I comb my hair, then style Cassie’s, trying to get every one of her dark curls to stay in place. Ellie is gone, and I have the girls. This is gonna go perfectly.
I put a little bow in Zoey’s short hair, and get the girls in their matching pink dresses. I put socks on Zoey, and shoes on Cassie, then get myself dressed up in a button up shirt. We head to the door, and at the last second, I remember something crucial: the ring. I snatch it off the counter and bring the girls down to the car, then buckle them in.
I drive to the park I had reserved, and go to the gazebo. It’s decorated exactly how I wanted, with string lights hung all around. I have my mom to thank for that.
“Daddy, can I play on the playground while we wait for mommy?”
“Sure, just don’t get your dress dirty, and be careful not to mess up your hair.”
She giggled and darted over to the playground.
I get a text from my mom, who’s keeping Eleanor busy. They’ll be here in ten minutes.
Oh my gosh, is my heart supposed to beat this fast?
Should I be able to feel my heartbeat through my whole body?
I reach up and feel my pulse.
Shoot, my heart is racing. This is insane.
I can’t breathe.
What am I gonna say when I ask her?!
I rehearse the question at least 80 times, still holding Zoey and not paying any attention to Cassie.
When I realize that I haven’t checked on her, I look I see at the playground, just to see Cassie jump off the swing, land, and fall forward into the dirt, giggling.
“No, no, no, Cassie, honey, your dress!” I rush to her and set Zoey down for a second – just a second – while I help Cassie stand up, and, in that short moment, Zoey falls on her face and bursts into tears. I mutter a not-so-nice word under my breath and grab Zoey, who now has a big red mark on her face, then stand up, turning to being the girls back to the gazebo before Ellie gets here.
“Nathan, what are you doing…?” She furrows her brow, smiling a bit.
“I’m… playing with the girls.”
Zoey’s still wailing, so Ellie takes her. “What happened, baby girl?” She frowns and inspects Zoey’s face.
“She fell,” I say begrudgingly.
“Aw, poor thing…” she kissed Zoey’s chubby cheek, and I sigh deeply. “Why are you guys all dressed up? Honey, what’s going on?” She looks around at the decorated gazebo, then back at me.
I try to think of an excuse, but I can’t. I sigh and look down, getting frustrated. “Eleanor… I was going to propose… But now Cassie’s dress is ruined, her hair’s a mess, Zoey’s crying, and we’re not even where I planned for us to be. I had this whole thing figured out! I was gonna play a song on my guitar and sing for you, and Cassie was gonna hand you the ring, and Zoey was gonna sit and be cute, but I ruined it all!” I huff and look at Cassie. “I screwed up…”
Eleanor tilts my chin up for me to look at her. “That doesn’t mean you can’t still propose, Nathan… Honey, accidents happen…” She smiles sweetly and I hesitate for a bit. I reach in my pocket, grabbing the ring and kneeling down.
“Yes! Sorry, I’m excited…” She giggles and leans down to kiss me—right as I stand up to kiss her… my head rams into her face and I panic.
“Oh my gosh, Ellie! I’m so sorry, are you okay?!”
She has her hand over her nose and her eyes close. “Mhm…” she nods, groaning softly.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry…”
She laughs softly, then looks up at me. “It’s okay…” she moves her hand and laughs again. “I’m alright… Yes, I will marry you…” I lean down and kiss her, while Zoey babbles and Cassie giggles.