The Proposal: A Leap of Faith
A Short Story by Cheryl Holloway Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
The doorbell rang while Carol was getting dressed. It rang again with a sense of urgency. Carol quickly finished dressing and went to the door. She looked around and there was no one there. Then she noticed the single red rose in a beautiful purple vase with a note attached. The thirty-something woman giggled like a teenager and read the note.
“I may not have a college degree. I’m not an artist or a musician. When it comes to my knowledge of style and fashion…well, I’m not always GQ, but I can cook you a delicious dinner and I always open the car door for you. My sense of humor makes you laugh, and my gentleness makes you smile. I may not have it all, but I know that I love you. And I know that I want to share my love with you. Will you have a special Valentine’s Day Dinner with me on Sunday, February 14th at 4pm? Love, Marvin”
Carol Anderson and Marvin Brewster had been dating off and on for over ten years. Carol thought, This is it. Marvin’s going to propose to me on Valentine’s Day. How romantic!
She made two calls. She called Marvin to confirm their date and to assure the time he would pick her up. Then she called her big sister to give her the good news.
“Hey, Brittany! Guess what?”
“I don’t know, but it must be good, because I can hear it in your voice.”
“Marvin sent me a single red rose and a note asking me to join him for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. I think he is going to finally propose to me!”
“Carol, I am so happy for you. This is what you’ve wanted for so long.”
“Yes, I had finally made up my mind that if he didn’t ask me soon, I was going to break off the relationship for good!”
“He’s a nice guy, but it does seem like he’s afraid of commitment.”
“Yes, every time I think he’s going to ask me, he doesn’t. I’m tired of waiting for him to ask. So, maybe he got his nerve up this time.”
“Well, Sunday’s only a couple of days away. You don’t have to wait very long. I wish you the best.”
“Thanks Brittany. I will talk to you soon. I have to go to work now. Bye. Love you.”
“Bye, and love you, too, Sis.”
All the way to work, Carol thought about Marvin. He wasn’t handsome, but he was a nice–looking average guy. He was 5’8” with black hair and brown eyes; and most importantly, he had a heart of gold.
We will be a good-looking couple on our wedding day. I can’t believe it—I will finally be Mrs. Marvin Brewster.
Carol didn’t want to tell anyone at work, just in case, he chickened out again. So, she decided to wait to brag and show off her ring in the break room on Monday. In the meantime, she would keep the excitement between herself and her sister.
It seemed like forever, but Sunday finally came. Carol wanted to look extra special. By the fourth outfit, she was satisfied she had found the perfect one. She chose an ultra-cute red strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline, which enhanced her cleavage. The vibrant ruby hue and the elegant ribbon cinched at her waist showed off her perfect figure. Carol was sure when Marvin got on his knee to propose to her she would be an eye-catching beauty. Admiring herself in the mirror, she was so glad she had splurged yesterday on a stunning updo style for her long hair and had convinced herself to add a manicure and pedicure, as well. Carol gave her reflection a big, approving smile and she was ready for her special Valentine’s Day dinner…and the proposal
Marvin arrived on time as usual and gave Carol another single red rose. He helped her with her jacket and they were ready to enjoy a special evening. He took her to Outback Steakhouse®. They had a delicious dinner—Marvin had a steak and baked potato and Carol had shrimp with all of the sides. When dinner was finished, Marvin asked if Carol was ready for dessert and her surprise. She was very excited. They both ordered the Valentine’s special—a chocolate cheesecake with a heart–shaped strawberry on top. Carol kept waiting on Marvin to get down on one knee, she was completely out of small talk. Then he handed her an envelope. Carol didn’t know what to think, but opened it and read the note inside.
It read, “My Darling Carol, Your leap-year birthday only comes once every four years, so I got you something very special! Love, Marvin”
“Okay Marvin, I’m on pins and needles. What is the surprise?”
“I thought we should take our relationship to the next level. It’s something that you’ve always wanted to do and hopefully with me.”
“Yes, you’re so right. Go ahead and ask me.”
“I wasn’t going to ask you anything. I bought tickets for us to go skydiving together on your birthday! Isn’t that great?”
Carol didn’t say anything; she just shook her head in agreement. She hoped Marvin wouldn’t see the disappointment on her face. She kissed him and thanked him for the tickets. And then excused herself to go to the ladies room.
Marvin was still bubbling over with joy when Carol returned to the table. She had wiped her tears away and pretended to be as happy as Marvin. She could hardly wait for the evening to end. She was quiet, but made small talk from time to time. Finally, the evening was over and they were driving back to her house.
Marvin asked, “Carol you’re awfully quiet. Don’t you like the surprise?”
“Yes, I love it, but I am just concerned about the preparation for skydiving,” Carol lied.
“Oh, don’t worry, I checked out the company and they are quite reputable,” Marvin enthusiastically added.
Carol kissed Marvin good night and thanked him for the rose, dinner, and the skydiving tickets. Marvin had a smile on his face, as if he had given Carol a million dollars.
Carol closed the door and went straight to her room and cried. She had cried so hard and so long that when she looked in the mirror, she noticed her eyes were almost as red as her dress.
Her cell phone rang. It was Brittany.
“Hey, Carol. Tell me all the details and what does the ring look like?”
“He didn’t propose,” Carol said and started crying again.
“What happened? What was the surprise?” her sister anxiously asked.
Carol took a deep breath and admitted, “The set-up was perfect—he gave me a single red rose. We had a delicious dinner and a breath-taking dessert. He handed me a loving note. He said that it was time to take our relationship to the next level. Then, he should have gotten down on his knee and proposed, but instead he gave me two tickets for skydiving on my birthday!”
“Oh, Carol, maybe he just doesn’t realize how much you want to get married,” Brittany consolingly acknowledged.
“Oh, well, I’m either going to ask him or I’m going to dump him. I have to think about it. I’ll call you tomorrow. Bye”
“Bye, Carol. I love you, Sis!”
A few days later, Carol met Brittany at the local coffeehouse to talk.
“Hi, Sis. I’m finally ready to talk. After crying my eyes out Sunday night, I decided to take a couple of days to just think about Marvin, marriage and what I really want,” Carol babbled.
“I was worried about you, but figured you needed some time to think. I’m so glad you are ready to discuss it. I’m willing to help any way that I can,” Brittany promised.
“I’m glad I took the time to really think this out. I needed it. But I could really use a sounding board.” Carol said.
“I’m ready to listen,” Brittany affirmed.
“Well, I’ve told Marvin I feel a lot of anxiousness over not being engaged yet and the longer I wait, the harder it is for me to be comfortable just dating him. I’ve also told him I don’t think we should wait, but he insists he isn’t ready to marry again, since he’s already had two failed marriages. I think he feels he should have all his ducks in a row before we get engaged. I disagree. I think getting married means we can support each in our endeavors and build our life together—it’ll be easier with two people working together. So, I’m really frustrated. I don’t want to pressure him or give him an ultimatum, but he doesn’t seem to want to budge. I try to focus on the fact that our relationship is otherwise fantastic, but it’s getting more and more difficult to keep waiting on him. I just don’t understand why someone who clearly loves me, and who treats me as his partner would still be waiting to propose after all of these years. Even his family thinks of us as partners, especially, since we’ve been dating off and on for over ten years. Most of the time, I am absolutely sure that he is the man I will marry. Then at other times, I wonder if I’ll still be waiting next year or five years from now. I am so afraid that the frustration and the waiting period will destroy us. I also feel a little left behind by our friends, who are mostly married. I don’t want to be 50, and still calling him my boyfriend. I feel like such an idiot just waiting around for him to ask me. I almost feel like asking him to marry me. Well, those are my thoughts, Sis. What do you think?”
“I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for the man of your dreams to tell you how much he loves you and that he wants to be with you—forever. Yet, he refuses to ask you to marry him. Do you think he’s really afraid to get married again?”
“I don’t know. I can only speculate. Marvin just doesn’t seem to want to talk in depth about marriage—ever.”
“Sis, are you seriously thinking about asking him?”
“Maybe. My leap-year birthday is in a few days, which I’ve always felt like it’s a cosmic joke on me—once every four years. But anyway, I read on the internet that the tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year was attributed to St. Bridget in the 5th Century. History has it that she complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait too long for men to propose. So, St. Patrick gave women a single day in leap year to propose—the last day of the shortest month. How appropriate in my case—it’s my birthday! I’ve really been considering proposing to Marvin—he can say yes or no. He wants to take me skydiving on that day, so I will propose to him just before we jump and he will have to make a quick decision.”
“Well, Sis, it sounds like a plan.”
“You’re right. I can only hope it works. Thanks for always being here for me.”
“You are so welcome.”
“I feel so much better. Let’s go.”
“Glad I could help. Good-bye, Carol.”
Marvin was excited about the skydiving trip, and for the next few days that’s all he talked about. Since Marvin had been skydiving before, he would free fall and suggested that Carol do a tandem with an instructor.
Marvin reminisced when he said, “It was one of the best experiences of my life. The feelings and sensations are beyond words. Carol, the first few seconds are incredible. I am sure you will enjoy the experience and remember it, forever.”
“Is it really safe?” Carol asked with a bit of hesitancy.
“Of course, tandem skydiving is the safest method for first-time jumpers,” Marvin said, as if he were an instructor with years of experience.
He added, “Tandem instructors must earn ratings from both the United States Parachute Association, as well as the manufacturer of the gear they will be using to complete tandem jumps. So, trust me, it’s definitely safe.”
“Well, you’re going free fall. Does it hurt? And what’s the difference?”
“No, it doesn’t hurt. It feels wonderful and the difference is the exit altitude from the plane. The tandem exit is about a 14,000 ft. jump with 60 seconds in free fall with your instructor and the free fall is about a 9,000 ft. jump with about 30 seconds in free fall by myself.”
“How do you dress?”
“Comfortable athletic wear—jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers. And you should probably tie your hair up. They also suggest we eat a light meal before jumping and drink plenty of water. So, we’ll have a light breakfast before we go. I’m so excited! Are you?”
“Yes,” Carol lied.
She didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and skillfully kept the topic away from skydiving for the rest of the evening.
February 29, 2016 – Carol’s Leap-Year Birthday and the Skydiving Trip
Marvin picked Carol up for an early breakfast at Marie’s, a local mom and pop restaurant, with delicious home-cooked food.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart. I hope this is the best birthday you will have in a long time. I know it is a very happy day for me.”
“Thanks. I am sure it will be.” Carol thought, I’m going to propose to you, Marvin, and it will be memorable, no matter what.
“Carol, I was instantly addicted to skydiving, and as soon as the trip was over, I was ready to go again. I’m so happy to be sharing this sporting experience with you.”
“I’m happy, too. I’ve never been skydiving before, and although afraid to admit it, I’m a little scared. I’ve heard that sometimes the parachute doesn’t open.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Statistically, you have a better chance of winning millions in the lottery than that happening. Well, we need to get to the drop zone, because our flight is at 8:30, and we have plenty of prep to do.”
Their thirty-minute drive to the drop zone was filled with Marvin talking boastfully about his past experience as a skydiver. Carol was trying to decide when would be the best time to propose to Marvin. She had rehearsed it a hundred times in her head.
Finally, they arrived at the drop zone and began their check in. Carol was surprised they had to fill out so many forms—insurance and liability forms. If it’s so rare that anyone ever dies, why do they make you fill out all of these forms? Whatever, Carol thought.
Carol looked around at all the other people about to jump out of the plane, and tried to calm down.
Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid. None of them really look afraid. But her heart started racing anyway.
A list of names was called and the first plane load went into another room. While we were waiting, they came around and sold t-shirts and told us we could add-on a camera-man for a video to take home or a helmet with a camera attached. However, both were for a hefty price. We declined the videos, but purchased the t-shirts. We put our stuff in lockers and put the keys in our pockets. Other people in the room were talking and buying videos and snacks.
Then, a second list of names was called and we were all escorted into another room with pleasant music playing. After five minutes, several of the tandem instructors came in, and the leader spoke to the group of skydivers. They told us what to expect and showed a movie of someone skydiving. They told us weight limits were strictly enforced—240 pounds—and they weighed everyone prior to jumping.
Marvin was a little stocky and weighed in at 239 pounds, but he didn’t seem to be worried at all. Marvin was just all pumped up, but I was still apprehensive.
With last-minute instructions, the instructor said, “Every parachute system has a maximum weight it is rated to carry in order to function properly and safely. Parachutes are equipped with an Automatic Activation Device. This device constantly measures your speed and altitude during a skydive; and if you are going too fast or too slow, it will deploy a parachute for you. Please, tie your sneakers to make sure they will stay on your feet. Do not jump on an empty stomach. Please, drink plenty of water. Being dehydrated can make you feel light-headed. There is plenty of water available and it’s FREE. If you feel like you can’t breathe, then scream—it will force you to exhale and inhale. So, feel free to scream.”
Everyone laughed. I guess he was trying to lighten it up for the scared people like me.
A really nervous guy asked, “What if your main parachute and reserve parachute don’t open?”
The instructor said, “There is a remote possibility of that happening. The unfortunate skydiver will almost certainly die. So, you can decide not to go up, now, but there is no refund.”
The poor guy decided not to skydive.
A little while later, our names were called to go to the rigging tent. I met my tandem instructor. Each skydiver put on a jumpsuit, googles, helmets, altimeter and gloves. Then we were escorted to the plane. This is it!
We were packed into the plane like sardines. It was definitely a tight fit to say the least. Everyone was talking, or should I say shouting over the loud plane engine. I looked at my altimeter at 4,000 feet. It’s almost time for him to jump. So, I better propose to Marvin before it’s too late.
So, I screamed, “Marvin, I love you, and I know that you love me. So, I want to marry you. Will you marry me?”
“Are you proposing to me?”
“Yes at 5,000+ feet in the air!”
“Then, yes, I will marry you!”
Carol and Marvin kissed. She was overjoyed and knew her life would never be the same after today!
Everyone on the plane clapped, as congratulations to them.
Carol was excited to finally be engaged to Marvin, and on her birthday!
It felt like they had climbed more than 9,000 feet. It seemed like they had been flying for at least 30 minutes. All Carol knew was that it felt very high. The plane started to slow down and level out. The time came for all of the free-fall skydivers to jump, and Marvin was in this group. When the door opened the noise level rose even louder. One by one they jumped, including Marvin.
About half of the skydivers had jumped, and only the tandem skydivers and their instructors were left sitting. The plane climbed higher and after another 15 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, the plane slowed down and leveled out again. The first tandem skydiver got to the edge of the door and disappeared outside. She could hear him screaming and then it stopped. Then the next skydiver, and finally, it was Carol’s turn. Her instructor told her to get on her knees and slide to the door. She leaned forward and jumped out of the plane. She could hear someone screaming and she thought it was her. Then, it got quiet and everything was in slow motion. She couldn’t fathom the thought of her falling at 140 mph. All sorts of thoughts passed through her mind, when suddenly her instructor pulled the parachute and they slowed down. The wind hit her face and she thought about Marvin. She wondered if his dive was as pleasant as hers. Then she thought, I will be a bride…soon.
The chute spiraled and steered them towards the landing zone. The sky view was beautiful. But there seemed to be so many people on the ground. She saw flashing lights and wondered if everyone was okay. Her instructor told her they were coming into the landing zone in a grassy area and to bring her feet up and her knees to her chest and to slide in. He told Carol they had one of the best landings he had ever had with a first-time skydiver.
Carol smiled, but seemed a little disoriented, as they walked back.
When she got back inside, everyone was talking about the skydiver whose parachute failed to open. She looked around for Marvin and asked a couple of people if they had seen him. Then she saw her instructor running towards her with a box of tissues and a bottle of water. He put his arm around her and with a sense of urgency said, “Please, follow me!”
Carol followed him, but the hair at the nape of her neck stood up on end when she saw the expression on his face and heard the tone of his voice. She fought to remain calm and not allow her mind to think the worse. She continued looking around for Marvin, He must be looking for me, too, she thought. But she told herself she was just being paranoid. Carol was becoming a nervous wreck and more anxious as each minute passed, but managed to question her instructor, “How will Marvin, my fiancé, find me?”
He didn’t answer her question. He just handed her the bottle of water and the tissues, then said, “Please wait here for my boss.”
Within minutes, the owner of the company arrived with an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) from the ambulance.
The grim-faced owner approached her and said, “Carol Anderson, I’m sorry to inform you that…that Marvin Brewster’s parachute did not open…uh…after free falling from terminal velocity. Mr. Brewster, he didn’t make it…he’s dead. The coroner is on his way…to pronounce him deceased. There is a body and it is in one piece. There will be…an investigation. I am so…so sorry for your loss.”
Carol was shocked and stunned, but managed to say, “Please tell me this is a horrible joke, because today is my birthday.”
“No, miss, I would not joke like that.”
“But…he…Marvin is my fiancé and we’re getting married.”
Carol thought about how Marvin always smelled like Gucci Guilty Black, a gift from her.
There was no time to say Good-bye, she thought. Suddenly, her mind was flooded with thoughts of Marvin.
Then, Carol felt like the oxygen was sucked out of the room. Carol’s face lost all expression, and she had difficulty breathing. The color quickly drained from her face, and she turned deathly pale. Her knees went wobbly and she dropped the bottle of water, as she crumbled to the floor. The EMT started working on her immediately and revived her in less than five minutes.
When Carol awakened, she searched for answers, but there were none, just one sad thought, My marriage to Marvin was never meant to be!
A Short Story by Cheryl Holloway Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Thank you to the following blog for in-depth insight on skydiving: http://personaldevelopmentinsights.blogspot.com/2013/07/what-does-skydive-feel-like.html
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