Though there were empty tables up front, Vic escorted Bella and me to a darkened back room where no one else was seated. The table sat in the center of the room and was very nicely decorated. I could tell by Bella's face that it seemed peculiar to her. As we took our seats, Vic lit a candle. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
Bella started to question it, but I shrugged it off. “There must have been reservations for the other tables up front?” I suggested.
She nodded, and then noticed a man seated on a stool a few tables over. He was holding a guitar and squinting at some sheet music.
He looked over and smiled. “I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’m trying out tonight for a weekend gig at this place.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Bella said, with no idea Gary had already landed the job.
“Not a problem,” I added, acting as though I’d never spoken to the man. And through an acoustic set of love ballads, Gary was just as convincing.
Bella had no idea but the order had already been carefully spelled out – drinks first, Pinot Grigio for her; beer for me, and the itinerary would begin. Vic approached with both drinks on a small round tray. “Appetizers tonight?” he asked.
I smiled. “Why don’t we start with an order of little necks in garlic and oil?”
Vic nodded once and headed for the kitchen, while Gary swooned, “You say it best when you say nothing at all…”
Bella leaned into my ear and whispered, “How did he know I wanted white wine?”
I was into my second shrug when Vic returned to the table with a gorgeous arrangement of long stem red roses. Without a word, he placed them in front of Bella and rotated the vase until the card faced her. “Your appetizer should be out in a few minutes,” he said and strutted away again.
Gary was already on his second number when Bella plucked the card from the arrangement. It read: “Bella, I love you, forever – Don.” She looked up to find the entire restaurant staring at us.
“And always will,” I whispered when she leaned over and kissed me.
After the steaming appetizer and another round of drinks, Vic placed a silver platter before my glowing wife. It held a scrolled sheet of parchment secured by red ribbon. She looked up at him, but he never let on. She glanced over at me. “What…”
“Open it,” I said, while Gary strummed away in the background.
She did. It was the one thing she'd always wanted from me, but had never gotten – until now.
Moments of Destiny
From the moment I met you,
I knew there was a fire between us
that even hard, driving rain could never put out.
From the moment we spoke,
I knew I’d spent my entire life
in search of your deep and passionate love.
From the moment we kissed,
I knew my heart was no longer mine
and I’d finally found my future.
From the moment we laughed,
I knew there would never be enough time
to share all the things I needed to share with you.
From the moment we danced,
I knew, at last, what the phrase ‘better half’ meant
and surrendered to your gentle touch.
From the moment we walked hand-in-hand,
I knew I’d discovered my partner
and that my dreams were suddenly within reach.
From the moment we lay together,
I knew I’d made it to heaven
and thanked God for blessing me with you.
From the moment you agreed to be my wife,
I knew my journey was now worth taking,
through days of sunshine –
or nights of hard, driving rain.
As her watering eyes read the final verse, the musician stopped playing, the restaurant went silent and I went down to one knee. I opened the ring box. “Isabella,” I said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you be my wife…again?”
She never hesitated and dove into my arms. For a while, we just hugged.
“I love you so much,” she cried into my shoulder.
“I know,” I said. “But…”
She pushed away from me and looked into my eyes. “But what?”
“But I need your answer?” I said, grinning.
“Yes…the answer is YES!” she gasped and jumped back into my arms.
The crowd shared a collective sigh, and everyone was clapping when Bella and I returned to reality. It took a few moments before each table returned to its own conversation and half-eaten meals.
Chuckling, I introduced my beautiful wife to Gary, the musician. As they shook hands, Gary admitted, “I was so nervous.”
I bought the man a beer when Vic delivered two previously ordered dinners to our table. Though Bella couldn’t touch hers, I ate and listened to Gary fill the room with a soothing melody. By the time the chocolate covered strawberries arrived for dessert, Bella was emotionally spent. She grabbed me once more for a kiss. “This has been the perfect night,” she whispered.
“And for all these years…you’ve been the perfect wife, my dear.”
As we left the restaurant, another round of applause carried us to the front door. I opened it for my new fiancé – only to discover a white stretch limousine idling at the curb. She quickly turned to me. “It’s not over?”
I shook my head. “It’ll never be over for us.” As we made our way to the limo, waves of nausea threatened to drown me. This is Bella’s perfect night, I told myself, our perfect night. Whatever you do…do not throw up now!
© Steven Manchester 2012.
Do not use without the author's permission.
Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, 'Twelve Months' is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.
Author Bio: Steven Manchester is the published author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of his short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Paperback & Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-