A Forever Proposal

Chapter 4

Margaret nearly knocked her husband down as she marched out of a Toronto shipping store.

"Idiots!" she growled. "What part of 'fragile' did they not understand!"

For a split second Andrew wondered if he had done the right thing by marrying his old boss. "It's gonna be okay," he replied as calmly as he could.

Margaret stopped and checked herself. "You're right," she said as she took a deep breath. She looked into his eyes and nearly swooned.

"What would I do without you?" she crooned. She wrapped her arms around his neck and felt her stress start to go away.

He patted her lightly on the back. "You know, anger is bad for the heart…"

One tilt of her head was all it took to shut him up. "Of course, you're not normally an angry person…" he continued. He felt like he was handling a tigress or black widow spider.

She grinned and relaxed her head against him again as they strolled up the street, until a familiar voice hailed her.

"Mags? Is that you?"

Margaret and Andrew quickly parted. Her jaw dropped when she saw the blonde, swanky kid—no, man, who stood in front of her.

"Chad?"

Chad's face brightened and he extended his arms to Margaret, much to Andrew's dismay. "It is you, Mags!"

Margaret gave Chad a long obligatory hug that aroused jealous feelings in Andrew. Who was this Chad, anyway?

"You haven't changed a bit!" she exclaimed as she looked him over.

"Sure I have. But it's you who have grown more beautiful than ever."

Margaret blushed before she realized her faux pas. "Oh, oh, this is Andrew, my husband," she said as she pulled Andrew to her.

Andrew managed a faint smile as he nodded. "Pleasure."

"What are you doin' here?" asked Margaret with an excitement Andrew hadn't seen before.

"Getting married," replied Chad with a wistful look in his eye.

"Congratulations," muttered Andrew, who felt slightly relieved.

Margaret's jaw dropped again. "Married? Omigosh, what timing! Andrew and I just got married ourselves!"

"Thanks, I wish Gillian were here with me right now. You'd like her," replied Chad as her taut grin got wider.

"When's the wedding?"

Chad glanced at his watch. "In an hour, at St. Mary's."

"Wow, that's where…" began Margaret before she bit her lip.

Andrew did not fail to notice the melancholy shadow that passed over Chad's face.

"Yeah," he replied. "That place."

"Right…well, I'm glad it came true for you," said Margaret softly. Just then, Andrew felt as if an invisible wall of memories had slammed down right in front of him, separating him from his wife and this stranger.

"You know, I didn't ever think I would see you again…" said Chad.

"It's a nice coincidence..." she replied as she looked into his eyes.

"Ahem," Andrew coughed and broke the spell. Margaret and Chad straightened up a little.

"If I wasn't getting married, I would've invited you both to have a drink with me and my bride," Chad smiled.

"Maybe next time we're in Toronto…" Margaret offered. She felt happy for her old boyfriend, yet the bittersweet memories lingered in her mind.

"Sure," nodded Chad. "It's nice seeing you again. I'd better get going… the bride's waiting."

Margaret gave him a big hug. "Have a great life."

He put his hands her shoulders. "Take care, Margaret..." He was sincere and sad at the same time.

"Bye," said Andrew, who observed his wife watching Chad as he walked away. When Andrew and Margaret were safely out of earshot, he asked, "old friend?"

"From high school," said Margaret. "My first boyfriend," she added, with a hint of color rising in her cheeks.

"Oh… how many… have you had?" Andrew wondered if she was comparing him to Chad.

"Yeah, um… a couple, you know, one in high school, one in college..."

"Why do I get the feeling that you're leaving something out?"

"It's boring, really. My history…"

"You know about me and Gertrude…"

"Yeah."

"After her, I dated Sheila for a few months, but that didn't work out. Then various girls, but never found one to settle down with."

"I dated Chad for a long time… actually, since seventh grade…" Margaret confessed.

So he's that kind of friend, thought Andrew. "What happened?"

"Things fell apart after my parents died."

Andrew felt as if he had just pieced together a major part of Margaret's life. He took her hand and squeezed it.

"Everything changed, didn't it?" he declared softly.

"Everything… the truth is, ever since Chad, I just… drifted for fifteen, twenty years. And then I was never with anyone long enough to… I had long periods of being celibate… sometimes by choice, sometimes not."

An ironic smile crossed her face.

"I guess I was waiting for that special person, huh? I was."

"Which makes what you said to me that one day…" he recalled their conversation in her office very clearly.

"I was being a selfish idiot, okay? You got me."

"Yup, I gotcha," he replied with satisfaction as he drew her into his arms. "So… how does it feel to be my wife and girlfriend?"

Her face lit up with a muted but genuine smile. "It feels good."

His cell phone buzzed. "Hold on," he said as he grabbed it from his coat pocket.

"It's a text from Ramone. He's having a blast in New York."

Margaret chuckled. "Tell him he'd better get back to Alaska pronto so he can officiate our third wedding!"

"How about let's just elope?"

"I would be open to destination weddings, yes," nodded Margaret.

"Jamaica, here we come…" he joked.

She giggled and wiggled her hips as she began singing, "Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I want to take ya… Key Largo, Montego, baby, why don't we go…"

IN ALASKA

Andrew and Margaret set their luggage down in their Alaskan hotel room.

"It's pretty comfy," said Andrew as he looked around.

"Now Mom's not gonna let us stay at her house again, ever," Margaret pouted.

"She just wanted us to have some privacy, that's all," he replied as he pulled her down to him on the bed. "Ah….. I could sleep right now…"

Margaret tried to pull her hunk up. "No can do, we have to be at the house in an hour."

"Oh yeah, Mom's gonna come get you at five, then I'll meet you there later."

"What are you doing?" asked Margaret, who was now curious.

"I need to take care of something," was all he would say.

"What is it? Com'on, tell me."

He grinned. "Nope, it's a surprise."

She reluctantly got herself ready and went with Grace to the house, where she reacquainted herself with all of the friends and relatives she met the first time she arrived and apologized profusely to all of them. She was so grateful that most of them remained supportive.

"It's all right, hon. Andrew's irresistible. Who could turn him down?" said Aunt Agnes with a naughty smirk.

Margaret gave her a canned smile. Where was Andrew?

"Ta da!" she heard him call across the room. Everyone gasped as Margaret turned around. She had to remind herself to close her mouth.

"What the…?"

Andrew walked across the room, looking debonair in his tuxedo, holding a bag of rose petals. He opened it and scattered some petals in front of her feet before kneeling on one knee.

"I know this whole tuxedo thing was just a sham, but Margaret, will you marry me?"

"Awwww…" Everyone chimed in unison. Margaret giggled as he gave her the decoupage box with tiny photos of him plastered all over it.

"You did this for me?" she exclaimed. She tried to stifle her giggles.

"I just wanted to see if our fake proposal story would work," he replied as everyone in the room chuckled.

"So that means when I open this box, I should see…" She opened it and glanced down inside.

"Nothing! Woo hoo!" she cheered as she waved the box around. The crowd in the room burst into laughter as Andrew got up.

"Seriously, though, everyone, we're gonna have a real wedding tomorrow, and I hope you can come. It'll be twice the fun! And I promise that the bride will not run away this time," he declared as he squeezed Margaret.

"You're a fool, Andrew!" someone in the crowd yelled.

Andrew caressed Margaret's cheek and said, "yep, I'm a fool in love." And he and his bride shared a long, languid kiss. She grinned and hung on to his neck for a bit.

"So, is this what you're wearing to our wedding tomorrow?" she inquired.

"Nope! Sorry, aint' gonna happen," said Andrew in his famously farcical tone. "I'm wearin'
a t-shirt and jeans."

"Then I shall do the same," replied Margaret, calling his bluff.

"Nooo you can't, because you have to wear granny's wedding dress."

"And you can't, either, Andy," Grandma Annie chimed in, "because I'll kill you if you don't dress up."

"And so will I," said Grace.

Andrew glanced at his father. "Come on, dad, back me up here."

Joe grinned and shrugged. "In case you haven't noticed, we're outnumbered."

"All right," Andrew faked a sigh. "Just for you ladies."

Chuck patted his longtime friend on the back.

"Hehe, it's all about her from here on out. No more you, just her. Get used to it, buddy," Chuck wisecracked.

Andrew jibed at his old pal. "Just you wait, Chuck. You'll have your chance."

"No way, I'm never getting married. Too messy, dude."

Andrew cupped his hands like a bullhorn. "Ladies, there you have it! Please do not date Chuck. He's afraid of commitment!"

"Hey!" yelled Chuck as he chased after Andrew, who bolted for the door.

Gertrude came up to Margaret, laughing and shaking her head. "Boys," she remarked.

"Inside every man is a little boy waiting to be let out to play," Margaret declared.

"I'm so glad you came back," said Gertrude.

"Yeah, I'm sorry, I know I hurt everyone…" Margaret began.

"It's all right, it's in the past now. As long as Andrew's happy, I'm happy for him."

Margaret felt that warm fuzziness in her navel she had tried to push away ever since she came to Alaska.

"You know, I'd always wished I had a sister like you."

Gertrude was pleased by Margaret's suggestion.

"Thank you. I don't have any sisters, so I'd like that very much."

Margaret and Gertrude hugged, to the delight of Grace and Annie.

"Tell me about New York," said Gertrude.

"New York? I don't even know where to begin."

"Start with your wedding."

"Of course," replied Margaret as she sat down to tell her tale for the hundredth time.

THIRD WEDDING

Andrew took his bride in his arms and really looked at her this time as he grinned from ear to ear. Margaret had to nudge him a few times because he wasn't listening to Ramone.

"I do," she said. It was the sweetest thing he'd ever heard.

"I do," he said. She trembled a little at the power of two sincere, heartfelt words.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife," declared Ramone.

Andrew breathed a sigh of relief as he leaned in to kiss Margaret. This time, the bride stayed, and she wasn't too bad at dancing, either. Neither was he.

LEAVING ALASKA

Margaret didn't want to leave Alaska. "We'll be back during the holidays, I promise," she swore to Grace and Annie, as Andrew nodded his approval.

After a long hug between the three women, Margaret waved to Gertrude and Ramone and all the lovely people of Sitka that she had come to know in the last week. Funny, how a week could change her life completely. As the plane took off, she stared longingly at the water, wondering what it would be like to live in Sitka for the rest of her life.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Andrew as he observed her.

"I'm gonna miss this place," she replied softly.

"It's a good place to visit."

"And to live," she added.

Andrew looked at her funny. "You couldn't stand living there for more than a week."

Margaret chafed at the suggestion that somehow she couldn't hack it in a small town. "And why not? You think I'm such a pansy?"

Andrew shrugged. "You'd be bored."

"Is that why you left?"

"I left because of my love of books," he said, tongue-in-cheek.

She chuckled. "I thought I killed that in you."

He grinned. "Not by a long shot."

She twirled a few tufts of his hair between her fingers.

"Good. When we get back, we'll see if you can survive living with me for a week."

"Heh heh, it can't be that hard."

"If you think I was a bitch at the office, just wait…" she replied as she tugged another tuft of hair.

"Ow! You didn't!"

She gave him an innocent smile and looked straight ahead, as if nothing had just happened. But he tackled her from behind and pulled her close.

"Hey!" she cried.

"You're stuck with me, lady."

Try as she might, she could not loosen his iron grip around her waist. Finally, disgusted, she gave up.

"All right, I give up! You win, you have the stronger arms."

"Don't you forget it, baby. I'm never letting you go."

She giggled and said, "Now, that's creepy."

"Romantic," he replied.

"Disturbing," she retorted.

"Loving."

"Suffocating."

"Affectionate."

"Controlling."

"Devoted."

"Obsessed."

"You're just full of sunshine today, aren't you?"

"Storm clouds and lightening comin' your way!"

He enjoyed their repartee a bit too much, he thought. So before she could say another word he pounced on her lips. He didn't care if the other passengers saw them.

STORMY FLIGHT

Margaret and Andrew hung on to their seats as dark storm clouds engulfed their airplane. Everything that could shake or rattle in that tin cabin did.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We're going around a thunderstorm and expect to be out of the system in twenty minutes."

Andrew eyed his spilt drink on the tray. "Storm clouds and lightening, huh?"

"It was a joke!" cried Margaret. "I didn't mean it literally!"

Just then the cabin shuddered and the whole plane seemed to go up and down like an amusement park ride. Some passengers moaned and others wailed from sheer terror. Andrew grabbed Margaret and held her close.

"If we get out of this alive, I swear that we'll have the best life together, ever," he declared.

"And I promise not to be such a witch anymore," she whispered.

He sneered at her guarantee, however earnest. It would be difficult for her to keep. He kept holding her tight and would only let go when the storm passed.

She looked up at him and wondered aloud, "Why do you even love me?"

He glanced down at her. "Don't think about it. Just know that I do."

She shook her head. "I still can't believe I'm a married woman-me, married. Next thing you know, I'll be a mom."

His eyes popped open. No, it was much too soon to think about little tykes running around his—their apartment.

Margaret chuckled when she saw the look on his face. "You look frightened."

He clenched his jaw and smiled anxiously. "Hold your horses; I'm not ready for kids."

"My biological clock is ticking," she teased.

"And my brain is going nuts right now… too much information…" he declared as he slapped his forehead. "No way…." he grumbled.

The plane rocked from more turbulence, and he held on to her for dear life.

"It's all right," she said. "I won't burden you with those responsibilities right away..."

"You know my family's gonna ask us, anyway," Andrew replied sardonically. "If we have a daughter, I'll teach her to be kind to her employees when she grows up."

"Nah, better to be feared than to be loved… Machiavelli."

"Don't you give her any ideas," he warned.

She gave him her classic smirk, the one from the girl who didn't want to admit her vulnerability to anyone, least of all, a man. He surprised her by leaning in for a kiss.

"What…what are you doing?"

"Kissing you."

"But…"

He cut her off and smacked against her lips as he thought of how fun it would be for them to make out until they died or safely landed.

She came up for air.

"This isn't the time…" she began.

"But it's the perfect time. When we get back to New York you and I will be living our busy lives. Just think, when will we ever have time to do this again?"

Margaret thought about what he said for a moment and grudgingly accepted that it made sense. So when he came after her again, she succumbed to his advances. She was sure that their flight attendant grew very annoyed with them for ignoring her service calls, but that was okay. Somehow, Andrew made her feel younger.

"You'd better stop, darling, or else I'm gonna turn into a sixteen year-old girl again."

"All the better to kiss you by, my bride," he replied, amused, as he gently shifted a stray strand of hair off her face.

Her eyes watered as she spoke. "I… am grateful… for you, Andrew Paxton."

She knew he had heard her, even if he pretended he didn't.

"Look, the skies have cleared. We might make it to New York after all," said Andrew as he pointed out the window.

"New York, here we come."

"Yes, Paxton and Paxton at your service."

They grinned at each other. The publishing world wouldn't know what hit them. Together they would be unstoppable.

"You make it sound like we're superheroes or something," remarked Margaret.

"Who's the hero and who's the sidekick?" he asked.

"We're both," she declared.

He nodded. His wife was right, as usual, of course. He would have to get used to that, but it might not be too painful to deny his ego once in awhile.

"Are you ready for me to move in?"

"Be prepared for some hysterical screaming. I'm a neat freak," she said.

"I know. And I'm a slob, so you'll have to relax a bit."

She sighed. "What did I get myself into?"

He grinned. "This, my dear Margaret, is called marriage."

THREE YEARS LATER

Andrew and Margaret smiled as they raised their wine glasses for a toast. New York Harbor had never looked prettier than tonight, from their hotel room.

"I have something for you," said Andrew as he set his glass down. He took a jewelry box out of his coat pocket and set it on her palm. She gasped when she saw what lay inside.

"Anniversary ring," he added, as if she didn't know already.

She looked up at him, pleased but curious.

"So… you think we're gonna make it another three years?" she asked.

He took the ring and slid it on her finger. It fit snugly next to the two other rings already there.

"Well, considering that we now work for our own publishing company, we just might have a chance."

"Who would've ever thought that this would have happened? And that Ramone would take over managing your dad's business?" she mused.

Andrew glanced up at the stars and grinned. "Who, indeed?"

He caressed her cheek and leaned in to kiss her, but she stopped him just short of her lips.

"Oooh, wait, there's something I want to show you!" she exclaimed as she dug in her purse. She took out her wallet and showed him her driver's license.

"Look here!"

His jaw dropped as he scanned her license and credit cards. They all had the name "Margaret Paxton" emblazoned on them.

"You changed your name?"

"Well, I figured now that the trial period was over, I would… make it official," she declared matter-of-factly.

Andrew chuckled. "Mrs. Paxton..."

He put his arm around her and raised his wine glass.

"To Margaret, my romantic heroine and wife."

She raised her glass as well.

"To my husband Andrew, who gave me a chance."

Their glasses clinked and they eagerly sipped some wine. Then Margaret raised her glass again.

"To Grandma Annie, Mom, and everyone in Sitka who brought us together."

Andrew nodded and sipped wine again. "To Sitka."

Margaret's cell phone suddenly rang with an unceasing cacophony of noise. She lunged for her purse and dug it out just in time. She grimaced as she read her phone screen.

"It's the babysitter…. Hello? Yeah, oh…we'll be there… No, no, it's okay."

She hung up and looked at him. "We have to go home. Delilah just sneezed."

Andrew rolled his eyes. "You're cutting short our anniversary celebration for that? Babies sneeze all the time. It doesn't mean that she's sick."

Margaret grabbed her husband's hand and barely dragged him a step towards the door.

"Come on, daddy, don't you wanna see your little girl?"

He sighed so loudly that she could hear it. So much for his romantic plans.

Margaret took a deep breath and tried not to think of Delilah for a moment.

"On second thought, maybe we can wait twenty minutes… give our girl a brother, you know…"

A mischievous grin appeared on his face.

"A brother? Yes, ma'am… I'll start on it right away."

She tittered. Andrew often feigned the hapless guy routine, but she knew better.

"Give me some synonyms for 'canoodle'," he demanded.

"I can't," she replied most innocently.

"A pity," he teased. "And now you will pay."

She let go of all semblance of control and felt herself melting into him until they were one.

THE END.

Thanks for reading my story! I really enjoyed writing this one, because it was so much fun. I hope you will write your own alternative ending if you like, or even your version of what happened. Best wishes to you all.