It was a balmy April evening Murat asked me to meet him in at Paddington station, somewhere outside of our usual hang-out spots.
“Wear a dress… A nice one.”
His request aroused my suspicions. Sure it was his birthday, but we never usually needed to dress-up when we dined out.
Murat and I had fallen in love as soon as we met, somehow bypassing the dating phase deemed necessary by most romantics. We felt comfortable with each other and as cliché as it seems, I felt like we’d known each other for a lot longer than our one year together.
As I waited in my best LBD, I saw Murat walking towards me in a suit. This must be a special occasion I thought to myself. The nervous knot in my stomach tightened.
No no, it’s just his birthday of course he wouldn’t propose on his birthday, would he?
It was 10:30pm and we’d missed the dinner rush at Assaha restaurant. We were seated by a friendly manager in the restaurant’s main dining area, a beautiful space decorated like houses in rural Lebanon. I love Lebanese food. This experience is for me, not his birthday. Only two other tables in the restaurant were occupied, accentuating the air of silence that had become the usually chatty Murat. Menus arrived and neither I nor he had the mental capacity to read anything on it. Our drinks arrived and shortly after, our main courses. Conversation was somehow forced; it seemed we were both preoccupied. When our plates were cleared, Murat made his excuses and headed to the bathroom. When I saw him duck into the kitchen, I knew from that moment that what I had suspected was imminent. Trying to mentally prepare myself, I thought of ways to react and feared bursting into tears. When Murat emerged, the manager who had welcomed us into the restaurant was accompanying him whispering closely – so much for subtlety!
‘What would you like for dessert?’
‘Oh nothing, I’m full.’ Murat’s face dropped and I smiled to myself taking a sip of my drink.
‘Please. Go on… I’ll chose?’
‘Oh no, I really couldn’t.’
‘Let’s share one!’ He scanned the menu in a panic pointing at random.
The manager which lurked close by welcomed Murat’s order.
‘Right away, sir.’ He winked.
Ok this is it! I took a deep breath and struggled to find some kind of conversation point.
As ‘dessert’ was being prepared a chef or two excitedly popped their heads out of the kitchen door to grab a view of us: two incredibly stressed individuals on the cusp of engagement. I nervously laughed and almost waved back at them until a waitress appeared with whatever she was carrying weighed down by a large metal plate cover. She placed in front of me.
‘Thank you.’ I managed to squeak noticing that she was smiling from ear to ear. I couldn’t even bear to look at Murat at that point. The waitress stayed standing beside our table with bated breath. The kitchen staff were all out by now and the other diners had swung right around in their seats to watch the big moment. But I shrunk into myself with embarrassment and froze like a rabbit in the headlights.
‘Take to cover off!’ Murat urged.
‘I can’t. You do it!’ As if the experience wasn’t nerve-wracking enough for the poor guy, he had me crumbling under the pressure.
I took a deep breath and removed the metal cover. Underneath it was a gleaming gem surrounded by red rose petals and tea light candles. Every soul in the restaurant gasped.
‘Adina, will you marry me?’ I think Murat had forgotten the drill for he was not on his knee, but towering above me at my side.
I have a memory blank at this point and can’t seem to remember what happened in the next few minutes. I seem to remember applause and laughter. That evening I felt drunk even though I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol. The fuzzy feeling of joy has never worn out and one year on, the wedding date is fast approaching. The dress is almost ready, the invitations are out and I guess everything else will take care of itself. I adore the unique ring which adorns my finger. Thought to be the sacred stone of Venus, emeralds are believed to preserve love and keep a lover faithful. I don’t think we’ll need any help in that department though! Emeralds are symbolic of new beginnings thought to be at their most powerful in the spring time. For an April engagement, Murat didn’t choose so badly.