"Okay, Eddie," Ed told himself as he faced himself in the mirror, "you can do this."
The image reflected back to him looked nervous--and a little different. His hair, pulled back in the typical ponytail, was smoother than usual. Instead of an old t-shirt, he was wearing a snug black sweater under his leather jacket. He was wearing clean jeans that didn't have worn cuffs or loose strings sticking out of the seams. And his boots were actually shiny.
"Never thought you would get to this point, did you," he mused, absently tugging at his jacket.
He never thought he would be alone in his bedroom talking to his reflection, either. Feeling silly, he turned away from the mirror, grabbed his keys and headed out to his car. He had a new bike in the garage, but he was picking up not one but two passengers today, so he left it in favor of his sedan.
With a tension that caused his hands to grip the steering wheel a little tighter than necessary, he drove the relatively short distance to Lexie's apartment and pulled up out front. Lexie was already waiting near the curb; she flashed a happy smile as she hurried to open the passenger door and hop in.
She looked fantastic--as if she could ever look anything else. As always, she was dressed simply yet elegantly, today in a white peasant blouse, a flowing pale blue skirt and a pair of espadrille wedges with blue ankle straps. Ordinarily, he would have mentally pegged them as a weird pair of sandals with clunky heels that looked like they were made out of material better suited for a braided basket or something, but...when you were dating a model, and had a relative that used to be one, you kind of picked up the lingo.
"So, Mister Writer," Lexie said in that purring kind of voice that made his hair stand on end, "where to?"
"Oh, I thought we'd hit the pet store first," Ed responded casually.
Her smile faded, and a flicker of something--he was pretty sure it was an 'are you crazy?' look--crossed her face. "Not that pet store," he added hastily. "It's in another part of town, and I'm just dropping by to pick something up. All right?"
A tiny tremor of nerves passed through his hands, making him grip the steering wheel tighter again. He'd been planning this for weeks, and he sure hoped everything went down the way it was supposed to.
"I guess," Lexie said doubtfully. "And then what?"
"Then we can go somewhere to eat, take a walk...doesn't matter to me."
He spoke as casually as he could, but he was pretty sure she could tell he was up to something. Her golden eyes scrutinized him a moment before she relaxed in her seat and gazed out the window. Ed eventually turned a corner and pulled up outside a small, glitzy-looking pet shop, where a clerk was waiting outside with a small white box...just as scheduled.
"Be right back," he promised in a cheeky voice.
He took a moment to lean over and peck her cheek before darting out and accepting the box. Everything was already arranged and paid for, so the clerk went back inside with a nod, while Ed hurried back to the car. "I decided not to get another dog," he commented as he closed the door and set the box between him and Lexie. "My Aunt Dare talked me into getting a lizard, so I'm looking into getting a Chinese water dragon."
Lexie blinked once, clearly perplexed. "But you don't have it yet?"
"Not yet. They take a lot of extra care, so I'm still working on setting up a good terrarium. No," he said, grinning as he nudged the box closer. "This is for you."
Now she looked surprised--and a little wary, but she leaned closer and tipped the box lid open. A second later she let out a startled--and delighted--laugh as a squirming bundle of white fur leaped out and into her lap. "Oh, Eddie, she's adorable!"
Ed laughed with her, pleased with her reaction. The squirmy, yapping puppy looked sort of like a bichon and a poodle, but it had an exotic mutant feature: dual tails, which wagged like a pair of pompoms, both simultaneously and separately as she hopped to lick Lexie's face. "You're so sweet, Eddie," she sighed, hugging her new pet. "I just love her."
"Don't forget to check the collar," Ed told her casually.
Lexie tucked the hyper bundle under one arm and looked, searching for a name-tag. When she didn't find one she frowned in puzzlement for a moment...and then she flew a hand to her mouth with a quiet gasp. "Oh..."
Ed watched, breath held, as she gaped at the object hanging from the rhinestone collar--a white gold ring with a line of white diamonds circling the band, with another circle surrounding the main stone; a canary yellow diamond. The perfect ring for his golden goddess.
At least, he hoped it was.
"Well?" he said softly, as she continued to gawk breathlessly. "What do you say?"
Eyes moistening, Lexie blinked at him a moment--and then launched herself at him, puppy and all. "Yes," she cried, throwing her arms around his neck and peppering his face with kisses. "Yes, yes, yes."
Ed felt a rush of relief and happiness that brought moisture to his own eyes, and he pulled his new fiancée closer to him, softly kissing those full, plump lips of hers. He barely noticed the puppy pawing at his arm, seeking attention as the two of them clung to each other.
As she rested her head on his shoulder, Lexie asked, "Do your parents know?"
Ed gave his head a small shake. "I didn't tell a soul. You know, just in case you didn't say yes."
Lexie scoffed quietly and tightened her arms around his neck. "Like I could say anything else. You're the most amazing person I know, Edwin Justice. And I love you with all my heart."
Ed kissed her cheek as he stroked her soft curls. "Love you, too," he murmured.
They held each other a little longer before finally parting, both of them taking a moment to dry their eyes before settling in their seat. "We should probably tell them," Lexie noted as he started the car.
"Right now?" he wondered as he pulled away. "There's no rush. We can stop for lunch first."
Lexie let out a laugh as she settled her new puppy in her lap, while still gawking at the ring dangling from her collar and looking dazed. "I don't think I could eat a bite right now," she said, resting a hand over her stomach.
Ed was still feeling a few butterflies himself. Smiling, he reached over and took her hand, pressing a kiss to her fingers. He frowned a second later and didn't let go of her hand until he paused at a stoplight.
"Here--we need to make this official."
He plucked the ring off the collar, and Lexie, with a shy smile, extended her ring finger for him. After placing the engagement ring on her hand, he kissed it again and resumed driving. "I guess we can go see them," he decided.
In fact, he couldn't wait to tell his parents this life-changing news. He had the best, most supportive parents in the world, and he knew they would be delighted to include Lexie as part of their wonderful family.
As he made the turn that would take them to his parents' house, he found himself thinking back, remembering the days shortly after--and before--his parents first adopted him. It felt like a lifetime ago and more, like it all happened to another person--the person he no longer was. That frightened little boy he used to be, the one afraid to experience life and everything in it, was long gone. He wasn't afraid to try, or to fail, or to try again. His heart felt as wide and open as the sky above them that day, ready and waiting for everything life had in store for the two of them.