Four years later I sat on my bed, making the same wish I had been making since my junior year of high school: that Gabriella would come back to me.
I had graduated college just a year before, and was currently working as a basketball coach for elementary school boys. I wonder if Gabriella got a job yet? I asked myself. I hope not; I hope she's still looking for one. Then there would be a chance that she would become a science teacher at the school I work at instead of a scientist. However, I knew my fantasies were just, well, fantasies. Gabriella was an ambitious girl. She would never settle for anything less than she had originally set her mind to.
As I got on my shoes, preparing to go out to shoot some hoops, I continued musing about Gabriella. I wondered if she had changed any. I know I did. My hair was shorter than it had been last time we met, and, according to quite a few acquaintances I have, I had matured.
"Troy, what do you think of these flowers for my wedding?" Julia, who was in the living room flipping through catalogs depicting floral arrangements, questioned when I arrived downstairs. Having just graduated college with a degree in dance, my all too lucky sister was getting married at the end of the summer to a man she had met at Julliard.
"They look great!" I answered, forcing a smile as I glanced at the photo in the catalog that Julia was pointing to.
"I like them, too. I think I'll order them today. So where are you going?"
"The park. To shoot some hoops."
"Oh, okay. I'll see you in a little while, then."
"I'll see you." With that, I turned the shiny doorknob and exited the house.
The day of Julia's wedding arrived. I walked through the wide, glass doors of the church where it was to be held in a crisp tuxedo and polished dress shoes, which weren't the most comfortable things to me. My hair was combed off my forehead, and my palms were sweaty from the nervousness I was feeling. After all, I was the best man in the wedding party, and the thought of having to walk down an aisle with a hundred people staring at me was terribly nerve-wracking, especially since Julia had refused to tell me who the maid of honor was.
"Troy, are you ready?"
I spun around to see my sister in an expensive pearl white gown that grazed the floor. Pinned securely in her freshly styled hair was a gauzy veil, and her make-up was a little heavier than how she usually wore it. "Yeah...I'm ready," I answered, my stomach flipping as I came to the realization that in less than ten minutes I would have all my family-not to mention Julia's fiancé's family-and all the family friends on both sides turning their eyes on me.
"Well, then, I guess I should tell you who the maid of honor is."
"Yeah, I think you should."
"But before you meet her, I'm going to give you this." Julia slid her engagement ring off her finger and, to my astonishment, placed it in my palm.
"Why..." I began.
"You're gonna need it, trust me," Julia replied. "Now put it in your pocket."
I quickly obliged to my sister's wish, though I was thoroughly nonplussed. Why was she giving me her ring? That was something I would think she would keep and cherish forever.
"And now meet my maid of honor," Julia continued, a bright smile spreading upon her glossed lips.
My blue eyes widened as the maid of honor walked toward me. Her dark curls were piled elegantly atop her head, her chocolate irises had a happy gleam in them, and the smile on her sweet lips, the lips that were so difficult to resist connecting mine with, was joyful. She wore a strapless pale violet dress which gracefully brushed the carpet, just barely allowing her white high-heeled sandals to show. Her hands were delicately folded around a large bouquet of white roses. I didn't have to think twice about who she was.
"Gabriella," I said, my voice coming out in a hoarse whisper. Am I dreaming?
"Troy," Gabriella smiled as she suddenly broke into a run and, carelessly tossing her bouquet onto a nearby coffee table, threw her arms about my waist. "It's been too long."
"Yes, it has," I agreed, still dazed, as I returned her hug.
"Alright, you two." Julia's voice broke into the moment of my life. "The wedding's starting. Get into line."
After retrieving her bouquet, Gabriella gripped my hand tightly. I smiled down at her and lightly brushed my lips against the soft skin of her cheek, then silently signaled for her to take my arm rather than my hand, as that was the proper way to escort a woman down the aisle at a wedding.
"Troy," Gabriella started quietly.
"We'll talk later," I assured her. "As much as I'd like to discuss things with you now, I can't. We've got a wedding going on."
The dinner, toasts, and gift unwrapping at the outdoor reception were completed. Most of the guests had already bid Julia and her new husband their wishes for a happy marriage and gone home. The few that still remained were talking amongst themselves, leaving Gabriella and I with nothing to do but converse about the events that had happened over the course of time we were away from each other.
"Do you want to take a walk with me?" I invited.
"It would be my pleasure," Gabriella answered, her eyes sparkling with obvious delight.
I rose from my chair, then took Gabriella's delicate hand and helped her up. Keeping hold of one another's fingers, we then started down the walking path that was only a few feet from the table we had been sitting at.
"We have so much to catch up on," I said.
"Yeah," Gabriella agreed. I could hear that melodious ring in her voice. That ring my ears had been aching for since our last meeting.
"What have you been doing these past years?" I inquired.
"Well, I finished up college this year. I would've been done last year, but I wanted to take an extra course. And now, I'm trying to find a good job. What about you?"
"I graduated from college last year, and now I'm an elementary school basketball coach. Well, for the time being, anyway. I hope to go professional eventually."
"And I'm sure you will."
A silence between us followed Gabriella's words as we continued strolling down the path, hand in hand. Everything around us was quiet, too, with the exception of the soft chirping of crickets. The fiery glow of sunset washed over the horizon, making the moment even more perfect than it already was.
"Gabriella, can I ask you a question?" I ventured.
Gabriella turned her irresistible eyes toward my face. "Of course," she answered.
"Let's sit on this bench," I suggested, indicating a wooden bench at the side of the path.
"Okay." Gabriella permitted me to lead her over to the seat, where we both sat down.
I suddenly forgot what I was going to ask. All I was able to think about was how beautiful Gabriella was, with the cool, evening breeze gently blowing a few curls that had escaped from her dressy bun around, and her chocolate irises melting with my ocean ones. My stomach flipped over and sweat began forming on both my forehead and my palms. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out.
"What did you want to ask me?" Gabriella prompted.
What if this ruins everything? What if she laughs in my face? What if she starts crying? "Um..." I started feebly as I, almost involuntarily, turned my eyes toward the ground, unsure about whether or not I should really ask her what I had in mind. Just do it. If you don't, you'll regret it. "Well, you know last time we saw each other you um...told me that...uh...um...you loved me?" I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest.
"Yes," Gabriella responded casually.
"Okay...um...I was just wondering if you still feel that way about me?" I raised my head.
"Yes," Gabriella repeated, but this time in a stronger, more emotional voice in which I could distinctly detect affection.
"I love you, too," I revealed.
For a few seconds, Gabriella and I just stared hungrily at each other's lips. However, I didn't feel that was the right time to kiss her. I had to do something else first. Inserting my hand into the pocket of my pants, I dug around until my fingers found the valuable object for which I was searching for. Pulling it out, I slowly slid my sweaty hand out of Gabriella's, and, getting off the bench, went down on one knee, the ring lying in my outstretched palm. "Gabriella Montez, I want to be with you for the rest of my life."
I noticed tears gathering in Gabriella's eyes. For a second I froze, thinking I was making her unhappy. But then I caught the smile playing on her irresistible lips, and my muscles relaxed.
"Will you marry me?" I asked.
"Yes," Gabriella answered confidently, a large tear rolling down her cheek.
I took my new fiancé's left hand and carefully slid the ring onto the correct finger. I then observed her as she gently fingered the valuable object with her other hand, as if she was trying to prove to herself that what had just happened was genuine.
I sat back on the bench, then placed the palm of my hand against Gabriella's soft cheek, slowly turning her face toward mine. After using my fingers to wipe off the tears that were still trickling down her glowing skin, I leaned in and pressed my lips onto hers. Immediately, I felt sparks. This was the feeling for which I had been waiting way too long to experience.
"You know," I started when Gabriella and I pulled away from each other, "Meeting you again was like catching lightning."
"And feeling the way we do is one in a million."
"Hey, can I have this dance?"
The smile that was already lighting up Gabriella's face grew wider as she took the hand I offered her while we both stood up. We then began to waltz in the soft green grass, enjoying our all too perfect moment.
I was exhilarated about the occurrences of the evening. I had caught my bolt of lightning. My power was back. I was myself again.