Chapter three – A special occasion
I don’t remember ever spending more time on my looks than that evening. My clothes were spotless, there was not a single hair out of place on my head and I showered at least three times to make sure I smelled nice. By the time her parents had called me downstairs, the sun had already set. Mister and misses Adams were sitting together on the couch, cuddling in front of the fire.
‘Umm.. thank you very much for… letting me use your bathroom,’ I muttered nervously. ‘I left everything the way it was this afternoon.’
‘You’re welcome, dear,’ Natalia’s mother said warmly. ‘And please don’t be so formal all the time. After all, you’ll soon be…’ She chuckled. The knot in my belly tightened itself when I realised what she meant.
I couldn’t help it; I began pacing back and forth nervously. My shiny black shoes made ticking sounds on the cold floor tiles.
‘My, Wyatt, are you nervous?’ miss Adams grinned.
‘Yes. No. I’m just… is everything really taken care of?’
‘Yes, dear. Tommy is taking Natalia to the spot you mentioned right now. She should be thinking you’re going on a late night date. Do you have what you need?’
When I mumbled a barely understandable answer out of pure nervousness, mister Adams got up from his seat with a sigh. He walked right to where I was and stared me in the eyes with a seriousness that once again made me realise he really was Natalia’s father.
‘Show some backbone, son,’ he lectured. ‘You’re a man, aren’t you? Then act like it! Someone else is going to snatch her away before you if you keep acting like that!’
‘Y-yes, sir!’ I squeaked.
‘Say that like you mean it!’
‘That’s more like it,’ he smiled, content with himself. ‘Now take a few deep breaths and go get her before someone else does.’
I did as he said and closed my eyes, exhaling deeply. It seemed to work. The tight knot in my stomach became a bit looser, and I was able to produce a tiny smile again. Then I remembered.
‘Sir, about tonight, I still have something to ask you-‘
‘Of course you have my permission, Wyatt,’ he said, before I could even finish my sentence. ‘You’ve been here ever since she was a little girl. I trust you to protect her from now on, as you’ve always done. Now get going, or you’ll be late!’
I accepted his words with a big smile.
‘You have my blessing too, Wyatt,’ misses Adams said, getting off the couch herself. ‘We’ve known it for a while now. You might be the best thing that ever happened to Tali, you know? That’s what I believe. We were so worried about her, but she’s really come out of her shell ever since you came into her life. Be good to her, my boy.’
‘Just remember, if you make her cry, we’ll take her right back,’ mister Adams threatened. This time I was able to look him in the eyes with confidence.
‘I won’t. I promise. I’ll do everything I can to make her happy, sir.’
I took another deep breath and then turned around, walking towards the front door. Behind me Natalia’s parents embraced each other. They looked happy, but sad at the same time. A second later I was out of the door and heading to where she was.
My reason for being. The person I’d make my own family with.
The sun had completely disappeared by the time I reached my destination. Millions of stars gazed down on my and reflected in the cool water, that was disrupted by floating flowerlights. It was a frequently visited park during the day.
At night, it became a completely different scenery. The normally unimpressive flowerlights became lit and cast beautiful lights across the water, while the waterfall made cherry tree’s leaves rustle. It was the perfect place for couples… and tonight, I was going to exploit its magic feeling to the fullest.
She was already there. I saw her standing idly next to the only light that was put on the ground, gazing into the water with an absent expression on her face. The force from the waterfall made her hair move back and forth a bit, like the leaves in the tree did.
My heart jumped at the sight of her and I walked faster, careful not to slip and dirty my suit. She didn’t see me coming.
Wait… I didn’t prepare a speech. Why didn’t I think of that before? What was I going to say to her?
She jumped and turned around.
‘Wyatt! You scared me! I didn’t hear you coming.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.’
She put one arm around her and fiddled with her hair using her other hand, shyly looking up to me.
‘That’s all right, as long as it’s you and not- wait…‘
Her eyes moved down to my clothes.
‘What’s with the high-class suit? Are we going somewhere?’
‘No,’ I said, with a small grin. ‘I just thought it fit the occasion.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Today is our five-year anniversary,’ I said warmly, and stretched out my hand to touch her cheek. It felt warm and soft. ‘That counts for something… and there’s something I want to tell you, too, Natalia.’
‘What is it?’
‘I want to tell you how I feel about you. How I really feel,’ I said. ‘I know I’m not always honest and I can be really annoying at times, but today I’m serious. Will you listen to me?’
‘Of course,’ she whispered.
I took a deep breath and put my arms around her waist, pulling her close to me. She let her head rest on my chest. And then the words just started flowing out of my mouth, without me even thinking them over.
‘You’ve changed so much since I met you, Natalia. You’ve really grown. Do you remember the first time I spent the night with you, in your room?’
‘I believe you called me a little caterpillar,’ she laughed.
‘Ah, yes, I wasn’t very tactful back then,’ I replied.
‘That’s okay. You were right.’
She snuggled a bit closer. I could feel her heartbeat, faintly but steadily.
‘I came from an orphanage without ever knowing what family was like,’ I continued. ‘My parents had abandoned me and I was so angry over that that I didn’t even bother looking for a new one. I thought family was something unimportant, something you could just live without. But I was wrong, you know.’
I let go of her and she took a small step back, looking up at me again with eyes sparkling with the light of the stars.
‘All those years I didn’t live without family. I didn’t realise it for so long. But I do now, Natalia. You’re my family. Since the moment we’ve met, you’ve always been there for me.’
‘And now,’ I said, grabbing her hand, ‘now you’re so much more than just the shy little caterpillar from the playground. You’ve become so beautiful… your smile makes me feel like I can fly for hours after we’ve been together, but it’s not enough. I know it sounds cliché, but I love you. I love you more than anything and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to protect you from anything that wants to do you harm.’
The little box was burning in my pocket. I couldn’t hold it back any longer.
‘Wyatt… what are you doing?’ Natalia whispered, as I slowly lowered myself on one leg and reached for my pocket.
I closed my eyes for a second. This felt right. It was the right thing to do. I would be with her for the rest of my life.
‘Natalia Adams. I love you more than anything in the world. I have loved you since the moment I met you, and we’ll both have our milestone birthday in a few days. When that time comes…’
‘Will you become my wife?’
‘Yes! Yes! Yes, Wyatt, Yes!’ she cried. I got up again slowly and watched her. Tears were flowing down from her eyes rapidly, but she didn’t even bother wiping them.
‘I want to be your wife… more than anything,’ she finally sobbed, with a smile on her face. My heart felt like it was about to burst from my chest, so full it was with happiness.
I grinned back and gently took her hand, bringing the ring towards it. The moment my jewel got shoved onto her finger… it was indescribable. Unlike anything I’d felt before. Love… the word didn’t even come close.
‘We’ve… been through so much together,’ Natalia cried. ‘You were my first friend… and my first love… you’ll be my only love.’
‘We’ll go through even more together now,’ I replied, with eyes that were getting teary now too.
‘We’ll graduate together, Natalia. We’ll live in the same house from then on, just the two of us. We’ll be a real family, together with Robin. Just promise me something…’
‘Come here.’ I held out my arms wide for her. Natalia let out another sob of happiness and threw herself into my embrace.
She smelled so sweet… sweet and innocent, like a tiny little butterfly flying in the sky. My family… I finally had a family to call my own.
‘Promise me you’ll stay with me…’
‘I promise,’ she whispered. ‘I love you, Wyatt.’
‘I love you too. So, so much…’