One-Ring Circus

By Rachel Beckman
Sunday, September 7, 2008

On Valentine's Day, I couldn't get in touch with my boyfriend for four hours. My calls went straight to his voice mail. Very suspicious. He finally called at 4 p.m. on that Feb. 14, 2007, to tell me that he had left work early and canceled our dinner reservations. He asked me to be home at 7 p.m. -- no sooner, no later.

I spun around and peeked my head over my cubicle wall.

"We're on high alert," I said in a stage whisper to my co-worker Cory. "I think this is it! Eli is going to propose!"

I jumped out of my chair and went from cubicle to cubicle, rounding up Cory and the rest of my Engagement Watch Team, a loose network of work friends who had helped me endure the interminable wait for Eli's marriage proposal. We gathered around the printer, and I presented the evidence: the disappearance from his office, how he hadn't answered his cellphone for four hours, the romantic holiday.

"Well, he could just be cheating on you," someone suggested.

"Great, thanks, guys," I said. "Very comforting."

Two agonizing hours of clock-watching later, the Team wished me luck as I bolted out of the office. At 7 p.m., I opened the door to the Cleveland Park apartment that Eli and I had shared for about three years. A home-cooked candlelit dinner for two greeted me.

Eli had adorned the table with a vase of red carnations, my least-favorite flower. I love pink tulips, then pink roses, then red roses and then about 75 flowers down the list; at the very bottom are red carnations. I've told Eli this before -- maybe a dozen times -- but he always gets mixed up and thinks that red carnations are my favorite.

He popped his head out of the kitchen and smiled at me.

"Surprise!" he said.

"Wow, what did you do?" I went over and gave him a kiss. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No," he said. "You just relax. The first course will be ready in a minute."

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