For months I planned and waited, until the moment came for the two of us to get in a rental car and drive east, toward a city in the desert and family. We stopped first to spend the longest night of the year with dear friends. She charmed the children, gathering them to her flame like a pied piper, and she never looked more beautiful. I stood outside with the men while they smoked, and under the cold, bright winter moon, I told them my secret. They heartily cheered and clapped me on the back, and sent us off with many well-wishes.
In the mountains, we took refuge from the snow in the Cinnamon Bear Inn, where we opened each other's presents under a bright tree, sipping hot chocolate and warming ourselves in the glow of a merry fire and each other's affection.
Our next road took us through strange and uninhabited lands, through valleys untouched by man, over forests of stone, past lonely brothels and gas stations, and into that jewel of the wastes: Las Vegas. We walked the strip, sampling its delights (but not too deeply) and returned with gifts for friends and family.
The morning saw us back on the road, across the Hoover Damn, and swiftly out of the realm of civilization. My moment grew close now. It was with sweaty palms and a beating heart that I checked us in at the El Tovar Hotel, oldest and grandest of all inns at the Grand Canyon. She gasped like a child opening a present as she saw the grandeur of our suite. We stepped out together onto a balcony larger than my house, to look out at a world cloaked in white. We laughed together at the irony of coming this far to see nothing but the apparent edge of the world.
She dressed, and I dressed. From the bottom of my bag, I pulled a little package, pacing the room and muttering to myself (so I'm told). While she did her makeup, I slipped downstairs to claim our reservation at the most exclusive restaurant in the village. The staff gave me knowing winks and the best seat in the house, between a window and the fireplace. As she entered, one of them whispered to me, "She is lovely." And she was.
There, by the wood fire, I knelt and bared my soul. When she saw the ring, she burst into tears, nodding fiercely. My shaking hands reached for hers and slipped the ring onto it. A faceted Black Opal, glowing with all the colors under the rainbow in its dark depths, to those with the light to see it.
By the end of 2016, I will be a married man. I couldn't have found a better companion than Callie MacDonell to have by my side as we go through this journey we call life... together.