A Puzzling Engagement

“Where’d that puzzle come from?” I asked when I came home from Brick Street in Oxford late Friday afternoon. The rectangular border, minus one piece, was put together on a card table Paul had set up in the living room. The pieces were pale pinks and lavenders with bits of forest green and bright magenta interspersed. I had never seen this puzzle before.

“I found it in a box in the basement when I was looking for my camera’s battery charger. It was in a plastic bag, see?” Paul responded to me.

He invited me over to work on it, so I set up a folding chair while he sat in the old comfy green armchair. I was on a hunt for the missing border piece, hoping that it hadn’t been lost.

We worked in companionable silence, with the television on for background noise. I had not yet located the missing border piece but had instead put together the small bit of green leaves in the upper right corner when we were interrupted by the impending storm. We stopped to move cars, trash cans, and sprinklers.

By the time we finished finding safe places for everything outside, our power had gone out. We continued to work on our puzzle by the bit of light we could glean from out large, three-pane living room window. The clouds finally overtook our source of light, so we took a break.

The next afternoon, when I returned from babysitting and shoe shopping, Paul and I rejoined the puzzle work. This puzzle was complex because of all the similar colors and unclear shapes, and without a box to provide a point of reference from a picture of the completed puzzle, it was even more difficult.

We worked steadily Saturday afternoon, with me focusing on the lavender flowers and Paul working on what appeared to be a rose’s stem with a few jagged leaves. I looked for color patterns while he searched for pieces by their shapes. This is how we complement each other; working toward a common goal but taking our own paths to get there.

I called for a break by late afternoon, knowing that I would see the pieces more clearly with a fresh eye after a period of time away.

Sunday morning held a lazy start to the day. I brewed the vanilla bean coffee while he took his place in the green armchair at the head of what I now considered to be “the puzzle table”.

We sipped our hot, sweet coffee while attempting to fit in the remaining pieces of various shades of pink. We were down to the hardest part now. Paul began separating pieces according to their shape type, and even I began to utilize his system in addition to the color schemes upon which I typically rely. I stood most of the time, bending over the pieces to see their slight variations more clearly.

Suddenly there were only seven pieces remaining. I looked at the hole in the center of the puzzle and remarked that there didn’t seem to be enough pieces to fill that gap. There was no comment from Paul. When we were down to two pieces I was disappointed that we had worked so hard on this tricky puzzle and now we would not be able to finish it. Paul told me that he would search in the box in the basement later that day to see if he could locate the missing pieces.

After dinner that night, I retreated to the office to do a final read-through for my Ohio Writing Project demonstration packet. I was preparing to emerge from my isolation when Paul came in to see if I was nearly finished. Good timing!

He piggy-backed me out to the living room and told me he had found the other puzzle pieces. Yay! Paul pulled me onto his lap in the green chair and I gazed at the small cluster of pieces he had placed below the puzzle. These pieces looked different than the others. They shared the same pinkish background, but these pieces were shiny and made me think of the word “bling”.

I acted as though I did not notice these differences, and Paul urged me to finish the middle of the puzzle. I picked up a piece and tried it in a couple of spaces until it fit. I selected the next piece and told Paul that he should help too. He was very slow to act, and I was starting to get an idea of what was happening, but I just kept methodically fitting in pieces. Paul finally did add one piece, and soon the puzzle was complete. A gorgeous arrangement of hydrangeas and roses nestled a picture of a truly stunning, shiny engagement ring. Paul pulled out a small, square red velvet box and placed it, open, beside the puzzle. The rings matched! I simply stared as a single tear formed in each of my eyes. Paul finally spoke. “So, will you marry me?”

Of course I said yes and gave him a giant smooch. He asked if I wanted to put the ring on, and I asked him to place it on my finger. He was relieved that it fit and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the facets glinting in the fading sunlight. I still cannot keep my eyes of my ring, whether I’m talking, reading, driving, or eating. But the best part of all is that I get to marry this man who took the time and effort to plan such a puzzling, and thoughtful, proposal.