September 23, 2016
Flora scanned the vast forest as Kiran wound through the highway from Tillamook toward the great unknown. That may have been dramatic. After all, Flora grew up here, too. She knew the roads as well as Kiran. They were on Highway 131 heading toward the beach. There were a lot of beaches dotting the Oregon Coast, but they visited only a handful: Cape Meares north of the highway; Oceanside, hardly a stone’s throw from Cape Meares; and Cape Lookout State Park toward the south. It was their secluded oasis from prying eyes.
The Camry hugged the curve along Netarts Bay Drive. It was so close to the bay that Flora could see the waters lapping against the rocks preventing the road from being eroded away. They curved through the forest, then near the waters again like a dance between the elements; it was so soothing. And familiar. They passed a bicyclist—maybe one of the intense bikers who ride from coast-to-coast?—just as they passed the bed-and-breakfast they always wanted to stay, but hadn’t yet.
“It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve been here,” Flora whispered. “I almost forgot how beautiful it is.”
Kiran glanced at her with a boyish grin playing on his lips. “It has been a while, but I think this trip will be one you’ll remember for a long time.”
“Uh-huh,” Flora said, “and why are you suddenly so secretive?”
Kiran was a man with an eye for surprises. In their sixteen years together, he sent gifts for her birthday timed to arrive at the time she was born. He planned an entire vacation, including requesting time off, for their ten-year anniversary. The familiar excitement formed in her chest when she realized he was about to surprise her again.
The scenery was so familiar Flora could summon the images in her mind if she tried hard enough, so her focus switched to Kiran. Flora always wondered, if she stared at him long enough, if he would ever cave and spill the surprise. It hasn’t worked even once. Instead, she admired the view from the passenger seat. Kiran’s hair was short and well-kept, a few tufts of his ink-colored mane falling across his forehead. His eyes were a royal blue color. When Flora studied him, she could see the smile lines near the corners of his eyes.
Kiran was always clean-shaved and wore black dress pants, a crisp button-up shirt—white for today—and nice polished shoes. There was nothing special about his demeanor, yet he always pulled others toward him, striking up conversation at his leisure. He was so casual yet regal at the same time. He had a strong nose line inherited from his English ancestry. His lips always pulled into a smile so slight that Flora couldn’t remember a frown ever gracing them. She hadn’t taken the time to study them with her eyes before. She was too busy using her mouth.
“See something you like?” Kiran asked.
“I do, but I suppose I shouldn’t kiss you when you’re driving.”
Kiran chuckled, a sugar-sweet sound. “That would be terrible. But I promise it will be worth the wait.”
The drive continued along Whiskey Creek Road until they turned right, slowing as they entered the driveway to the park. A few speed bumps, an empty toll booth, and a parking lot with hardly a handful of cars. Typical for a Friday morning in September, and part of the charm. Branches swayed, leaves fell from the trees around them as the biting ocean winds pushed through the park. There were few clouds in the sky. The ocean crashed upon the shore.
“Shall we?” Kiran opened Flora’s door. He pushed his coat onto her shoulders for warmth before pressing his lips to hers. Goosebumps formed on her skin with a shiver that raced down her spine. “Come on.” Kiran’s fingers laced through hers as he led her toward the hiking trail.
To the left, hardly concealed by the forest, were cabins for rent during the summer months. Flora never saw the inside with her own eyes, but from the pictures online they were gorgeous! They were like the cozy cabins she saw in design magazines trying to bring the “rugged outdoors” straight into suburbia. And they even had showers. That was a plus. From what she could see there were at least ten cabins spread throughout the forest, each with a trail from the front door to the hiking path Flora was being guided along. They passed a bulletin board almost full of warnings against using fireworks or fire pits or grills during the arid summer months.
The path skirted along the ever-eroding edge of land that met the beach some ten feet below; the further along the path one traveled, the longer that fall would be. The Parks Department installed cable fencing to keep distracted visitors from injuring themselves. Flora doubted it helped much.
Gravel crunched beneath their feet disrupted only long enough to cross the small wooden bridge over a creek running into the ocean. They passed a small gathering area in the grass with a picnic table and grill. Twenty feet down the trail, they came to a similar gathering area. This was larger. Flora was familiar with it since they always came to this area to stare at the horizon and the ocean, talking about their future together. Three picnic tables situated off to their right became unimportant.
Per Flora’s custom, she approached the fence acting as her sole guardian against her clumsiness, letting her hands rest upon the post so her mind could swim in dreams and fantasies. The waves ebbed, flowed, and crashed into the shore with a crescendo like the most gentle orchestra nature could craft just for her. Per Kiran’s custom he would smile after her. He would stand at her right side, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. Flora always felt him shivering, but he would refuse to take his coat back. He would let her dream and fantasize, asking the questions he never could quite vocalize in the fast-paced city they called home on the other side of the mountain.
Instead, Flora stood alone becoming swept up in the surrounding beauty. There were footsteps she ignored. Hushed whispers piqued her interest. A voice brought her back from the ocean blue.
“Flora,” Kiran whispered into her ear, “I have a surprise for you.”
“Of course you do,” she said. Her body turned toward Kiran, but whatever thought was next fled at the sight of a man and a woman.
Heinrick was a man in his early thirties with light brown hair that almost looked orange in the light. He always wore ragged jeans and T-shirts promoting his favorite bands or video games, but today he was in a suit. Nice polished black loafers replaced the ratty Converse he always donned. A tapered coat brought her attention to how narrow his shoulders were for a man standing at six foot four while slouching. The down-to-earth man Flora met on very rare occasions during Kiran’s college days replaced Heinrick’s normal jovial persona. Whatever was happening was serious enough to make a jester a prince. A storm of butterflies swarmed her stomach.
Standing next to Heinrick was Bridget, Flora’s best friend since before high school. Cherry-red hair glowed in the daylight almost as bright as the tears welling in her eyes. Bridget was a great friend and a horrible liar. Her face could tell a million stories. Flora just didn’t know what this one was. Bridget had taken the time to groom herself for whatever event this was. She wore a modest floral summer dress with a heavy coat to keep warm. The dress hung about Bridget’s knees a few inches above chocolate brown boots that reminded Flora of a steam punk accessory. She clutched a chocolate brown purse white-knuckled in one hand, while the other balled into a fist holding a tissue as if her life depended on it.
“We’re just waiting for one more person.” Kiran put his forehead to Flora’s.
“He’s parking the car actually,” Heinrick said.
“Who?” Flora looked from Kiran to Bridget who turned toward the parking lot to keep from giving the surprise away.
“You’ll see in a minute, love. I promise.”
“Am I dressed enough for…whatever it is we’re doing?” Flora took a step back gesturing to herself. At Kiran’s request, Flora wore something a little more formal than she normally would. She settled for a turquoise dress which hugged her curves as it tapered toward her knees with a shallow neckline. The sleeves covered to her wrists. At the bottom right edge of the dress was a two-inch slit with black roses embroidered around it. She wore brown flats with a black buckle over the toe. Aside from Kiran’s coat hanging over her shoulders, she looked more dolled up now than she had been in a long time; earrings matched the rose-colored pendant dangling at her sternum. Before they left Tillamook, Flora even took the time to pin the bark-colored locks now whipping about her face into a nice bun.
“You look great,” Bridget managed with only a slight waver to her voice as she gave her thumbs-up approval.
“You really do,” Kiran chimed in.
A moment later an older gentleman came up the path, winded from running through the terrain. He was carrying a pastel pink box with a large satin bow wrapped around it. “I deeply apologize for being late,” the man said between breaths. Once he recovered he added, “Is everyone here?”
“Yes,” Kiran said with a nod.
“Will you tell me what’s going on now?” Flora looked between all the faces staring at her but only saw they knew something big she didn’t.
“Of course,” Kiran took her hand in his, looking down at their fingers joined. “We’ve been together a really long time, Flora. I know you know that. And I know you want more. And Heaven knows I want to give you everything in the world you want, plus some, so I brought something for you…for us…” Reaching into the breast pocket of his vest, Kiran removed a paper, unfolding it delicately. He held it so Flora could read it. “Did you know these things are good for—and correct me if I’m wrong—sixty days in the state of Oregon?”
Four years ago Kiran proposed to Flora during one of their many surprise picnics. During that time they didn’t really talk about getting married. It was just some vague future goal that went by the wayside while trying to start up a flower store independent of a department store. Almost two months ago, they had taken that first step. They made a day trip to the Tillamook County Courthouse to get the marriage license so they would quit stalling and make it official. Then Kiran had a severe case of bronchitis and everything else fell by the wayside. Somehow, during those messy days, Kiran had tucked the seed away until a rainy day.
Flora’s mouth dropped open, staring up at Kiran in disbelief. He pulled a small box from his pocket as he knelt in the damp grass. “Flora, will you marry me today? Like…right now-ish?”
Flora beamed as tears welled in her eyes threatening to ruin the eyeliner she applied this morning. “Of course I will,” her voice a whisper, almost drowned by the sound of the crashing waves behind them.
“Oh, goodie!” Bridget clapped, bouncing in place.
Kiran sprang up to kiss her cheek. He left her side for only a moment, just long enough to retrieve the box from the older gentleman. “This is for you from the family.”
The bow was easy to remove. The lid followed with a dull thud on the grass at their feet. Inside the box lay one of the most beautiful bouquets Flora had ever seen. A large white lily lay near a large blue hydrangea. White daisies and cream-colored roses surrounded them. The green leaves, small lavender flowers, and baby’s breath broke up the palette, the stems wrapped with white satin and pinned together so the bouquet would keep its form. A card read simply, Love, Mom & Dad.
“It’s beautiful,” Flora whispered.
“Shall we?” Kiran offered his arm to his fiancee as everyone took their places in the makeshift wedding. The pastor stood with his back to the ocean near the cable fence. He had no books nor papers with him; his hands folded in front of him. Kiran stood to Flora’s right side. Bridget stood a foot behind Flora off to the side and Heinrick mirrored the placement on Kiran’s side.
“We’re gathered here today to join in union two wonderful souls that have stood side-by-side for over a decade. We pray that God blesses and watches over you in your marriage to keep your faith and love as strong going forward into your new life together as it has been to the present.” Flora shot a glance to Kiran who returned a smile before turning his attention back to the pastor. “Now, please repeat after me.”
Kiran and Flora turned to face each other. Kiran slid the ring onto Flora’s finger, repeating the pastor’s words. “I, Kiran Vincent Thompson, take thee, Flora Rebecca Fairview, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” Kiran’s voice was unsteady as he spoke, trying to hold back the tears already falling down his cheeks.
The pastor paused and allowed the words to float in the space between them before settling into their hearts.
“I—” Bridget tapped her shoulder, fetching a box from her purse.
“There you go, hun,” Bridget said, ushering Flora to return to the matter at hand.
Flora nodded and slid the ring onto Kiran’s finger, repeating the words Kiran had pledged to her. “I, Flora Rebecca Fairview, take thee, Kiran Vincent Thompson, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
The pastor smiled and let the silence settle between them, only disturbed by another crashing wave. His face became serious as a father speaking to his children. “Flora, Kiran: it is so easy to become absorbed within this world. If you will support each other, walking with faith and love as you have for the last sixteen years, you will be blessed beyond what you could imagine.” The smile returned. “With the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
Kiran and Flora shared a peck before Bridget broke them up. “Now let’s get someplace warm!”