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PERENNIALS
 

“Liam, you know I still have my eyes closed, right? You don’t need to put your hands over my eyes,” Aubrey said with a chuckle. Ever since Liam pulled his old, red car to a stop outside of his grandfather’s house, he’d refused to let Aubrey see anything.

“I told you. This is a surprise, and if it’s going to stay that way, then that means no peeking,” Liam replied. With his left hand still placed over her eyes and his right on the middle of her back, Liam guided Aubrey through the house. With his left shoulder, he quickly pushed open a sliding door that led to the backyard. He then directed his girlfriend outside and onto a sandy dirt path. Stones separated the edges of the path from the tall blades of grass that desperately needed to be mowed.

“You know I’m never a fan of surprises,” Aubrey said, a playful frown-turned-pouty look appearing on her face.

“Yes…but I promise you’ll like this one.” Liam grinned and led Aubrey to a medium-sized greenhouse. Dropping his right hand from Aubrey’s back, Liam pulled open the door, placed his foot against it like a door stopper, and steered his girlfriend inside.

Plants of all different sizes and shapes lined the perimeter of the room. Liam squinted as sunlight poured through the square-patterned windows. In the middle of the greenhouse stood an elegant three-leveled fountain. Plastered along the top two levels were sculpted angels holding watering cans. Water trickled from the spouts, making peaceful waterfall-like sounds. Liam guided Aubrey to the edge of the fountain, slowly sitting her down. His hazel eyes quickly scanned the room…searching…searching…. Ah, yes.

“No peeking,” Liam said as he dropped both of his hands and pivoted on his heels, walking to the far left corner of the greenhouse. He carefully picked three yellow daffodils growing in a small, tan-colored pot and carried them behind his back as he made his way back to Aubrey. Once he was directly in front of her, he said, “All right. You can open your eyes now.”

Her eyes fluttered open like a butterfly’s wings, and he watched as her light green eyes widened, drinking in the floral scene around her. “Whoa, this place is gorgeous,” she commented before setting her gaze on Liam. Her head tilted as she noticed he was carrying something behind his back. A thin, amused smile played on Liam’s lips as he revealed the daffodils he picked and handed them to Aubrey. “Daffodils are my favorite,” she said, taking the flowers from him and giving them a sniff.

“I know. And see, I knew you’d like this,” he replied. “This greenhouse is really special to me because my grandparents used to take me here. They’d sit me down by this fountain—just like you are now—and they’d tell me a story. My grandma would hum in the background as she watered the plants, while my grandpa would help plant new seeds. When both of them passed away,” Liam explained, gesturing to the plants around them, “they left me this greenhouse and their house, since I was practically like a son to them, and they knew how much this place meant to me.” His hazel eyes glanced around the greenhouse, and it was if, for a moment, he could see ghosts of his childhood come back to life.

“Aww, I love that. You’ve never told me about this before,” Aubrey said, grinning softly.

“Well, I only ever planned to take someone really special here,” Liam replied. With a warm smile, he got down on one knee in front of Aubrey. Her light green eyes instantly widened, and her lips parted open a little. “You see, my grandmother loved this greenhouse. My grandfather knew this, of course. So, he proposed to her. Right here. Just like this.” Liam fished for a tiny black box in the pocket of his dark blue polo and pulled it out, snapping the lid open. Inside was a small diamond ring. The sunlight reflected from its surface, making it look like a rainbow blossomed on the inside of the diamond. Liam gently plucked the daffodils from Aubrey’s hands and placed them beside her. He took one of her hands in his and smiled. “Aubrey, you’ve always been my sunshine since the day I met you. You are kind, funny, and beautiful inside and out. Every day, you help me to grow into the best person I can be and more. I want to grow old with you, and I want to make you happy forever and always. So what do you say? Will you marry me, Aubrey?” Liam stared into his girlfriend’s eyes, making her blush, just like that first day when they met five years ago.

Aubrey nodded her head vigorously, smiling from her lips to her eyes. “Yes, a million times yes! I love you, Liam,” she replied as he took the diamond out of the box and slid the ring onto her finger. Aubrey slung her arms around him and planted a soft, tender kiss on Liam’s lips.

“I love you, too,” Liam said when they broke away from their kiss. He took her hands in his and stared into her light green eyes, smiling. “Forever and always.”

 

 

Kelly Esparza is a graduate from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Creative Writing. She is the author of The World as Seen Through My Eyes (Kindle Direct Publishing, 2019) and the co-author of Out of This World! (Make Way for Books, 2020). Her writing has appeared in 433 Magazine, Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine, Raine Publishing, and others. Kelly also has an anecdotal vignette forthcoming in Cardigan Press’s anthology, and she has been co-writing a screenplay for a feature film.