Quietly and secretly, Nightingale and her son crafted a beautiful proposal. In a dim room in the city, above the scrape and bell of the tram line and the river rush of traffic I found her waiting for me one evening with a table laden with gifts. She had been collecting mementos of us; sheet music from our songs, text from the books I’ve been reading her to sleep with, lyrics and poems and quotes we’ve shared. She printed them onto my favourite colours, finding the codes for teal and not aqua with the same fumbling determined uncertainty I have in her world of music and song where I think I can almost hear the distinctions she points out. These papers were folded into 5 petal origami flowers, one for each day we’ve been dating.
She disguised it as a work project, folding in lunch breaks, hidden in her lap on the bathroom floor while I had a hot bath to ease pain, in the hours I was asleep or working. They are double sided with paired matched mementos, the music and art of our love.
Nested into this paper bouquet were fairy lights, candles, rose petals, our favourite chocolates and gin, and the set of rings she brought us. Three stacking rings as placeholders for the engagement ring yet to be designed. Three slightly different rings so we can each choose which to wear and change them as we wish. To have our plurality and non binary identity given such care and room to breathe is such a joy and relief.
In the centre of the table was a love letter tied with black ribbon. I sat and read the flowers, opened the chocolates, smelled the candles, breathing it all in while the moon slowly rose outside the window. There’s tears and joy and peace. In the letter she talked of our love and what I mean to her, and she asked me to marry her. Words can be hard, voice is harder still.
I say yes and kiss her face and hands and then write yes on paper and nest it into the flowers beside her letter. At 3am when the magic will seem strangely distant and maybe a dream, it remains there – her question and my answer. A beautiful anchor in such strange seas.
I’ve spent years learning how to let go of what I cannot have, how to release my desire for control over what cannot be controlled, and how to let go of dreams that have broken my heart. Suddenly she is there, so incredibly real and beautiful, moving towards me, kisses on my mouth and a thousand arrows in my heart and my life is no longer about letting go or accepting the fates but grasping hold with fierce anguished joy. It rains in my nights again, and when there’s no rain there’s tears like rain, talking through the nights, hearts on fire. The children sleeping and stirring and singing and hurting and needing and loving and somehow embracing us both despite all the stories and norms of fractious step families. The things we expect to be hard are easy, and where there’s sorrow and loss we can name it and give it a place to be. The stakes are impossibly high and at the same time they’ve never been more within reach. We hold each other and weave together this dream of our future, unpicking and reweaving and getting tangled and easing them out again with patience and courage. She’s magnificent. Love is always a wild thing, untameable, a leap, a gamble. And yet, I feel so grounded, roots deep down and my voice unbound. She’s beautiful and wounded and fierce and devoted and I adore her. The family we make together is utterly worth the risk.
When we first started dating we feared losing our friendship. Now I think of my life without her and that’s a cold wind, an empty chill. Life is painfully short, impossibly long. We wrap ourselves around each other and hold on. Some nights it rains. Some nights she sings. I’m writing again. Life is hard and bountiful. The garden is well tended and yields fruit. In the winter, we plan to get married.