“What’s the point of getting married?” he said. “It’s just so…conventional. It’s state interference. It ritualises what’s supposed to be personal, signing official documents and formalising everything. What’s the point?”
“Well, I think it’s dead romantic,” she said. “Making those vows to each other in front of friends and family, celebrating your relationship, saying you want to spend the rest of your lives together. Who cares about signing things, and the state? It’s not about that.”
“It is in my opinion,” he said, and thus a deadlock was reached.
“You can’t tell a Pisces which way to swim,” wise friends told her.
She knew it was true. There was no point arguing the toss. His mind was made up.
The years passed. They had three children and were very happy together. Still she hankered after a wedding, though. Not because she wanted to be a Mrs, not because of the dress, ring, any of the trappings. She just thought it was romantic. She thought they had something worth celebrating.
By now their eldest daughter was old enough to ask questions. “Oh, Mum, why doesn’t Dad want to marry you?” she asked in a pitying way, more than once. “Doesn’t he love you?”
The questions made her wince. “It’s not that,” she’d reply, floundering for the right words. “It’s just… He thinks it’s old-fashioned. Kind of.” But it sounded feeble, even to her. “Ask your dad,” she said in the end. Let him do his own explaining, she thought.
After ten years together and still no sign of a backtrack, she had given up on the idea. It didn’t really matter, did it, at the end of the day? They were happy together, they were committed to staying together. A ring and a bit of paper weren’t going to change the way they felt about each other, were they? But still a tiny bit of her felt sad, as if she'd missed out on something special.
Then, that summer, they were on holiday in Devon. He surprised her after the first week by announcing that he’d arranged for them to have a night on their own, away from the kids. His mum and sister were in on the plot, arranged as baby-sitters.
They went to Lyme Regis together, just the two of them. The sun was shining, and they wandered along the sea front and around the shops, hand in hand, enjoying each other’s company. As afternoon turned to evening, they walked to the harbour. “Let’s go and sit down there,” he said, pointing to the furthest bench, right at the end of the harbour wall.
They sat down together. The last families on the beach were packing up their things, a few swimmers still braving the sea. They felt far away from the rest of the town out there, just the two of them.
He produced a bottle of champagne and two glasses. “Fancy a drink?” he asked.
She laughed. She loved it that he surprised her after all this time. “Go on, then,” she said. “Trying to get me drunk already?”
“Something like that,” he said.
He poured them a glass each, and handed her hers. “Cheers,” he said.
“Cheers,” she said.
“Will you marry me?” he said.
She stared at him, so shocked she almost toppled into the sea. Somehow she managed a good comedy pause before replying. Well, he’d made her wait this long, hadn’t he? She’d let him sweat a few moments in return. “Yes,” she said.