work as usual while I waited for my parents to arrive.  They then chauffeured me around as I completed last minute items.

I’m in Chicago. Betsy is home getting ready for her “date.” “Date” plans were left up to Betsy/Sara/Melissa/Sam so it was more natural for Betsy. Concert doors opened at 8pm. Opening band before Sim started ~ 9pm, so Betsy’s crew was to arrive between 9pm-10pm. Sim was to start ~10:30pm. Betsy’s mom prepared a wonderful dinner for our parents to celebrate the anticipated event.

Betsy/Sara/Melissa/Sam were inside the concert jamming to the opening band and awaiting Sim. As expected, Betsy was in her super-fun hippie-band dancing mood. SAM TEXTED ADAM – THE OPENING BAND WAS FINISHED. The dinner party then moved closer to the concert, awaiting the crucial TEXT MESSAGE.  

TEXT MESSAGE – SIM IS ON!!!!

I had been in close contact with Sim before that day, so they were aware of the situation and excited. They would play 2 of Betsy’s favorite songs as their 4th and 5th songs. Our party needed to be in position by the 4th song as I planned to make my move at the end of it.

I visited the concert hall and coordinated with the staff to enter through a VIP entrance with access to the balcony to overlook the concert. Sara/Sam/Melissa were to keep Betsy near the front of the stage.

As Betsy (and the entire crowd) was hippie dancing to the 4th song, we walked down the stairs towards her as I held a large hand-made sign – “Can U hear OUR SIM playing?” I made eye contact with Sim and they continued to play as planned. I covered my face so that she couldn’t see it, but she could read the sign. Betsy recognized the signs message and as I got close enough, I revealed my face.  

We made eye contact and I flipped over the sign – “WILL U MARRY ME?” I went to my knee and presented the ring. She started crying and our family and the crowd went insane, with everyone cheering/crying/whistling, including Sim. She couldn’t even hear me ask the question, so I picked her up (with an even LOUDER crowd roar) and yelled “IS THAT A YES?!?!” Sim then announced over the mic “SHE SAID YES!!!,” which set off chaos in the crowd – high fives, crying, screaming, hugging, cell phone pictures, you name it. The energy in the building was ELECTRIC and the sound DEAFENING! When I finally put Betsy down, she looked around at all our family/friends and was in complete shock and awe. More tears of joy flowed and then Sim played our favorite slow song!


Proposal Story by:

Adam Fay

Rochester, NY

 

3) Will You Marry Me? Will You Marry Me?

On a fall evening in September, Greg decided that he wanted to take me out on the town for the evening. I "dolled up" with an evening gown and heels, and when Greg arrived at my house he informed me that I must put outdoor sandals on. This peaked my curiousity, but I kindly obeyed.  He escorted me to my car and placed a blindfold around my eyes to prevent me from knowing the location of his well-planned event.

At this point, I guessed that something big was going to happen, namely that Greg would ask me to marry him. However, I tried my best to push this out of my mind and not let nerves get the best of me. In Greg’s car, he did not have air conditioning, and as a result we had to drive with the windows down. When other drivers saw me with my eyes blindfolded, they thought that I was being kidnapped! It made for an eventful car ride. So after about 20 minutes we arrived at the predestined spot in the wilderness.

Greg opened the door for me, led me down a dirt path, only to open my eyes to see a cavern decorated with hundreds of candles covering the walls of the cavern and all across the shallow lake. It was so marvelous, and I couldn’t speak. In the middle of the floating candles on the shallow lake, a table for two was set-up. Greg led me down the embankment (good thing I wore outdoor sandals!) and pulled out my chair for me to sit down. In the background, he had a collection of romantic music playing, and he fed me shishkabobs (which he had made earlier in the day at this location!) and wine, and we laughed and enjoyed our time together. 

I tried to pretend like I wasn’t nervous, but I was shaking and could hardly eat. Greg then asked me if I would like to dance, so he led me out to the shallow lake where we danced to beautiful music on the water surrounded by hundreds of candles. It was truly magnificent. After we danced, Greg led me back to my seat where he gave me tasty treats from a local bakery for dessert, again which I could hardly eat! After dessert, Greg led me to a small collection of blankets that were laid across the ground and a canapy across the top of us. He sat me down and told me he was going to play a song that he had written for me. At this point, I was so nervous I was shaking, but I tried my best to hide it. He had played the song for me previously, so I listened and sung along, until I realized that he had added a line at the end.

The song lyrics were "Will you stay with me? Will you marry me?" I did a double take when I realized what he was saying and nodded my head yes! We kissed and it was fantastic, but that’s not the end yet! Soon after he proposed, we both saw car lights on the horizon above us, and Greg informed me that all during the evening he had been trying to hurry through his planned events because the park we were in was closing soon. We soon realized that the car head lights were probably from a local police officer, so Greg climbed the embankment to speak with him, tell him he just proposed, and tell him we would leave shortly.

Well, the police officer was not too kind. He yelled at Greg in a country accent, saying "Who are you with? Where are you at?"He pointed a flashlight at Greg and insisted that Greg run to our location to show him. Well, at this point I had not heard a thing, but only saw Greg skiing down the embankment, grabbing candles, and picking up his decorations as fast as he could. I quickly followed suit when the police officer yelled over the cliff "Ya’ll got 10 minutes to clean this ‘stuff’ up!" Greg and I cleaned up all that we could, and attempted to bring only the important things with us.

We stumbled up the embankment and managed to make it to the top of the cavern. I had been worrying because Greg was under the age of 21, and both of us had drunk wine, luckily only a glass each. I was convinced that Greg and I would be going to jail, and this would have been truly a night to remember! The police officer then asked us to pour out the wine (luckily he did not ask for ID!) and then had the audacity to say, "I liked ya’lls set-up down there.” It was truly a night full of romance and adventure!!!

 

Proposal Story by:

Chelsea Eland

Norman, OK

 

2) The Package

Prequel:

At the time of the proposal, I worked for an eLearning software company based out of a university. During one of the in house training sessions I realized this one learner was being quite suspicious. I watched this gentleman’s actions and computer screen and realized he was trying to tap into the company’s private server. Worried about possible theft of information, I turned the learner’s information into computer techs so the system could be checked for malicious activity. After telling Dustin, he emphasized that I should contact a much higher up authority in the university to make sure this learner was watched outside of the company. So I did. Even though I didn’t hear anything back from my boss, I assumed that the name was passed up the ladder. And I left it at that.

The Proposal:

One Sunday afternoon Dustin and I were taking our time starting the day. In fact, we had planned to go to a movie later. Suddenly there was a bang at the door. Not expecting any visitors we both looked at each other in that "who could that be" sort of way. Dustin ran downstairs to see what it could be. I watched him as he slowing walked up the stairs with a package in his hands. He had an unusual shocked look on his face. Worried, I asked what was wrong and told him that he was scaring me. He took me by the hand and said that we need to sit down. Of course I was frightened by this. He looked me in the eyes and said " You know there are certain things I can’t always tell you about what goes on in the military." I said, "of course." Dustin continued with a very serious look, "Well, I do more than fly for the Air Force". Dustin was taking intelligence and counterintelligence classes for his masters and I could remember the many times of interrogating him about why he choose to study government and military intelligence. So I answered "well it doesn’t surprise me". He begins to explain that his "second job" is not dangerous but that they rarely allow significant others to become involved in knowing what is going on. Trusting everything he said I of course nod my head and proceeded to ask questions about how he got involved. He interrupts and says "the reason this is shocking is that your name is on this package, too." He continues that I am somehow involved with this "operation." He continues to look in my eyes and ask if I am ok with this, truly saying "Are you up for the adventure?" Knowing how much fun we have together all I could say was "yes, of course." Thoughts of the many years to come of secret travels and missions flowed through my mind. The idea was movie-like and I was shocked I was one of the leads. I always knew we would eventually work together but I had no clue it would be so soon and in this kind of way.

So he opens the package and takes out three pieces of paper and two books. The papers consisted of subway routes, a satellite photo, and weather for one week in Paris, France. The books were a French to English Dictionary and a Paris 2008 Tour book. There was also one other document made up of only 5 lines of random numbers and letters . He says, "I guess we’re going to Paris."

To be honest the thought of going to Paris was extremely exciting to me. I could finally see all the wonderful art I read about in Art History class. Again I tried to ask questions. He politely replies "I can’t tell you anything until we get the next package as it will tell me what level of clearance you have." "So when is this next package going to get here?" I ask anxiously. We go through the papers and find that our flight is out of GTR in four hours. Dustin says that due to the amount of time we have at home that more than likely the package will be waiting for us at the airport. We both rush to pack for a week long trip to Paris in four hours (much harder than you think).

I continue to drill him with questions but he seems to have an answer for everything I ask. Dustin’s parents were supposed to come in for Thanksgiving. He tells me we don’t have to worry because you don’t generally get in this business unless you have a family member involved. He calls his dad and says, "The Cricket game is on." We drive a nervous twenty minutes to the airport figuring out the common story to tell anyone we were suppose to visit for Thanksgiving as well as anyone we run into. Dustin says that if we see anyone we know at the airport to tell them we are going to visit a cousin in Atlanta. We arrive at the local airport and find another package with Dustin’s name on it at the ticket desk. Dustin tells me with a serious look that we can’t open it when other people are around. He says "There is a message in this package that will tell us the mission and how much I can tell you about my past." Of course with GTR being so small we see everyone. I am afraid I will say something I wasn’t suppose to so I stay quiet for most of the wait.

We get to Atlanta and hide in an empty terminal to open the package. In the envelope there was an article about universities and the FBI working together to fight terrorism. It all starts to make sense. Dustin works on the code with the article. The mission is for me to identify the suspect from work in a certain local area of Paris the night we arrive. Initially I was a little worried I wouldn’t remember what the gentleman’s face looked like. After pondering about it a clear picture pops in my head. I was confident I could point him out in a small group. The last line of the code said he was free to tell me everything about his past. So of course I started asking questions. Dustin so gracefully tells me "we will have to wait until we are home to talk about anything. You never know who is listening." However, he does feed me some information always having an answer.

During the flight to Paris I was quite anxious. I tried, but couldn’t sleep a wink. We arrive at the airport Monday morning and find out about the transportation strike going on that week. Dustin tells me not to worry, there is a car waiting for us. Indeed, a chauffeur is standing outside the terminal with a card with our names on it and a Mercedes Benz. We make it slowly to the hotel due to the huge amount of traffic from personal vehicles. The hotel is beautiful! We can see the Eiffel tower and the World’s Fair Ferris wheel from our room window. Everything was still so surreal to me. Dustin hurries me up and we are out the door trying to find a taxi. The ride to Montmartre was gut wrenching. I didn’t know how dangerous this mission would be. We arrive in plenty of time for dinner and a glass of vin de table to calm my nerves. During the dinner an artist sits at the next table. We start a conversation and before we know it he has joined our table and is drawing a sketch of me. Dustin receives a phone call and steps outside. When he returns he mentions "our friends" are running a little behind. Once the portrait is done we began to make our way down to the location to identify the suspect. As we are walking I notice a man looking closely at me from afar. I whisper to Dustin "what if they recognize me first?" I tell him that "I got pretty close to the guy during the training, there would be no reason he wouldn’t recognize me." Dustin says we won’t get close enough for him to know who we are.

We continue to walk wasting time and not looking too suspicious ourselves. He gets another call and says the location has been moved and that we have backup if we need it. We make our way and then he receives another call. After he hangs up he grabs my arm and turns around. He tells me we have to run because they recognized me. We started running through the random alleys of Paris and he mentions there is a safe house at the next block. We get to the door and Dustin keys in a code for it to unlock. The door opens and the surreal is starting to become very real. We slam the door shut and he tells me to "get away from the windows. I’ll be right back. Just stay here" and he runs upstairs and knocks on a door. He speaks French to this woman and then calls me up. He walks us to another apartment and unlocks the door. We go inside and lock the door behind us. Dustin looks out all the windows and tells me to go upstairs and find the two briefcases under the bed. One has a gun and the other has a radio. I look up and down the closet, under the bed, and everywhere and these cases are no where to be found. Then, I hear a bang at the door. Dustin runs up stairs and I tell him there are no briefcases and he says we’ve been set up. My heart starts to race and I realize this not so dangerous mission may become very dangerous. He continues, "There are men outside with guns Mel we have to climb out onto the roof". He looks in my eyes and says "I am so sorry I got you into this. I never wanted to hurt you or put you in danger. I love you so much. I love you!" He opens the huge awning window and I hesitate and he says whats wrong. I tell him I must take off my shoes before I climb out the window. He quickly says we don’t have time. We have to go NOW. SO he gets down on a knee and clasps his hands and I am about to put my shoe in his hands but I don’t feel anything. I look down and there Dustin is on one knee with a ring box open. "Will you marry me?"

I was speechless for a moment. I know I slapped him on the shoulder when it hit me and then of course breathing heavily I start to cry, my heart still racing. Yes I say YES!!!! I pull him up and kiss him. He points to the window and there, over the rooftops of Paris and in full view is the Eiffel tower, sparkling like the new ring on my finger.

And that was it, the spy game was off but we did have an amazing time in Europe for the next week and I finally got the true story of how Dustin had masterminded the most incredible adventure of our lives….at least for now!

 

Proposal Story by:

Melissa Riddle

West Point, MS

 

1) We Can Take Care of That!

My boyfriend and I met at a party celebrating Christmas with friends at another mutual friend’s house after attending college. Just one look at each other had drawn us to each other that night…I had hopes of learning more about him so we slipped off to a quiet room where we could talk to each other. We learned we had so much in common, it was astounding to the two of us! We’d read so many of the same books, had so many of the same interests.  

We started dating and just couldn’t be separated after that. Eventually we attended another party and that evening two of our friends were there who had just recently married. Becky and Kurt were excited about being married and told us how wonderful it was to be together ‘all the time’ and the two of moved closer and closer to each other upon hearing their experiences. We were obviously thinking the same thing!  

Becky asked if we’d been thinking about getting married, and my boyfriend  said, I would propose, but our biggest problem seemed to be getting plans taken care of since it wasn’t easy for either of us to take off time from work to take care of details. That was it…Becky and Kurt said, “Don’t worry about it, we can take care of that!" We both laughed and my boyfriend said, please go ahead!  He turned to me and said, That is of course if you want me to have them do this 🙂 I assured him I did, and that is all Becky and Kurt had to hear!  

The next day Becky and Kurt helped us get our marriage license, called one of their friends who was a minister a local church, and for our wedding present hired a bakery to make our wedding cake…Essentially all we needed to do was show up at our wedding! It was a beautiful wedding!


Proposal Story by:

Janis Kracht

Windsor, NY

 

6) Our Story

Over the Fourth of July weekend Shawn (my boyfriend of seven months) invited me to go up with his family to the cabin, located in Cascade, Idaho. On the morning of the Fourth of July, Shawn casually asked me if I would like to go for a drive and a hike. I agreed, but I couldn’t help to wonder why we were leaving everyone else behind. We drove up near Goldfork Hotsprings and we started walking down towards the river. We ended our hike at this beautiful river setting complete with a rushing waterfall.

Shawn handed me a book, that was wrapped with beautiful silver ribbon and asked me to read it. The book was a collection of letters Shawn had written to his future wife (me!), letters to me after we had met and a chapter entitled "our story". After I read the part he asked me to read, I gave him a big hug as I tried to hold back tears.

He then got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. He opened the little black box that revealed a lovely princess cut diamond ring, and attempted to put it on my hand. I was shaking so much he couldn’t even get the ring on my finger. He put the ring on half-way, and I had to finish putting it on. We spent time just enjoying the moment together, sitting by the waterfall. We then started hiking back towards the car. I told him that I should call my parents. He had a goofy smile on his face and I guessed that he knew something I didn’t know. When we arrived back to the cabin, my parents were outside the campfire with Shawn’s entire family. Shawn had asked for their permission two weeks prior while I was out of town and asked them to drive up the morning of the fourth. We had lunch together with both of our families and that night we sat with each-other under the beautiful mountain sky and watched the Cascade firework show from across the lake, it was a perfect day!

Jennifer Bokenkamp

Meridian, ID

 

5) You’ve Gone This Far For Me

When I met Matt, I was a student at Utah State University.  He had just graduated and was starting his first job in Boston.  He lived alone and was looking to connect with someone.  I had hour long breaks between my classes and was looking for someone fresh to email while I killed time in the computer lab.  We found each other on penpal.net.

We began writing to each other.  At first I only found him fun and interesting to talk to.  Within a month, I knew I was falling for him.  We wrote about two word processed pages to each other every day.  We had not exchanged pictures and we did not communicate by phone.  This went on until the computer labs were closed for Christmas break.  Since I didn’t own my own computer, we decided to call each other so that we could continue to have contact with each other.

After five months of writing, Matt flew to Salt Lake City to meet me.  We had only recently exchanged pictures and I was nervous that I wouldn’t know him when I saw him.  I knew his height and that he had brown hair, but it seemed that every man who got off that plane was tall and dark!  When I saw him, I knew instantly that I’d found the right guy (he was wearing a Burger King crown, which kind of gave him away).  He met my family and we talked a lot during that whirlwind trip of two days.  On the way back to the airport I asked him, “What are we going to do?”  He said, “I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”  That was the first of two proposals that he made to me.

The rest of the story was not without bumps or challenges.  I went to visit him in Boston the following month and to meet his family.  He had only recently told his parents about me, and they treated our relationship as a simple lark.  Events conspired to change their opinion about us.  During that visit I became terribly ill and was admitted to Quincy Hospital.  The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was raging with fever and vomiting.  Matt stayed with me through the whole experience: ice beds, antibiotic after antibiotic, spinal taps, the hallucinations and bags of IVs.  I was diagnosed with Toxic Shock Syndrome.  I was in the hospital for 10 days, including 7 days in intensive care.  My mom and brother flew to Boston to be with me because there was a very real concern that I might not survive.  They saw how well Matt took care of me and how very much he loved me.  Any reservations they had about Matt melted away.  The experience was also a wake up call to his parents.  No more could they consider us a lark.  

Matt came to visit me in April and again in May.  We began to make plans for the future.  In May I graduated from USU and on the day I was supposed to be walking across the stage for my diploma, I was packing my car for a cross-country move.  We had decided that there were more opportunities for us in Boston than in Idaho, so I moved there to be with him.  

A short time after we arrived in Boston, Matt drove me to a local mall.  We went inside to a jewelry store and picked up a parcel.  Outside, in the parking lot, he helped me into the car and knelt down beside the passenger door.  He opened up the box and showed me what was inside.  It was a beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring.  He grabbed my hand and asked, “You’ve gone this far for me.  How about we do the rest of life together?”  Of course I agreed!

We encountered resistance from his parents, but that only delayed us about a month.  We were married in Massachusetts on August 14th, 1999, less than a year after our first letter on penpal.net.

Proposal Story by:

Jill Fisher

Iowa City, IA

 

4) 12-Steps

I met my husband George one evening at a 12-step meeting. From across the room we kept catching each others’ eyes and holding those gazes just long enough to say more than just hello.

Following the meeting we exchanged verbal hellos and then goodbyes. A few days later he called me – where he got my number is still up for debate! However we were inseparable from then on. Seeing each other daily and remaining on the phone hours on end.

Within weeks we had that ‘knowing’ about each other. We even talked of marrying soon. One of our dates found us at a local jewelry store where we looked at some rings and I had found a favorite. Nothing more.

About 3 weeks later, I was at George’s apartment researching directions on his computer for a date we were planning. I didn’t realize it, but the ring he had purchased for me was next to the mouse I was using. I never saw it!

Three days later we were in the Singles group at our church and George took center stage. He then took out a piece of paper from his pocket and professed his great love for me. He then got down on one knee, put the ring on my finger. We were both excited, he was so excited in fact, he forgot to ask me to marry him.

Later in the car, I said, "By the way, yes!" I was so blessed by his proposal in front of so many of our friends.

And he selected the ring I loved…only he selected the one 1 carat larger! I am not a material person, but I did notice that!

This November 2008 will be our sixth anniversary and our love is going strong. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part!


Proposal Story by:

Bridgett Ford

Friendswood, TX

 

3) Acting On This Epiphany

Please bear with me as my story exceeds the 750 word limit, but due to the way the proposal happened the story can’t be told with less words and still tell the whole story. Thanks for the consideration.

The story begins a few weeks prior to my girlfriend’s graduation from nursing school at UNCW in Wilmington, North Carolina. There is a tradition among nursing graduates where the newly minted nurse has her closest family and friends join her on the graduation stage and pin her with a nursing pin.

Brooke, then my girlfriend of seven years, had requested that I join her parents on the stage to pin her. I had declined because I wanted to let her parents have the moment. She is the first in her family to graduate from college.. After making sure that I was okay with sitting out, she agreed to let her parents be the only ones to pin her.

Now we fast forward to the day of the actual ceremony. Except for her grandma, Nana, every close family member of ours and her closest friends shown up in their Sunday best and are waiting in the dim shadows of the auditorium seating. We’ve taken up an entire row of the center section, a few rows from the back. Mom has the left isle seat.

The only people not on our row are Brooke’s mom and dad. They’ve been seated in the left section of seating with everyone who’s going to appear on stage. They’ve been organized by last initial to make the procession to the stage as orderly as possible.

The ceremony begins with some obligatory speeches and miscellaneous awards before moving to the actual pinning ceremony.

Brooke’s last name falls towards the end of the alphabet and as names are called and the tension mounts I begin to reconsider my decision not to be on the stage with Brooke. Images of the last seven years of our lives careen through my mind like the windows of a speeding subway car. With sudden, slightly frightening, clarity I realize that my place is on the stage with her. I’ve been the one with her all the way through both of our college years. She’s the person I’ve spent the last seven years of my life with and she’s the one I want to spend the rest of my years with too.  

My palms break into a cold sweat as I decide to act on this epiphany. I lean over to my father who is seated between myself and my mother and I whisper, "Dad, tell Mom that I need to borrow one of her rings."

Dad gives me a confused look before his eyebrows climb to the top of his forehead with a smile. He whispers back, "Are you sure?"

To which I immediately respond, "Yes." I succeed in keeping the tremble from my voice as my adrenaline jumps up a notch because I have just revealed my intentions to another person. It makes them more real.

He smiles his excited dad smile and says, "You’re going to have to ask your mother about that."

With an expectant twinkle in his eye, he leans out of the way so that I can whisper to my mother, "Mom, I need to borrow one of your rings."

Her face lights up as she immediately catches on to what I’m asking for, and why. She asks, "Really?"

I smile trying to not to laugh as my adrenaline ratchets up a notch because I’m about to have an engagement ring in my hands, "Yeah really."

Mom slips off one of her rings, it glitters with a hoard of rectangular diamonds, small individually but collectively they have impact. I take the ring in my hand and realize what comes next. I have to ask her father’s permission before he makes it to the stage.

I step past Mom and Dad with that penguin-esque movie theater shuffle and out into the isle. As I walk to where Brooke’s parents are sitting, I look back over my shoulder to see word of my decision quickly move down the isle in a frantic chain of whispers.  I find Brooke’s parents fortuitously seated in front of a wheelchair access row. At least there’ll be no more shuffling down rows.

I kneel down in front of the railing, lean over her father’s shoulder and whisper, "Lenny, do you mind if I marry your daughter?"

He looks over his shoulder with a bewildered expression until I hold up the ring for him to see. He starts to smile and shakes my hand, "Thanks for asking my permission." he says.

I smile back, thinking that the hard part is over and turn to my left to speak to Brooke’s mom, Lisa, who sees the ring and immediately breaks down into tears of panic and disbelief saying, "No you didn’t. No You’re Not! OH MY GOD!"

Lisa immediately jumps out of her seat and hurries around the end of the isle, crashing into me with a hysterical hug. I reassure her with a slew of "Yes, Really"’s  and Its Okays. Through her sobbing, She tells me how happy she is and that she can’t believe I’m springing this on them now.

I tell her, "I didn’t know I was going to do it until a minute ago."

She just shakes her head with a happily rueful expression and starts to pull herself together. We hear the last names beginning with S start to be called. Brooke’s name will be following the S’s shortly.

I leave her parents to compose themselves. I wait at the end of their isle where they’ll be called to approach the stage. I fidget with the ring and can see parts of the audience who caught on to what is happening grinning at me conspiratorially. I smile back and try to keep my hands from shaking.

Finally, the ushers ask the families sharing the first initial of Brooke’s last name  to stand and get in line. I fall in with Brooke’s parents and we begin the slow stop and go procession to the stage.

I count and recount how many students remain until we’ll be on the stage with Brooke. All the while my mind is racing, trying to envision what will happen on the stage but the scene keeps restarting  about a half second into the action.

Without realizing that we’d arrived at the stairs it’s time to ascend the stage. I follow her parents up.

She gives me a confused look as she sees me out of the offstage shadows, but clearly doesnt suspect my intentions. Lisa reaches Brooke first and begins trying to pin her with shaky hands, whispering, "You just don’t know Brooke. You just don’t know!"

To which Brooke responds, "It’s ok Mom, it’s ok", Thinking that her mom is just nervous about being on stage or freaking out because her daughter is graduating.

Once Lisa manages to get the pin attached, Lenny takes a step forward and tells Brooke how proud he is and that he loves her while giving her a big bear hug.

As he lets her go and goes to stand with Lisa, obviously ready to watch the spectacle, I take two steps forward and drop to my right knee. Brooke gives me a confused look for a moment (She tells me later that she thought I tripped and fell). Then she sees the ring I’m holding in front her and jumps a few feet into the air and lands on her heels screaming, "NO WAY!"

For a split second my hearts stops and I can’t breathe….until it registers that her response of "NO WAY!" is an expression of disbelief and not an answer to my question. She regains her balance and crashes to her knees with me, kissing me in the middle of the stage to the thunderous applause of the entire auditorium.

We both have tears in our eyes and I’ve suddenly got tunnel vision. There is no periphery to what I’m seeing, just Brooke, and the only sounds that are distinct among the roar of the crowd are the words coming out of her mouth as she laughingly says "Yes" and "I love you" over and over again. I don’t know how long that went on for, it felt like a long time but the crowd never stopped cheering.

 

Proposal Story by:

Jason Fogleman

Raleigh, NC

 

2) Queen City Breeze

My fiance’ then invited me to the event thinking that I had nothing to do with it, so she wouldn’t get suspicious. I informed all of our family and close friends about the event so they would all come as well. I got everyone there an hour early so they were all settled before the big surprise. I picked my fiance’ up 5 minutes late, so we arrived 5 minutes late. The I had the "usher" tell us that the movie had already started and had to seat us in the balcony section so we wouldn’t disturb the people in the theater.

When we sat down, we watched a 10 minute slide show of our relationship that I had put together and had 2 songs playing that I had written and recorded for her. When the slide show was over, the houselights went up, we stood up, all of our friends and family on the ground level stood up and turned around and I proposed on the balcony in front of everyone we love. She said yes! I have video of the event, recordings of the songs I wrote, and a file of the original slide show.


Proposal Story by:

Timothy Lipps

North Tonawanda. NY

 

 

1) She Makes Me Feel Special

My girlfriend, Randi, always makes me feel special. Because of this, I wanted the day I proposed to her to be the best day of her life. I had just been accepted into the Radiology program at my university and my mom told Randi she wanted to surprise me with a celebration party. Randi was totally into the planning and keeping it from me. We chose July 4th so it would appear that we were getting together for the holiday.

Randi loved to watch videos of my childhood so my mom told her she was making a surprise video that included all of the milestones of my life (first smile, first step,etc). Randi got excited and had all of our family say something on this video to congratulate me. She even got family members from out of town involved. On that day, we had all of her family and mine there and my mom announced that this was my special day and that we were going to watch a video of my life. When it was done, it read "The End" on the screen. Everyone clapped, including Randi.

Then the screen read "well, not just yet." Everyone watched as I then came on the screen and said "Randi, you thought this day was all about me, turns out, it is all about us." I then told her to stand up and turn around because "that man behind you has something to ask you." She was so surprised. She just held me and cried. I then got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. Of course, she said yes! My parents had a camcorder set up to record the entire thing so we can watch it with our children and grandchildren one day.


Proposal Story by:

Austin Dance

Holly Hill, FL

 

Quarter 4 2008 Proposal Story

ROUND 4 – As 2008 comes to end so do the Quarter 4 2008 Best Proposal Stories. If you have not had a chance to read Quarter 4 Best Proposal Stories, nows your chance! We hope you enjoyed all the proposal stories that have been submitted over the last 3 months, because we have! Choose a story to read from the pull-down menu above. The top story will win $2,500 in diamonds!

*Please keep in mind that you are only allowed one vote. If you or your internet service provider are behind a firewall you may have problems voting.

 

9) The Package

Prequel:

At the time of the proposal, I worked for an eLearning software company based out of a university. During one of the in house training sessions I realized this one learner was being quite suspicious. I watched this gentleman’s actions and computer screen and realized he was trying to tap into the company’s private server. Worried about possible theft of information, I turned the learner’s information into computer techs so the system could be checked for malicious activity. After telling Dustin, he emphasized that I should contact a much higher up authority in the university to make sure this learner was watched outside of the company. So I did. Even though I didn’t hear anything back from my boss, I assumed that the name was passed up the ladder. And I left it at that.

The Proposal:

One Sunday afternoon Dustin and I were taking our time starting the day. In fact, we had planned to go to a movie later. Suddenly there was a bang at the door. Not expecting any visitors we both looked at each other in that "who could that be" sort of way. Dustin ran downstairs to see what it could be. I watched him as he slowing walked up the stairs with a package in his hands. He had an unusual shocked look on his face. Worried, I asked what was wrong and told him that he was scaring me. He took me by the hand and said that we need to sit down. Of course I was frightened by this. He looked me in the eyes and said " You know there are certain things I can’t always tell you about what goes on in the military." I said, "of course." Dustin continued with a very serious look, "Well, I do more than fly for the Air Force". Dustin was taking intelligence and counterintelligence classes for his masters and I could remember the many times of interrogating him about why he choose to study government and military intelligence. So I answered "well it doesn’t surprise me". He begins to explain that his "second job" is not dangerous but that they rarely allow significant others to become involved in knowing what is going on. Trusting everything he said I of course nod my head and proceeded to ask questions about how he got involved. He interrupts and says "the reason this is shocking is that your name is on this package, too." He continues that I am somehow involved with this "operation." He continues to look in my eyes and ask if I am ok with this, truly saying "Are you up for the adventure?" Knowing how much fun we have together all I could say was "yes, of course." Thoughts of the many years to come of secret travels and missions flowed through my mind. The idea was movie-like and I was shocked I was one of the leads. I always knew we would eventually work together but I had no clue it would be so soon and in this kind of way.

So he opens the package and takes out three pieces of paper and two books. The papers consisted of subway routes, a satellite photo, and weather for one week in Paris, France. The books were a French to English Dictionary and a Paris 2008 Tour book. There was also one other document made up of only 5 lines of random numbers and letters . He says, "I guess we’re going to Paris."

To be honest the thought of going to Paris was extremely exciting to me. I could finally see all the wonderful art I read about in Art History class. Again I tried to ask questions. He politely replies "I can’t tell you anything until we get the next package as it will tell me what level of clearance you have." "So when is this next package going to get here?" I ask anxiously. We go through the papers and find that our flight is out of GTR in four hours. Dustin says that due to the amount of time we have at home that more than likely the package will be waiting for us at the airport. We both rush to pack for a week long trip to Paris in four hours (much harder than you think).

I continue to drill him with questions but he seems to have an answer for everything I ask. Dustin’s parents were supposed to come in for Thanksgiving. He tells me we don’t have to worry because you don’t generally get in this business unless you have a family member involved. He calls his dad and says, "The Cricket game is on." We drive a nervous twenty minutes to the airport figuring out the common story to tell anyone we were suppose to visit for Thanksgiving as well as anyone we run into. Dustin says that if we see anyone we know at the airport to tell them we are going to visit a cousin in Atlanta. We arrive at the local airport and find another package with Dustin’s name on it at the ticket desk. Dustin tells me with a serious look that we can’t open it when other people are around. He says "There is a message in this package that will tell us the mission and how much I can tell you about my past." Of course with GTR being so small we see everyone. I am afraid I will say something I wasn’t suppose to so I stay quiet for most of the wait.

We get to Atlanta and hide in an empty terminal to open the package. In the envelope there was an article about universities and the FBI working together to fight terrorism. It all starts to make sense. Dustin works on the code with the article. The mission is for me to identify the suspect from work in a certain local area of Paris the night we arrive. Initially I was a little worried I wouldn’t remember what the gentleman’s face looked like. After pondering about it a clear picture pops in my head. I was confident I could point him out in a small group. The last line of the code said he was free to tell me everything about his past. So of course I started asking questions. Dustin so gracefully tells me "we will have to wait until we are home to talk about anything. You never know who is listening." However, he does feed me some information always having an answer.

During the flight to Paris I was quite anxious. I tried, but couldn’t sleep a wink. We arrive at the airport Monday morning and find out about the transportation strike going on that week. Dustin tells me not to worry, there is a car waiting for us. Indeed, a chauffeur is standing outside the terminal with a card with our names on it and a Mercedes Benz. We make it slowly to the hotel due to the huge amount of traffic from personal vehicles. The hotel is beautiful! We can see the Eiffel tower and the World’s Fair Ferris wheel from our room window. Everything was still so surreal to me. Dustin hurries me up and we are out the door trying to find a taxi. The ride to Montmartre was gut wrenching. I didn’t know how dangerous this mission would be. We arrive in plenty of time for dinner and a glass of vin de table to calm my nerves. During the dinner an artist sits at the next table. We start a conversation and before we know it he has joined our table and is drawing a sketch of me. Dustin receives a phone call and steps outside. When he returns he mentions "our friends" are running a little behind. Once the portrait is done we began to make our way down to the location to identify the suspect. As we are walking I notice a man looking closely at me from afar. I whisper to Dustin "what if they recognize me first?" I tell him that "I got pretty close to the guy during the training, there would be no reason he wouldn’t recognize me." Dustin says we won’t get close enough for him to know who we are.

We continue to walk wasting time and not looking too suspicious ourselves. He gets another call and says the location has been moved and that we have backup if we need it. We make our way and then he receives another call. After he hangs up he grabs my arm and turns around. He tells me we have to run because they recognized me. We started running through the random alleys of Paris and he mentions there is a safe house at the next block. We get to the door and Dustin keys in a code for it to unlock. The door opens and the surreal is starting to become very real. We slam the door shut and he tells me to "get away from the windows. I’ll be right back. Just stay here" and he runs upstairs and knocks on a door. He speaks French to this woman and then calls me up. He walks us to another apartment and unlocks the door. We go inside and lock the door behind us. Dustin looks out all the windows and tells me to go upstairs and find the two briefcases under the bed. One has a gun and the other has a radio. I look up and down the closet, under the bed, and everywhere and these cases are no where to be found. Then, I hear a bang at the door. Dustin runs up stairs and I tell him there are no briefcases and he says we’ve been set up. My heart starts to race and I realize this not so dangerous mission may become very dangerous. He continues, "There are men outside with guns Mel we have to climb out onto the roof". He looks in my eyes and says "I am so sorry I got you into this. I never wanted to hurt you or put you in danger. I love you so much. I love you!" He opens the huge awning window and I hesitate and he says whats wrong. I tell him I must take off my shoes before I climb out the window. He quickly says we don’t have time. We have to go NOW. SO he gets down on a knee and clasps his hands and I am about to put my shoe in his hands but I don’t feel anything. I look down and there Dustin is on one knee with a ring box open. "Will you marry me?"

I was speechless for a moment. I know I slapped him on the shoulder when it hit me and then of course breathing heavily I start to cry, my heart still racing. Yes I say YES!!!! I pull him up and kiss him. He points to the window and there, over the rooftops of Paris and in full view is the Eiffel tower, sparkling like the new ring on my finger.

And that was it, the spy game was off but we did have an amazing time in Europe for the next week and I finally got the true story of how Dustin had masterminded the most incredible adventure of our lives….at least for now!

 

Proposal Story by:

Melissa Riddle

West Point, MS

 

8) A Chance Meeting

My boyfriend and I had known each other since we were five years old. A chance meeting in the hospital when our respective younger sisters were being delivered (on the same day!) led to the discovery that our parents lived on the same street and had older children of the same age. Soon, the two families were fast friends and we kids grew up playing and fighting together. My twin brother Avi, Percy, and I were best friends and I never put up with them leaving me out because I was a girl!

It wasn’t until after college though, that Percy and I started to see each other differently. At first it was awkward, but that gave way to a deeper friendship than we’d ever known as children and then something more, love!

Last December, for the first time in years, both of our families would be together for the holidays. Percy & I had moved away from our hometown about a year after we started dating and we were both excited to be home for Christmas but we were feeling a bit down because my twin brother with was in Iraq with his army unit and couldn’t make it home for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, Percy suggested going for a ride in the car. I agreed, thinking it might cheer me up a little since I was feeling my brother’s absence especially that night. It started to snow softly while we were driving around, and looking at the various displays of Christmas lights did make me feel a little happier.  Lost in my little holiday reverie, I wasn’t really paying attention to where we were going. I was surprised therefore, when Percy parked the car, to realize that we were at the town airport.

"What are we doing here?" I asked, confused. But Percy just smiled a little mysteriously and said, "I thought we could watch the snow from the observation deck."

I was perplexed over how that would be better than watching it from the car, but I gamely followed him in… only to find our entire families standing in the lobby when we entered it. They had driven straight to the airport while Percy had been distracting me with Christmas lights. They all had huge grins on their faces in response to my look of utter confusion and when they parted to two sides I saw.. my brother Avi standing behind them. He had managed to arrange last-minute leave and everyone knew except for me!

While I was hugging my brother with tears of joy, he whispered in my ear, "I had to come home, Sis. I couldn’t miss seeing you get engaged." He then spun me around to face Percy, who was kneeling, grinning ear to ear, and holding out a small velvet box. "Marry me?" he asked. "I already have the blessing of our families!"  At this point, I was both crying and laughing so hard that I snorted- which my family still loves to tease me about- before I managed to choke out a, "Yes!"

We scheduled our wedding for the week after my brother returned for good from his tour in Iraq and it was one of the happiest days of my life.

 

Proposal Story by:

J. Davenport

Sunnyvale, CA