Because I Want to Make you Happy
By Rachael Teelander
Alice paced outside the jewelry shop, nervous about going inside. Not that she was afraid of who was working there, or the price of anything, no, she was weighed upon by the implications of her purchase. It was just so out of the norm, and while she had finally come to her decision on her own, she didn’t know how the other was going to take it.
She glanced at her phone screen for the time. 3:20 p.m. They had called to tell her that the item would be ready for pickup at around 3:30 p.m. Alice was the type of person to be late for everything, but the combination of nerves and excitement had made it really easy for her to be here on time. It was one of her two days off for the week, and she had a handful of other appointments, for her hair and nails, to prepare for tonight.
Alice took a deep breath in, and deciding that she didn’t care that it was a little early, opened the door to the jewelry shop. The little bell on the door rang and her heart jumped at the sound. She couldn’t believe how nervous she was just to pick this up. After stepping through the doorway, she headed to the counter where the one worker in the shop was standing.
“Hi, I have a pickup for Alice Avery.” She blurted, before the worker could even greet her. Alice glanced at the name tag and saw that the workers name was James. He looked to be around her age, in his mid-twenties. She thought maybe she’d ask him for some advice.
“I’ll go grab that from the back!” He said cheerily, and quickly turned to the doorway behind him.
Alice nodded, and then let her eyes wander to the jewelry in the glass cases that made up the counters. The main counter was mostly women’s rings. She crouched down to look at them a little closer. Most were the classic gold band with diamonds, in different patterns and shapes. Alice could see the idea behind wanting a ring so simple and traditional, but she could never see herself wearing such a thing. After all, she was anything but traditional herself, with shoulder length bright blue hair and a love of Korean fashion. Alice new a ring like that would make her feel like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t.
“Here’s your custom item. Please check it out to see if it’s what you asked for. We’re always happy to fix any mistakes.” James said, handing her a small ring box.
Alice flipped it open, heart racing.
Inside was what had started as a standard silver men’s wedding band. Alice knew that the shop did engravings for a small extra fee, but she didn’t know what the limits were. Luckily after stopping in a week earlier, she was delighted to find out that what she had in mind was indeed possible. The silver ring was engraved with a landscape of pine trees and mountaintops at night. They had even darkened the silver in areas to create shading. It was everything that she had dreamed of.
Alice had decided that she was going to propose to her boyfriend about three weeks before this moment. What had made her decide wasn’t something huge or momentous like she had expected, or had read in books. It was just a small moment after she had gotten home from work. Jesse had cooked dinner for the two of them since he had gotten out of work much earlier than her, and knew that she tended to skip lunch so that she could get out a little bit earlier. That alone made her happy, but when she had walked through the door, she saw that Jesse had set up the table with a candle and the sparkling grape juice that Alice preferred over wine. When Alice asked what the special occasion was, he replied with “The occasion is that I want you to be happy.” Jesse had always had a simple way with words that always struck Alice with a warm feeling spreading through her chest.
“It’s perfect!” She said, beaming a smile at James, the worker at the jewelry store.
“What’s the occasion? That’s pretty fancy for a wedding band.” He asked.
Alice wanted to reply with “The occasion is that I want him to be happy,” but obviously James wouldn’t really understand that.
“It’s an engagement ring… I’m proposing to my boyfriend tonight.”
His eyebrows raised in shock, and then he nodded slightly in what Alice thought might be admiration.
“That’s really ballsy.” He commented.
“Do you think it’s…weird?” Alice asked. She knew it was unusual, but she hoped that wouldn’t stop Jesse from saying yes.
James knitted his eyebrows together, putting deep thought into Alice’s question. Not that she was going to depend on this random mostly stranger for whether she should go through with it or not, but she thought it would be nice to get a guy’s perspective on being proposed to.
“I don’t think it’s weird, per-se. The only thing I’d worry about is if he was planning on proposing to you. I would be a little upset if I had a big plan to propose and then my girlfriend proposed to be before I had the chance to. But if he really wants to marry you, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all.”
Alice felt a little bit of relief. She was pretty sure that Jesse hadn’t made any big plans to propose to her, but they had been having more conversations about marriage lately which was what had made her feel pretty secure in planning to propose.
“Thanks.” She said, turning to head out of the shop.
“I hope it goes well!” He replied.
Alice planned on coming back here to find herself a matching ring, if things went well. After seeing what they had come up with for Jesse’s ring, she knew she would be in good hands here. She put the ring into her purse and headed to her car so that she could finish preparing for the night.
“Why the mountains? I didn’t think you two were the outdoorsy type,” asked Alice’s friend, Kate. They had met only a month or so before, at a coffee shop in town. Alice had lost most of her friends to job prospects in other cities, so she was happy to have Kate to help her get ready for the big event.
Alice and Jesse were the opposite of outdoorsy. Their idea of a date night tended to be watching their favorite YouTube channels while eating Chinese takeout in their pajamas on their day off, or building a blanket fort in their living room and spending the day in there instead of their bedroom.
“It’s a representation of the first time we said ‘I love you.’” Alice answered.
Kate leaned away from Alice, curling iron in hand. Alice had asked Kate to help her get ready since she wasn’t the best at doing hair and makeup.
Alice smiled, she knew she was going to have to tell the story, and it was one of her favorites to tell. It played in her head like a movie as she told the story to Kate.
It was two months after her and Jesse had officially started dating, though they were friends for about a year beforehand, and for her birthday he had rented them a cabin near the mountains. On their last night of the trip, since it was warmer than usual, they decided to set up a blanket and stargaze. It was one of the most beautiful nights Alice had ever experienced, with the silhouettes of the mountains framing the brilliant night sky.
Alice had always had a fascination with the stars, so she knew most of the constellations and where the nearby planets could be seen, and many of the stories that went along with the stars. So, of course she had to point them out to Jesse and tell him as much as she knew.
It was august, and one of Alice’s favorite constellations, lyra, could be seen very easily because of how far away from the city they were. Lyra was her favorite constellation because of the story attached to it. There was a Japanese story behind it that Alice just had to tell Jesse.
“You see that bright, blue-ish star there?” Alice asked, pointing upward.
“Mmm-hmm.” Jesse confirmed.
“That’s vega. It’s part of my favorite constellation lyra.”
“Why is that one your favorite? It’s pretty hard to make out.” Jesse asked.
“Because, in Japan, there’s a story behind it.”
“In Japan, vega is called Tanabata, a goddess. Tanabata falls in love with Kengyu, a mortal. However, when her father finds out, he is extremely angry and forbids her to see him. The two of them are thrown into the sky, separated by the celestial river, or the milky way. But the sky gods are kind, and every year on the 7th night of the 7th moon, a bridge of magpies is formed across the celestial river and the two lovers are reunited.” Alice tells, flailing her arms around to make the story more dramatic. She had essentially memorized the story word for word from a book she had read over and over as a child.
Alice stared up at the stars, waiting for Jesse’s reaction. But all she could hear was silence.
She turned to her side to get a look at Jesse, thinking maybe he had fallen asleep, but when she was done shifting to her side, she found him staring intently at her, a calm and loving smile on his face. Alice opened her mouth to ask what he was thinking, but he answered her before she could even make the words come out of her mouth.
“I love you.”
Kate squealed, taking Alice out of the memory.
“First of all, that was adorable.” Kate said, moving from behind Alice, where she had been working on her hair. She then took her fingers and ran them through the newly formed curls in Alice’s hair, shaking them as she reached the ends.
“Second of all, your hair is done, and you look AMAZING.”
Alice got up off of the kitchen chair she had been sitting in, and walked over to the mirror to see what Kate had done with her hair. Her short hair now fell in messy blue ringlets that framed her round face much nicer than the almost wavy and frizzy mess that it naturally was. Before her hair had been done Kate had put a big of makeup on Alice as well, so her green eyes were framed by a shimmering eyeshadow and black mascaraed eyelashes. The combination of her blue hair and the makeup Kate had done made her eyes seem a much brighter and catching shade of green, which Alice totally dug. She still looked like herself, but she also felt like a new person.
Kate appeared behind Alice in the mirror.
“Seriously though, if he says no, he’s crazy.” Kate says with a confident grin. Alice turned to face her, nervously tucking a piece of her hair behind her ear.
“But what happens if he does say no? I don’t know if I could continue being with him after that.”
Kate grabbed Alice’s hands.
“Alice, I have an open room here. If you really need to, I’m happy to let you move in. We can eat ice cream and talk shit about him if that’s what you need. Anything.” Kate said, her voice shifting to a caring, motherly tone.
Alice smiled at the thoughtfulness of her new friend. She wasn’t used to having friends that cared so much, which was why she had gotten so close to Kate in the last month.
“You’re the best.”
Kate let go of Alice’s hands and headed back to her table where the curling iron and bag of makeup were, and promptly started putting everything away. The sudden silence made Alice a bit uncomfortable, and feeling a little worried that Kate might have thought that Jesse wouldn’t say yes.
“Should I really go through with this?” Alice asked, fumbling around with the ring box in her pocket.
“You having to move here is a worst-case scenario, Alice. You and Jesse are great together and from what you’ve told me, he’s totally ready to move to the next step! You have nothing to worry about.”
Alice stood at the edge of the living room, admiring her hard work. She had done her best to recreate that night, at the mountain cabin, and even added some nice other touches. She found a lamp that projected a night sky onto the ceiling, and put some poster board cut into the shape of mountaintops onto the walls. She had also put out the blanket Jesse had gotten her for their first anniversary onto the floor for them to lie on.
She had thought about trying to make Jesse his favorite meal, but Alice was an absolute mess at cooking and she didn’t want Jesse to pretend to like something that tasted awful, which he had done every other time tried to cook for him. Instead she had ordered take out Chinese from his favorite restaurant.
Even though Kate had done her hair and makeup, Alice felt wrong dressing up too much for such a stay-in date. So, she decided to go with an outfit that consisted of the leggings that Jesse always complimented her the most on, and the shirt that he had gotten her at the first concert they had gone to together. Nothing super glamorous, but glamorous wasn’t who she was anyway.
As a finishing touch, she had put some battery-operated tea lights randomly along the edges of the blanket, and had a playlist of his favorite songs playing in the background.
Alice glanced at the clock. Jesse would he home any minute now. After feeling for the ring box that she had placed under the blanket just under by where she was sitting, she began taking the boxes of Chinese food out of the plastic bags, and placed them around the blankets in a more restaurant-type way. At this point she was just doing things to calm the nerves that were beginning to take over her.
Footsteps approached the door, and she heard Jesse fumble with his keys. She shot up from her sitting position and raced to the door, but by the time she reached it Jesse had already unlocked it, and when he opened the door Alice was just standing in the entrance with a face full of nerves.
“Thanks for the help.” He said with a sarcastic grin, leaning forward to kiss Alice on the cheek. He stopped as soon as he leaned forward enough to get a good view of the living room.
“What’s all this?” He asked.
“All this is…because I want to make you happy.”
“And the 5-year anniversary of the day you first said I love you to me.” She blurted, not wanting to sound stupid.
“You’re too sweet.” He said before kissing her on the forehead.
“Sit here.” Alice said, pointing to the spot across from where she had hidden the ring under the blanket.
“Oh! You got Fu Garden, too!” Jesse exclaimed, spotting the boxes of Chinese food.
“Yeah, well, you know how it goes when I try to cook.” She said, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“It’s still cute that you try, but I am glad that you ordered this instead.” He said, grabbing the nearest box, and immediately shoveled some into his mouth.
For the first time in nearly five years, Alice felt uncomfortable in the presence of Jesse. Because, she knew what was going to happen soon, and he didn’t. And it was really weird not to be able to just blurt out that she was super nervous to ask him to marry her, and that she was mostly sure that he would say yes but the possibility of him saying no was the scariest thing she had ever thought about, and that she just wanted to do it RIGHT NOW but also wanted to put it off as long as possible. Alice had spent the last five years being able to tell Jesse everything, and not being able to talk about this was slowly eating her alive.
Jesse brought her out of her thoughts by wrapping his arms around her, and kissing her on the cheek.
“I can’t believe how well you recreated that night. I know you think I’m a goofball and all over the place, and I’m sure you thought I forgot about that night. But I couldn’t ever forget about that, Alice.” He said, in his simple but profound way.
In that moment, Alice was more sure about her decision to ask him to marry him than she had ever been. And in that moment, she thought of the perfect way to do it.
“Wanna hear the story again?” she asked excitedly, turning so her face was to his.
A grin made its way across Jesse’s face.
So, Alice retold the story of the goddess Tanabata, and her lover Kengyu, who were forbidden to be together, but because of the mercy of the sky gods, were able to see each other every seventh night of the seventh moon.
But there was a part of the story that Alice hadn’t told Jesse all those years ago.
“But Kengyu’s journey across the celestial river is treacherous, and sometimes he doesn’t make it. When this happens Tanabata’s tears create raindrops that fall over all of Japan.”
Jesse’s eyebrows knit at the end of the story, but he continues to listen. Alice takes the dramatic pause to quickly grab the ring box under the blanket.
“But I don’t ever want to be without you,” She started, opening the box, “So will you marry me?”
Jesse’s face is one of pure shock for a moment, but he then moves forward and pulls Alice into a tight embrace.
Edited by Emily Chance