Wow...hi guys! So sorry it has been so long. Here is the finale…thanks for being so patient. I really appreciate all of the support I have received from all of you, please know that.
This is for Lee…I miss you.
1 year Later...
Kelsi stood in front of the tiny vanity in her bathroom, her small hands poised above her head as she tried to work the braids through her unruly curls. Her frustrated gaze drifted to the magazine clipping taped to her mirror, the perfectly tall model with her perfectly straight hair seemed to have no problem getting braids to stay in her hair. With a breath of dismay that sent some curls flying in an upward motion Kelsi roughly pulled the attempted braids out of her hair.
"It's fine, who says you need braids anyway? Ryan has always liked your hair down. For some unknown reason he likes crazy puffy hair." Kelsi paused, deciding not to spend too much time thinking about the fact that she was currently having a conversation with her own reflection.
In the last year, she had found that the odd quirks that made her her were...well...okay. She knew Ryan would say her said quirks her "beautiful" or "fabulous", Kelsi felt she had come a long way by classifying them as "okay." As she studied herself in the mirror, she noticed that she did look, well, beautiful really. And the beauty, it had nothing to do with hair or any other outward feature...it was inside of her. It was happiness, and not just partial or "almost there" happiness, but real full-fledged bursting within her happiness. A glow seemed to permeate not only her being, but also everything around her. In short, Kelsi was pretty sure that if some psychic were to walk through her front door, they would be well bowled over by all of the positive energy closeted within the small confines of her apartment. The thought put a spontaneous smile on her face, but she didn't see it, because her thoughts were already jumping towards the evening she would soon be sharing with her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend. While Kelsi had definitely had the time to get used to the idea, it still never ceased to amaze her. And quite honestly she hoped it never did. Because she never wanted to take Ryan or their relationship for granted. If she could spend every day feeling that sense of amazement, that would be ideal. And deep down in her heart Kelsi knew, every time she thought of Ryan or saw him smile down into her eyes...every time she was lucky enough to hear him say he loved her...
A tear silently filled the laugh line of her smile because she knew there was never going to be a time when she did not appreciate the blessings he brought to her life. Ryan was filled with so much light and goodness, it would be pretty near impossible not to take notice of the positive effect he had on not only her, but everyone.
A giggle escaped her as Kelsi's fingers gently lifted her glasses to wipe the tear away. Without even meaning to, her eyes fell to the clock of her cell phone.
"Oh crap!" A small squeal escaped her lips as she made a mad dash for the door, grabbing her coat, hat, purse and scarf along the way. A mumbled apology left her lips as she accidentally bumped into one of her neighbors on her way down what seemed to suddenly be a rather long hallway. The minute she burst through the main entryway door, a strong gust of wind almost sent her back through the doorway. With a determined grunt, Kelsi braved the wind...which of course had to be blowing directly against her, and took off sprinting down the sidewalk, her coat and scarf providing the impromptu tail to the human kite she currently resembled.
By the time she reached the elevated train, she still had yet to put on all of her wind blown accessories. She quickly turned the corner, poising herself to barrel up the many intimidating steps, only to run smack dab into a brick wall. Well, at least it felt very much like a brick wall. However, once she felt the warm arms come around her in a hug she knew it was actually the very firm and comforting chest of her boyfriend.
Kelsi looked up, a natural smile already alighted her lips before her eyes even met his.
"Ryan." His name came out as a statement, before her head bowed down with a lightly shy laugh.
Ryan's eyes couldn't seem to get enough of the slight young woman presently taking up residence in his arms. He let her settle easily into his hug as he took a moment to bend into her and let her teasing curls tickle his nose. The warm scent of vanilla filled him as a slight sigh left his lips.
"Hey Kels." He said lightly into her hair. "You didn't actually think I wasn't going to pick you up did you?"
Kelsi looked up with a smile before gently kissing her boyfriend, their lips hesitant to drift apart. "I wanted to try and surprise you and for once pick you up." She said by way of explanation.
"What? I think not my dear. After all, it is not my birthday." Ryan stated, giving her sides a loving squeeze. He paused a moment, before gently taking his fingers and lifting up Kelsi's chin. "Besides, you don't have to pick me up. Haven't you figured it out yet Kels, you've always had me." As if with a will of their own, two pairs of lips met in a somehow equally romantic and passionate kiss. Ryan's previous statement covering them in a blanket that seemed to repel the Chicago winds. As if even nature knew, that even when they had been lost and sad, they had still found comfort in the memories of one another.
Ryan's lips left Kelsi's with a mumbled, "By the way, happy birthday baby."
"Thank you Ryan." She said, her words hanging between them with more meaning than grateful birthday wishes. "I love you, have I told you that yet today?"
"You tell me that with your eyes every moment, but I always appreciate hearing the words." He replied with a kiss on her cheek. Moving his lips lightly to her ear he whispered, "And by the way, I love you too. So much."
Her only reply was a joyful smile.
"Now, how about we get going young lady, we have dinner reservations for 7 o'clock."
Kelsi moved to automatically start up the still waiting train stairs, only to realize Ryan was not following her. Turning around she found him scooping up all of her hastily dropped and forgotten items from earlier. "Ohmigosh, I completely forgot I wasn't wearing all of that!" She exclaimed with an embarrassed laugh.
Ryan's laughing blue gaze met hers'. "Really? Well, I'm quite flattered Miss Nielson."
Kelsi easily slipped into the coat Ryan was holding open, letting him place the items in there rightful places, giggling as he playfully tweaked her nose after placing her hat atop her head at just the right angle. "Flattered huh?" Kelsi pretended to think the response over before laughingly stating "Perhaps you should be."
"Is that so?" Ryan played along, taking her hand in his and leading her up the stairs.
Kelsi turned her head towards Ryan, looking quite coy as they easily made their way onto the train and sat on a pair of seats. "Well, this really good looking blonde haired guy tells me I am quite extraordinary."
Faking an aghast expression, Ryan looked at her. "What, who is this man? Doesn't he know you far surpass a mere "extraordinary." I think I am going to have to have a talk with him."
Kelsi laughed as she settled comfortably into her designated spot in the crook of Ryan's shoulder. She lifted his hand up to her lips and gave a spontaneous kiss to his knuckles. "I love you," she whispered softly before settling into a warm silence where she gently traced patterns into Ryan's hand and his hands whispered through her curls.
The train ride seemed to literally whiz by, perhaps because Kelsi was so contently happy, relishing the warm cocoon of Ryan's embrace. The date had hardly even begun, and she already thought it qualified as "perfect.
As Ryan led her up the stairs (their destination took them from elevated trains to the underground variety) and into the fading light of the fall sky, Kelsi took a deep and rejuvenating breath. She smelled leaves changing and a variety of foods competing for her attention, Lake Michigan's breeze making everything even more pronounced.
Kelsi looked up at Ryan, her hand held protectively in his, her cheeks blushed with wind and anticipation. "So Mr. Evans, where exactly is this surprise destination?"
Ryan looked down at her while still managing to steer them competently around bustling traffic containing people, taxis, cars and buses. "If I told you it wouldn't be a surprise anymore now would it?" He teased, while still guiding her.
A tiny wrinkle formed between her brows at his answer, as under her breath she mumbled, "Surprises make me nervous."
Ryan instantly halted; he had long ago learned to decipher Kelsi's mumbled "he's not supposed to hear this" phrases. His hands came up to gently caress her cheeks, delicately forcing her gaze to his. They stood there like that, completely unaware of the frustrated people trying to worm around the suddenly prone couple in the middle of the busy walk way. "Kels, you know by now I would never do anything to make you uncomfortable." This was a statement rather than a question. "Please trust me, I want tonight to be absolutely perfect for you."
"I trust you Ryan," Kelsi laughed, "obviously I trust you."
"And luckily you don't have to wait too long for your answer…" Giving her a quirky grin Ryan brought Kelsi around the corner to their destination.
Kelsi's gaze scanned the restaurant and the only word for it was magical. A beautiful glowing garden surrounded it as huge floor to ceiling windows showed a warm light from within. In curving almost teasing letters the word "Rhapsody" was prominently placed.
"Wow." Kelsi stood there, mouth slightly agape as she took in the almost whimsical feeling this place brought from within her.
Ryan couldn't contain his pleased smile. "You like?"
Kelsi tore her gaze away from the restaurant to look at him. "Like? I love it! I haven't even been inside or tasted the food and I already know I love it." She paused for a moment. "Wait, there is food in there right?" It almost looked too much like an enchanted garden or fairy forest to have something as simple as food.
Ryan didn't even try to contain his laughter. "Yes Kels, there's food. Come on, let's go in."
The aroma hit her as soon as she walked through the door; the varying flavors all somehow meshing to make so many superb smells. Suddenly Kelsi felt her stomach growl.
Ryan moved behind her, placing his hands possessively around her middle. "Hungry huh?" He grinned into her ear.
"You heard that?" Kelsi asked, an embarrassed blush crossing her features.
"Don't feel bad, the smells are affecting me too, I currently have a pool of saliva forming in my mouth."
Kelsi pushed herself away from him, before turning around and laughing. "Ryan, that's gross."
"Hey, I'm just being honest. If I can't speak my inner most possibly humiliating thoughts with the woman I love who can I share them with?"
Kelsi dissolved into pleased giggles as Ryan led her towards an intimate table near the windows overlooking the gardens.
Taking in a surprised breath Kelsi turned to look up at him as he held her chair for her. "This is beautiful." She quietly breathed the statement as she slipped into her chair, letting her hands slightly brush Ryan's.
Ryan sat down across from her and looked right into her eyes. "You are beautiful."
Kelsi felt like he was talking to the inner most parts of her self, the parts that made her everything she was…things she loved about her person and things she was sometimes less than pleased with. But in that moment, when Ryan said the words, she felt beautiful. Everything within her seemed to glow, as she realized for about the 100th time how much Ryan not only loved her but saw her.
"I love you Ryan." She said softly, willing her eyes to give him back everything he constantly gave to her.
"So much." He finished her sentence, using her own words to share his feelings. His simple two-worded response was just as, if not more powerful than a whispered back "I love you."
At that moment the waitress came to the table to take their order. Kelsi wasn't even sure what they ordered, she was so enamored. She heard Ryan ask her a question, heard herself mumble a "sounds good" before quickly getting lost in him again. She watched as Ryan animatedly spoke to the waitress. She saw the way the light glow of the restaurant's ambiance seemed to give his blonde hair an almost golden quality. And she could have sworn she saw bits of radiating energy around him, as if everything beautiful and shiny just couldn't help but bask in the warmth that permeated from her boyfriend. She worked to bring herself out of her revelry and focus on Ryan. The night had such a mystical quality to it, she didn't want to get stuck in her own thoughts, she wanted to live tonight to the fullest.
"So, what do you think?" Ryan asked, a hint of reservation to his voice. It was so important that tonight be absolutely perfect. He knew, of course he knew that Kelsi would love the restaurant; he could tell that the first time he had seen it. I mean come on, that's why he picked it. And he had basked in the beauty she presented when her face had lit up in amazement. As if the building was almost too magical to walk into, the kind of place that was reserved for people with glittery wings connected to their backs. It was the magic that had driven him to pick this destination. He wanted; no he needed Kelsi to feel that magic. To feel the same magic he felt whenever he was around her.
Kelsi looked across the table to Ryan, trying to find the words to describe how she felt at the moment. "It is spectacular Ryan, the sort of spot that makes you feel…" She paused, struggling for the appropriate words…"That anything is possible."
I slight breath left Ryan, followed by a slow moving smile. "I am so happy you feel that way," he said, moving to take her hands, "that is exactly how I wanted you to feel Kels. Like you and I could do and be anything together."
A small tear trailed down Kelsi's cheek unnoticed, as she stared at Ryan, her eyes glassing over, her feelings completely moved. She was still working to grasp his words when all of the sudden she saw him get up, still holding her hands tightly within his and move to kneel beside her chair. Her eyes became huge, as more tears started to flow as if on their own violation. "Ryan, what are you doing…" Her breath was coming out in gasps. "Down there." She finished, pointing towards the ground where his single knee had taken up residence.
Ryan didn't break his gaze, his blue eyes seemed to penetrate hers showering her with all of the love he had to give. "Kelsi, I have a really important question for you?"
Both were completely unaware of the gazes and mumbling words coming from other guests around them, they were so focused on one another.
Kelsi wasn't exactly sure what drove her to it, but suddenly it became imperative that Ryan not be on the ground alone. Without taking a moment to think about her action, she lightly slipped out of her chair and was soon kneeling on the floor across from him.
Her action took Ryan completely by surprise, a laughing grin came across his face as the tears he was working to hold at bay started to fall freely. "Babe, what are you doing?" He asked, referring to her decision to join him on the floor, that wasn't exactly how he had pictured his proposal; she was supposed to be in the chair.
"I don't know." She gasped out. "It just didn't seem right to have you down here while I was up there." She paused, trying to speak through shock, tears and love. "I-I needed to be near you, close to you, as close as possible." She paused again to take off her glasses and wipe some tears away with the back of her hand. "It just feels right." She said with finality.
"Okay, I am not going to argue with that." Ryan stopped to wipe his own tears away, his gaze catching Kelsi's and both of them erupting into watery laughter, still tightly grasping each other. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a ring…
But Kelsi didn't even see the ring, she was so focused on him, all she could see, all she could take in was him. The soul and spirit of Ryan just seemed to envelope her. She was looking into his beautiful eyes when she heard the question.
"Kelsi, will you please do me the great honor of becoming my wife?" Tears were falling rapidly from Ryan's eyes as he said the words; he had never wanted anything more in his life than he wanted this.
The tears were clogging her throat to such an extent that the words would not come. She just kept nodding as sobs racked her body. She clung to Ryan, her hands clasped to the back of his head. Her mouth was right next to his ear, when she was finally able to whisper a meaningful "yes."
Ryan just held her. He wasn't sure how long they knelt there, holding one another, feeling one another. He knew her answer before her nod or her whispered yes. He had seen it in her eyes the moment he knelt in front of her. He alternated between rubbing circles on her back to weaving his fingers through her hair, as he waited for her breathing to normalize. It was then that he became aware of the applause. He knew the moment Kelsi became aware too, because suddenly she was trying to burrow into his chest. He swiftly scooped her up, positioning himself into her chair, still cradling her in his lap. "You know, there is a ring." He said softly.
Her watery gaze lifted to his, and he was once again blown away by the love so readily apparent within her features. Genuine surprise filled her eyes. "Oh, I am so sorry." She said her hands wandering the familiar planes of his face. "I was so swept away by your question I forgot all about a ring."
He didn't know it was possible, but he felt himself swelling with even more love for the petite woman sitting so naturally in his lap. He reached around her slightly to show her the ring.
Kelsi had never seen anything so beautiful and…shiny. It was like a kaleidoscope of sparkles filling the room with even more light. "It's beautiful, oh Ryan, it is absolutely beautiful."
"It was my Grandmother's. I thought of buying you a new one, but then, I don't know, I kind of loved the idea of something older, something that already had a story. A happy story, a story that we would build on and that someday our grandchildren or great grandchildren would expand. " He explained as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "I obviously made the right choice because look," He smiled, looking from her eyes to her hand and back again, "It's a perfect fit."
Kelsi moved her hands up to Ryan's face, once again tracing his features, letting her fingers move over his brows and gently coast his lips. "You're right, we are the perfect fit." And then they were kissing…and kissing…and more kissing. In fact they didn't stop kissing all night.
However, somewhere between all of the kissing they were able to make one important phone call. They decided on just one, because for the rest of the night they wanted it to be about them and their love. The rest of the calls could wait until tomorrow. They held their ears to Kelsi's phone waiting for the recipient to pick up. On the third ring a loud voice burst into their ears, causing them to move the phone back a bit.
"KELSI!" Matthew's booming voice filled the phone. "I knew it was you Kelsi because of the caller ID." He stated proudly.
In the background Ryan and Kelsi could hear Lauren clamoring to get on the phone while Sarah's laughter filled the room. Soon they recognized that they were on speakerphone.
"Hi guys, how is your date?" Lauren asked in her best big girl voice.
Kelsi stole a secret look with Ryan before she answered. "It has been amazing." She breathed. "And actually we have an important question to ask you and your brother."
"I'm right here!" Matthew yelled. "The brother is right here." The three adults could not help but laugh at Matty's response.
Kelsi nodded slightly as Ryan spoke into the phone. "Well it seems Kelsi and I are going to be in need of a flowergirl and ring bearer."
The question was met with silence for about a mili-second before cheering and screaming erupted on the other end. Lauren was answering with a resounding and screaming "YES! YES! YES!" Sarah was offering heartfelt congratulations. It was only Matthew who was being somewhat silent. (A real feat for the little guy.) As the revelry died down, Matthew's voice could be heard very clearly, "Um…I can't be a ring bearer, but I will be your police officer or fireman." He stated matter of factly.
Ryan and Kelsi erupted into spontaneous laughter. Kelsi had to wipe under her eyes before answering the little love. "How about ring security Matty? That way you are like an undercover police officer?"
Matthew took a moment to relish the spotlight as his sister pestered him to "just say YES!" Clearing his throat dramatically he stated, "That sounds perfect!"
And it was.
Thanks again you guys. Love, Jen