I still remember the first time I heard his voice. I was fifteen years old. I was walking with my best friend Brittney and her boyfriend Kyle under the old bridge on the creek path to school. We were just chatting about school stuff when I heard his voice come from the bridge above us.
“Hey little girl with the Green Dress on!”
We all stopped and looked up. All I could see were his shoulders and head above the railing - a shock of red hair stuck out from under an old baseball cap. He was smiling from ear to ear. I smiled back.
That was all I managed to squeak out.
“I just wanted to tell you that you are smart!”
I giggled, Kyle and Brittney looked at me, then back up at him. I spoke again, a bit more confident because of what he had yelled down to me.
“Why? Don’t you mean to say I am pretty?”
His face changed, like you just told somebody something they already knew. Why would you even say it? I will never forget that look on his face, like someone tried to point out the obvious in an obvious manner.
“Oh, heck, everyone knows that. Not everyone knows how smart you are.”
Brittney punched my arm lightly, whispering as she did:
“That kid knows you. You are smart and pretty.”
Kyle chipped in his two cents worth.
“I agree with the kid on the bridge.”
My self esteem rose on the rising tides of compliment coming from my friends and the voice above me. That is the only explanation I have for what I said next.
“If I am so smart and pretty, why are you up there, and not down here with me?”
Nobody. I mean nobody, expected what that kid did next. Without hesitation he put one hand on the railing and launched himself over with a graceful flowing motion. All three of us stepped back, our hands automatically flying to cover our mouths, stifling the screams and indrawn breath as he flung himself over the railing.
It was a good ten to twelve feet from that bridge to the path we were standing on. We watched as he fell as limp as a sack of corn until he hit the ground solidly on two feet, went into a forward roll, then popped up like a jack in the box directly in front of me. We couldn’t help it. We all clapped. The red headed kid just smiled into my eyes, took off his cap, made a grand sweeping gesture- as if he had just completed a difficult trick on stage and was thanking the audience for appreciating it.
Well he did, and we were.
He was just a bit taller than me. About the same age too. If I outweighed him, it had to be by ounces. He was all wire, string, and tendon, I was supple and curved- so his eyes were just about even with mine when he spoke again.
“I just showed I was willing to jump off a bridge just to meet you. Now I wonder if you are brave enough to jump out of your comfort zone to answer my question.”
Brittney and Kyle were holding each other, neither of them breathing, or at least not so I could hear them. I could kind of see them out of the edge of my eye…and they looked like someone watching the miracle of birth, or a butterfly come out of its cocoon, with that warm fascination and complete focus that comes with seeing something beautiful happening in front of your eyes. Not wanting to interrupt or change the mood- they merely stared without breathing.
“Will you marry me?”
I heard Brittney’s sharp intake of breath. I heard Kyle say : “Holy Shit, what an opening line.” I heard my own heart pound against my chest so hard I thought it would break through my bra and blouse and fly out in a spurt of blood to land at his feet.
I heard the love, the hope, the certainty in his voice. I heard myself answer him.
“Of course I will. I am smart, remember?”
He was no dummy either. He put his hand out as if to shake on the deal, when my hand touched his, he pulled me in like gravity does a planet; slow, irresistible, inevitable. Our lips met.
Some time later I heard Brittney’s soft sobs of joy at what she saw playing out in front of her. I turned to see Kyle holding his Brittney close to him. I just leaned up against the kid I just promised to marry as he looked over at Brittney and Kyle.
Kyle made us all laugh till we cried. When he said:
“I am a guy, and that is the most freaking fantastic romantic thing I have ever seen. If you two don’t get married, I will hunt you down and perform the ceremony myself.”
Eight years later, on Graduation Day, we got married. On that bridge. Kyle was Best Man. Brittney was my Maid of Honor. I was easy to spot. I was the one smart enough to say yes.