On our fifth (dating) anniversary, Jay gave me a pearl necklace and a puzzle piece with my first name on it.
On my birthday (the next month), he gave me a watch and a puzzle piece with my middle name on it. I told him that I really hoped this was not a long puzzle sentence making fun of me or something.
That fall, Jay said we should have a contest. If you know Jay, he does not do this kind of thing unless he is sure of something. Just ask my mom. Anyway, the contest was going to be who could come up with the best surprise, which would be given at Christmas. The loser would have to pay the other person $700. I have no idea why he came up with $700. Knowing that he's really good at this kind of thing, I planned on writing a check and enjoying my surprise.
In the mean time, the time was coming for Jay to make a decision about the last half of medical school. He could either stay where he was--two hours away--or finish the last two years at the campus nearby. I didn't want to influence him either way, but I was really hoping he was going to move. I did go ahead and get my own apartment, even though he said he thought I should just keep living with my parents.
December rolled around and all I could come up with was a fishing trip. I called around about a hot air balloon ride, but I couldn't afford it AND the $700. I was getting curious.
On the Monday of Christmas break, Jay and I went to Captain D's for lunch. I was sure that if he was going to move back home, he would have told me, so I said, "You're not coming back, are you?" He nonchalantly popped another hush puppy in his mouth and said, "Nope." To say I was crushed would be an understatement. The fact that I was getting the flu didn't help me to be so rational, either. As I started tearing up, he said we'd be fine and kept on eating. Really. (A year or so ago, I told him how I had thought he was being such a jerk and he was genuinely surprised, which surprised me.)
That week he went back to his city and I stayed home, sick. On Christmas Eve, my mom called and said I should come over because my dad wanted to order Papa John's for dinner. (This should have been my first clue, since my dad has refused to get Papa John's since they would not take his walk-in order at a Santa Fe location a few years earlier. They wanted him to call it in. From right there in the store. Seriously. I think we had sandwiches that night.) Anyway, I went over to my mom and dad's house. After I got there--and there was no pizza--Jay called and said we should meet at my apartment to exchange gifts, so I left again.
When I got to my apartment, Jay was sitting on my couch. As a single woman living alone, there's not a lot that can freak you out more than coming home to find someone in your living room, even if it is your boyfriend. I could not figure out how he got in unless I left the door unlocked, so I was a little concerned. He just wanted to start the presents.
I gave him his presents and told him about the fishing trip. He seemed mildly interested.
When it was my turn to open my presents, he gave them to me one at a time. I can't remember the exact order, but I got an It's a Wonderful Life book, ornament, poster, and DVD. When I opened the DVD, I said, "Oh my gosh! Is my surprise a DVD player?!" (Ha ha! How very 1999.) "No," he said, "I just thought we could watch it some day." I'm going to be honest here. At this point I was thinking, "Oh, yes. We can watch it after one of my many two hour drives back and forth. How fun."
Each gift had a card on it with a picture from It's A Wonderful Life and inside was a quote from the movie. The presents were nice, even if he wasn't moving back.
Then he said he had one more present and pulled out a small box. As soon as I saw the picture, I knew what it was.
Inside, the card said,
"Now you listen to me! I don't want any plastics, and I don't want any ground floors, and I don't want to get married--ever--to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do!"
And in the box was a ring, and the third puzzle piece, with his last name on it.
He never actually asked, and I never actually answered, but ten years later I don't think it much matters.
And I still owe him $700 and a fishing trip.