My life continued in its peaceful vein. Ursa and I kept each other company, with the big girl insisting on sleeping next to me whenever the weather or anything else scared her. I honestly didn’t mind, as long as she stayed flea-free—getting bitten by bugs in my own bed was no fun.
She did surprise me quite a bit one day—I walked in from gardening and saw the dog sitting proudly with two expensive-looking natural stones I front of her. Turned out, dogs have a good nose for these things, and the stones did, indeed, turn out to be pricy. Selling them gave me a large sum of cash and I knew I wouldn’t need to worry about bills for a while.
Also, it turned out Sebastian kept his promise and did talk to his sister, because a couple days after Celeste’s party, I received a phone call from Francesca Vanderburg. She told me that she was interested in buying fresh vegetables year-round and that she’d be happy to see what my garden had to offer.
Upon meeting her, it turned out that Francesca was a friendly and pragmatic person who I had a lot in common with. Upon seeing my produce, she was very impressed and paid me a hefty sum of money, which at first I was even hesitant to accept, but she, very spiritedly informed me that she was always happy to pay for a job well done.
It was around this time that cold weather has set in and the low temperatures have forced my plants to go into hibernation. This was not an unwelcome development—it gave me both a physical break from garden work and time to finally research the plants in a more scientific environment, as I planned before even coming here.
Upon researching the specimens which I kept from selling, I came to the conclusion that there must have been something in the soil here for real. From what I’ve read of agriculture back in school, with as little training as I had in the matter, the greens just shouldn’t have been growing as well as they were. But despite the odds, my garden was thriving and producing outstanding fruits and vegetables. Hidden Springs just had something special in the soil—that was the only explanation I could give.
I did wonder how this extreme fertility hasn’t been really more noticed by a larger population of scientists and researchers. From what I knew, whenever there was some unexplained interesting phenomenon like this, flocks of scientific developers would travel to wherever it was happening and spend a long time studying it. But here? Nothing. Although, whatever caused this lack of general attention, I was, despite my scientific leanings, pretty happy about it. The quiet peaceful life of Hidden Springs was such a nice change from big city hassle.
Celeste and I still kept seeing each other whenever we could, despite being busy with our individual jobs. I knew she spent long hours fishing and she was often tired from her days out during our dates. After one such coffee-house date, I knew for sure that I was tired of us being apart for such long periods of time. I wanted to be there for her at the end of the day, to comfort her when she was tired and sore, to share meals with her, to live with her.
It was definitely time.
I was so nervous. I could feel my hands sweating and my heart was beating way faster than usual. It also didn’t help that Celeste showed up to the restaurant in a pretty white dress that really, really complimented her.
“Earth to Simon” she called, noticing my stupor upon seeing her. “So what are the plans for today?”
“Oh, hi” I came back to earth. “Well, our table is ready; we can get the food now. I hope you like it here.”
“Of course, I’ve heard only the best reviews about this restaurant. Are you ok though? You look flushed” she worried.
“I’m fine, just hungry that’s all” I lied. Honestly I wondered if I’d be able to eat with my nerves so frayed!
As our food was served, I tried to focus on my plate and not on what was really on my mind. I noticed Celeste wasn’t really eating either.
I know it is traditional to propose at a restaurant, but somehow I couldn’t do it in front of all these people. It just seemed so un-personal.
“Are you going home after this?” I asked “Or do we have more time to spend together after this?”
“Well, today is my day off! So I have all the time in the world” she enthused.
“Would you like to just walk for a while with me?” I asked.
“That sounds lovely” she smiled.
So that was what we did. We walked for hours, just talking. At some point I realized that Celeste and I were the only people in the square. This was more like it.
‘Celeste” I began, hoping I didn’t bumble through my words “I know we haven’t been together that long, but even at the start of our relationship, I knew you are the only person I want to spend my life with.”
A look of realization appeared on her face, replaced by a huge smile. I continued.
“I know I’m not very well-versed in romance, but I also know that I want to make you happy. So, will you, Celeste Lewis, make me the happiest man alive and become my wife?” I was already down on one knee. I held the ring out toward Celeste, hoping she wouldn’t refuse.
“So that’s why you were so nervous!?” she asked, smiling from ear to ear. “Of course I’ll marry you. Now get up and let me hug you!”
I was more than happy to oblige.
There was one more thing I needed to ask her.
“Celeste, now that we’re engaged, will you move in with me? We could wait until we’re married, but I figured it’d be easier with wedding planning and then we could see each other every day…”
She contemplated the idea for a bit, but then agreed “Alright, but remember, I have a dog too. We have to make sure our furry companions are in accord as well.”
As luck would have it, the dogs got along perfectly fine. It probably helped that they were different genders, so they didn’t feel as inclined to get territorial with one another. Also, they were both equally terrified of everything, so fighting was not their ideal pastime.
As for Celeste and I, it was decided (by me) that for the time being, she would have the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch. It was pretty comfortable and warm from the fireplace, and it was pretty neat to sleep with two pooches curled up next to me. Of course we were planning to sleep together after the wedding, but neither of us was willing to breach that line until then.
Also I knew there was one thing I really had to do—I was engaged now and my parents didn’t have the slightest idea. I had to tell them.
The phone rang and after three rings I heard my father’s voice on the phone “Simon! Well, this is a nice surprise, how’s your life going? You’ve been calling less and your mom and I worry. You aren’t sick are you? Or starving? Because, If you need money, just let us know.”
That was my dad, always the go-to person for solving any problem.
“No Dad, my garden is doing pretty fine actually, I’ve been making quite a living off it, to be honest” I laughed. “I’m actually calling because I have news.”
“Is someone pregnant?” Dad asked. “You know, we wouldn’t mind, we’d help her out if anything, as will you!”
“Hold your horses, Dad” I giggled. “No one is pregnant yet. But I am engaged and getting married soon.”
“Oh” there was a pause on the other end “Well, is she a national secret? Do we get to meet our future daughter in law? Or are you going to keep her all to yourself?”
“Well, I don’t know if Celeste will want to go to Starlight Shores…” it would be quite a hassle.
“No need! We’ll visit! You didn’t think your mother and I will miss our eldest child’s wedding, did you?”
Well, if Dad said he and Mom were coming, then I was sure the rest of the family won’t be far behind. Looks like Celeste will be meeting my family in its entirety.
The next morning, I knew I had to let Celeste know about the arrival of family. I didn’t want to overwhelm her or freak her out. After all, meeting the family is always stressful and I didn’t want her to worry for no reason.
“What are your plans for today?” I asked while making some pancakes.
“Fishing, more fishing, maybe some quality time with the dogs. You know, they need to learn some house skills” she noted. “What about you?”
“Well, it’s gotten warm again lately. I’ll work in the garden for a while. I want to whip it into the best shape possible before the colds set in. Also, I’m going to make some calls regarding wedding venues in town. I want to see if we can have a park-wedding for ourselves.”
“Oh, that sounds so dreamy!” Celeste sounded happy. “It would be pretty nice. By the way, I’ll take the dogs with me to the park. I think they’ll love it there.”
And so we went to our own business for the day, with Celeste fishing at the park accompanied by our dogs and me checking up on the plants and planting the last seeds into the ground while it was still possible for them to get good weather.
In the afternoon, it began to rain pretty hard and as Celeste was still not home, I began to worry. I didn’t want her to catch a cold, or worse, get hit by lightning.
Before I could imagine the worst, she walked into the house.
“You’re back!” I pulled her into a hug. “I was worried.”
“That’s alright, a little water never hurt anyone” she joked.
“Come on, let’s get you warmed up” I insisted, lighting the fireplace. “Also, I have some news.”
“Good news or bad news?” she asked.
“My parents are coming for the wedding and I think they’re bringing the whole family.”
“Oh. What are they like?” she was curious.
“Well, Mom and Dad are both in the arts. She is a well-known painter and he works in the local symphony orchestra. They’re both pretty fond of music though. My sister Samantha is most likely going to follow in their footsteps—she is also pretty focused on the arts, even went to a special boarding school for that. Then there are my aunt and uncle, Marie and Zeke. She is a writer, as you know, and he is a famous athlete.”
“They all sound so… respectable” Celeste mused. “I wonder how they’d react to me. I mean, their son goes to another city and then, bam, he’s getting married to someone they don’t even know!”
“I think they’ll love you” I assured her. “My family isn’t that intimidating. I’m sure Wanda, my cousin, will be over the moon to meet you.”
“You were closest with her, weren’t you?” she noticed.
I nodded “We always got each other. My sister and I are close, but she was much younger than me. Wanda and I were always spending more time together.”
“I am pretty curious to see them, to be honest.” Celeste looked wistfully at the fire. “I know my family won’t be able to make it. My Roger is at home taking care of his wife who’s in her last trimester, and because of that, Dad is swamped at the ranch.”
“Are you ok about it? About your family not making it to the wedding?” I didn’t want her to be sad on her wedding day.
“I’m not as upset as I thought I would be. I grew up there; I know they have a lot to deal with right now. I’ve heard they were short staffed on the ranch, it’s not like I can go back and fix everything. I offered.” Something remained unsaid, but I decided not to prod anymore, since it seemed that the topic was in fact upsetting her.
Instead, I put my arms around her and pulled her closer.
“Well, I’m happy that you are here with me. I don’t want to imagine otherwise.”
She smiled and leaned closer “Me too. I’m happy I’m here with you and that we’re about to become a family.”
And so we stayed together, warmed by the fire, as the weather raged on outside.