As engagement rings went, it was rather understated. But then, looking back, so was the proposal...
"You know... I've been thinking... maybe we should get married."
AJ paused the game and snapped her head round exaggeratedly to look at him.
"What? One, if you're serious I expect a better proposal. Two, this goes against every other conversation we've ever had on the issue."
"Well, you know, it's been eleven months, I'm 33 years old now, I think it's time."
"What do you mean you think it's time? You said to me, when we first had a talk about 'the future', that you found marriage unnecessary. 'Our love is above the law and doesn't need to be formalised.' Your exact words. And I concurred wholeheartedly."
"You snogged my face off."
"Cos it was romantic as fuck. Why the change of heart?"
"Well, OK... it's mum and dad. They won't stop fucking asking, and it's not that I'm against marriage, it's just I personally don't see the point, but you know, they're very traditional like that, and if it makes them happy..."
"So you're gonna marry me just to shut your parents up?" AJ frowned.
"Sweetheart, it's not like that, I just..."
"Alright then." AJ interrupted with an agreeable smile. Wade did a double take.
"What do you mean alright then?"
"I'll do it. I'm in a similar boat; I mean, my folks are pretty free and easy on the whole thing, but there's many a Mendez still clings to their rosaries."
"A Catholic wedding?"
"Not necessarily, just so long as I tap out to the wed-lock they'll be satisfied. Gonna have to have it somewhere that can accommodate half the Puerto Rican population of Union City... and a good third of Puerto Rico itself."
"And half of Lancashire too. And shall we say... four friends each? Two from work, two from home. Dunno about you, but I'd just find it awkward having the whole roster gawping and aww-ing at us. No idea how Drew and Summer held their nerve."
"I'm just pissed that they didn't thank us in their toast. If you hadn't kicked her out of bed that night, and if I hadn't come to him for help, they'd never have been on that corridor at the same time."
"Very true. Anyway, back to us. Which side of the pond are we having it on?"
"Hmm... somewhere in between?"
"Why? Know of a good oil rig?"
"Well, I've always wanted to go to Iceland."
"You're serious, aren't you?" Wade questioned rather pointlessly. AJ was fond of making ridiculous demands and then deciding they weren't so ridiculous after all. She knew he was rarely able to say no to her.
"No Iceland, no deal. Not like we can't afford it."
"Fine, Iceland... needs to be in a warm month then... June?"
"Sounds good. Six months to plan the perfect playlist for the reception... but I did say I wanted a better proposal."
For all his cynicism about the act of marriage, Wade all of a sudden felt rather anxious and determined to get it right. He knelt at her feet. He looked up into her eyes. The same eyes he had looked into in San Jose almost a year earlier. Back then they were full of need, begging for someone to be by her side, to support her through the bizarre and often cruel life she had chosen to lead. Since then he'd become that someone and more.
He knew how much she loved him, it never failed to send his head in a spin. The way she instantly relaxed and entered a state of complete peace when he held her. Her disposition around him; a level of affection and excitement that was his and only his to enjoy. Not Punk's, not anyone else's. How could he have ever doubted that?
He loved her back in a way he had never thought possible. Nothing in his life had not been enriched immeasurably by having her by his side. This good-natured, quick-witted, supportive, perceptive, stunningly beautiful girl. This was the happy ending, the one he had dismissed as an ostentatious, unrealistic dream held only by the foolish, yet it was here before him in the form of the woman who he could honestly say had shaped him more than anyone he'd ever known. Sometimes it was good to remind himself of this, and a proposal, cliche and totally against his rationale though it was, was the perfect opportunity to do so. Together they'd fought tooth and nail to get to this stage.
"April Jeanette Mendez... I love you with all my heart. If the rest of my life is spent with you, then I know I've spent it the best way I possibly could. You're quite honestly a more incredible human being than I'd ever believed existed before I met you. So please, please... will you marry me?"
"Dammit, you're actually making me excited about this now. You've made a believer out of me, you absolute bastard. I'll never forgive you for this... But of course I'll marry you."
She let him take her in his arms, let him kiss the top of her head and place it against his heart. The place in which she always imagined being whenever she was scared or upset. She used to fear she'd never experience this. So many near misses, but this time, this time was different. This man had never loved anyone else, nor would he ever, she had reason to believe. There was no way of explaining it... she so upbeat and excitable, so profoundly in touch with her inner child, and him so surly, so crushingly realistic. They should have nothing to say to one another, yet life without him... she couldn't even bare contemplating it now, and she wouldn't have to. The paranoia she'd felt with every man that came before, that it was a matter of time before they became bored and wandered; that wouldn't happen with Wade. He'd battled for her, he'd taken everything the world could throw, and here he was sincerely, wonderfully pledging the rest of his life to her.
"And it all started with a game of crazy golf, eh?" he said softly in her ear.
"Yup. And if you'd not gone for milkshakes with me I might never have wanted to see you again."
"That's what clinched it, is it?"
"Pretty much, I realised that I'd never get bored of seeing you being all moody and British whilst surrounded by cheesy Americana. I knew it was the kind of hilarity my life needed."
"Is that why you keep me around then?"
"Yeah... that and the sex, anyways."
"I've just asked for your hand in marriage, would it kill you to be serious for a change?"
"Always ruining my fun, huh? Well, there is one thing I want to ask..."
She hated herself for it. She knew the answer he'd give., it should have meant nothing. But she'd never heard it from anybody before and she knew she'd believe it coming from him.
"Will you always love me?"
"Always, my little pocket rocket, always."
The End. Five months and twenty-nine chapters, but I got there. I cannot even begin to express how happy I was to receive the amount of views and reviews that I have. I'd never done anything like this before and it was the overwhelmingly positive response that kept me going. Thank you all for your support and look out for more from me in the future :)