By Hayley Sherman
“I run downstairs for the butter, WD40, an organ grinder and eventually the fire brigade and trash the whole room trying to wrestle it off her while she miraculously stays asleep.”
It’s 3.30 a.m. and my alarm quietly bleeps on the bedside table. It takes a bleary second for me to remember why I set it, and then the magnitude of the moment kicks in and I’m all business. Tonight’s the night!
Sarah stirs a little beside me, so I don’t make a move until she’s found her sleeping rhythm again, making a noise that I choose to call a purr rather than a snore because I love her so much. It’s as dark as a room can be, so with all my stealth and cunning, I reach out and feel the carpet under the bed where I’ve hidden the secret tool I need for my covert mission – a loop of thirty steel rings strung together, designed to measure everything from a baby’s little finger to the devil’s own thumb. As soon as I touch it, it jangles like a set of jailer’s keys, but Sarah’s out for the count now, so, holding my breath, I dare to pick it up and put my plan into action.
I have to confess that when gay marriage was legalised, it never occurred to me that I might, one night, be awake in a dark, silent room forcing my unconscious girlfriend’s finger into a series of holes to measure her up for an engagement ring without waking her, but life is full of little surprises.
Take me, for example; I had been happily single for about nine years before meeting her and was perfectly content in life. I don’t want to say that I’d resigned myself to never marrying, because that somehow implies that my single life was ‘less than’, and that was never the case. In fact, it always pissed me off when well-meaning, loved-up friends would tip their heads on the side, pull the pity pout and say, ‘Aw, are you still single?’ as if asking if I still had piles. ‘Don’t worry, the right person’s out there for you,’ they’d add. ‘You just haven’t met her yet. You’re lovely.’ Bloody cheek! I spent years cultivating the single life I wanted.
Sometimes I’d get in there first and say, ‘Aw, are you still with Kelly? Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get your freedom back soon. You’re lovely.’
The frustrating/beautiful truth, however, is that they were right. She was out there all along, but if we’d met at any other point in our lives, we wouldn’t have been a fit. We’ve both lived just the right amount of life now to be oven-ready for each other.
Back to the dark bedroom, and Sarah’s working with me without even knowing it. She’s made a surprise big-spoon move and is draped over me. I’d wondered how I was going to engineer grabbing her hand, and now she’s handed it to me (so to speak). I have to be quick, though. I fumble for a ring from the middle of the jangly set, wishing now that I had a) chosen a few rings that might be close to her size when it was still light, b) taken them off the loop or c) taken the advice I read online about using cotton to measure her finger. But never mind. We’re here now. I have her hand and if she wakes up mid-manoeuvre, I’ll just hold on for dear life, thrash about a bit and tell her I was having a nightmare about Boris Johnson.
I get lucky on the first go. The ring doesn’t fit, but it’s close, just a touch too big, and more importantly, she hasn’t moved or stirred, but something’s changed: I can no longer hear or feel her rhythmic breathing on my back, so either she’s awake and just letting me do this, too polite to spoil the surprise, probably laughing her arse off at me, or she’s tragically passed away in the last few moments. I hope it’s neither and try to slip the ring off her finger, but before I get to the knuckle, the worst imaginable thing happens – she clenches a fist. I try to console myself with the good news that she’s probably not dead, but it seems little consolation next to the task ahead of getting the bloody thing off. Thankfully, she unclenches just as quickly, but I’m about as close to a coronary as a 43-year-old should be allowed to get by now.
I can’t help wondering if married life is always going to be this difficult.
I feel for the next smallest ring. Something inside is telling me that I should quit while I’m ahead, but I’ve never been one to listen to the voices, so I slide it on – or rather I force it on – over the knuckle, and this is definitely the one. Perfect! A little snug but definitely the one. And I know what you’re thinking. Is she going to be able to get it off or is this going to turn into an episode of Mr Bean, where I run downstairs for the butter, WD40, an organ grinder and eventually the fire brigade and trash the whole room trying to wrestle it off her while she miraculously stays asleep? Well, I’ll leave you to wonder how that part of the story ended and skip a few weeks ahead to the good bit … She said yes!
Hayley Sherman is a writer, ghostwriter, blogger and editor who just wants everyone to be nice to each other. Her blog smiles in the face of adversity, licks the cheek of the oppressor and generally reflects on her denial about being a middle-aged lesbian. hayleyshermanwriter.com.
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