Real life is so much more fun than fiction some times. Also less dignified. And soggier.
I got engaged in Paris. Sounds gorgeous, right? And it was, kinda. Also ridiculous. My then boyfriend and I had gone to England for a week, and were going to spend five days in Paris before returning home. And we both knew he was going to ask me to marry him sometime while we were there. How did I know this? Danny’s the kind of guy who would not buy me a ring unless he knew I liked it, so I went with him to the jewelers. And he carried the ring on what became the Scone Tour of Great Britain (he had to sample scones at every bakery we passed) and into Paris. It began to feel like that ring was the third party on the trip, waiting to come out of his pocket and into the conversation; a subtext of Just Ask Already began to creep in to the conversation. So why didn’t he? The dark secret my husband harbors is that he is a stone romantic. It was, therefore, inevitable that he would wait to propose until we got to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Forgetting that I have issues about high places…
On an overcast afternoon, we ascended to the top of the Tower. I loved being up there, but standing at the railing looking over the gray, misty expanse of the City of Light, part of my brain already had me ten feet over the railing and falling fast. I gripped the railing, white knuckled, with a sort of queasy enjoyment. Danny, observing all this, decided sensibly that dropping to one knee in that moment might not be his best tactic, even if he was pretty certain I was going to say Yes. So we finished being at the Tower and got into the elevator down. By the time we reached the streets the skies had opened, and rather than go on to the Rodin Museum, we headed back to our hotel.
We arrived there so soaked that our clothes steamed in the warmth of our room; so we sat around in our underwear, towelling our hair and plotting what our next move would be.
“I was going to ask you up there,” he noted. “Then I saw your face and…”
I agreed this was a smart move on his part, but allowed as how I was beginning to be distracted from the glories of Paris because I was waiting for him to propose. But he wanted to be romantic. But we were in Paris, I pointed out, which is romantic down to its metaphorical toes. Even our hotel room was romantic. At which point he rooted through the soggy pocket of his jeans and came up with a jeweler’s box.
Thus I became engaged in Paris, sitting in a cramped hotel room in my underwear, waiting for my shoes to dry out. It was perfectly lovely, and utterly characteristic of our not-the-way-normal-people-do-things relationship. For the rest of the trip, every now and then one of us would look at the other and intone the word underwear,* and we would both grin.
That was 23 years ago. I guess it took. Happy Valentine’s Day. May your romances be off kilter but lasting.
* this is partly meant to be a reference to Woody Allen’s movie Bananas.
Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, just out from Plus One Press). She is also the author of a double-handful of short fiction, most available on her bookshelf. Her first Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, and The Heiress Companion, are now available from Book View Café. She has just completed The Salernitan Women, an historical novel set in medieval Italy.