Written by Nandini Sethi
Everything went horribly wrong that evening. I had promised Aryan, my boyfriend, that I would be on time, and for the first time in 5 years, I intended to keep that promise. But as life would have it, my boss bombarded me with some ‘urgent’ work, that in reality could have easily been put off till tomorrow.
Despite it being past working hours, I decided to stay and help for a bit longer, knowing promotion season was right around the corner. I grabbed my phone to text Aryan, let him know I was going to be late, and that our reservation for 7:00 PM would have to be pushed by an hour. Maybe 2. But as soon as I switched it on, the light wouldn’t show. Tapping it aggressively, I let out a frustrated sigh, it was out of battery.
I was about to walk over to my co-worker, Priya’s desk, when I heard my boss call out to me hurriedly. “Coming!” I screamed, running over to her cabin.
By the time the work was done, it was pouring. Having plugged in my phone, I called Aryan, apologizing profusely, promising I would make it up to him somehow. As usual, he was understanding about it, and asked me to come back home as soon as possible. I smiled and nodded, and even though he couldn’t see, he said, “stop smiling.”
On the drive home, I let my mind wander to the thought of the delicious food and wine we were about to devour, the walk back home, followed by a nice film and some cuddles. It was only when I heard a dull thud come from the rear end of the car that I was jostled out of my thoughts. Oh no. The red car behind me had banged into it, not too powerfully, but having been the victim of many minor accidents, this was either going to lead to a fight or talks with the insurance company. And the worst part is, this wasn’t my car. It was Aryan’s.
I pulled up to the side of the road, cursing at the driver in the red car who didn’t even have the decency to stop and apologize, or even check to see the extent of the damage. I got down and surveyed the dent – it wasn’t too bad, but evident enough to take it to the repair shop and fix the mistake. I sighed. Could this day get any worse?
Once I reached hope, I sensed the lively energy radiating from Aryan, disappointed that I would have to break the news to him.
I decided that I would do it quick, and that I would not let the heartbroken look on his face faze me. But when I saw him enter the room, looking exuberant and ethereal in his crisp white shirt and black pants, hair still wet from shower, ad he tightened his watch, smiling from ear to ear on seeing me, I knew I was done for.
I apologized for being late, but he brushed it off. He came closer to me and lifted me up, leaving me giggling and flustered, happy to see how happy he was.
“You look great,” I told him.
“Never as good as you,” he replied. I looked down at my damp, boring office clothes and gave him questioning eyes. He smiled and said he still stood by his statement.
“Get changed quick, we’re late for our reservation,” he said.
“Right, and oh, I um, I kind of dented the car,” I said with a sheepish smile.
He looked surprised, “again?!”
‘I’m sorry! It wasn’t my fault this time, I-”
He waved it off, “Okay, you get ready,” he sighed, “I’ll look into it.”
I felt bad – first for being so late and then for ruining the car. I decided to make it upto him by dressing extra nice and putting in more effort into my hair and makeup.
Within thirty minutes I was glammed up, wearing his favourite red dress with dangly diamond earrings and stilettos made to kill. I walked out, not expecting to see him angrily screaming at the insurance company over the phone. I felt guilty, but one look at me, and I knew the anger was gone.
“You look beautiful.”
We drove to the restaurant and made it just in time for our table. The breadbasket smelled delicious, and we clinked our wine glasses, happy to finally be in each other’s company.
“I love your shirt so much, I wonder where you got it,” I teased playfully. I was well aware where he got it. It was a gift from his mother, the most expensive one he had ever received, and he cherished it so much that he only wore it on special occasions.
He smiled and we soon dove into mindless conversations. Office gossip, insurance bills, and our little pet Bruno.
I excused myself to go the bathroom. Pushing my chair back, I waked to his seat, bent down, hoping to whisper something into his ear, but I accidentally knocked over his glass of wine. Down it fell, all in slow motion, the dark red wine, staining almost even the glass, in what seemed like a waterfall; it splashed all over his white shirt. The white shirt, and for a minute there was only stunned silence.
“Oh my god.” It was as if the whole restaurant stopped and was staring at the scene.
“I am so,” I gulped, “so, sorry!”
He didn’t say anything. I gave him another minute.
“Would you say something?”
He shook his head, the way he did when he was really upset. I knew the sequence – he would get quiet, in his own head, and only come out of his shell once he was over it. I knew I had messed up .
“It’s okay,” he had said, quietly.
The rest of the dinner was eaten in silence. Occasionally, I glanced up to meet his eye, but the hurt in them made me look back down, like a toddler ashamed in time-out. I wanted to cry.
I couldn’t take the tension any longer, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry for being a screw up! I always make us late, and ruin nice things like our car, and now your shirt! If you want to leave me, I won’t blame you,” once again, it seemed like the entire restaurant had paused to witness the commotion caused by the crazy couple.
“Hey,” Aryan began to speak, but I cut him off, “no! I’m sorry, don’t leave me! I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
“Listen-”, he began again, but I was too busy mumbling things to notice his efforts.
“Nina! Listen to me!” He screamed. With teary eyes, I looked up at him.
“Listen,” he said gently.
“No matter what happens, I could never leave you,” he took a deep breath, “since the first day, when you dented my car as a stranger, no matter how much I knew it was going to cost me, I knew you were the one for me.”
I looked at him, amazed. “Today too, you have damaged my car. I know this is a sign.”
“Even if you get late every single day, I’ll still wait for you. In fact,” again, he paused, “in fact, I would consider myself the luckiest man on this planet if I had the privilege of waiting for someone like you.”
I was crying by now, watching in astonishment as he got down on one knee, “This shirt means a lot me,” I sniffled, “but you’re worth more.”
“I wanted this night to be perfect, but knowing us, this is as perfect as it’s going to get.”
I laughed. He smiled. “Nina, will you do me the honour of marrying me and making me the happiest man on the planet?”
I nodded so vigorously, I felt like my head could dislodge. The whole restaurant burst into applause and laughter. And for the first time, I didn’t mind them watching.