783. - Lucien
My heart is going wild inside my chest. I can barely think straight and with every word that comes out of my mouth, I'm scared I'll give myself away. If Emma has any idea something is bothering me, she doesn't comment on it. I drive us to Holyrood Park, a place we often walk. Especially now that spring has fully started it's lovely; you're surrounded by almost, or just-started blooming plants and flowers.
I glance in my rearview mirror a little too often, spotting the blue Peugot driving behind us. Gabriel is in there. It's not his car - Emma might recogise it. He's going to be following us in disguise, to document the whole thing as it goes down.
Every mile we get closer to the park, my heart starts beating louder, to the point I worry I might get a heart attack. Finally, Emma notices; she takes my hand over the stick-shift, and looks at me with a furrowed brow.
"Are you okay? You seem distracted."
Just a little. "Just tired, I think." I lie. Badly. "I didn't really get to nap."
"Oh, baby..." She rubs her thumb over the back of my hand. "Do you want to go back?"
"No, I think fresh air will be good for me." I smile. "We're almost there now anyway."
The ringbox seems to be burning its way through my pocket, ready to fall out and reveal itself far before it's supposed to. I will it to douse it's flame, or instead burn my leg.
When we get to the park, Emma's clearly surprised to see me head to the trunk first. Her eyes widen even more when I pull out the backpack we keep for picnicks. Then, her eyes narrow.
"Did you plan this?"
"Maybe." I laugh, swinging the bag over my shoulder. "I just wanted to thank you for making my birthday extra special... And what better way to do it than watching the sun set over the city while enjoying a good bottle of wine?"
She eyes me up and down, arms crossed over her chest. "I wonder if by your next birthday, I'll finally have you figured out."
"I wouldn't count on it. You've been trying for four and a half years."
She laughs, andt then extends her hand for me to take. "I guess that's true. But all those mysteries are half the fun of loving you."
I take her hand, and squeeze it. As I look over my shoulder, I see the blue Peugot parked on the other side of the lot, and my heartbeat quickens once again.
We stroll over the curling paths that lead us upwards. We take out time taking in the view, breathing in the fresh spring air that's filled with the scent of freshly cut grass and magnolia flowers. The park is mostly deserted, save a handful of people and a lone photographer. We talk. About the party, about the new office space she gifted me. About Chris, and how we already fell in love with her. About how crazy it was running into Anne. We bicker over what the best season of Friends is, and then collectively decide it's not any of the three last ones. There's stretches of silence, in which we just enjoy each other's company. Sometimes her hand leaves mine because she wants to inspect a bunch of flowers a little closer, but it always comes back. Eventually, we reach the highest point of the park - Arthur's Seat. It gives us an amazing view over the city and the skies above it, that are already slowly started to turn the bright colours of the sunset.
"When did you set all of this up?" Emma inquires as I started emptying the bag of its contents. She watches as I lay down the blanket and pop the cork on the bottle of red wine I know she loves.
"Last weekend. I knew that after our party, I wanted to do something special before our life went back to it's usual hectic antics. You know. Just the two of us."
"What if it had rained?"
"I would've set it up exactly like this, in front of our balcony doors."
She laughs, shaking her head. And then we're just sat there, facing the sunset as we toast our glasses. After the first sip, Emma turns my face towards her with a touch of her fingertips and kisses me softly.
"I love you so much."
I rest my forehead against hers. My heart is now going so quickly it's just a buzz, preparing me for the moment ahead. "I love you, too."
We enjoy our wine in silence, her body resting against mine as we watch the colours shift as the sun slowly lowers herself towards the horizon. I can't believe how lucky I've gotten with the beauty shown to us tonight.
"Em?" I ask softly after a while. Her head lays against my shoulder, and she doesn't look up.
My hand is already creeping towards my pocket, where I can still feel the box burning my skin. "Ask me for a penny."
"What?" I can feel her laughing, and her head tips slightly so she can look at me. "Why?"
"Just ask." I promise. My hand is back in my lap, keeping the box concealed for a little while longer. With a curious look on her face, Emma sits straight up and turns so that she's facing me.
"Okay." She says, clearly puzzled. "Penny for your thoughts?"
I take in a deep breath, willing my voice to be still. "There have been times when I considered myself a broken man. Some recent, some longer ago. I had my own ways of dealing with that, but it made the world a dull, often even a dark place. My only purpose in life was to run away from the things that broke me, so it wouldn't happen again. And then suddenly... There you were. Someone with her own scars given to her by the world. But instead of darkening you, it seemed to make you brighter. All you wanted to do was prove the world wrong, to show it that you weren't defeated yet. And as I fell in love with you, you pulled me along. You showed me brightness where I had long lost it. You didn't fix me. You knew you couldn't. But you always supported me as I found the ways to fix myself. And we got scarred again, and again, and again. But now we were together, and I found it easier to see the bright things. You were always the brightest."
Something in me wills me to put the box out on my knee, where Emma can see it, so I do. Immediately, she sucks in a sharp breath and her hand goes to cover her mouth.
"The last four years have been, without a doubt, the absolute brightest of my life. Even all the times we barely pulled through, I knew that I could have faith in you. Faith in us. So nearly year ago, when we pulled ourselves and then each other out of one of the deepests, darkest pits I've ever had the honour of residing in, I made a decision."
I pick up the box again, toying with it in my hands.
"I'm not sure about a lot of things. There are plenty of things that I don't know, and that I might ever find out. But there are few things that I am so absolutely certain of, as I am of wanting nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you and you alone."
I open the ringbox, revealing the jewelry inside.
"Emmeline Middleton, will you marry me?"
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