“You love birds can sit here with me if you want,” the elderly man said to the young couple desperately looking for a vacant breakfast table. “I’ll be leaving soon, and it looks like these are the last empty chairs in the house.”
The Garden Terrace was a romantic spot that peered across the Pacific in Laguna Beach. The small tables were each surrounded by four French-styled chairs swirled with wrought iron. The Sunday morning sun reflected brightly against the blue ocean through the viewing windows. The room was cozy, and was ornamented with rich, dark, woods and old hanging portraits of the restaurant’s heritage.
“Are you sure?” asked the young man after pulling his sunglasses up over his head. “Aren’t you waiting for somebody?”
“I am waiting for my wife, but sometimes she gets distracted and ends up somewhere else.”
“Why thank you, sir,” the young lady responded. “We should have called earlier for reservations. This is our favorite getaway from our hectic lives.”
“Please, sit down. It is important to enjoy life and appreciate everything the universe gives us. Plus, I’m sure you already know their crab avocado omelet is pure paradise.” The old man was dressed a few notches better than what was required of the restaurant, but was nevertheless handsome with a black bow-tie showing a trace of the small, metal clamp that held it in place.
The couple glanced at each other for approval, then happily sat and shuffled their chairs closer to the old man. He would be leaving soon, anyways. He appeared to have a small swallow of coffee left in his cup and the bill was placed neatly beside his saucer. His side of the table was spotless without a trace of a stray breadcrumb.
“When you two gonna get married?” the old man asked as the waitress distributed menus and lowered a plate of steaming hot bread on the table.
“We’re already married,” the two said almost at the same time.
“Today’s our third anniversary,” the young girl beamed. “We got married in the gazebo right on top of that hill.” The girl pointed upward out the window to the right.
“Really?” the old man said with surprise. “I guess that is a popular spot because that is where Zella and I got married!”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” the young man said.
“Nope. Zella and I wanted a small wedding. It was just her, the minister, and me. I suppose God was the official witness. We paid the minister extra to follow us down the steps to the beach to snap a few pictures of us and the ocean background. Zella’s dress gleamed in the sun as she sat on one of those big rocks. She smiled so big in the photograph but I’m sure it was not the most comfortable seat.”
“That is so romantic,” the young lady said. “How long ago was that?”
“Fifty years ago today, but every time I look at that old gazebo, I feel like it was yesterday. This is where we eat breakfast every year.”
“What an amazing story!” The young man said. “Are you sure she is not lost?”
“Oh, heaven’s no,” the old man replied while straightening his bow. “With all the places to shop around here, it’s no wonder she always gets side-tracked. After all, it gives me time to prepare my speech.”
The young couple looked at each other and smiled. “Are you going to give her a lecture on the virtues of timeliness?” the young girl asked.
“Nope. I’m going to tell her how she is the most important ingredient of my life. Even more wonderful than any crab avocado omelet. And, I’m going to give her this.” The old man fetched a small box from his jacket, and carefully raised the hinged lid. Inside rested a glittering diamond perched on a four-pronged platinum pedestal. The diamond was at least twice as large as the young girls, and projected intense beams of yellow and magenta light from it’s facets.
“Wow,” the young man exclaimed. “I bet she wouldn’t be shopping if she knew that rock was awaiting her.”
“This is what I wanted to give her fifty years ago, my dear sir, but who had money in those days? Tomorrow never comes. You will learn this soon enough, young man. It is never too late to let someone know you love them. Don’t wait until tomorrow to hug your child, to embrace your wife, and to appreciate others. You cannot buy love, but this ring will be a symbol of my love. Every time Zella glances down at her hand, she will remember every great moment we had together.” Then the jolly man looked down at the gem and jested. “I sure hope I ordered the right finger size.”
“I wouldn’t care if it rolled all around my finger,” the girl laughed. “That’s what rubber bands are for.” The young girl turned toward her husband and winked. “That’s exactly the size of rock I want, my dear.”
“Absolutely, my love,” the man began. “And that’s exactly what I was planning on giving you forty-seven years from now.”
“Well, I guess I’d better check on Zella,” the old man said after leaving some cash by his saucer. “I try to have a habit of holding Zella’s hand every time we go out. Whenever I let go, she goes shopping.”
“Have a wonderful day,” the young man said. “Maybe one of these days we’ll get a chance to meet your lovely wife.”
“I’m sure you will, sir. I’m sure you will.” The man straightened his bow once again, ambled out of his chair, and scooted away.
“Will you love me forever like that?” the young girl asked her husband.
“Yes, my love. But it looks like I’d better start saving in order to fulfill your diamond dreams.”
“Are you ready to order?” the waitress asked.
“Two plates of your famous crab avocado omelet,” the young man said.
“Coming right up. I do hope Mr. Wesley was not bothering you.”
“He was charming and hilarious,” the young lady said. “I just hope he finds his wife before she buys everything in Laguna Beach.”
The waitress gently placed a glass pitcher of iced water on the table. The sun poured brightly onto the container, and crystals of light glinted from the exterior droplets. “Did he show you the ring?”
“Yes,” said the young girl. “Thanks to that man I know exactly what I want for my birthday.”
“He has wanted to give her that ring for the past ten years,” the waitress said solemnly. “I hope nobody tries to rob that poor old man. She died from a heart attack right before their fiftieth anniversary. He has come here for coffee every year, on their anniversary, for the last ten years.”
Copyright 2012 by Diamond Mike Watson.
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