Day 133, morning, Connor’s house
“I’m really going to do it bro. I almost can’t believe it, but I really am.” I had just rolled out of bed in the spare room at Connor’s I was staying in. It was a great little place overlooking New Walden Pond across the river from Liberty proper, old log cabin style like Dad used to tell us about growing up in. All the modern amenities though – or all the ones you could get on Alchibah. Plus, the place has got a great basement. It still struck me as kind loco that you could seriously use a word like “amenity” to describe anything on humanity’s first frontier planet, but there it is. I say “rolled out of bed” rather than “woke up” because I didn’t actually fall asleep last night. Just stared up at the ceiling all night.
“Today’s the day, huh?” Connor mock asked. I gave him a little smack on the back of the head. Like he didn’t know. I had been planning this for weeks. It was the fiftieth day since I arrived with the Dancer and met Elana again, and I couldn’t wait any longer.
“I’m going to ask her to marry me man! I haven’t been this nervous since…” I trailed off, plopping myself down at the dining room table. The chair groaned reproachfully at me.
“Since the Olympic trials?” my brother prompted. I shook my head.
“No, since the day I told Mom and Dad that I was going to try to become a SSEAL instead of going to Stanford and keeping on swimming.” He raised his eyebrows.
“Well, look at it this way. If you had gone to Stanford and done the whole Olympian thing you never would have met Elana in the first place. Hell, she might have died back in Syria without a strapping lad like yourself to rescue her. So that worked out, right?” I grunted. “Well, if that doesn’t convince you, take it from me. Kaiya and I have been engaged for…” he squinted up at the ceiling, pushing absentmindedly at his eggs with his fork, “for twenty six days now. And truthfully, I couldn’t be happier. And you know how hard that decision was for me. For you, it’s cake man! She’s your friggin soul mate, you said so yourself!
“Plus, you already put down a pretty penny getting that ring made. And it’s not like there are any other women on this planet that’d go for a big lug like you. So you got no choice, really.” I grinned, then started chuckling, then laughing. In a few seconds we were both bellowing laughter loud enough that we woke the twins. They walked out of their room in their little nightgowns, blinking sleepily at the light.
“What’s so funny,” Aya began, “that you felt the need to wake us up?” Arra finished, mock seriously, hands on hips.
“Well, today’s-“ I started, still chuckling, only to be interrupted by Arra.
“The day you’re going,” she started, then Aya finished, “to propose to Elana. Which is wonderful,” then her sister finished, “but we don’t get why it’s funny.”
“Oh, well your dad, he was saying, um, he was saying…it’s grown up stuff. You wouldn’t understand. And cut that stuff out, it’s bad enough that you finish each other’s sentences, don’t you go starting in on mine.” They both wrinkled their noses at me.
“Well, breakfast’s ready girls. Help yourself,” Connor told his daughters, “Gabe needs to get a move on before I kick his narrow butt out the door for his own good.”
“I’m goin, I’m goin,” I laughed, strapping on my last four sidearms and throwing on my jacket as I left.
Day 133, lunchtime, Stuart Compound
“So you’re popping the question? Good for you, old friend, good for you!” Andy clapped me on the back, grinning from ear to ear. “Let me see the ring.”
I pulled the little box out of my jacket and slid it across the table. Even the box itself was beautiful. Made out of one of the local woods, it was a deep blue and inlaid with platinum (now good for more than just AP rounds kids!). My old commander carefully opened the lid and whistled. The ring was two platinum bands and a white gold band braided together, and embedded in the front was a tiny, perfectly carved red rose.
“How…?” was all he asked, examining the ring quizzically.
“Kiyoshi made an alloy out of a few minerals and some of the sap from one of the trees Sinopa discovered. Says it’ll last basically forever. Carved it too, in addition to making the ring itself. Got him a stove and a genny, and fuel to go with both for five A years for that little wonder.”
“The other men looking to propose are not going to appreciate this once she starts showing the other women, let me tell you,” Andy chuckled. “You always did set the bar high.”
“I’m just glad I found the right woman,” I replied. “You know, it’s funny. I used to think it was Kat. I mean, we were even an item for a while – you know that – but it never really stuck, you know? Or with anyone else, not that I had time for many others. But Elana? It just feels right.” Andy just shook his head and laughed softly.
“Kat never stood a chance, and neither did any of the others. Sometimes we men do not get a choice in the matter. It was going to be Elana from the day you turned yourself into a human shield and left a gallon and a half of the red stuff in that palace in Damascus rescuing her, John and their family; which if I remember, I never did chew you out enough for. You just had to wait twenty years to find out is all.”