The Invitation

It could not have been a more perfect summer day as Elizabeth reclined comfortably in her lounge chair on the beach, watching the ocean waves as they crashed upon the sandy shore. She observed as two children, whom she thought to be about ages four and six, apparently brother and sister, played with their sand pails and shovels as their mother kept her eye on them from a few feet away. Elizabeth smiled as thoughts of having children of her own some day flowed through her mind.

Her reverie was broken by the ringing of her cell phone.

“Hello?” Elizabeth answered, noticing that it was Stephen on the other end of the line.

Elizabeth had met Stephen eight months ago at the bank where she worked as a bank teller. He had stepped up to her window to cash in his paycheck. She noticed how handsome he was with short, dark, wavy hair, huge brown eyes and broad shoulders. He was dressed in a pinstriped gray suit with a blue shirt underneath and navy tie. Yes, she remembered every detail of their first meeting. He had been so polite and never once did he take his eyes off her. There seemed to be an instant attraction between them.  When he started showing up at her teller window every Friday at the same time for six weeks, she had a feeling something special was going to happen between them.

Then on the seventh Friday, he finally bolstered his courage and asked her to go out with him.

“Hello, Stephen. Do you want your check cashed as usual?”

“Uhm. . . yes, thanks. Say, uhm, Elizabeth?”

“Mhmm. . .?” she answered as she began the check cashing process.

“Well, uhm . . I have a couple tickets to the new theater production of “Wicked” and I was wondering if you would like to go with me?”

She looked up at him in amazement. “Wicked? Wow! I’ve been waiting to see that for a very long time! Yes, I would love to go!”

He arranged the details with her and promised to pick her up at 7:00 p.m. the next evening. The production began at 8:00 p.m., and then they could have a later dinner after the show.

Needless to say, the evening was perfect. Stephen was very attentive to her, the show was  fantastic, and dinner was a delight. She remembered how they stood outside the door to her apartment for twenty minutes before he could get up the courage to kiss her, and she remembered how wonderful it was.

These past eight months had flown by. They were filled with happy memories of being together, and they had even declared their love for each other. Elizabeth could not remember a happier time in her life.

“Hi, Elizabeth. How’s your day, Honey?”

“Pretty good. What’s up?”

“We’re still going out tonight, right?”

“Yes, why?”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to meet me for our date.”

“Meet you? Usually you just pick me up.”

“I know, I know, but I have to stay after work a little later than usual, so I’d really like you to meet me, okay?”

“Okay, Stephen, that’s fine. Where do you want me to meet you?”

“Do you know the old stone steps down by the beach, the ones that lead up through the stone arch?”

“Sure, I’ve lived here all my life and everyone knows about the steps and the arch.”

“Great. Could you meet me at the steps at 8:00 p.m.?

“It will be dark by then, so . . ”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be there.”

“Okay, but why. . . ”

“Please just meet me there, okay?”

“Okay, I guess I’ll see you then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Elizabeth could not understand Stephen’s request. He always picked her up. She certainly hoped he was not beginning to take her for granted. She had heard enough stories about those kinds of boyfriends; slowly they become selfish and demanding and before you know it, you’re a slave. That was not going to happen to her, she would make sure of it! But she loved Stephen and she knew he loved her. He can’t help it if he is working late. After all, I should give him some credit for being the nice boyfriend he’s been up until now.

Back and forth her thoughts whirled in her mind all day long. She could hardly wait for 8:00 p.m. to come so she could have a talk with Stephen about what was proper in a relationship. She wanted to settle this once and for all.

After work, Elizabeth came home to her apartment and because she was hungry, made herself a turkey sandwich. She knew she would never be able to go without eating until she met Stephen. After she ate, she took a nice long shower. A shower always managed to relax her muscles, which were usually stiff after standing all day behind the teller window. When she finished, it was time to dress for her date. It was the early part of September, but Elizabeth knew the evening air would be crisp and cool, especially after sunset. So she put on a pair of new jeans and a sleeveless pink cashmere sweater with a matching long-sleeved sweater over it. She looked at the apple-shaped kitchen clock which read 7:45.

Time to go.

Elizabeth picked up her keys, locked the apartment door behind her, and headed for her car. Just as she had predicted, it was a crisp evening, and the sun was already beginning to set. It was a short drive back to the beach, and when she arrived, the parking lot was empty, except for Stephen’s car. She looked around and there were not even any joggers to be found.

Why would Stephen have me meet him here? It’s all so . . . mysterious, she thought as she made her way to the stone steps.

The sun was barely seen hanging over the horizon and twilight had arrived.

When Elizabeth arrived at the beach, Stephen was nowhere in sight. She walked about a quarter of a mile and found what she was looking for—the steps. Stephen was not there, either. However, there were votive candles, one on each side of each step, each one lit, burning brightly. The candles continued all the way up the steps, and the sight was very beautiful in the twilight of the evening.

Elizabeth slowly climbed the steps, enjoying the effects of the dancing candlelight in the soft breeze coming off the ocean. It was so peaceful and serene and the effects of it calmed her heart and her soul. When she reached the top of the stairs, there, on either side of the arch, was a vase filled with red roses and baby’s breath, and there were more votive candles along the sides of the arch. Now Elizabeth could feel her heart begin to pound.

As she stepped under the arch, she could see Stephen. He was standing inside the garden which the arch led into. He was there, at the middle, and there was a path leading to where he was standing, with votive candles lighting the path on both sides, and then the votive candles widened into a circle around him.

He smiled as he saw Elizabeth. She noticed in his hand he was holding a single long-stemmed red rose. She could hardly believe how romantic it all was. She felt as though she were in a dream.

She walked toward him, following the path, and when she arrived to where he was standing, he gave her the rose.

“Stephen. . .”

He held up a hand to silence her.

Then, to her disbelief, he knelt before her on one knee, took her hand into his and looked up at her.

“Elizabeth, I love you so much, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me and let me be your husband?”

“Oh, Stephen, you know I will. . . yes, I will!”

Elizabeth gasped as he then pulled out a black velvet-covered box from his jacket. When he opened it, nestled inside was a perfect, round, diamond ring.

It was at this moment that Elizabeth knew—she was overjoyed that she had accepted the invitation to the evening she would never forget—the evening that would change her life forever.

 

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