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Happy Valentine's Day, Sheila
As George hiked up the broken and uneven path, he thought about past times. Happy times. Pushing a large cluster of overgrown wild grass out of his way, he moved on along the trail. The trail itself had, in fact, been made by him and his wife, long ago. Back then, the dirt pathway could actually be seen without having to clear the weeds away first.
George was trying as best he could, on the weekends, to clean up and de-weed the path, but it was tough-going with only one person working on it, so it wasn’t very far along yet. Soon enough, he reached the end of the trail and stepped out into what appeared to be a large clearing. Here, at least, the grass was fresh and green, for he had made sure that this area was at least up to his standards, if not the path that led to it. Right smack in the center of the clearing was a large oak tree. The tree’s bark was weathered and worn down, but tough. It had survived long enough to have reached a height of at least fifty-five feet. Its thick bark was simply a protective shield to him. It held many fond memories, and each year George visited the tree, he couldn’t help but to recall all of them; however, one in particular.
George made his way slowly across the clearing and over to the base of the tree. When he got there, he rested his hand on the tree and gently caressed its course skin. Then he sighed and lowered himself ever-so-slowly to the ground where he sat, his old cane resting on his lap. It had taken him a great deal of effort to come all the way up the path and a lot of stopping to catch his breath, but he had made it, and that was the important thing. After a few moments, George leaned his head back and closed his eyes, falling deep into the ocean of memoirs that clouded his mind so often as of late; but none more so than that of what he considered to be the most wonderful day of his life.
He watched her as she spun in the evening’s fading light before him, the sunset creating a magnificent background behind her. Her hazel hair streamed out behind her as she twirled and swirled a handful of times more. When her dancing had finally comes to a halt, she stumbled around the clearing, clearly dizzy from spinning so much so fast. George laughed lightly as she fell beside him. He looked sideways at her as he leaned back up against the large oak tree behind him. Looking into Sheila’s brown doe eyes, he realized just why he loved her so much. She was always so caring and compassionate, and she never complained about a single thing.
“Are you dizzy?” he asked her.
“Not really. It’s going away, now,” Sheila replied, looking back at him with innocent eyes. “But I can’t help it. I love dancing! You should dance with me!” In a fit of excitement, she nearly fell over again as she stood beside him. Looking up at her just then, George knew he had picked a good time to do so, for at the moment, she stood just so, so that the sun created a haze of light around her head and shoulders, seeming almost like halo of sorts. If he didn’t know any better, he might have mistaken her for an angel.
“No,” George said, sighing, “I can’t.”
“Why not?” Sheila asked.
“Because I can’t dance,” he said.
Her shoulders sagged and she looked down at him with a look that might have melted even the coldest of hearts.
Suddenly, he realized that this was the perfect opportunity. This is perfect, George thought to himself as a small grin played across his face. This is it. He took a deep breath and said: “Well… I suppose I might dance with you if you answer a question for me.”
Sheila perked up right away and knelt down beside him, her long, gentle fingers tenderly gripping his arm. “What?” she asked. “What’s the question? I’ll answer it!”
George gave her another small smile, but it faltered as he fingered the tiny velvet box deep in his right pocket. But, thankfully, she didn’t notice. He was ready, he told himself. There was no turning back now. These were the things he repeated over and over again in his mind, trying to prepare himself. After all, there was a reason he loved this girl.
George kept his right hand firmly planted in his pocket, the little box grasped between his fingers, as he pulled himself to his feet. He swallowed a few times, trying to rid his throat of his heart, which had somehow managed to wedge itself in there. His palms grew sticky with perspiration, and he unsteadily knelt down on one knee. Removing his right hand from his pocket, he withdrew the red velvet box, and looked up at Sheila.
She breathed in sharply as he brought the box out of his pocket and looked up at her, and she instantly knew what was coming.
Clearing his throat as they had the path to get to the clearing they were in now, George gained control of his voice and said: “Sheila Marie Rhan”—he opened the lid of the box to reveal an absolutely breathtaking ring and held it out to her—“will you marry me?”
For a moment, she didn’t know what to say. She was frozen in shock, and she could barely form the words she so desperately longed to say. “George Dylan Holls,” she managed. “I… I love you with all my heart, and… and I will marry you!”
A smile as long as the horizon covered Sheila’s face, and she shook with happiness as he slid the golden ring onto her trembling finger. Then he stood and pulled her into a consecutive kiss and then a hug. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear. “Always have and always will.”
George woke with a start as he pulled himself from his reverie, and he looked around him only to notice that it was already nearly sunset. Reds, yellows, golds, and oranges painted the sky in front of him, and he simply sat silent for a moment, allowing the last rays of the sun to warm his aged face. Then he slowly pulled himself to his feet to stretch his aching muscles. George hadn’t been to visit this tree since exactly one year ago, to the day, on February 14th. It was the anniversary of his wife’s death, and he would never forget her. He never cried for her, though, he merely recalled her face and her words and the times she had spent with him when he missed her, for on her deathbed she had made him promise that he would not cry for her. It would only sadden her as she watched him from the heavens above, she always said; and so he had not cried. Instead, George visited this tree each year; their tree as it was. The very tree he had proposed to her under so many long years ago.
Then George leaned over to place a dozen roses and a small card at the base of the tree. Standing tall, again, he made his way to the trail on the outer edge of the clearing, but before he headed off back down the trail to go home, he turned back to the tree that loomed behind him. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Sheila,” he whispered as he smiled and looked away down the trail and took his first steps closer to home, leaning on his cane all the way.