All's well that ends well
The following is the most complete account of my proposal and Melissa's astonishing acceptance minutes in to the new year. There is a picture. I will post it when I determine if my camera is actually dead dead or only mostly dead.
It was perfect. New Year's Eve, about 11PM, snow all over the place, and a nice spot under the stars on a hilltop overlooking a number of small Romanian towns. I had carried up my big backpack containing the following items: my silver Christmas tree and ornaments, two wine glasses, a bottle of champagne, two coffee mugs, a thermos full of hot cocoa, my pipe (just in case) and some good black cavendish that Melissa brought over from Dothan. I also had toted up a box of kindling and firewood. In my pockets was all the essential gear: a firestarter packet, a grill lighter, flashlight, and a diamond ring (which Melissa also brought with her from Dothan, unbeknownst to her).
By just after 11, we had ascended the hill and had worked up a little heat, which would last us long until, with luck, we got the fire started. So I dumped out the box of firewood, got the lighter out of my pocket, and searched for the firestarter. I continued searching for the firestarter. And I kept searching, now repeated times in the same four pockets and all over the ground. Nowhere. So I decided that we would go ahead and get the Christmas tree set up (for a picture), then go down after another firestarter (Ed, my boss, and his family were all watching movies down at the bottom of the hill). So we set up the tree, hiked back down the hill (probably a couple hundred yards and fairly steep) and in to where the Hartmans were. They, knowing my plans, were a little surprised to see us so soon.
Having obtained a firestarter, we went back up the hill, finding the original starter along the way, and found our spot (demarcated by the silver decorated tree). By now we were sufficiently warm in spite of the 20 or less degree weather, which was good, because I built the fire quickly, set the starters in their appropriate places, pulled the trigger on the lighter, and nothing happened. Just a click. It is hard to light even a firestarter with just a blue electric click. So I kept clicking, kept pulling the trigger, and nothing kept happening. Click. This was getting ridiculous. It was after 11:30, and time was running short in the year. Clickclickclickclickclick. Incredible.
My previous reluctance to leave my future fiancee in the dark cold on the hilltop while I went back down to the house vanished. I handed her a stick of firewood and told her to protect herself if any gypsies came up. I ran down to the house and asked for another lighter. Then I got smart. Matches. I was not going back up there without matches. Matches never fail (except for the guy in London's story To Build a Fire, but we did not want to think about that, now, did we?). So I ascended yet again with another lighter and some matches. Melissa was cold. I could tell, and I was a little late on this fire business. I felt a little like cavemen must have felt back in the day when they had this big dead animal they had dragged into their cave and eagerly anticipating hungry wife and kids and such, only to find they had already used the last of their birchbark or flint or whatever. Anyway, I think that kind of thought was going through my head, along with the one that said, this is not going very well, is it, Nicholas?
I clicked the new lighter a few times and was immediately proud of my matches epiphany. This lighter wasn't working either. Must have been the cold, but that did not matter now. I had matches, and matches always work. And these did. Of course, it takes a while for a fire to get going, and Melissa, as I said, was cold from sitting up there waiting for my sorry self to get back up the hill and light the fire. So I suggested that we sit on the crate I had hauled the wood up in and sip our hot chocolate to warm ourselves a bit. The temperature was probably in the teens, anyway, especially with the light wind that occasionally kicked up. I had gotten a very mild frostbite on my fingers a few weeks ago, so I was really interested in keeping my fingers warm. We were sitting nice and close on that little crate, and I poured up the cocoa with the words, "This is going to hit the spot."
I want you to know that when I say it was tooth-crackin' cold, I mean the cocoa in the thermos had retained no heat at all. That was disappointing, but we laughed and drank it down anyway. It was doing something besides just sitting around being cold. By now the fire was putting off a little heat, so we moved over next to it. Fireworks were beginning to be fired off from our own town, and we could see several nearby displays. As the fire picked up, I set up the tripod to take a picture of us, the fire, the snow, and the silver tree. Midnight was approaching. So I took that one shot, then, I went back to the camera under the pretense of taking one more shot, but I was going to put it on video and capture the whole thing like that. When I looked at the picture we had just taken, however, the message: battery low flashed onto the screen, then the screen blipped to black. It was dead.
In summation up to this point: dropped firestarter, lighter did not work, second lighter did not work, hot cocoa was cold, we were cold, camera was dead, I didn't mention that we had broken one of the wine glasses as our first act of the evening. This was well on its way to disaster. If not there already.
But, of course the nice thing about being with a cold girl you love is all the more reason to snuggle, and that was nice. And I guess I could say it all got better from there. The new year rolled around, more fireworks (to be expected), and I, with frozen fingers attempted to dig around unperceived in my jacket's chest pocket and procure the ring without dropping it into the snow or fire and without being noticed my Melissa. And then I asked her to be my wife.
And then she paused just long enough to make me feel uncomfortable.
And then she said yes.
And then I was sufficiently happy.
So. That's about it. All's well that ends well.