At the beginning of November, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Now usually, I would just let that unknown number wander into the lost realms of voicemail but I fortunately remembered that I was due to receive a phone call; from someone that I knew of, but had never spoken to before. I answered it desperately hoping it was who I expected it to be, and not just some random crazy phone perv.
Luckily, it wasn’t a random perv but the boyfriend of one of my best friends, Bek.
Rewind two days previous and Bek’s sis, Victoria had contacted me to ask if she could give Matt my number as he had something to ask me.
Ah, I thought, it’s Bek’s birthday coming up. Maybe he wants to arrange a party? Leaving it a bit late mind you, but oh well.
I was wrong about the party. Well, sort of.
As it turned out, Matt didn’t want to arrange a party, he wanted to propose to Bek! After I collapsed in shock and them danced around the kitchen with glee, Matt explained he was enlisting the help of Bek’s family and friends. He wanted us to help him write a book and not just any book but A Book of Questions.
Each person was to write a short story, any story about any subject however the first letter of the first word in every story would spell out WILL YOU MARRY ME? The book would then be published and given to Bek by way of proposal.
Yeah. I know. Awesome idea.
Once I recovered from the complete awesomeness of it, the next question was, what to write? I was pretty sure that paranormal or horror fiction wouldn’t be welcome as part of a marriage proposal, so I had to come up with something a little bit different to what I would usually write. Not as easy as you might think. Just because you’re a writer, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily lend your hand (and your pen) to any genre.
Anyway, below is the story that I came up with. It’s full of love. Warm squishy stuff. Hearts. You get the picture. Oh and a slightly chubby, curly-haired match-maker called Arthur.
Arthur J. Erosmus was having a bad week. Jenny in Accounts had completely blanked him at the photocopier and in the lift, the boss Mr Jupitus had pulled him up about not wearing a tie and to top it off he was now fifteen percent down on target. To make matters worse, his colleague, Reginald Amores had hit target yesterday and now Arthur only had the rest of today to make up his fifteen percent and quite frankly, it wasn’t looking promising.
Arthur’s desk faced the Employee of the Month wall and the last thing he wanted was to have to look at Reginald’s face every day, smiling down at him, all snidey and laminated. It was bad enough hearing his high-pitched laughter as it squealed through the office, making Arthur wince as Reginald howled at some terrible joke, usually one of his own. But if he had to sit there and look at him too….well, Arthur didn’t think he could bear it. And there was no point pretending the picture wasn’t there. The eyes would bore into him, forcing him to look up and take notice of Reginald with his immaculately side-parted hair and those bloody irritating ties, like the one with the Superman pattern or the one with Homer Simpson giving a big stupid thumbs up.
Arthur ran his fingers through his sun-tinged curls and wondered how the hell he was going to miraculously reach his target by the end of the day. No matter how much he pondered on it, he thought the only thing that would work would have to be a miracle itself.
Bethany Abrams was proving to be his most difficult client yet, and Arthur had had his fair share of tricky customers. But Bethany; well, she seemed to be in a class of her own where stubbornness and obstinacy were concerned.
They were either too talkative or too quiet, they lacked drive or they were too ambitious. They were too domineering or too much of a doormat. If she could find a reason – any reason – rest assured, she would find it. Take the last one for instance. On paper, he had seemed pretty much perfect. Of course he wasn’t one hundred percent perfect, after all, nobody was, but he ticked most of the boxes more than adequately.
Or so Arthur had thought.
Just when he thought he had finally nailed it and the deal was but a hypothetical hand-shake away, Bethany decided to back out.
“His teeth were just too……too white!” she had shrugged, flushing at the lame excuse. Because, lets face it, both Arthur and Bethany knew it was lame. It was more than lame. It was verging on exasperating.
But now, Arthur was sure he had cracked it. He was certain this one was The One. He’d been working on this new one for weeks now, examining the case file with a fine-toothed comb, looking for something – anything – that Bethany might find fault with. And so far, there had been nothing that Bethany could object to; in fact, if anything, she seemed brighter, happier and with a definite spring in her step that was nothing to do with another new pair of shoes. Yet something still wasn’t quite right. There had been a handful of dates – very successful dates for that matter – and yet something was still holding Bethany back and Arthur just couldn’t fathom what on earth it could be. The longer he looked at the files, the more it perplexed him until he was ready to bash his head against the desk in frustration.
It had to be here somewhere, staring him in the face, he knew it!
Feeling the need for a break, Arthur shambled over to the kitchen, hesitating at the door when he saw Reginald and Jenny near the microwave, looking all cosy over a pot noodle. Jenny flushed when she saw him, whereas Reginald looked over and smirked. Arthur nodded a hello and busied himself making a very large and very strong coffee.
“Still busting a gut over that Bethany Abrams case, Arty?” Reginald said, raising a clearly amused eyebrow and his smirk growing wider and more irritating.
Arthur, thought Arthur, not bloody Arty.
He smiled confidently, although inside he felt anything but. “Almost there actually,” he replied. “Today’s the day I reckon.”
“Bit optimistic aren’t we?” laughed Reginald. “I’ve give up if I were you. She’s a tough one, that girl.”
He elbowed Jenny, expecting her to join in his laughter, but Jenny had the good grace to look a little irritated herself. She gave Arthur a small, encouraging smile.
“Don’t give up, Arthur, I’m sure you can do it. Everyone needs a bit of love in their life, even the tough ones.”
Arthur stared at her, amazed. Reginald looked suitably disgruntled and went back to his pot noodle, spilling some down one of his equally putrid ties.
Back at his desk, Arthur took a big swig of coffee and smiled. He was going to do this. Whatever it was, he knew it was there. Scanning the files for what seemed the hundredth time, Arthur cross-referenced all the relevant details, likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests yet still the key alluded him. He glanced at his watch, seeing the little hand tick round and he felt the panic begin to set in with beads of perspiration dotting his forehead. Leaning back in his chair, he spun around and then banged his head against the desk in frustration. When he opened his eyes, he realised his head was now laying on his latest rental from Mr Jupitus’ vast library, a copy of Ovid’s Art of Love.
His eyes widened. That’s it!
In the bookshop, customers browsed the shelves in peace, glad to find some moments of calm and tranquility from the hustle and bustle of the crowded shopping mall outside. Bethany ran her fingers across the spines of the books and released a small sigh of contentment as she breathed in the smell of freshly-printed pages. She loved it here, Arthur knew that she never missed a visit to the bookshop every time she made a trip to the mall. He also knew that Mark, her latest suitor, also happened to love it here and oh look, here he was now.
From his vantage point on the other side of the long book shelf, Arthur skulked in the romance section, peeking over surreptitiously every now and then, waiting for the moment; that one moment.
Bethany, lost in a world of book covers and book blurbs, wandered aimlessly in the crime fiction section, picking up a book here and there, searching for that one which would capture her unwavering interest. From the other side of the section, Mark meandered along the shelf, eyes covering the spines from top to bottom, also searching.
As they drew closer to the middle, Arthur knew this was his moment. Concentrating very hard, he reached forward and poke his finger at one book in particular, dislodging it from its home on the shelf and letting it drop to the floor between Bethany and Mark.
Instinctively, they both bent down to pick it up at the same time.
“Oh!” they both said, surprised to see each other at the same spot, their favourite shelf, in their favourite section of their favourite bookstore.
They looked down, both noting the Sherlock Holmes book in their hands. Their fingers touched, igniting the spark that Arthur had been waiting for.
“Bingo!” he cried and reached for one of the gold-tipped arrows in the quiver on his back and carefully took aim with his bow.
As the arrow flew across the store, Arthur smiled and gave a silent prayer to Jupitus that it would be his laminated portrait up on the Employee of the Month wall at Cupid Inc. yet again this time, and not Reginald and his bloody awful ties.