The florist delivered the flowers late Saturday afternoon. A beautiful bouquet of her favorites — delicate pink roses. The card said simply, “You will be picked up at noon on Sunday. Be ready. Love, D.”
She opened the door and was greeted by a uniformed driver. “I don’t think you have the right apartment,” she said apologetically.
“Oh, I’m sure that I do,” the driver replied respectfully. “I’m here to pick you up and take you to brunch. Mr. Dennis sent me. Are you ready?”
Speechless, she hurriedly grabbed her bag and locked the apartment door before following the driver to the parking lot where a black limousine awaited them. She stopped and stared at the car and then the driver.
“Madam, if you please,” the driver said, gesturing toward the vehicle as he walked toward it and opened the door for her.
Without saying a word, she got into the car. Before closing the door, the driver explained, “There is sparkling apple cider on ice. Would you like me to pour you a glass before we depart?”
“No, thank you,” she smiled. The driver gave her a knowing smile and playful wink before closing her door and then taking his seat behind the wheel.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Ah, Mr. Dennis would like that to be a surprise. But I can tell you that we will be there within the hour,” the driver explained as he pulled out of the parking lot.
She had never ridden in a limousine before, so she leaned her head back on the seat and closed her eyes, wondering what Dennis had in store for her . . . for them.
When she arrived at the restaurant, the maitre d was waiting for her. “So lovely to see you. Please follow me,” he said, leading her outside to a secluded table on the patio overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly, there was a slight breeze, and the temperature was ideal for sitting outside and enjoying a leisurely meal. “The gentleman phoned and said he will be joining you in just a few minutes. While you wait, may I pour you a glass of sparkling cider, specially ordered by your companion for the occasion?”
“Yes,” she said. “That sounds wonderful.”
Another bouquet of beautiful pink roses had been placed in the middle of the table, and rose pedals were scattered atop the white linen tablecloth. The napkins were tied with pink satin ribbon. She took one of the roses from the vase and enjoyed its lovely aroma, commingled with the salt air, gentle breeze, and sound of mid-day waves gently lapping at the beach.
“Oh, Dennis,” she sighed aloud without realizing it.
“Yes?” She jumped when he lightly touched her shoulders from behind.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you!” They laughed as she stood to embrace him.
“I was just taking it all in . . . the limousine, flowers . . . ” She looked into his eyes, silently asking him all the questions that were running through her mind.
Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration. (D.H.Lawrence)
“Let’s sit down,” he said. “I told you that I just needed a little time to think, remember? Well, I really only needed a brief time because I knew what I wanted to do when I saw you on Friday evening. But I have a tendency sometimes to be rash, impulsive. I just needed to be sure. But I am. I have never been more sure about anything in my life.”
He reached over and took both of her hands in his.
“I love you,” he said evenly. “You know that, right?”
“Yes, I do, but . . .”
“Sshhhh,” he said, tenderly putting the tips of his fingers to her lips to quiet her. “Don’t argue now. Just listen, all right?”
“I love you and I love being with you. These weeks that we’ve spent together have been the happiest I’ve ever experienced. I knew after our first date that you are the only woman I want to be with, but we agreed to take things slowly, easily. I didn’t want to scare you off by coming on too strong,” he chuckled. “And, as I said, I have been known to be impulsive, so I was enjoying our taking time with each other.”
“Dennis,” she started to protest.
“Hey, you agreed to listen, remember?” he admonished her.
“I have a proposal for you. You don’t have to decide today. You can take your time and think about things. I’ll wait.”
Before she knew it, he was kneeling on one knee in front of her chair. He again took both of her hands in his, as he said, “Marry me. I love you and I will love this child as my own. No one need ever know that he or she is not my biological child. We can be married soon and everyone will believe that we decided to formalize our relationship because we had a whirlwind romance, conceived a child, and want to spend our lives together. All of that is true. It is for me, at least.”
She was light-headed and tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was overwhelmed with emotion and completely unable to speak, although she realized as she looked into his beautiful eyes that she was smiling broadly and experiencing a deep sense of peace and contentment that she had never previously felt.
He continued gazing into her eyes expectantly, as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a small black velvet box.
“Now this ring may not be exactly what you want. I went shopping yesterday and since I didn’t have a lot of time, the jeweler said that we can come back to the store together and exchange it if you see a design that you like better.” He opened the box to reveal a simple diamond solitaire.
“May I?” he hesitated as he removed the ring from its holder in order to slip it on her finger.
She nodded enthusiastically as she searched for her voice. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, yes, yes . . . ‘Yes’ to everything!”
The ring fit perfectly.
They held each other for a long time, oblivious to the fact that the restaurant staff and other patrons had gathered at the bank of windows separating the interior of the restaurant from the patio to watch and, at one point, applaud. Several women coyly brushed tears away as they resumed their duties and reclaimed their seats.
Dennis sat back down in the seat next to hers. “I want to make something very clear,” he said seriously.
“All right,” she responded.
“You must give me your solemn promise that you will never tell anyone that I’m not the biological father of the child. I’ve spoken with a lawyer who tells me that if you name me as the father on the birth certificate, I will be the father in the eyes of the law — and for all purposes.”
He continued, “You have to promise me that we will raise the baby together and never tell him or her that you conceived him or her with someone else. I want to marry you and take care of both of you . . . for the rest of my life. I’m convinced that we can be happy.”
He studied her face. “Can you promise me?”
“Yes, I can,” she said with complete conviction. “You are the only person I’ve told that I’m pregnant. I still haven’t talked with my parents or anyone else. And,” she hesitated for a moment, “of course, he has no idea. I swear to you that he will never know.”
“There would only be one condition under which I would release you from the promise,” Dennis said solemnly. “And that would be if something were to happen to me before the baby grows up. If I were to be killed in an accident or die young from some terrible disease . . . things happen sometimes. So if I were no longer around to be the baby’s father and you were to . . . I don’t know . . . you might have a good reason to tell someone at that point,” he said.
His mood quickly lightened again. “But I’m obviously planning to be with you for a long, long time. I intend for us to play with our grandchildren together.”
“Dennis, now you need to listen to me,” she said with more resolve than she had ever mustered before. “I love you. You. These past weeks, I’ve been so happy with you. You’re the first man who has ever loved me just as I am and allowed me to just be myself, comfortable. I’m sure that we’ll be happy if you are sure that you want to do this. We can be a family — a real family. The fact that you want to be my child’s father is . . . ” her voice trailed off as she again choked up, searching for the words to convey the depth of her feelings for him.
“I think we need to start telling everyone our good news!” he said happily. “First, we must call your parents and mine so they can book a flight next weekend. I’ve already reserved this restaurant.”
“How does a very small wedding on the beach next Saturday sound?” he grinned widely.
Click here to read Chapter Twenty-Three