Karen checked herself in the full-length mirror. She hardly ever knew what to wear. To first days on jobs (power suit? tailored dress? flats? heels?) or funerals (too much black and you were horning in on the grief stricken family. You want sad, but not related to the corpse!) or garden parties (were you really going to be on grass?). She had a lot of trouble getting style and appropriateness to jibe. I should just not try so hard, she thought. However, now she felt confident: Pretty maroon cords, pretty Fair Isle sweater over creamy cotton turtleneck, cute casual boots, thin-soled and flat so she would really fit nicely under Kurt’s arm.
Thank goodness Kurt wasn’t one of those guys who plans a Mystery Date and gives you no clue what to wear or how to prepare. Her friend Stacy’s boyfriend took her as a “nice surprise” to a double-game soccer match. Ugh. She was pretty sure Kurt would never do that. He foretold a surprise weeks ago, and then last Monday promised her ice skating at the rink in Daleville! He knew she had loved ice skating when she was a kid in Michigan. Skating parties were right up there with slumber parties when she was a middle school girl. Karen unconsciously smiled thinking back on her darling pink pom-pomed skate laces and the thick pink sweater Aunt Zinnia had knit for her. She had no trouble putting together her look when she was fourteen. What had happened?
But how sweet and utterly perfect of Kurt to plan this for me! thought Karen. Unless I’ve forgotten how to skate or developed weak ankles. It had been a long time, and it is so easy to look stupid on ice. And remember, she told herself, absolutely no spins or twirls until Kurt had revealed his skill!
In the car Kurt seemed as happy and excited to skate as she, and they chattered easily like monkeys. Karen laughed a lot with Kurt and felt relaxed, and her worrying about how she would look or seem always turned out so foolish! She thanked her lucky stars for that day over the melons at Food Faire when she met him. How they had laughed on that first date over the coincidence of the day of their meeting and the apprehension of the serial killer who had been preying on woman in produce sections, wooing them, and then dicing them up like salad for dumpsters! Karen had thought that for a moment Kurt seemed a teeny bit proud of having been taken for a dangerous felon. Hilarious as it was, maybe he felt it was sexy to be a desperado. Men are so funny! she thought.
At the rink they were both a little wobbly at first, but that only meant more laughs and hanging on to each other. In a few minutes they were spinning independently and then turning together, and after a while Kurt even did a few little leaps. He had grown up in Wisconsin and told her he was quite a hockey player in high school. (How cute he was trying to impress her!) They were well matched on the ice, and Karen did indeed fit perfectly under his arm in Sweetheart position.
They took a break for cocoa and Oreos when the Zamboni was brought out to smooth the ice. Chocolate overkill is often better than vodka, thought Karen. While watching the other skaters and sipping from the paper cups, Kurt pulled a little velvet box out of his jacket pocket. Karen was in a sugar haze when he turned to face her and dropped one knee to the rubbery floor. It was awkward in skates but he did it with some grace, and he looked at her earnestly. Huh? thought Karen.
“Karen, you’re the best person I have ever known and you’re fun. Can you imagine us in fifty years? I can. Will you marry me?”
Holy Moly! Tonight, now, ME on skates, kinda hungry, kinda tired, kinda having to pee, he’s asking me! Not the moment I had imagined many, many times, but better! Way better! Sooner! The ring is a small rectangular emerald with diamond chips. My favorite stone, my favorite shape, my favorite man!
Kurt stood and Karen jumped up, reaching eagerly to hug him around the neck, bumping his arm hard and sending the little box flying up, up, up and onto the ice. “Oh, I’m so sorry! How stupid!” Karen cried out as they both watched the Zamboni heading straight for it! Kurt leaped onto the ice, and the Zamboni driver yelled at him to get off. As he quickly swerved to get out of the its path, Kurt deftly kicked the little box sideways with the blade of one skate The driver tried to brake but Kurt was already far out of its trajectory. He skated over to the box, scooped it up with a theatrical flourish and a smile, looking over at his Karen (who had both her hands on her chest and a stricken look on her face).
He was back at her side in a moment and before she could finish apologizing again he interrupted her, “Okay, it’s all okay! But there is a question in the air! Will you or won’t you?”
Very carefully Karen reached up to hug him and shouted, “Yes, yes, sure!” into his ear. He slipped the ring on her finger and, of course, thought Karen, it is perfect. It was a little large though but Kurt promised they could get it sized tomorrow if she could stand to part with it for a couple of days. She did not want to let it out of her sight!
Dreamily they went back to skating, Karen looking at her left hand every other moment the rest of the evening, holding it out and flexing her wrist. In fact, when they left the rink at ten and were walking to the car, Karen was looking down at her emerald, and she missed the last small step at the entrance, and though Kurt held tightly to her while she went down, down she went! She did not land hard, but her right wrist and hand smacked the pavement. Karen did not cry (too happy for that!) but she knew something was wrong. Instead of dinner, they went to Blaine General ER where they spent a blissful two hours having X-rays, getting the splint and sling, and showing off the ring to the nurses, doctors, techs, and anyone who would look.
Karen was not in any pain and wouldn’t have noticed it if she been. She just kept looking at Kurt in wonderment and down at her left hand. “Oh, Kurt, I’m so happy! and hungry! and so very glad I hurt my right hand! That was lucky!”