“Finally,” everyone sighed when Mike quietly told his brother and sisters that he planned to propose marriage to Courtney. Mike wanted to surprise her, catch her off guard. He devised a clever plan: one reflective of their marine biology backgrounds, but risky. Not risky as in whether or not Courtney would accept: but risky as in whether or not she’d find her engagement ring that he intended to bury in the sandy beach.
In preparation for this special event, Mike dug up a large quahog shell and cleaned it out. He placed the diamond ring inside the clamshell, glued it shut, and then chose a place in the sand along the ocean’s edge to bury it. He anticipated a romantic stroll along the shoreline in late afternoon. Then he intended to suggest they sit down on the warm sand where he’d ask the age-old question, “Will you marry me?”
He planned to apologize for not being able to afford a ring as he casually dug in the sand. He wanted to pretend to find the shell, pull it out and say, “Oh! Look,” as he handed it to Courtney. He hoped she would open it and be delighted when she saw her engagement ring.
His brother thought this was an exciting plan. Mike’s sisters thought it crazy. “This is too risky! How are you going to remember exactly where that shell will be?” his sisters chided. “You know the water’s edge keeps changing and the low light will confuse you.”
“I’ll mark it with some long grass.”
“Sure, like there’s no other dune grass on the beach!” they hollered. “Don’t do it.”
His brother, Rob, said, “I’ll hide way over on the side and keep a steady eye on the spot where you bury it.”
Sara, his older sister said, “I’ll keep an eye on the spot from the other side.”
His other sister, Dina, gave in and said, “Okay, I’ll watch too. We’ll triangulate it. But, don’t blame me if you can’t find it.” She lectured, “We’re all going to end up digging through the sand for that shell. Mark my words.”
About an hour before the choreographed walk, Mike raced out to the beach and buried the shell. His brothers and sisters watched as promised.
The two strolled along the shoreline through foamy surf. Then, Mike suggested they sit down when they neared “the spot.” Suddenly, several dogs chased down the beach with the owner yelling as he ran to catch them. The noisy distraction confused Mike’s orientation. He lost site of his newly planted pieces of dry dune grass that told him where to sit. He stopped short.
“What’s wrong?,” Courtney asked. “Did you loose something?”
“Ah. No. Nothing’s wrong,” he said. He glanced around and saw his brother off in the distance standing up, pointing. Then, Sara stood up and pointed. Courtney didn’t notice them. Mike tired to line up their pointed fingers. “Let’s walk over this way.” Courtney followed. Mike glanced at his brother and sister again. “No, let’s go over there and sit.” Then, he saw Dina stand up and point. Mike tried to make a quick guestimate of the place where he’d buried the ring. “Ah, Courtney, let’s just sit down.”
“Mike. What’s going on?”
“Courtney. Will you marry me?”
“Of course. But why do you look so sad.”
“I don’t have a ring to give you.”
Courtney sifted through the sand with her fingers. “I don’t really need one, Mike. Some day will be soon enough.”
Concerned over the misplaced ring, Mike repeated, “I really don’t have a ring to give you.”
She continued sifting through the sand. Suddenly, Mike’s three siblings showed up and stood around them. “Hi!” they said in unison, like a group of Christmas carolers.
Dina said, “Told you. Got some shovels?”
“Mike,” Courtney said, “Something’s going on. What is it?”
She inched her toes into the beach. “Ouch!” She reached through the granules and pulled out a shell while Mike focused on his conversation with his sibling.
“Listen!” she said, “Something’s inside. Hear the rattle?”
The conversation stopped. All eyes silently shifted to the huge Quahog in Courtney’s hand. All watched as she popped it open.
“What a surprise!” She screamed in delight at her ring.
“Yes!” everyone said. “What a surprise!”.