Geoff took my hand, casually, as we ambled along the gleaming footpath, soaking in the late afternoon sun. Sofia and Ashton were sitting opposite each other at one of the bustling tables, on the edge of the group spilling out into the mall. She caught my eye and smiled, before breaking hands with Ashton. They both rose to their feet. Sofia placed her hands on my shoulders as we pressed kisses to both of each another’s cheeks. Geoff and Ashton firmly shook hands. We sat back down and I crossed my legs underneath the table.
“How have you been?” Sofia asked.
I reached for the bottle of water on the table.
“How was your Christmas?” she added.
I poured drinks for the four of us, even though I figured we’d order coffees or the like.
I noticed one of Geoff’s hands was in his pocket. Perhaps that’s where his phone was, or maybe his phone and wallet. The distraction prevented me from answering the question, as Sofia accepted her water. Just as I was about to speak, I felt a tickle in my throat. I curled my fingers into a fist, ready to cough, but it didn’t come.
“Well, we had a good Christmas.”
Sofia rested her left hand on the table, the diamond ring on her finger catching the sunlight.
“When did that happen?”
“Well, it was really lovely, it was Christmas Eve. We weren’t even sure if we were going to go.”
Sofia and Ashton grinned between each other.
“My family usually does presents on Christmas Eve,” he noted. “Sofia came over to my place.”
“And my family came too, which we didn’t do last year. I thought that was a bit odd, but I didn’t say anything, I didn’t suspect anything, I just thought they were being nice.”
The glimmer of the ring told me how this story ended. I glanced towards Geoff briefly, the thought of our own engagement crossing my mind. Truth be told, as much as I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, I didn’t want to get married without Mitchell.
“When we were doing presents, Ashton got out this little box.”
“And I got down on one knee, in front of the Christmas tree.”
“Then he asked me to marry him,” Sofia divulged, “and I start crying, and I said yes, and that was that, really. It was a really special moment, with our family there with us. I’m really pleased Ashton organised that like that.”
“So, was Santa good to you?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Geoff answered with a smile. “I got a movie gift voucher, so we’ll have to think of something to go and see.”
“You could take your girl out,” Ashton suggested.
“That’d be nice,” I quipped.
Geoff placed his arm around my shoulders.
“There’s an urban legend in my family that my grandmother once completely slept through a movie at the drive-in,” he recalled. “I would like to go back there.”
A waitress approached the table, flipping open her notepad.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Could I please have a chai latte?” I requested.
“A cappuccino, please,” Geoff asked.
“I’ll have a long black, thanks.”
“An almond milk latte for me, please.”
The waitress wrote down our orders.
“I’ll be back soon,” she mentioned.
The waitress retreated from the table.
“So, when is the wedding going to be?”
Sofia and Ashton looked at each other, then back to us.
“We’re thinking May,” he mentioned. “I would have thought sooner, but--.”
“We’re not going to be able to get into a venue before then.”
“We could get married anywhere,” Ashton pointed out. “If we wanted to, we could get married right now.”
Sofia fetched something from her handbag, presenting it to Geoff and I – an invitation.
“We’re having an engagement party in a couple of weeks. It would be lovely if you two could come, if you’re available.”
“That’s the same day as Jessa’s wedding.”
Sofia’s smile faltered for a moment.
“Yeah, but it’s a morning ceremony and then a lunchtime reception, and this party isn’t until the night, so we would be able to do both, I reckon.”
“Yeah, alright, that’s good.”
Geoff nodded, grasping his glass and taking a small sip. The waitress returned. Carrying a black plastic tray, she handed out our drinks.
With a smile, she departed. I sipped from my chai latte. The conversation dimmed as coffee took over. I tucked the invitation into my handbag, so that I wouldn’t lose or damage it. The smile didn’t leave my lips. Ashton, really, had picked a very romantic way to propose. I wondered if Geoff was taking pointers. Once we finished our coffees, Geoff and Ashton got up and headed inside, so that they could pay for our drinks. Sofia leaned forward, so I did the same, heart beating faster.
“Of course, I want to get married.” She fiddled with her ring. “I worry if Ashton proposed because he’s terrified, but I wasn’t going to say no, especially not in front of everyone and all our families.”
The guys returned before I could respond. Sofia beamed towards her fiancée.
“Are you ready to go?”
“It’s been so lovely to see you.”
I bid farewell to Sofia with a hug. We waved goodbye, then departed in opposite directions. The early evening sunlight warmed my shoulders. For Sofia and Ashton, it felt like the year was finally having a much-needed happy ending. I fetched my keys as Geoff and I approached the car, then unlocked it and we slipped in. Driving us back home to my place, the two of us headed inside. We danced around, withot a care in the world. I could have stayed in that moment forever. Eventually, Geoff and I exhausted ourselves enough that we collapsed onto the lounge, laughing, while the closing notes of the song played. I was distracted by the view out the back doors. Another song commenced on Spotify, which I wasn’t familiar with, so I got up to turn it off and find the next tune.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.