November 12, 2014

It was a humid, yet chilly Wednesday night; which oddly isn’t unusual for Texas. The sun had just left to awaken a new part of the world and I was just getting off work. As soon as the clock hit 10:23, I would leave the confinements of C.R. Clements and set off to my destination: home.

Copperas Cove, Texas was a small town that I knew like the back of my hand. It used to only take 20 minutes to get through the entire thing, no matter which direction you went through. Surrounded by five hills, with a school district that worships the Bulldawg football team and faculty scandals, Copperas Cove isn’t a place that is well-known. Yet, it’s very close to the third biggest military post in America: Fort Hood (1). Primarily made up of military brats (me included), the town only holds 32,000 people as of 2016 (2). So, it’s a melting pot.

Now, the school that I worked at was my old intermediate, my fifth-grade alma mater, and where I walked the halls as a part of Ms. D Smith’s Snakes; my homeroom class. As a freshly graduated eighteen-year-old, it was a bit uncomfortable to walk the halls as a custodian, but I did it anyway. I started the full-time custodial position in August of 2014, so by November, I was already three months into my job. At the time, I was living with my mom and I was about to hit my one-year mark with my boyfriend Cody Lee. We started dating my senior year of high school, but we went through a long and winding path until we finally were the complete high school definition of official; it was on Facebook. However, we won’t go too far into those details because they’re pretty personal. Let’s just say, that we were both involved with other people when we first started hanging out, I met his parents, he met mine, and we were basically dismissing the inevitable.

“You know you like him, I don’t know why you’re staying with that guy who hasn’t talked to you in two weeks,” my mom would say while I’m on my way out the door to see Cody.

“I know. I know. I know. I have to break it off because we’re going through the same cycle of nonsense that we go through. Every. Single. Time,” I’d tell her.

This wasn’t the exact conversation, but at the time I still dismissed it. Eventually, I realized I wanted to be with the beautiful brown-eyed boy I met in the aisles of Wal-Mart a few months prior. So, I had to break it off with the guy in Indiana who had been ignoring me for weeks. Since he blocked me on Facebook (wow, I was clueless when I was seventeen), I decided to text him and break off the relationship officially before we finally crashed.

Cody on the other hand, well, his story is for him to tell. All you need to know is that, after months of self-doubt, we officially got together on November 12, 2013.

After he got off a shift at Wal-Mart at 10pm, he walked up my parents’ driveway with a bouquet of roses and asked, “Will you go out with me?”

To which I promptly replied, “No,” and walked away.

“Okay then,” Cody said as he walked back to his Suzuki Forenza.

“No, no, no stop, wait! I was kidding! Yes,” and I ran up to him, put my hands on his face, and kissed him.

Now, there we were almost an exact year later. November 11th. While I was walking to my car after a long shift, my “David Tennant as the Doctor” text tone went off and I checked it.

Are you still coming over, Cody asked. (We had an agreement that I’d sleep at his parents’ house tonight because we stayed at mine quite a few in a row.)

So, I texted him back: Yes? Let me go get my things and I’ll be right over.

Drive safe. Text me when you get there.

I arrived at my moms’ house at around 10:40pm, sent a quick text to Cody, and went inside to get my stuff and tell my mom about my day. It was my usual routine, so I grabbed my makeup, hair products, pajamas, and a few outfits. I always tended to overpack, so it all went into a suitcase. After a year of dating and sleepovers, Cody’s parents were definitely used to me hauling in my things. So, I updated my mom, said a quick goodbye, and as I headed out the door she said, “If he proposes, you better come back here and tell me.”

“We’ll see,” I yelled back at her as I shut the door.

When I pulled up to Cody’s house, I texted him that I finally arrived at around 11:45pm.  The moon was glaring through my ’77 Chevy C10’s windows and the air was cooling down. As I got out of my truck and went to grab my array of bags, David Tennant went off again.

Just come in the front door… don’t knock.

The text wasn’t usual. The whole thing wasn’t usual. So, I decided to leave my bags. Cody would’ve normally helped me with them, or he would’ve at least came out and opened the front door for me. Walking straight into the house though? That never happens. The door was always locked after 10pm. However, I continued my journey down the driveway and up to the front door where there was a note. Since this was a few years ago, I don’t remember the exact words, but I believe the note said to walk inside and follow the clues.

Inside the house, the lights were dimmed and there were red rose petals scattered on the floor. On the side table, next to their brown pleather couches, were more rose petals and another note. It read:

Danielle, if you’re a piranha. Then I’m a piranha.

The next note is where we baked our first batch of cookies together.

The saying was from Finding Nemo. Originally it was from the little girl in the dentists’ office, named Darla, who tried to shake Nemo awake (3). She was kind of a terror. Sitting in the dentists’ chair, she revealed her braces and said, “I’m a piranha.” Somehow, it evolved from there.

On the way to the next note, I avoided stepping on the rose petals on the destined path while I walked through the house. The next note was found on the kitchen table, also scattered with rose petals. This makes note number three over a span of maybe thirty feet from the front door to the back door. The clues were unneeded, but they were such a nice touch and the moment felt so surreal. My mom’s voice was running through my head, “If he proposes, come back and tell me.” Nevertheless, I continued to read the note:

I love you to the moon and back, now check the back door.

Quickly, I looked behind me. The back door was unlocked, but there was a note covering the peephole. This made note number four. Which simply said to open it and when I did, Cody quickly told me to shut it which caused my anxiety to act up. I started to get a little shaky, but I only waited a few minutes before I cracked the door a little and asked if he was alright.

“I’m fine, I’m ready, come on out babe,” he said.

I walked onto the back porch and there was a fire going with stuff for smores on a chair next to it. The air was only getting colder, so I was glad that I was wearing my letterman that night. Along with the fire, the smores, and the cool winter night, there was Cody. Kneeling on one knee in a suit holding open a silver box.

My hands flew quickly to my mouth. I was in complete shock. After all of the clues, I kind of knew what was coming. I had my mom’s voice in my head yet, I still couldn’t believe what was going on. My boyfriend, of a year almost on-the-dot, was kneeling in front of our favorite pastime; roasting marshmallows.

“Danielle Mahriahna-Skillings Johnson, will you marry me?”

Tears streamed down my face before I could even get the words out; this moment was so surreal. “Yes, oh my gosh, yes!” He stood up, put the ring on my finger, and it fit perfectly. I was seriously in-awe that he remembered my ring size; I couldn’t believe it. He wrapped me in his arms and I just continued to cry. After all the failed past relationships I went through in the past to get to this point; I was engaged, I was happy, and I was utterly in-shock.

It immediately hit me that I had to tell my mom. It couldn’t wait, and she wouldn’t have liked it if I waited until tomorrow. I had to tell her. So, I told Cody and he said that he already knew we would have to go over there. In fact, he planned to take me back home afterwards to tell her regardless.

So, we walked back in to the house and both of his parents were standing there in their pajamas with their chihuahua. They were in on the whole proposal the entire time.

“Welcome to the family! Even though you’re already like a daughter-in-law to us,” they said while hugging the both of us. I still couldn’t believe it. I was going to be an AllBee.

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