A year ago May 20th, i finally had the nerve to tell Jonathan* i’d been in danger of falling in love with him from the moment we’d met. (It might have helped he’d planted a huge kiss on me a few minutes before my big revelation). We’d been the best of friends for a year, the kind of friends who stayed on the phone while his Grandfather was dying and who texted each other song lyrics from mix CDs i’d tailored just for him.
And yet, no one was more surprised we were together than us.
The quixotic thought that we’d make a good couple – his country-Southern-gentleman charms the rival and revel to my feminist city-girl pace - worked. Like nothing we’d ever known. Our summer nights spent gorging on ice cream and carving out every cobweb in the heart-spaces of unsaid words.
He accidentally told me he loved me some six days into our relationship. It just erupted out of him over my Weaver Street salad and sweet tea. I had grace and shock enough to let him try and cover it up. He bumbled with a pseudo-excuse, terrified he was going to scare me off were he truly honest.
What he didn’t know then was i’d all but choked down an i-love-you-too with my olives and feta. It was absurd, to be nineteen and so damnably sure of something so uncertain. We would laugh at ourselves, laugh at our youth and stupidity but then keep making plans anyway. He came to visit Massachusetts as much as he could in the fall, and i dwindled the days down until i was back in NC. Neither one of us are people to commit halfway.
So when Jonathan asked me to marry him last Tuesday, a year and a day since i first told him i’d long been in danger of falling for him, i said yes. In fact, i actually said yes about ten times, each one more giggling and tearful and laughter-ridden than the last.
When he’d first visited me in Edinburgh this past March, we’d taken a stroll to my favorite viewpoint of the city: Calton Hill. Situated at the crest of Princes Street with a ridiculously good view of Old Town, the hill is a mirror of the city’s grandeur and quirk. A collection of monuments clutter the top – a Greco-Roman colonnade, a light house, and observatory. It’s the blend of history and beauty that Edinburgh mixes perfectly, old grey buildings stark against the sea and the sunset.
Bundled up against the cold and the sole visitors to the hill in the frigid twilight, he told me then he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. “But don’t mistake that!” he laughed. “This isn’t – this isn’t a proposal,” his face was flush with the wind and a smile. I giggled, and we drank deep the colors of the sun over the city.
Us on Calton Hill in March.
The sun setting over the city.
The view from Calton Hill at sunset.
And then it was May, and he was back in Scotland thanks to generous gifts from his parents and my mom under the ruse of “helping me move back home.”
On May 21st, we celebrated our anniversary. He’d told me to dress up. Nothing more.
We set out from my flat into an uncharacteristically warm Edinburgh day. He told me to take him to the train station, dually to throw me off and because Calton Hill is within sight of Waverly Station. In sight of the trains, he cackled a “just kidding!” and took my hand in his. It wasn’t long before i knew where we were headed, the lighthouse atop Calton Hill in view.
But the warmth of the day and the walk was not the best of combinations for someone with as crappy lungs as me. At the top, i heaved a “please-can-we-sit-down-now-Jonathan?”
“Yeah, yeah, let’s find a bench!” His palms were sweaty and he was half-running to find a seat. All the benches were taken. The warm day rendered our once deserted hill packed.
“Jonathan, hon, why don’t we just sit on my coat?” the black wool mess was hanging limp and useless in my hand. I was more than a little ready to catch my breath. “That patch of grass looks lovely – “
“No, no, let’s ask these people to move.” Jonathan was halfway to the nearest couple on a bench before i could protest that i hated talking to strangers and the grass, really, was fine. Before he could engage them much in conversation, though, a bench overlooking Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat emptied.
We sat down, and i smiled at the unexpected warmth of the sun. Jonathan toyed with my curled hair, kissed my cheek.
“Elizabeth,” he began. He’d asked me in the year of just-friends to call me by my full name. “Do you remember -”
“Hang on,” i cut him off, before promptly hacking up the coughs that had been waiting since we’d passed the train station. “Okay,” i cleared my throat with tremendously ladylike gusto. “What were you saying?” I don’t think i was even looking at him, distracted by the light on Arthur’s Seat and the professional photographer not far from us, snapping pictures of the mountain.
“Do you remember last time we were up here, in March?” I nodded, tearing my eyes away from the mountain to look at him. “And i told you not to mistake that for a proposal?” I nodded again, a realization spreading. My ears were suddenly full of my heart, and all that breath i’d regained was gone. He smiled, his dimple deeper than i’d ever seen it.
“Well, you better not mistake this.”
And like that, he was down on one knee, asking me to marry him. There was a fumbling with my promise ring and a lot of nervous laughing from the pair of us, but then there was this stunning sapphire on my left hand. The people who had clustered all around us started applauding.
Turns out, the professional photographer i’d thought to be taking photos of the mountains was there to take pictures of us. “Jonathan,” i’d asked, after un-burrowing myself from his shoulder, “do you think those photographers would take our picture?”
He actually chortled at this. “Lizzie, i think that’s why they’re here!”
So thanks to my incredible flatmates (all eleven of whom knew this was going to happen, and none of whom spilled the beans) and incredible friends back home, Jonathan had been nudged enough to hire secret photographers – the delightful and highly recommended Kris Soul Photography, of Edinburgh - to both capture his proposal and do a little mini-shoot after i said yes!
Our ethically-sourced Sri Lankan sapphire set on recycled white gold from Brilliant Earth!
I just can’t begin to express how grateful, how blessed, and how happy i am. This has been an incredible season of my life, as my friend Cathy remarked. But it’s also been an incredibly difficult few years as well – and those difficulties have been unpacked and bandaged and loved unconditionally by my effervescent and dimple-y fiancé. I know, as i’ve known since we first decided to not be just-friends, that this is the right and good and beautiful path i need to take. There’s no greater journey i’d rather embark on than one spent hand-in-hand with Jonathan.
So thank you all, my darling friends and readers and family, for the outpouring of love and support these past few days. It’s a joy to know such beauty in you, and we both are overjoyed to be so uplifted in your words and hugs and love. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We wish all of you every happiness!
current jam: ’500 miles’ the proclaimers.
best thing: this section seems a little redundant, given the above thousand words!
kris soul photography’s lovely website!
*Jonathan, who i suppose i should no longer refer to as “J” since he’s going to be around for a while