[NOTE: This is the end of the story... if you haven't already read the beginning, now would be a good time.]
What was Captain Midnight doing all this time? Well may you ask. He had been keeping himself quite busy in the preceding few weeks.
First, he'd spoken privately with Podkayne. She had created a section of the BBS that was hidden and inaccessible to me, where Captain Midnight had announced to all the regulars that he was going to ask TPK to marry him, and requested advice as to how it should be done. Comments ranged from the clever ("Take her rock hunting, say 'I found a really cool one over here' and present her with the ring") to the amusingly horrific ("Jump naked out of a cake with 'Marry me and all this will be YOURS!' written across your chest in red lipstick"). Wisely, CM ended up taking none of this proffered advice, or this story might have had a very different ending indeed.
Second, the week before our little picnic, Captain Midnight and Ender had gone shopping for the ring. In fact, my mother got to see the ring before I did, after CM first swore her to secrecy.
Meanwhile I was still speaking to travel agents, steam issuing from my ears. Mom had the unenviable task of trying to keep me from hopping the next flight from Salt Lake City to Heathrow WITHOUT spilling the beans that question-popping was imminent. To her credit, she did a fine job.
"You don't have to leave this very instant," she pleaded.
"I don't see why not. He's being a jerk. Deserves a swift kick in the butt."
"Honey," she said, "you know he loves you."
"Yes, I do, and that's part of what's making me angry! If he loves me he shouldn't be pulling stunts like this."
"You've got to give him a chance," she said, trying to tell me something with her eyes. "Maybe it isn't what you think."
Around mid-week, I got another email from Captain Midnight, formally asking me out on Saturday. "Wear something nice," it said. "I am taking you out to dinner." I figured he was just trying to make it up to me; he must have known how much he'd hurt me the week before. Still muttering and grumbling, I was dragged to the store by Mom (I think I've already mentioned here how much I hate shopping for clothes), where we managed to find Smokin' Dress #1 and Smokin' Dress #2. On Saturday evening I was ready for my loving-but-annoyingly-recalcitrant honey to arrive.
He came up to the door, looking devastatingly handsome in a suit, and escorted me down to the car. (I'm pretty sure the moment the front door closed, my mother got on the phone and started calling EVERYONE SHE KNEW with the news. But I've got to give her credit for holding off until then.) We drove to what was, at that time, the nicest restaurant in town, and proceeded to have a lovely meal. To this day Captain Midnight swears he was cool as a cucumber that evening, but I want you to know he is lying through his teeth; I couldn't help noticing his hands were shaking all during dinner.
After dessert we took a drive up the canyon, to a little park adjacent to Bridal Veil Falls. We walked along the trail until we came to a little bench overlooking the river, and he suggested we sit down. We snuggled together for a while, and then he started to talk about how he'd fallen in love with me and how being with me made life so much better, and how much he wanted me to be his wife, and -- I swear, this is how thickheaded I was -- I didn't realize what was going on until he actually reached into his suit coat pocket and brought out the ring box.
I looked at the ring. Then I looked at Captain Midnight. Then I looked at the ring again. Then I said sardonically, "Gee, this is all so sudden."
He laughed. "You want some more time to think about it?"
"Oh, no, I'd say I've already HAD some time to think about it..." He laughed again, and I relented and said yes, of course I'd marry him, and I loved him with all my heart, and what the heck was all this "I don't see marriage in the near future" crap? He tried defending himself by saying that while marriage wasn't in the near future, he'd hoped engagement was right around the corner and -- oh whatever, goofball, shut up and kiss me.
So then we went to his parents' place, and they were all thrilled and excited and welcomed me to the family. He then revealed the super-double-secret section of the BBS where they'd been discussing our engagement, which I read with much laughter.
It was very late when we finally got back to my house, but the place was lit up like a Christmas tree and everyone in the family was awake, offering various lame excuses for being up. They were all on pins and needles to find out what had happened. After realizing that pretty much everyone under the sun knew I was getting engaged before I did, I was really tempted to pretend nothing special had happened. My plan was to wish Captain Midnight a good night, thank him for a lovely evening, then go downstairs to bed without telling them anything. But I just couldn't go through with it. I gave him a big goodnight hug in the front room and then said to my mom, over his shoulder, "By the way, we're engaged."
"I KNOW!" she crowed.
My prophecy to Captain Clueless came true, by the way; CM and I were married in early September of that same year, in the Salt Lake Temple.
Have we always been as blissfully happy as we were when we were "courting" and newly married? Well, no; every marriage has its problems now and again, but that goes with the territory. Marriage, even among two people who are perfectly well-matched, is like a particularly intimate form of culture shock. But it's been so very worth it to work out the differences.
And I can't honestly say I love him as well now as I did then, because there really isn't any room for comparison. Over time I've watched him do things and discovered reasons to love him even more, and on a deeper level, than I could have possibly imagined when we were first married. There's so much to know about one person; it's like discovering a new world. You can't understand how rich the experience of loving someone can be until you've been with that person for years, think you know him by heart, and then begin to realize there's still more to learn and explore. It's a good thing we decided on forever, because something tells me that's how long I'm going to need.
Some people talk about love at first sight. I'm sure that sort of instantaneous attraction does come along once in a while. But it wasn't like that for me. I fell in love slowly, gradually -- with a man who didn't catch my eye at first, but whose thoughts and words and actions (and twinkly blue eyes), taken in over time, led me to the realization that I'd stumbled across someone absolutely amazing and that I'd be an utter fool to let him go out of my life.
So that's how it happened, more or less.