Chapter 6

Charlie took Amita's hand as they stepped from the elevator onto the observation deck at the top of the Empire State Building. The breeze they had hardly noticed on the ground turned chilly on the top of the tallest building in New York. Amita gasped. "It's cold up here."

Charlie slipped out of his sport coat and placed it over her shoulders. "We can go back down if it's too cold."

"I'd rather stay" She snuggled against him as they stood against the railing. "Are you warm enough?"

"I'm fine." He pointed at a string of lights in the distance. "Is that the airport?"

"I don't know. It's pretty, though, isn't it?"

"It is. Did you ever get a chance to see the view from the World Trade Center? Before..."

She nodded. "I did. Once. It's hard to believe that this is the tallest building in the city now." She felt Charlie pull away from her and glanced over to see what he was doing. He was down on one knee on the dirty walkway. "Charlie! What are you doing? Get up! Your new pants are going to be filthy."

He reached up and took her hand. "Amita, will you marry me?"

She laughed and sat on his knee. "Quit kidding, Charlie!"

Then she saw the little velvet box in his hand. She gasped as he held the box up and the facets of the diamond caught the city lights. Pulling her eyes away from the ring, she met his gaze. There was no laughter in his brown eyes. Only a blend of hope and love and a touch of worry. She stood up and smiled at him.

"Yes," she whispered. "I will."

He smiled, the worry evaporating from his eyes, and slipped the ring onto her finger. Then he stood and kissed her. The half dozen or so people who had gathered around them applauded and Charlie turned, startled.

A middle aged lady wiped tears from her eyes. "My Scott proposed to me in this very spot and we've been married for twenty nine years."

The man beside her, presumably Scott, shook Charlie's hand. "Congratulations, son. May you have as much joy as my Christine has given me."

Charlie beamed. "Thank you, Sir."

Christine took Amita's hands in hers. "Congratulations, dear," she said. She turned to Scott. "Let's go leave these lovebirds alone to enjoy their moment."

Charlie tucked the box back into his pocket, then took Amita's hand and touched the ring. "Do you like it? We can exchange it if..."

"It's perfect. Did you find it here or back home?"

"Here."

Tears sprang to her eyes. "Even after what I did to you? All of the horrible things I said about your clothes and hair?"

He took her face in both hands. "Sometimes friends have to be brutally honest with each other." He chuckled. "The last time I said that was when I was convinced Larry had no chance of blasting off into space."

Amita giggled. "And you see how well that turned out for you. I tried to avoid the 'brutal' part and stick with the 'honest' part."

Charlie kissed her. "But you were right." They strolled along the railing, gazing out at the city lights. "I was upset at first. Even angry. Mostly embarrassed. But once I started shopping, I realized you and Stacy and Clinton were right."

Amita started to say something, but Charlie silenced her with a kiss. "The first day, I told Otto the stylist that I wanted to propose to you. He took me to his favorite jewelry store. The owner helped me pick out this ring." He took her left hand and held it up to the light. "Are you sure you like it? He said we could bring it back and you could pick out something you like."

"I'm sure. I love it almost as much as I love you." She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. "How'd you know my size?"

Charlie pulled his wallet from his pocket and took out a jade ring. "Recognize this?"

She took the ring from him and put it on her right ring finger. "You went through my jewelry?"

"You went through my closet. With a camera crew. Fair's fair." He smiled. "I found it in your suitcase while you were in the shower. I didn't know your size, and I wanted it to be just right."

"What would you have done if I'd planned on wearing it today?"

Charlie shrugged. "I would have tried to convince you that you left it home. Absent minded professor and all that."

"When are we going to tell everybody?"

"I thought we could announce it at the reveal party back home. Everybody will be there, and we'll have the whole event on video for posterity."

For his big reveal, Charlie had selected a Pasadena institution, Pie 'n Burger. It took some doing, but the promise of national exposure along with a huge fee convinced the owner to let Charlie reserve the whole place for a few hours. Now his friends and family waited for the big moment, enjoying the best burgers in Los Angeles.

Don swallowed the last of his burger and dabbed Thousand Island dressing from the corner of his mouth. "Charlie sure does know how to throw a party." He glanced at his watch. "He should be here any time now, right?"

Alan folded his napkin and put it on the table. "I wonder if we have time for pie before he gets here?"

Millie shrugged. "There's no rule saying we can't keep eating after he gets here. I'll have Dutch apple. How about you, Liz?"

"I think I'll have the carrot cake."

A little further down the counter, Larry shared the last bite of his cheesecake with Megan, and Colby and David were bemoaning the absence of beer.

Outside the restaurant, Charlie opened the car door for Amita. It had taken him a while, but he had finally settled on the pinstriped suit. As he took Amita's hand, he said, "I love that dress on you. Red is definitely your color."

She stood and touched his cheek. "Have I ever told you that you look hot in red. Especially that red tee shirt with the periodic table on it... Oh no... It's gone, isn't it? Donated to some charity in New York, along with your blue pi shirt?"

"Nope," Charlie said, grinning slyly.

"But you were supposed to bring everything."

"Everything I owned. Larry is now the proud owner of several items of clothing that previously belonged to me."

"Once again, you've proved that you're a genius." Amita gave Charlie a quick kiss. "Go on inside. You need to make your entrance for the cameras. I'll wait a few minutes and then come in."

He took her hand and opened the door. "That's silly. Let's go in together. The network folks will get over it."

The cameras rolled as Charlie and Amita walked hand in hand into the diner. "Charlie!" Millie shrieked as she and Alan rushed forward. She grabbed his hands and pulled him away from Amita. "Let me have a look at you. Oh my goodness, Charlie. You were the Sean Connery of the math department before. Now... now..."

"Mildred," Charlie chuckled, "I've never seen you at a loss for words before." He pulled free of her grasp and spread his arms wide. "You like the new duds?"

Alan stepped forward and ruffled Charlie's curls. "And they even tamed the mane. Very nice, Charlie. Though I was hoping for something more like the look you sported in high school."

"I'm not in high school any more, Father."

"No, you're not." Alan smiled his approval. "Amita, what do you think of the transformation?"

Beaming, Amita reached up with her left hand and stroked Charlie's cheek. "He's always been wonderful, but now he's perfect."

"Amita!" Millie exclaimed. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Hmm?" Amita said coyly. "Oh, you mean this?" She held up her hand, displaying the engagement ring.

Charlie had the wisdom to step back out of the way as the women swarmed around Amita. He turned to face his grinning brother.

"Buddy!" Don pulled him into an enthusiastic, back slapping hug. "You did it! Finally! It only took a couple of years for you to get up the nerve. Congratulations!"

Larry stepped forward, grinning happily, and shook Charlie's hand. "Charles, this is wonderful. You and Amita are perfect for each other."

Charlie glanced from his best friend to his brother. "Now I've got to decide who will be my best man. Is it possible to have two best men? Has it been done before?"

Alan laughed. "This from the man who does things with math nobody ever dreamed of before. Charlie, if you want a dozen best men, I think you should do it."

"Yeah, Buddy. Amita will just have to find two maids of honor for us to dance with at the reception. Symmetry, right, Larry?"

Larry's brow furrowed. "Symmetry. Yes, of course, Don. Wedding parties are an excellent example of symmetry."

"Charlie! My man!" David said, grinning broadly as he and Colby approached. "You are one lucky son of a gun. Congratulations."

Colby shook his head. "No offense to any of the other ladies here, but you've managed to get yourself the hottest woman in Pasadena. How on earth did you do it, Whiz Kid?"

Charlie's eyes were irresistibly drawn to Amita, almost hidden by the women admiring her ring. As if she felt his gaze, she glanced up and blew him a kiss. Charlie touched his fingertips to his lips and blew a kiss back at her. He grinned at Colby. "I don't know. It defies logic, doesn't it?"

"Aw, man, I didn't mean..."

"Don't worry about it, Colby. Every time I look at her, I wonder how I got so..."

"Lucky!" Don said, laughing. "The high priest of logic was going to say 'lucky.'"

"In the vernacular, yes, it was luck," Charlie huffed. "I'm sure there's a deeper logic at work that I just don't see yet."

"Maybe," Alan said, "just maybe it's the clothes. Clothes do make the man, you know."

"I'm beginning to realize that," Charlie said. "But, now for important things. I chose Pie 'n Burger for a reason. I'm starved!"

The End