18. Treasure Hunt

18. Treasure Hunt

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Treasure Hunt

It was so much fun, we proposed to each other all day long.

~Melissa Errico

Andrea slammed the phone into its cradle and shrieked, “I can’t believe him!”

Her mom entered the room. “Jeff?”

“Yeah. He just did everything he could to pick a fight!” Shaking her head, she added, “I haven’t seen him in three days and it doesn’t even bother him. He says he’s busy at work and can’t break away. I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”

“Don’t get impatient,” Emma smiled slightly and patted her frustrated daughter’s shoulder. “The best things in life are worth waiting for. Trust me.”

“I don’t know, Ma. Maybe he’s the one that should be doing the waiting.” She stormed out of the room.

Emma’s smile widened.

Not an hour later, the doorbell rang. Andrea rushed to answer it. It just has to be Jeff, she thought. He’d never hang up angry.

Emma stood back, wiped her hands on a flowered apron and reclaimed her mischievous smile.

Andrea tipped the young messenger and rushed the package into the house. Under the watchful eye of her curious mother, she tore through the brown wrapping. It was the most beautiful dress she’d ever laid eyes on. As she lifted the white lace into the air, a piece of stationery floated to the floor. It read:

Baby Cakes,

Sometimes I say things I don’t mean. Sometimes I’m stubborn and defensive. Sometimes I want to go to you, but fear rejection. Andrea, I love you, and because I love you I’ll try harder to be understanding and have more patience. Forgive me. I saw this dress and thought how beautiful you’d look in it. Please wear it tonight and meet me at Capriccio’s at 6:00. Can’t wait to see you!

Love,
Jeff

As she wiped her eyes, Andrea caught her mother’s grin. “I’ll be there, “she smirked. “But this time he’s gonna wait!”

Her mother just laughed.

It was almost 6:30 when Andrea screeched into Capriccio’s lot. She intended to be a few minutes late, allowing extra time to get ready. She wanted his wait to be worth it when he saw her. The valet attendant took one look and swallowed hard. She noticed and smiled. The extra time had paid off.

Greeted by the maitre d’, she expected him to escort her to Jeff’s table. Instead, the older gentleman smiled and handed her a dozen long-stemmed roses.

“Mr. Stanton called and said he was running late. He said that the card would explain.”

Blowing a wisp of hair from her eyes, Andrea reached into the baby’s breath and retrieved the card.

Babe,

I would say I’m sorry, but those would just be words that you have heard many times before. This time, I’ll say I love you, a truth that lives within my heart.

Meet me at the Eagle for drinks at 7:00.
Jeff

Andrea looked at the maitre d’ who continued to grin. “Did he say anything else on the phone?”

“Not exactly,” the kind man muttered. “Just that he can’t wait to see you.”

“It certainly doesn’t seem that way,” she lamented.

As she reached the parking lot, she was surprised to find that her car hadn’t been moved. The valet attendant opened the door, smiled sweetly and said, “Best of luck!”

“Same to you,” she replied, confused by his curious comment.

Within ten minutes she was at the Eagle waiting in the lounge. She would give him ten minutes to show; otherwise she’d go home to contemplate their future.

The bartender sauntered over. “What’ll you have, Miss?”

“Margarita, no salt and a cup of ice on the side.”

“Cup of ice on the side?” the man questioned with a silly grin dancing across his face.

“Yeah,” she confirmed, her irritated tone approaching anger. If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear she was the butt of some cruel joke. She checked her watch again. He had seven more minutes. Looking down at the beautiful white dress she wore, she shook her head. What a waste, she thought, fighting back the tears.

Within seconds, the bartender returned with a bottle of champagne and the same smile he’d left with.

“I ordered a margarita,” she roared, then realizing her rude outburst, quietly added, “I’m sorry; it’s just that my boyfriend was supposed to...”

“Meet you here at 7:00? I know. He called and asked that I pour you a glass of champagne and give you this card.” With a wink, the bartender was gone. Andrea reluctantly opened it.

Sweetie,

Please bear with me! There are going to be times when other things might seem more important than you, but you have to trust that they’re not.

The rest is up to faith. I’ll be at the Dockside at 7:30. I’m hoping more than anything that you meet me. Please be there with the champagne.

Jeff

Andrea stood and noticed that every patron in the bar was gawking. She was right; it was a conspiracy. Her first thought was to go home and put an end to Jeff’s foolish game.

Then it hit her. There was no way Jeff would have had the time to drop off both cards. Realizing it was all a carefully planned scheme; she smiled back at the crowd. Her excitement grew and, within minutes, she was in her car speeding to the Dockside.

As expected, Jeff was nowhere to be found. Instead, a white stretch limousine idled in front of a dilapidated shack. The chauffeur held a sign that read Andrea Evans.

With her dozen red roses, bottle of champagne and tears in her eyes, she climbed into the car. The driver offered a familiar smile and handed her a tiny card.

I knew you wouldn’t give up on me. Enjoy the ride. I’m waiting! I love you!

Jeff

Andrea enjoyed the ride and when the car stopped, she stole a peek out the window. She was at the beach and Jeff was waiting somewhere in the dunes.

The driver parked the car, opened the door and assisted her out. “Have a beautiful time,” he said. “I’ll be here when you get done!”

Andrea felt like hugging him for his smile — the same one she had seen on the faces of strangers all day. Something big was up and the quest was not yet complete. Not forgetting her roses and champagne, she kicked off her shoes, grabbed them and started for the ocean.

A path of small seashells glimmered under a full moon. It was obvious each shell had been carefully placed, looping through the shifting dunes until they reached several large conch shells. Arranged in the shape of an arrow, they were the last clue on Jeff’s peculiar map. She took a deep breath before stepping over the last dune.

The sight nearly brought her to her knees. Jeff was seated at a small round table in the middle of the beach. Dressed in a black tux, he stood when he saw her. She hurried toward him.

On the table, a hurricane lamp illuminated two place settings, an empty vase and empty ice bucket waited to be filled, and soft music drifted through the breeze.

As she reached him, she expected Jeff to embrace her, but he didn’t. Instead, he dropped to his knees, grabbed her hand and blurted, “Be my wife, Andrea. Spend the rest of your life with me.”

Instinctively, Andrea dropped to meet him in the sand. “Yes!” she answered through her sniffles. “I thought you’d never ask!”

Jeff laughed and pulled her to him. “I love you,” he whispered.

“And I love you,” she countered. Gesturing toward the table, she added, “I love all of this! But why?”

“Because I needed to know that you wouldn’t give up on me when you thought I may have given up on you. I needed to know you love me as much as I love you.”

“Do you know now?”

“I do,” he whispered.

“Good,” she giggled. “Because this is the last time I chase you!”

 

~Steve Manchester
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul

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