Part VII: A Pleasant Surprise
Four years after their reunion, Annalise and Gale planned another date, which had become sort of a routine by now. They had been hanging out together a lot all these months – much like their times back in their childhood days, but with a twist.
Gale was sure to make this date a special one, so he had insisted Annalise to arrive at the Dolls Café exactly at five that evening, as she tended to be late at times.
Annalise did her best to get ready quickly but efficiently – with some help from her parents – and was soon on her way to the café by foot. She wore her favourite blue t-shirt with a pink skirt that nearly reached her ankles.
When she spotted Gale – in a white shirt and black jeans – already at the front door, she rushed to hug him tightly, as if she had not seen him just a couple of days ago.
“Hey, Ann, you’re right on time!” he exclaimed. “Come on in!”
As usual, Gale opened the door to let her in first, before he entered. By then, they had a table they could consider as their usual—the same one that they had chosen on their first date together. Sometimes, though, this particular table would be occupied by another couple, in which case, they would have to settle for another.
At present, however, their table was available for them.
’Good, this sets the right atmosphere,’ thought Gale. His heart skipped a beat in sheer happiness. This was perhaps a sign that his plan would go according to his will.
The staff at the café was by now accustomed to the couple’s most frequent visits and the two parties came to be on very friendly terms.
Annalise looked about her as he pulled out her chair for her. “Thank you, Gale – as usual,” she told him with a bright smile.
Gale gave her a low courtesy. “Always your servant, my lady,” he responded in his quiet deep tone, which made her giggle. She loved the tone of his voice.
As he straightened up and turned around, he winked at her, which caused her cheeks to warm up considerably. He then settled down and watched in enjoyment as she squirmed in her seat.
“Let me know when you’re done,” he said, trying to suppress the irresistible smile of amusement. He loved to see that he could affect her this way.
“I-I am,” she replied, obviously still uncomfortable. Despite this, though, she actually liked the way he always flirted with her—she felt special, wanted.
A waiter came to their table for their orders.
Gale turned towards him and said, “The usual, please, Sam!”
“Right away, sir!” said Sam the waiter and walked back towards the counter, leaving the young couple alone.
Gale leaned forward on the table, his hands moving towards where Annalise had placed hers, and held them gently.
“Ann my love, do you remember that conversation we keep having sometimes?” he asked her.
Annalise, a slight flush coating her cheeks once more, nodded her head. “About our future together? Sure!”
“Well, about that… Are you sure you wouldn’t mind waiting?”
“Oh no, I don’t! After all, it’s your work that’s keeping you so busy now! That’s unavoidable!”
He sat back as if relieved. “That’s great!” he said with his usual grin. “It’s settled then!”
Annalise frowned momentarily, puzzled. Soon, though, when Sam brought their orders, she forgot about it, as she and Gale dug in.
After their snack, they left the café and walked towards the neighbourhood park, hand-in-hand. They walked around the place for a while, chatting and bickering and laughing, which was usual to them. They greeted some of the other regulars – some of them elderly – before they settled down at a bench in a more obscure part of the park.
“So, Ann,” Gale spoke up, “what was the best part of to-day evening?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I guess it’s your charm in general.” She giggled.
“I see,” he said, as he stood up. “I’m sure what I’m about to do next is going to change your answer.” He dug his fingers into his trouser pockets and began to fumble inside it.
Her eyebrows shot up in amazement. “Really? How so?!”
“This.” He brought out a small black velvet box out of his pocket. He dropped down in front of her on both his knees and opened the box, facing it towards her. “Annalise Maria Raven, I’ve known you since I was a small child of three and had spent most of my youth with you. I’ve always been ready to give my all just to see that unique smile you always seem to keep just for me. I love the way you get angry at me or scold me for something that I did wrong. I love the way you giggle secretly, which makes me want to see and cherish it the rest of my life.
“Anna, I love you… I love everything about you. I want you to be my life and my wife. Will you marry me?”
Towards the end, Annalise’s eyebrows shot up in a belated response. She just blinked at him once, confused, wondering what he was on about.
It was only when he spoke again that she came back to her senses:
“Anna, my love, my knees are kind of breaking here, you see…”
“Of course!” she exclaimed, jumping down to kneel in front of him. Tears began slipping down her cheeks. “Yes-yes-yes!!” She threw her arms around him in pure joy. Then, pulling away, she held his hands in her own and cried, “I love you, too, Gale Joseph Watson, I truly do! Heck, I always did love you! Just…please don’t leave me again!!”
Wrapping his arms around her slender figure, he brought her into his chest for a warm hug. “Of course not, my love,” he assured her. “And even if I am, I’ll be sure to take you with me!”
She laughed into his shirt. “You better!”
They lay like that for a few moments.
Gale pulled away from the hug and held her at arm’s length for a moment. Then, gently placing one hand on her braided hair and another on her cheek, he brought her face to his.
“Are you absolutely sure of your answer, Ann?” he asked her, softly.
Adrenaline was rushing up her body and choking her by every passing second.
“Of course!” she cried, thirsty for whatever exciting adventure he was planning for her next. “You didn’t have to ask twice!!”
He chuckled at her impatience. “It appears that I didn’t,” he commented. He relished the annoyed look she gave him for just a second longer, before he himself could not wait any more.
Gale pulled her face closer and closer to his, till their lips met in a slow, but passionate, romantic kiss.
Just the same thought ran through both their minds:
’How could I have been so blind?!?!’