New Year's Eve, 2005 – One year later

"Wow, I can't believe I'm here," I murmured, as Lizzie and I walked hand-in-hand across the Kapalua beach in Maui, watching the sun setting on the horizon. "It's been so long that I never imagined that I'd ever have the chance to come back here again. And I especially didn't imagine that I might be here with you again someday."

"I know," said Lizzie, smiling up at me, her eyes full of happiness. "I almost can't believe it either."

"You know, the time we spent together right here on this beach that summer is one of my fondest memories," I admitted then, smiling as I remember those long-ago summer days… and nights.

"Yeah," nodded Lizzie beside me.

"It was great," I continued. "No responsibilities, no pressures, no difficult life decisions… just you and me enjoying ourselves and letting loose. Sometimes I just wish I could go back to that time – back when everything was simple."

"I know what you mean," she replied wistfully, resting her head on my upper arm as we walked.

I smiled down at her and then gently extracted my hand from hers and reached round to slip my arm around her shoulders, hugging her close to me. I closed my eyes briefly as the sweet scent of her shampoo wafted in my direction under the warm breeze.

"I'm so glad you're here with me," she murmured softly. "It's been such an amazing year for us and it only seems right that we say goodbye to it and welcome in 2006 together… in the very same place we first met."

It was true, it had been an amazing year for us. We'd shared so much together, from the moment We'd woken up together in my apartment last Christmas morning; to the cold New York January night when we'd gone on our first date in over six years – a far cry from the afternoon of surfing that had been our official first date as teenager, mind you; to the warm day in May, just after Lizzie's college graduation when I had finally pushed aside my nervousness and asked her to move in with me; and right through to six weeks ago, when Lizzie invited me to join her and her family for Christmas and New Year in Maui… an invitation I didn't hesitate to say yes to. It had been the best year of me life… but I still felt that there was something missing, something I was determined to put right this very evening.

As we approached the old surf shop where Lizzie had been working that summer when she and I first met, I tightened my arm around her slightly and she looked up at me in question.

"Do you remember?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper as I nodded toward the shop.

She nodded, a smile playing on her lips, "As if I could ever forget."

"I fell in love with you that first day, you know," I murmured honestly. "I saw you through the shop window and that was it. I just had to come in and talk to you… find out who you were."

"It was love at first sight then," she decided, her gaze turning to focus on the old wooden building at the edge of the sand for a moment. "'Cause that was the moment I fell in love with you too."

My heart skipped a beat at her admission and I smiled widely.

"Lizzie," I said gently, as I urged her to stop and turn to face me. I gazed down into her beautiful dark eyes as I took both of her hands in mine and spoke again, "I love you; I always have. You mean the whole world to me and even though we were apart for so long, now that I've found you again, I never want to let you go."

She nodded earnestly, her eyes brimming with emotion, "I feel the same way, Max. I love you so much."

I couldn't help but smile down at her, "So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Lizzie; I want to make a life with you, I want to have children with you and I want to grow old with you."

"Oh, Max…" murmured Liz, shaking her head as she bit her lip, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as I sank down on one knee in the warm sand. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small black box, opening it as I asked, "Elizabeth Parker, will you marry me?"

"Oh…"she gasped, her eyes wide with surprise before she broke out in a big smile. "Yes."

My heart leapt at the word and I grinned.

"Yes," she said again, her voice stronger as she nodded emphatically. "Of course, I will Max Evans."

"Really?" I wanted to be sure.

"Really," she confirmed. "I love you so much. And I want all those things with you too."

I grinned as I took out the ring. Reaching for her small, delicate hand, I slid the ring onto her finger. It was a perfect fit… thank goodness that she liked to leave her jewellery lying around the apartment so I could sneakily borrow one of her rings for the sizing.

"Lizzie," I murmured as I stood up and took her into my arms. "You have just made me the happiest man in the world."

She laughed freely at my cheesy proclamation at first, but then she looked into my eyes her expression full of love, "And you have just made me the happiest woman in the world. I love you."

"And I you," I smiled, my eyes searching hers as I lowered my lips to hers for a breath-taking, mind-numbing kiss.

"Happy New Year, Lizzie," I said softly. "My beautiful soon-to-be wife."

"Happy New Year, Max," she grinned in return. "My handsome husband-to-be."

We were married eight months later on the very beach where we met for the first time and where I proposed to her seven-and-a-half years after that first meeting… our wedding day was the ninth anniversary of the day we first kissed… and it was the best day of my life.

Maui's Kapalua beach will forever hold a very special place in my heart. It was where I met the love of my life; it was where I proposed to her; it was where I married her and it is where we have made our home.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Or as they say here in Hawaii…

Hau'oli Lanui.