He looked across the table into her eyes. They were smiling in the candlelight. He smiled too, and reaching across, gently took her hand into his.
“You’re looking beautiful tonight. Even your eyes are smiling, darling”, he said. She laughed, and everyone in the hotel looked toward her. Her laugh always did attract attention, and he loved it. He fell in love with her all over again when she laughed. They had been dating for a year that day.
The waiter came with their food, and they ate, talking to each other, reminiscing what had been a very happy year for them. They both felt they were the perfect couple. The waiter poured champagne into their glasses, and they clinked them, drinking to their relationship. As she drank, she saw it at the bottom of her glass. A ring, with an emerald on it… she smiled. As the others in the restaurant looked on, he got on one knee. “Monique, I’m sure there is not another woman as perfect as you. I’m in love with you, and I’ll keep falling in love with you always. Will you marry me?”
She looked back at him. “Yes, of course I will Ajay. I love you too, darling.” He got up, went to her side and kissed her. It was the happiest moment of his life. As they drove later that night, he could picture their wedding in his mind. She was in a white dress, a veil across her face and holding a bouquet. He saw her walk toward him through the aisle of the church, say her vow of love, hear her say “I do” and become his better half. He couldn’t wait for that day. As they drove along the deserted road, only she was in his mind. He saw the car parked across the road only just in time to brake and avoid crashing into it.
The door on his side was yanked open and someone pulled him out. Before he could say anything in protest, he was punched hard on his stomach and the air went out of him. More people had joined in, kicking him in the stomach and groin as he fell to the ground, writhing in pain. The world became a blur to him, he couldn’t see anything or hear anything except Monique’s voice shouting, “Let him go. I love him. Let me live my life.” The people didn’t hear anything she said, continuing their assault for long. Just before he passed out, someone pulled him up by the collar and whispered, “We don’t want any brown fellow dating our sister. Stay away from her, got it? Or we’ll not leave you alive next time.” As he looked up, he saw Monique being pulled away from him. He could only reach for her, whispering through his bleeding mouth, “Monique…”
“Monique!!” he shouted, waking up with a jump. He was shivering and perspiring a lot. “Monique, come back…!”
Her hands were around his shoulder in an instant. “Ajay, what happened? Did you have a nightmare? I’m here baby, relax. Breathe…” she said. He looked around. He was still in the living room of her apartment. The clock showed 7pm, and they had an hour before they left to the Chez Luigi for dinner. He sank back into the couch and took a deep breath. She sat on the arm of the couch and clasped his hand tightly. He looked down and felt he couldn’t wait another moment.
He got up and sat in front of her on one knee. “Monique Lewis, I was going to do this tonight at dinner, but now, I feel every moment I wait is one moment of your smile lost. I don’t know if the world would approve of us as a couple, but I only care what you think. We’ve had a very lovely and happy year, filled with memories that’ll last till I die. I’m sure there is not another woman as perfect as you. I’m in love with you, and I’ll keep falling in love with you always. Will you marry me?”
She was surprised and silent for a moment, but as the first tear slowly slid down her cheek, she looked at him and with a smile, she said, “Ajay Thomas, you’re different from me but that’s partly why I love you so much. I know the world might not agree to our union, but I know our families will. I know I will love you forever more as my hubby. I’ll boss you more and you’ll love it too. Yes, I will marry you.”
And that moment was inscribed in their life’s journey as an unforgettable one. Five weeks after that day, they got married, just as he had pictured it in that nightmare that day. She did look very beautiful as she walked down the aisle, her hand held by her father, a bouquet in the other and a thin veil covering her face. They took their vows and exchanged rings. Not looking away from each other’s eyes, they said “I do” and with God as their witness, became man and wife.
When they kissed after that for the first time, he knew there would be no more nightmares in his life. The journey ahead was a dream for him, and by his side in that journey was his true love, his better half. They were different, yet no one that day forgot to say aloud, “They are the perfect couple.”