Written by jOhO, and extracted from the SGForums
Her smile lighted up my day.
She had just walked out of the office tower where she worked but looked like she had just walked out of a make-over. Whereas I, with my Armani tie half-loosened, and God knows what else, was standing there waiting for her with my filthy, half-smoked cigarette. I’ll have to quit that habit soon…
“Hi bunny”, she smirked. GAWD why is she so happy? Unconsciously I smiled back.
“Hiya baby”, I managed, taking her document bag from her. “I didn’t manage to collect the car on time, so it’s still at the workshop. Let’s take a cab, shall we?”
“Can we walk to the Esplanade and skip the peak hour traffic? I haven’t been there since the opening and I’d really like to go again to have a look. It’s just so beautiful there!”
I tried to hide my wince. But I couldn’t disappoint her sweet anticipation. She did have a point though. Catching a cab at this hour would be like would be like catching a fly with a pair of chopsticks.
The journey made her document bag seem to weigh like a tonne of bricks. However, her light-hearted cheeriness and animated chatter made my heart flutter weightlessly. How could someone describing how her boss tripped over the photocopier power cord look like such an angel?
We reached the Esplanade in no time, although not without my tie being taken off and my shirt tucked out, while she still had her suit jacket on and of course, that million dollar smile.
No amount of money could replace that smile.
Feeling slightly peckish, I muttered if we could grab a bite. She said she would prepare something when we got home and I immediately rescinded my request. She made the simplest meals fit for a king, and I thank God everyday that I was her king. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I say even without my stomach she’s there to stay.
We seated ourselves on an empty bench. I couldn’t help but ask, “Baby, how do you do it?”
“Do what, bunny?”
“Make me so happy….. so effortlessly!”
I thought the smile when she greeted me earlier was flawless. Yet she managed to surprise me with yet another smile that was even more flawless when she heard that, if that was possible. It was a rhetorical question. Yet I was puzzled. Maybe I shouldn’t question why. If only she knew how happy I was.
She leaned against me amorously. Since I wondered if I stank like sweat and smokes, I shifted uncomfortably.
As if reading my thoughts: “How much did you smoke today, bunny?”, she asked dreamily.
“Too much….” Wrong, but truthful answer. Her frown made me wince the second time since seeing her but what she said made me want to slap myself.
“I love you anyway you know that right?”
Damn, she’s good. Ok, I’m quitting.
The rest of the evening was spent in a silence that was soothing, even satisfying. I even wondered what I would do if she ever failed to be part of my life. I shuddered at the thought, and mentally chided myself at my pessimism. Again, as if reading my thoughts, she snuggled up even closer; her thoughts intimated that she would never leave me. I believed her.
When we finally got home I was an absolute wreck. I must be getting old, ten hour days in the office seemed more labourious than a seven day field camp with my old commando buddies. She of course got undressed and promptly went into the kitchen to whip up some goodies for her husband, whom thankfully, was me.
The hot water splashing on my face was the second best thing I felt all day. The best of course, was her gentle touch and mind-boggling smile. My thoughts drifted to when I first met her. She was, and still is, the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on. For the first time that day, I smiled so uninhibitedly that I was thankful I was in the privacy of my bathroom.
I remember how I met her.
I was shopping for a bath robe for my mother at Robinson’s and being the typical male, could not, for the life of me, find where they were. I looked around, found a staff member and asked for help. Goofy was how I sounded.
“Would you mind telling me where I can find the bath robes?”
Her delayed reply rather annoyed me. I was already silently cursing at the screaming kids, irritating Christmas jingles and mindless people that were foraging through the Christmas items on sale. Lucky for her, or me, she was rather good-looking. That helped things a little.
“Why don’t I bring you to that department? Maybe I can help you select a suitable one. Is it for your wife?”
Now, I don’t remember Singaporean sales staff being that helpful, nor personal. Before I could think of a suitable reply, I found myself following her to a section that I swore I browsed through moments ago. I guess being male makes you blind when buying bath robes.
“Well? Who is it for?” She asked again.
“Er… My mother.” I replied.
“Her favourite colour?”
When we (more like she) finally decided on which one to get, I proceeded to the cashier and paid for my purchase. She was still with me, like she was worried I wouldn’t pay or something.
“Say, do you want to help me shop for something for my dad now?”
My dumbfounded look was a Kodak moment. I couldn’t really find anything intelligent to say so I muttered, “Huh…?”
“I said, I need to get a present for my dad, and I’d like you to help me out. That’s why I’m here. I don’t work here.”
I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. And plant some cabbage while the soil is still soft. I don’t know how long it took me, but when I finally found my voice,
“Then why did you….?”
“Because you’re cute!” She cut me off. It’s like she anticipated my every move. Are men that predictable? “So are you gonna help me or what?”
I had never experienced the feeling of total elation coupled with extreme embarrassment at the same time. My heart was beating double time and my stomach, triple. I looked at my feet. Damn! My shoes needed cleaning.
She slid her hand under my arm and started to head for the men’s section. “Come on, relax, it’s not that hard, my dad isn’t really fussy.”
After we selected a blue pinstripe Aldo Rossini business shirt size 15, and paid for it, I was feeling much more comfortable with her. She showed no hint of remembering my embarrassment from moments before. Instead, by that time, I not only knew her father’s shirt size, I also knew that he didn’t like green, that his favourite food was fettuccine carbonara, that he called her roly-poly when he wanted to annoy her (she was a fat kid) and that his golf handicap was 18. I was smitten by her through and through. So lively and spontaneous, open and uninhibited, charming and intelligent.
“I want to see you again.” I said as we left the department store.
“Why?” I swore that sounded a little cold.
“Because I still have other presents to shop for, and I’ll need your help again.” Of course, that wasn’t the reason.
She raised an eyebrow, and then smiled. It was then that I was taken. The pure, unadulterated smile that is her signature.
As we navigated through the Christmas crowd that evening, I could only sense all things beautiful, the Christmas carols lingering in the festive air, the smiles of little kids eating lollipops, and the joy in my heart that would only grow in time to come.
Our relationship was just so right. We were attuned to each other in such a poignant way that it was astonishing. Six months had passed, she moved in, and we shared each other’s lives in a way that re-wrote the meaning of love.
“Bunny! Let’s go to Australia!” She exclaimed one night, looking away from the LCD screen.
“Err, you’re talking to me right?” I looked up, beyond the rim of my reading glasses, giving her the most incredulous look I could muster.
“There’s no one else in this room, you goondoo! C’mon, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” The shine in her eyes near blinded me.
“How? I mean… you remember this little minor detail called “work” don’t you?” Sarcasm rippled off my tongue. I shifted slightly under the covers of the bed.
“We’ll take leave. We’ll quit, whatever!! Look here, I’m at this website and there’s this wonder offer from SA Tours for only $888 to any city in Australia….”
Her voice trailed off. Even though my eyes were rolling while I was listening to her, my heart marvelled at her sweet innocence. I instantly remembered why I loved her. Such positivity, such optimism, devoid of gloom. The perfect complement for me. I gazed at her dreamily. The LCD screen seemed to be reflected off her rosy cheeks, as she meticulously read the contents of “this wonderful offer” out loud.
“Hey! Are you listening?” An ever so slight tinge of annoyance rang thru her voice.
“Yes dear, I’m listening.” I didn’t hesitate. “When shall we leave?”
Her excitement burst with all the vigor I had ever seen. “Really?!! This is great! We’re finally going for a holiday together!” She jumped off her chair and flew across the room to give me the most endearing hug a man could ask for. After I found my breath, she propped herself up over me with her elbows and started visualising: “We could go to Brisbane first, and you can show me all the places you grew up at, see your parents, meet your brother, then down to Sydney, can we still make it for the Mardi Gras? Then Melbourne, the penguins, it’s winter right?…..”
Here we go again. I had my jaw semi-opened, stuck. I swore she said all that with one breath. Women sure are interesting creatures. They don’t breathe when they talk. Cool.
“…then Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road..”
I lifted my hand, and slightly brushed her lips with my thumb. Her eyes, filled with joy, found mine, filled with awe. I leaned forward, then hesitated. She was silent now, her lips still, moist, with a half-smile soft and tender. She spoke to me now, not through her lips, but through her eyes, still glistening, this time with coy ardency. Gently, she removed my glasses, and placed them beside me. “I love you”, she whispered softly, and transfered her weight off her elbows onto my naked torso. We embraced, united in sweet romance.
My reading glasses broke that night.
September was a great time to be in Brisbane. The winds of Spring gently coerced the chills of winter away, making way for a gentle sun that seemed to smile upon our love. She was effervescent. Was she never?
“Dear,” I said, as we walked towards the cab stand. “You excited about meeting my parents?”
“Not really, I just wanna get that part out of the way so we can enjoy the rest of the holiday.”
I was taken aback. “I thought you were dying to meet them? You should’ve told me!”
She stared giggling. “You goondoo! I’m joking! Geez, trust you to take that seriously.”
Ooooh, she got me that time. My face held the expression of an incredulous loser. I pulled the cabin luggage I was dragging to an upright position before getting in behind her and lifting her up by the waist. She was wearing one of those thin summer dresses with speghetti straps that was most probably lifted up accidentally from the boisterous attack.
“BUNNY! Put me down, you just lifted my skirt! We’re in public, you know!”
“Doesn’t matter, this is Australia, no one knows you here anyway!” I grinned and put her down. She turned around and gave me a punch in the chest. “That’s what you get for bluffing me.” She reasoned. She wasn’t angry with me, and smiled to show it. I had my arms around her waist, and continued, “Oh and I put you down only because I didn’t want to share with everyone what only I could ever have access to.” My sly grin exuded enough charm to warm a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day.
“Yeah right, you’re still a goondoo though!” Her attempt to hide her blushes was futile.
The ride to my parents place seemed short, only because I couldn’t stop telling her about the landmarks as we passed them by in the cab. I felt invigorated, like my life has come one circle, only in this circle I found what I never knew was missing in my life: happiness. All the memories came flooding back when I saw familiar sights, except I couldn’t remember the heartaches. She was leaning against me in the cab, the air-conditioning possibly a little cold for her, so I put her cardigan around her, only to find her sleeping sweetly, terribly tired from the flight. I stroked her hair gently, while she murmured something incoherently. Almost everything she does is so angelic. I am indeed a lucky man. I sighed contentedly and succumbed to slumber.
I woke to the voice of our cab driver. “Hey mate, which street in Middle Park?” Arr, the familiar, authentic Aussie accent invoked lukewarm nostalgia within me. I never did think that it was particularly charming.
“Cara Close, you know it?”
“Yeah mate, like the back of my hand. My folks live in Westlake, just down further.”
“Fair dinkum!” I sucked at sounding aussie, but what other place do I get to use that phrase? “Might wanna pay them a visit after dropping us off then, hey?”
“Yeah, good one mate, just in time for the scones, I reckon!” His smile shone through the rear-view mirror.
“Rightio, we’re here!” said he, as I pointed to a house with cream bricks and a red roof. The paved driveway was long and in yet a deeper red, maroon. A double garage stood at the end of the driveway, while the rest of the house angled out, giving way to a well-kept garden with a numerous palm trees. Rose bushes crowded against the brick wall, but were devoid of flowers since winter had just passed. The lush green grass was basking in the gorgeous sun, while our dog, Pepper, was resting in the cool of the shade provided graciously by the trees. I woke Chloe up, paid the man and proceeded to unload our luggage from the boot.
“Ta, mate,” the cabbie almost yelled as he sped off. Even the sound of a Falcon sounded astoundingly familiar!
“Wow, you used to live here?” She rubbed her eyes, as if not believing them, but really from the sweet slumber she had just risen from. “It’s so beautiful! I’m not going back to Singapore, I don’t care what you say!”
“Well, who says you could live here permanently with me? Unless you wanna marry my brother. But he’s already married. Then how?” I teased. “My mum won’t let me live with a girl unless I marry her.” That was, of course, plain bullShit, since my mum knew she was living with me, and highly encouraged it because “at least there’s someone to take care of your lazy bum”, in her exact words.
I had hardly finished my sentence when my mum opened the front door. “Boy ar!! You’re finally here! Alamak, we’ve been waiting so long for you to come and visit. You ar, must wait until Chloe suggest then will come right?” My eyes rolled, either due to her Singlish that she never managed to get rid off despite being here 15 years, or her reverence for Chloe, someone whom she’d never met, possibly both.
She looked at Chloe and smiled. “You must be Chloe. Wah so pretty. Boy ar, much better than your other one, what’s her name ar? Andree, or something…”;
“Mum! Aiyoh can don’t mention anot? So long ago already, and the name’s Andrea, by the way.” My annoyance at my mum’s tactlessness was also fueled by the fact that I had to stoop to speaking contrived singlish to bring myself to her level. Thank God I had told Chloe about Andrea, I thought to myself.
Chloe beamed. “Hello Aunty!” She exclaimed. This is where she shone best. The first impression she gives anyone is second to none. I had no qualms about my mum accepting her, but I slightly feared for the contrary. “Thanks for letting us put up here on our holiday!”
“Aiyoh, so hak hei for wat, almost family lar. Come come, let’s go inside. Daddy’s doing his stock market dunno what thing on the net as usual.” My eyes couldn’t roll anymore, for goodness’ sakes! Although I had to admit, I was smiling inwardly. I did miss my parents terribly.
I needed no directions once I got into the house. Everything was pretty much the same, and I didn’t really bother to look around much, as I ushered Chloe up the stairs, through a long landing, and into my room, which was brilliantly clean. The queen-sized bed looked small compared to the rest of the room, like I almost forgot that this used to be where my wonder years were spent. Well, at least now, I thought to myself, this bed would come to good use. I’d always slept on this bed alone.
“Sorry about before dear, my mum’s like that.”
“Your mum’s cute! I think I’m really going to like her.”
I laughed. “You better not eat your words!”
After freshening up it was time for dinner and I couldn’t wait to savour my mum’s cooking after all those years. My brother had arrived with his wife, and to my greatest surprise she was already 6 months pregnant! Time passes fast, and I felt like I’d lost touch with my family. Yet I never felt alone, and I attributed that to the love that Chloe had shown to me the past months, and instantly felt that there would be no one else in the world that I would ever love again.
Chloe was already downstairs helping my mum with dinner preparations. I was just beside myself with glee. How could she just blend in so well? Chatting with my brother and his wife while fiddling with tongs trying to get little bite-sized appetizers on a large dish seemed like something sheâ€™d been doing for years. She obviously needed no introduction to the rest of my family.
â€œBunny, you didnâ€™t comb your hair again! Itâ€™s so messy!â€ She exclaimed while I sat myself down on a chair giving my brother a friendly punch on the shoulder.
â€œYou know, Iâ€™ve never said this to you before, but while my mumâ€™s still around, you are not to take over her role to nag me.â€ I smirked back. Ha! Looks like I won that one.
â€œThatâ€™s not funnyâ€¦â€ She trailed off, and continued with what she was doing. Oh no, was she upset? I didnâ€™t have time to think before my brother and I started busying ourselves with man talk, which always seemed to divert towards the topic of photography. I guess that was one of the rare things that he and I had in common. Still, I loved and missed him so.
Dinner was, as usual, belt bursting, even though I wasnâ€™t wearing one. Thank God for elastic bands, I thought to myself. However, I wasnâ€™t too worried about my over-eating as I was about Chloeâ€™s silence towards me. She was amiable to the rest of my family but it seemed weird that for once, her attention wasnâ€™t on me. I couldnâ€™t quite figure out if I was just being sensitive, or that she was deliberately ignoring me. Sometimes I hate being male, for we can never tell such things.
After my brother and I did the dishes, I grabbed Dadâ€™s keys and said, â€œDad, I need to go out for a sec, taking your car hor?â€ and didnâ€™t bother waiting for an answer. He probably just grunted anyway. To my surprise, Chloe didnâ€™t bat an eyelid. Didnâ€™t she want to know where I was going? Looks like Iâ€™m in the deep end this time, I thought, and left.
When I returned, she was already in bed reading. I entered our room tentatively, and she put her magazine aside and snuggled under the covers, facing away from me. I walked up to her from behind and sat down beside her.
â€œDear, Iâ€™m back. Can I have a kiss?â€ I coerced.
â€œIâ€™m trying to sleepâ€¦â€ She managed. The temperature definitely dropped a few degrees there.
OK, I thought to myself. This wasnâ€™t going to be easy. I left her alone and proceeded to undress myself and got into my pajamas, hoping that sheâ€™d break the silence. I knew her well; she just wouldnâ€™t be able to keep mum about her unhappiness for long. And I was right.
â€œWhere did you go?â€ Her icy-cold voice stung.
I remained silent for a while. â€œWell?â€ She demanded.
â€œWhen I left the house I knew you were angry at me because you didnâ€™t even bother to ask where I was going. I didnâ€™t have anywhere to go, just wanted to see if you were really angry.â€
â€œIâ€™m not angry whatâ€¦â€ She was such a bad liar, it was almost cute.
â€œAnyway since everything was closed, I drove around aimlessly for a while until I remembered a MacDonaldâ€™s restaurant that opened late. So I went there and got a few straws to make you these.â€ From my pockets, I produced twelve stars made out of folding the straws and showed them to her, hoping she would notice the sores on my fingers from folding the thick plastic. They donâ€™t make them that thin like those found at the kopitiams in Singapore thatâ€™s for sure.
Her eyes lighted up.
â€œIâ€™m sorry dear, I think I have a good idea why youâ€™re pissed off. I just donâ€™t want to start this holiday on a bad note.â€ I sat next to her while she picked up one of the stars off my hand and threw them childishly back at the rest of the eleven. And repeating that a couple of times. Her sweet innocence was returning, and a hidden smile seemed to slowly reveal itself on her tender lips.
â€œSo you like the stars anot?â€ I probed. â€œI havenâ€™t made these in 5 years. Wasnâ€™t easy since these straws are so hard, you know.â€ The most innocent look of my life adorned my face and I took a great deal of effort to make it stay, since my smile was also oozing out of my lips.
She grabbed a star, and instead of throwing it back at the pile, she threw it in my face playfully. â€œYouâ€™re not off the hook ok?â€ This time her smile was uncontrolled, and turned away so as not to give me the pleasure of her immaculate beauty.
â€œOh yes I am!â€ I exclaimed. â€œYippie! Iâ€™m off the hook liow.â€ I stared jumping up and down on the bed and sprinkled the stars on her head. That was certainly something I did not want anyone else to see. A 30-year-old man treating his bed as a trampoline yelling â€œYippieâ€ wouldnâ€™t go down well with society, I figured.
â€œHey stop it, youâ€™re making me dizzy!â€ So I stopped, and asked her, â€œDo you know why I made twelve stars?â€
â€œWell, I know twelve roses means â€˜Be mineâ€™, but Iâ€™m already yours mah.â€ Cheeky grin. â€œSo what does it mean?â€
â€œIt means the number of children youâ€™re gonna bear for me!â€
â€œYeah right, in your dreams!â€ Now she was really back to her usual self. I was just so happy. I never ever wanted her to be angry with me again. Not that itâ€™s easy though. I moved under the covers so she could snuggle tightly in my arms. Her breathing was light, and I could feel it on my bare chest. She started to speak again.
â€œBunny, you know why I was angry right? When you were gone I was thinking that I was over-reacting, but then, did you know Iâ€™m under a lot of pressure?â€
I was a little shocked. What did she mean by that? Reading my thoughts, she continued. â€œMeeting your family has been one of the things that Iâ€™ve always looked forward to, yet I feel pressured because I didnâ€™t know what they would think of me. Especially when you told me about Audrey and how your mum hated her. That scared me you know. And just now, your stupid comment on how I was taking over your motherâ€™s role wasnâ€™t funny at all. What if she took it the wrong way? I just didnâ€™t like it. Luckily she didnâ€™t seem bothered by it. Obviously she knows your nonsense better than I do!â€ With that she proceeded to thump my chest. Sheâ€™s been in the habit of doing that lately. â€œSo thatâ€™s why I was all annoyed and scared. I really love you, and your family, and I donâ€™t want them to hate me.â€
She sounded so forlorn that it wrenched my heart into the most oddly contorted shape. I was so touched. Here I was thinking it was a little squabble between a couple that I knew I could â€œfixâ€ while she was introspecting about the future of our relationship. For the first time in my life, impending commitment in a relationship didnâ€™t scare me at all. I knew I was important to her since she felt this way, and felt so idiotic that I hadnâ€™t been able to sense this apprehension in her. â€˜Bloody menâ€™, I used that excuse again.
I sighed. â€œIâ€™m so so so sorry dear. I had no idea you thought that much. I mean I always knew you wouldnâ€™t have problems with my parents. I guess I shouldâ€™ve reassured you. Why hadnâ€™t you spoken to me about this?â€
â€œDidnâ€™t want to worry you lor. I usually just tell myself that I was thinking too much.â€
â€œHey, I donâ€™t want you to keep anything from me ok? And stop feeling that youâ€™re not as important to me as my family and all that nonsense, in case you are thinking that way, ok?â€
â€œOk bunnyâ€¦â€ She was sleepy now. All the anxiety about meeting my family and the long periods of traveling seemed to finally culminate in an exhausted and spent body and mind of my beloved Chloe. I was glad she was in my arms. No one in this world would ever fill those arms again.
We slept soundly that night, under the clear star-lit skies of Brisbane, and among the MacDonaldâ€™s straw stars scattered over lilac satin sheets.
Southbank hadnâ€™t changed.
Man-made and poised by the banks of Brisbane river lay the picturesque esplanade, adorned with places of pasta, lobster and sirloin. A wading pool formed from a rock waterfall could be found at one end of the esplanade where fragrances of charred, barbequed meat lingered.
That evening, we found ourselves patronising one of the bistros situated along the esplanade.
â€œBunny, this place is just so peaceful. Do you think we could live here next time?â€
I smiled approvingly, since I had every intention to. I didnâ€™t know how serious she was, and whether she thought about her friends and family that sheâ€™d be leaving behind in Singapore, but that didnâ€™t matter. What mattered was that she was in front of me, making me the happiest man alive. However, the fact of whether she was also the happiest woman alive was unbeknownst to me.
I took a sip of my red wine gave a nod of approval to the anticipating sommelier. â€œYouâ€™ve indeed chosen an excellent wine, sir. Please allow me to serve your lovely companion so that she may also savour this excellent wine.â€ He said, with a smile that could probably win more awards than the wine in his hands. Chloe grinned and allowed her glass to be filled.
Beyond her, the bistro was filled with soft jazz, dampened by constant chatter from the guests and their occasional bouts laughter. Teak dining tables with matching table runners stood on matt parqueted flooring. In contrast, the shining silverware that reflected a single tea-light candle on the tables added a touch of class to the ambience of the bistro.
â€œBon appÃ©tit,â€ The waiter said as he laid our main courses in front of us. Chloe had ordered the grilled salmon, while I opted for the lamb rack.
â€œDearâ€¦â€ I started to speak.
â€œYes, bunny?â€ She replied, taking a bite of her fish. Without letting me continue she commented, â€œWow bunny, this salmon is good! You wanna try some?â€ That smile again. It almost felt like I never had to eat again if I could see that smile for the rest of my life.
â€œAlright!â€ I replied as she placed a slice of fish in my mouth. â€œHmm, itâ€™s pretty good, huh? But I reckon you could do a better job!â€ I smiled back. I was telling the truth. Food prepared by her with an extra ingredient called love could not be bettered by the best chef.
â€œOh, youâ€™re kidding. Donâ€™t tease me like that. Donâ€™t forget, youâ€™re the one who taught me how to cook, so in other words you are praising yourself lar?â€ She sniggered playfully.
Dinner continued with playful banter and I felt at the top of the world. She was such great company and even after all these months I felt that everyday with her was like getting to know her again. The excitement, freshness and vitality exuded from her never seemed to fade. In fact, it seemed to grow with time, much the opposite of my previous relationships where the spark seemed to die with the passing months.
â€œChlo, I want to ask you something.â€ I said over dessert. â€œAre you happy?â€ I asked apprehensively.
â€œOf course I am! Weâ€™re on holiday bunny, our first holiday ever. And this place is just great! I love the weather, and even the air, itâ€™s so fresh! Then itâ€™s not really crowded like in Singapore, and people here are just so friendly! And oh, your family, theyâ€™re just wonderful. Iâ€™ll definitely have to learn more dishes to cook from your mum.â€ Her exuberance never failed to elate me, even though she hadnâ€™t really answered the question.
â€œAnd Iâ€™m sure sheâ€™ll be more than happy to. But I meant to ask, are you really happy?â€ This time I looked serious. The glint in my eyes surely communicated to her that I meant if she was happy with our relationship.
Her smile faded slightly, and her face turned into an almost confused look. Her arched eyebrows showed concern as she responded, â€œWhat do you think? Donâ€™t you have any idea?â€
â€œWell, letâ€™s just say when something perfect in my life presents itself, I would think it was too good to be true. And dear, youâ€™re prefect.â€ I didnâ€™t know why I was so negative. I had always been a pessimist, and this time was no different. Maybe, for once in my life, I actually feared that someone walking out of it would probably kill me. I took a big gulp of my wine and emptied the glass.
â€œBunnyâ€¦â€ She spoke softly. â€œI love you. I know you love me too. Thatâ€™s enough for me. I hope that answers your question.â€ She stretched her arm forward and placed her hand gently on mine and stroked reassuringly with her fingertip. She looked at me with contentment in her eyes, something which I was sure Iâ€™d seen, but never noticed. Tonight, I certainly noticed it, and was relieved. I leaned forward to give her a peck on the lips, tasting partly of lip gloss and partly of the sweet wine she just had, but mostly the assurance that she too, was happy. I was the reason she was happy.
Her squeals of excitement turned quite a few heads, as we approached Circular Quay. We were in Sydney.
â€œBunny, look! The Harbour Bridge!! And there, the Opera House! Wowâ€¦ this is so beautiful!â€ She put her arms around my waist while walking side-by-side, and I gave her a peck on the forehead.
â€œLook at you, youâ€™re acting more like my little daughter than my girlfriend! Anyway, you have to make a choice now, do you want to go left to the bridge or right to the Opera House? Cos if we keep walking straight, weâ€™re gonna get wet!â€
â€œOK, letâ€™s do the Opera House!â€
Walking hand in hand with her, we were just like a couple out of high school. Swinging our arms, with her skipping every now and again, pointing to this and that and asking me to â€œLook, dear!â€ when I was already looking anyway. I was so glad that she was happy.
As we approached the Opera House, the familiar sound of a didgeridoo filled our ears. So we walked up to the aboriginals playing the unique music, which seemed to awe her. Was she never filled with excitement?
â€œDear, I want to take a few photos, why donâ€™t you wait for me at the cafÃ© over there?â€ I pointed to the numerous white umbrellas sheltering a charming alfresco style cafÃ©.
â€œSure, strong latte for you? Oh no, better not, by the time you come itâ€™ll be cold already. Iâ€™ll get you an ice-coffee instead ok?â€ Big smile. And then off she went like the angel she is.
Out came my camera and before I knew it, three quarters of an hour had passed. Oh no, I thought to myself, she must be bored! I threw my camera into my bag, conveniently forgetting to put my lens cap on, and headed towards the cafÃ©.
I saw my baby sitting at one of the tables near the thoroughfare, with a very worried look on her face. Next to her, a pretty large built Caucasian man loomed over her small frame spoke animatedly. As I hurried closer, I saw that he was a photographer too, carrying plenty of gear and a very expensive tripod.
â€œWhatâ€™s up baby?â€ I gave her a soft but reassuring peck on the cheek. Immediately she grabbed my hand, a firm grasp would be an understatement. She was obviously very flustered. I looked up at the man.
â€œJoshua.â€ I stuck my hand out sincerely.
â€œLance. Gâ€™day!â€ and a firm handshake was the reply.
â€œI see you like to take photos too, hey?â€
Slightly taken aback by my thick Aussie accent he responded: â€œYeah mate, love it. Ya born here?â€
â€œAlmost!â€ That was the truth. â€œThis is my wife, Chloe.â€ I looked down on my baby.
â€œ Fair dinkum! Youâ€™ve got yourself a pretty decent sheila there mate! Look man, didnâ€™t mean any harm just now, thought she was a tourist, a good-looker too, and wanted to take photos and send them to her. Honest to God.â€
He smiled. I believed him.
I nudged him to the side walk, and spoke in soft whispers to him. He nodded vigorously and beamed. Gave me a pat on the back and waited for my cue.
When I got back to Chloe, she looked at me with the most bewildering eyes. â€œBunnyâ€¦? Why did you call me your wife?â€ Her voice a little unsteady, either from the scare she got before, or from my remark, or both.
I took my stance on one knee, pulled out from my pocket a 50 point single solitaire diamond ring in white gold and looked at her. Her expression was priceless. And her eyes glazed over. Holding the ring with one hand, and holding hers in the other, I said slowly, thoughtfully:
â€œChloe, youâ€™ve only ever brought me joy, joy that I have never experienced. I want to be selfish and keep that joy forever. If you say yes, it means that youâ€™re selfish too, because the joy that I give you is also unfelt of in the whole of your life, and you too want to keep it forever. Marry me, my baby.â€
Tears steamed while by-standers looked on expectantly. I looked at her and smiled. I never thought this day would come, that I could propose to the woman I love without a doubt. Without a doubt that she would be the first person that I will see every morning, the only person to share my children with, the only person to come back to Sydney with, to this spot and relive this memory in our old age. She is the only one I have ever truly loved.
I sure was well-prepared. A clean tissue came out of my pocket to wipe her tears away. She wasnâ€™t wearing any make-up for it to smear, as I preferred her without make-up; she was a natural beauty, I kept telling her when we first started going out. A gently sniffle and she smiled.
â€œYes, bunny, of course. I love you too much to ever lose you.â€ Oh no, I think I need more tissues.
I was surprised at the loud applause that ensued. Quite a sizable group of by-standers had gathered, even the didgeridoo player happened to walk by after his performance and decided to see what the gathering was all about! Of course, he started to play some lively tunes to reflect the happiness, according to him when I tipped him afterwards.
I slipped the diamond ring over her finger and kissed her gently. â€œYouâ€™re so beautiful, even when youâ€™re crying. I love you!â€
As the crowd dissipated, Lance appeared again. Chloe instinctively grabbed me tighter, as though the embrace we were in wasnâ€™t suffocating enough.
â€œItâ€™s ok dear, donâ€™t worry, Lance played a great part during my proposal just now!â€
â€œHuh? What do you mean?â€ That bewildered look again, eyes still moist, slightly red.
Lance congratulated me with a handshake and a slap on the shoulder. â€œHere you go, mate, your compact flash card!â€
â€œAnd here you go, for your time!â€ I passed him a fifty, and he said, â€œGet outta here, Iâ€™m not taking that. Itâ€™s your day today! Youâ€™re the man!!â€
I insisted, we exchanged name cards, and heâ€™s expecting an invitation in the mail.
â€œHow come your CF card is with him bunny?â€ She asked as Lance left.
â€œHe was taking pictures of the whole event baby. And itâ€™s all here, for us to look at when we are old and wrinkled, to remind you of how you agreed to marry a good man!â€
She laughed, â€œI thought he was some crook! Youâ€™re so clever you know that! Oh, Iâ€™m so happy, and I want to see the photos can? Put in your camera now, show me on the LCD please please please???â€
While I smirked and she giggled at the screen on the camera, seagulls were heard as singing, celebrating our love, the harbour bridge lighted up as the sun set, but our spirits remained high. As we playfully discussed the names of our kids, a waitress came with a slice of mud cake and a lit candle, and we blew the candle off together.
This was the stuff of dreams. The date was September Fifteen, Nineteen Ninety Eight.