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chapter eleven...'bout time, eh?...

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

6:00 rolled around, and I was sitting rather impatiently by the phone in my favorite, slightly ratty Eddie Bauer jeans and a long-sleeved green t-shirt. My leftover pizza was doing flip-flops in my stomach. 6:05. I started to worry. Maybe he got busy. Maybe he was in a wreck like Jamie. Maybe he forgot what time it is. I didn't even know which time zone he was in at that time. 6:10--finally, the phone rang. "Isaac?"

"Hello baby!"

"Isaac, you're 10 minutes late--"

"I know, I'm sorry, the meeting with the label lasted longer than anticipated; this was the first chance I had to call. I'm sorry. Happy Valentine's Day, Ree."

"Thank you, the same to you. And thanks for the beautiful roses today. They were delivered third period...and they figured it out."

"Who figured out what?"

"My class figured out who you are." Silence. "Isaac?"

"Yeah?" I heard a car turn off.

"They found out. About us, who you are, it was all over the school by the end of the day, is that a problem?"

"Nope, not at all, hon. Everyone's gonna find out soon enough anyway."

Just then, the doorbell rang. Probably my aunt...I shouldn't be so hard on her, it was her first Valentine's Day without Uncle Tim. "Hold on hon, there's someone at the door. Probably Aunt Dee." Still holding the cordless phone, I answered the door. It wasn't Aunt Dee; it was Isaac, carrying a small overnight bag. I dropped the phone and hugged him tightly, and dragged him inside kissing him, hoping that one of the cats didn't get outside unnoticed.

***

He handed me a small wrapped package that was obviously a CD. I opened it, and it was the new Hanson album, and like all the others he had given me over the years, personally autographed by all three guys. I excitedly looked it over, and scooted over to my stereo to put it in. "No, wait," he said. "Read the liner notes first. The thank you's."

"Okay," I answered, and skimmed to the thank you page. "What, did I actually get a mention other than 'To all the family and friends we've forgotten, thank you'?" I joked.

"You'll see," he said.

I scanned the thank you section to find anything of note. It started out as usual, thanks to family, friends, the backup band, etc. Then my eyes fell upon the following:

"A.M.S.: '...when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.' C.I.H."

My eyes welled up with tears of joy. I looked up to him, and he was sitting next to me on the floor, holding a small red velvet box, and asked the inevitable, "Will you marry me?" I knew what was inside the box. I just sat there, looking at him, knowing what I had to say, what I wanted to say, but nothing came out. I just sat there like an idiot, my tears beginning to fall down my face, my mouth hanging open like an idiot. The poor guy waited. "Well?" he finally asked.

I was still speechless. All I could do was nod my head yes and throw myself into his arms.

He opened the box, and saw a familiar ring. It was small and delicate, just 5 small diamonds in a row in a white gold setting. It looked like my grandmother's wedding ring. But could it be? "Is this...?"

"Yes. It was your Grandma Jean's. When I asked your father for your hand, he gave it to me and told me that he would be honored to have me in the family." My heart melted. This was so right.

"When did you ask him?"

"At Christmas," he said.

"When we were there right after Christmas?" He nodded. "You sneak--when?!"

"Remember when you and your mom hit the after-Christmas sales?"

"So my parents have known for over a month?" He nodded. "And this line...it's from When Harry Met Sally...--"

"Yeah, remember the day after Christmas when it was on TV?"

"Yeah?"

"That last speech that Billy Crystal gives at the end when he finds Meg Ryan at that New Year's party just made me realize what I had to do, and that's why I put that perfect line in the notes for you; I couldn't think of a better way to do it."

I looked again at the album. "Wait...is this the real album? The one that's going out to stores in a few weeks?"

"Yup!" he replied.

"So, every girl with the initials A.M.S. is going to be giving you a call, eh?" I teased.

"Who cares? I have the one I want," he said as he nuzzled my cheek.

I chuckled. "Now I guess you can say we've exchanged rings, eh?"

Isaac looked puzzled, and instinctively fiddled with the plain sterling silver ring on his left middle finger.

"See what I mean?" I said. "It's become such a part of you, you don't even realize it'st there."

Isaac blushed. "You count that day shopping as 'giving the ring to me'? Hardly," he scoffed.

I smiled to myself as I recalled the weekend that Isaac had come to visit me at grad school in Normal, IL, in the fall of 1996, before "everything" happened.

Isaac had taken the Amtrak from Tulsa to St. Louis, and then from St. Louis to Normal, to visit me over a weekend. We went out shopping in downtown Normal with my friends Linda and Tamara, and had wandered into one of those hip college-kid stores that smelled like patchouli and carried t-shirts with dirty sayings and hemp jewelry, among other things.

Isaac had stopped at the silver rings, and had been mulling over them for a while. I came over, carrying my intended purchases: a Beatles T-shirt and a copy of English as a Second F*cking Language (I had lost my first copy). "Hey, Ike," I said, bringing him out of his decisive focus.

"Hey," he smiled back. "I've always wanted a silver ring, but now I can't decide which one I want." He was trying to decide between a plain silver band and a thicker silver one with black tribal designs, which were quite trendy at that time.

I looked at the two rings and weighed in with my opinion. "I think you should go for the plain one. Not that I'd call it 'plain', but rather 'classic', maybe."

He agreed, put the plain one down on the counter, and reached into his back pocket for his wallet.

I took the ring and put it down on my purchases and smacked his arm. "I've got it, Ike." He began to protest, but I continued, "Ike, I've got it. Besides, your birthday's coming up in two months, and this way I'm off the hook a little easier!"

After I paid, I handed the ring to him, and he put it on the middle finger of his left hand. I said in a motherly tone, "Now, don't lose that when you're swimming out in L.A., or leave it on an amp somewhere in a recording studio."

He blushed. Seems he always did that. "Thanks, Ree, I mean it," he said, giving me a hug once we walked out of the store. "I'll look at it and remember you." I thought he was going to get all sentimental on me until he flipped me off with the ring on that finger and said, "See? I'm thinking of you already!", and ran off down the street, laughing loudly.

"You little shit!" I yelled after him, and Linda and Tam came out of the store, helping me give chase to an almost-sixteen-year-old who was obviously a faster runner than any of us.


On to Chapter Twelve
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