by James Bates
creme brulee latte
Carrie and I were out to dinner, sharing a meal at our favorite restaurant, George and the Dragon. We'd been dating for over a year and were thoroughly enjoying each other's company, so much better than our previous relationships. We were young, in our late twenties, and both had good jobs: I was a software engineer for a medium size electronics company and Carrie worked in the art department for a graphic arts design firm. We'd met at a stargazing class the winter before and had hit it off immediately (under the glow of the Aurora Borealis, I might add.) Now, after all these months, we'd grown very close and felt like we had something special between us.
It was Saturday, February thirteenth, and our date had been a chance to celebrate the end of a rather hectic work week for each of us. Earlier in the evening we'd gone to the Guthrie Theater to see Glensheen, a captivating play set in the nineteen twenties about the life of a young servant girl at the Glensheen Mansion, located just north of Duluth on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, a place we visited every chance we got. We'd decided to top off the evening with a late night dinner at George's, and it had been as scrumptious as usual. We were enjoying a shared dessert of crème brulee when out of nowhere the magician appeared, and he changed our lives forever.
He introduced himself as Theodore and asked, very politely, if we minded if he entertained us with, as he put it, "Some special magic."
Carrie, being artistic and left brained, immediately said, "Sure. Sounds like fun."
Me? Well, I'm analytical from the word go and didn't believe one bit in magic, special or otherwise, but played along since Carrie seemed so enthusiastic.
"Great," Theodore said, smiling as he handed me my watch, saying, "I believe this is yours."
My first thought was, Hey! How'd he do that? But I didn't spend much time dwelling on it, because I was immediately hooked.
Theodore regaled us for maybe twenty minutes. He didn't do your normal sleight of hand card tricks or anything like that. He was way more subtle, and I think that's what not only impressed both Carrie and me, but also drew us into his world. He took a silver coin, made it disappear and then reappear under my water glass. He pointed to my shirt pocket and asked if he could borrow the spoon that was sticking out of it. Once he said, "Excuse me. Is this yours?" as he reached down to the floor and picked up Carrie's thin, gold chain necklace and gave it to her, much to her delight. And then a few minutes later, did it again. He was marvelously entertaining.
But it was his last bit of magic that really blew our minds and it's stayed with us all these years. I hesitate to even call it a trick - it was so much more.
He was getting ready to leave, after handing Carrie her necklace for a third time, when he paused and asked, "Excuse me, but you two seem so happy. May I ask how long you've been together?"
"Just over a year," Carrie said, giving me a questioning look, like, what's going on?
"Why do you want to know?" I asked, keeping my voice pleasant. With someone else I might have felt he was prying but not with him. He was just so engaging, and a nice guy to boot.
"I was just wondering. I get the feeling that tonight's a big night for you two. Is that right?" he asked, in all seriousness.
We both smiled a little at him.
"Well, not much more so than any other night," I said.
"Just a normal date," Carrie added. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing," Theodore said, looking perplexed. Then he lifted an unused napkin, "It's just that I thought this might be yours."
He picked up an object from underneath and set it between us on the table. It was a ring. A thin, gold band with tiny agates encased around it that sparkled in the romantic restaurant lamplight. It was beautiful, and, I swear, looked exactly like one we'd seen on a trip we'd taken up to Lake Superior that last summer. We'd come across it in an agate shop in Two Harbors and remarked on its beauty, both of us thinking at the time (but not saying it out loud) what a perfect wedding band it'd make someday for Carrie.
Theodore let the ring lay on the table and then stepped back. I looked at Carrie. It had been such a wonderful evening, like all of our times together were. We were not only happy together but good for each other. The best part of my life was being with her. In that moment, something came over me, a tidal wave of love and emotion that was overwhelming, and, with it, the certainty that she and I were meant to be together for the rest of our lives.
I picked up the ring and said, "Carrie, I love you more than life itself. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?"
I'll never forget what she did. She leaned over the table, kissed me and said, "I thought you'd never ask."
Then I slipped the ring on her finger (it fit perfectly) and we giggled like school kids, looking into each other's eyes, knowing without a doubt that we'd made the right decision.
After a few minutes, it dawned on me that it was Theodore who had prompted this unexpected event. I wanted to thank him, however, when I turned to do so, guess what? He was gone.
Later, when we went to pay out bill, I asked the manager about the magician. He shocked us by saying, "There was never a magician here. Never was, never will be. Don't need the hassle."
Well, that was curious. But we didn't dwell on whether the manager thought Theodore was at the restaurant that night or not. For us he had been, and that's what was important. On our way out the door I glanced at my watch. It was now the early hours of Sunday, February fourteenth.
Carrie and I have been married over thirteen years now and have two wonderful children. We celebrate our engagement at George and the Dragon every year on Valentine's Day, where we enjoy a romantic meal, share a crème brulee for dessert, and talk about how lucky we are that we are together. And you know what? Every time we go there it never fails to take us back to that remarkable night so long ago, when we made a lifelong commitment to each other, and I went from being a skeptic to a believer in the mystery and power of magic.
About the author
Jim is a romantic at heart and truly believes in the power of magic.