“It looks so different in the summer.”
We’re driving a familiar road to an unfamiliar apartment. But one I hope will become the source of years of joy for Chari. When I asked her once if she wanted a house in Montreux, I know Chari thought I was kidding. Even last month, when I showed her a picture of this already furnished apartment, knowing she’d love to be right along the lake where houses are scarce, she laughed—after she gushed over it.
Thankfully, with Hayden’s father’s connections over here, the process of buying it was much smoother, and quicker, than I expected.
As we drive toward downtown, I check my pocket for the millionth time today. At one point on the flight, I thought for sure Chari knew. I had to carry the box on my person because I didn’t trust putting it anywhere else.
Turns out, she was actually looking at the map on my lap. When I pulled it out to show her some of the places we’re going this weekend, I glossed over the most important one. Right along the quays, the lakeside paradise Chari fell in love with, sits the small village of Clarins—our new home for as long as we can travel here.
“I remember this road,” she says, turning to me with bright eyes, her excitement contagious. She points to a building coming up ahead. “That’s the hotel we stayed at last time.”
Our driver passes it, and Chari spins around in her seat. Three months after she’s moved to New York, I still can’t get enough of her excitement. Someday the things around us—skyscrapers that reach into the sky in New York, and the mountains that surround the villages here—will become commonplace to Chari. But they’re not yet. And I love watching her rediscover both places.
“Here we are.” The driver pulls up next to a pristine white building, its architecture leaving no doubt we’re in a distinctly French-speaking canton of Switzerland.
I speak to the driver, who will arrange for our bags to be delivered. Right now, I just want to get Chari upstairs. As we enter the small elevator and begin the ride up to the top floor, Chari notices me pulling out a key.
“This looks more like an apartment building than a hotel. Is it an Airbnb or something?”
But the elevator has already stopped, and I avoid answering her. Instead, I use the key to open the door in front of us. It works. Once inside, I breathe a sigh of relief. A friend of Hayden’s checked the place out for me last month, but I’m still glad to see everything looks as it did on the virtual tour.
“Check this out.”
Chari’s looking up in awe at the high ceilings, but it’s the view from the windows I want her to see most.
“So you rented this place for the week? It’s unbelievable. I think my mom’s entire house could fit in here. Oh my God, a grand piano. And look, Enzo, it’s like the New York Public Library,” she says of the study off to our right. “Do you think the books are all in French?”
My heart threatens to pound out of my chest. I know I should respond to her, and make some attempt to match her level of enthusiasm, but all I can concentrate on are the words I’m about to ask. I’ve said them over and over again in my mind for weeks, and the moment is finally here.
“Probably,” I manage to mutter, opening the French doors. We’re on the top floor, positioned right in the middle of town. Lake Geneva lies in front of us, the Swiss Alps to the left, and French Alps straight ahead.
Even for someone who’s seen it before, the view is fucking incredible.
Chari gasps, coming up behind me. Passing me. “Oh my God, Enzo. It’s even more amazing than I remember. And look at that!”
She nods to the ice stand complete with champagne and two glasses hanging from the side. Chari doesn’t notice as I kneel behind her and take out the familiar black velvet box. So much for waiting until after dinner. I just can’t. When it comes to Chari, patience isn’t one of my strong suits.
“Do you see this—”
She spins toward me, and her hands instantly fly to her mouth.
“I wanted to wait to bring you here,” I say, my voice cracking. “To where I fell in love with you. I knew that weekend my life would never be the same. You reminded me of what’s important, and I promise never to forget again.”
Chari’s crying, but I’m determined to keep it together.
“You’re right,” I continue, “this view is amazing. But not nearly as amazing as you.”
I open the box, praying Chari’s mom and Lisa were right about the ring, that Chari will love it.
“Chari Atwood, will you marry me?”
This really isn’t how I rehearsed it. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to matter. She’s nodding, tears streaming down her face. I stand and take her hand. It’s shaking as I put the ring on her finger. So I hold her hand to steady it.
And then I kiss this magnificent woman who just agreed to be my wife.
At least, I think she has.
“You never actually said yes,” I remind her.
“Yes!” she shouts, throwing her arms around me. I catch a glimpse of the mountains rising up behind her, and I vow to never take anything for granted again. To always appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to be surrounded by such beauty. To always remember that nothing really matters, no amount of success, without the love of family and friends.
I will cherish this moment, and all that it stands for, for the rest of my life.
Moving toward the ice bucket, I quickly pop open the champagne, my hands still shaky, and pour two glasses. I hand one to my fiancée and raise my own.
“To never-ending dreams.”
* * *