J P RICHARD
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Steamships Short Story Award
It had to be perfect; I’ve been planning this for a month now. I knew the plan was not only insane and the first I’ve ever heard of in history but was also dangerous and risky. People’s lives and jobs were on the line so was mine and my lovely woman’s-Cherie Manieka.
But I’m an adventure freak, a daredevil and a dammed good one. When I plan things, they eventuate the way I wanted. I knew Cherie loved me with her life and she would give anything to be with me in this life and the next.
I feel the same way too, I couldn’t imagine a life without her, I looked into the future and all I see is Cherie and I with our twenty kids living in a big old house by the ocean somewhere in New Zealand or somewhere faraway.
Cherie and I went back as far as high school year 12. I was in the high-jump team for our school carnival and one afternoon I was practicing with my friend Sanjay. Sanjay is a mutual friend with Cherie through our other friend Vespar and it happened that they had invited Cherie over to ‘check out the high-jump club’ and that’s when it all started. I liked Cherie right there. One thing led to the next and in two weeks we had our second date and in two months we were in love and in three months we had our first big fight followed by our first break-up.
University came the following year and we went our separate ways. She went to Unitech, I went to UPNG then after three months we got back together again, rekindled the love and were so in love that we started building all those crazy dreams of ours. Well not all relationships are rainbows and butterflies though, we had our moments then there were those awkward days and those fighting days. Then I was moving away further down south to study so we had our second break-up there and then; it was slow, painful and saddening.
A year went by and Cherie showed up on the radar still single so I decided to show up on her door-steps with Chinese fast-food and soda cans. We got back again and grew stronger, more mature with every new situation and we knew we could take the world together, we knew that that was the pinnacle of courtship, we were finally there and only one more aisle to go and it’s happily ever-after; If you’ve ever been so in love, you know that feeling.
Five years on, two break-ups, one affair, and two make-ups later I walked into the jewelry shop in Vision City to pick up her ear-rings and a stunning diamond engagement ring caught my eyes, stirred my soul and gave me a whole new meaning in life. Hell, I only have one life to live and my heart told me to take the next big step right there so I took it. I came home with her ear-rings and a grand plan. I called up a couple of old friends from university days, two of them working with Air Niugini: Captain Ilave- Q400 First Officer and good old Sanjay, air-craft engineer. When I outlined the plan, they thought I was crazy and I was like hell yeah! Sanjay got the flight technically covered and Captain Ilave being in charge rescheduled a February 14 flight to Cairns and instructed the entire cabin crew on that flight about my plans of course excluding Cherie who was in the crew but was in for a surprise.
13 February 2013, one month later, everything was set and ready to go. In the afternoon, I cooked a delicious dinner while I was floating around whistling waiting for my lalokau to come home.
The drop-off bus pulled up at our drive-way in Korobosea and Cherie hopped out with her work luggage. She just came back from Nadi in Fiji, being a cabin crew with Air Niugini she’s always flying around. I always wanted to be a pilot, she always wanted to stay home and look after children, our twenty kids remember? But I changed path into a biochemist and she ended up in the air.
Anyway, I took off her heels and prepared a warm bath for her. I shampooed her air and massage her body and serve her dinner in candle-light. I did the dishes and we watched Pearl Harbor for a while. Then we hit the pillows before the movie ended and made the sweetest love ever. Sorry the details are for me to know and for you to dot-dot-dot. That night, at around 11 pm Sanjay gave me a ring and I sat up in bed.
“Vik, all’s good to go, get some rest it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”
“Thanks man, you the bomb!” I hung up. Cherie might be listening so we had to be brief.
“Who’s that?” oh dear, a muffled voice under the sheets. Cherie pulled the covers tighter.
“Ah… just Sanjay wishing us a happy Valentine’s Day,” I snuggled up to her. Her hair smelled so good, her soft skin makes me want to lay in bed forever. But I had big plans tomorrow, big crazy plans. I smiled and kissed her on neck.
14 February, I was still in bed when she got prepared and left at 8 am for that 9 am flight to Cairns, PX 090-the same flight that I booked to that same destination. I sat up, I heard her pick-up bus pulled out, and then I sprinted into the shower, took a 3 minute shave, 5 minute shower and was out in 10 minutes. I wriggled into my best tuxedo, grabbed my ticket, cell-phone and wallet. Then I pulled open my suitcase, unlocked the latch and removed my little safe box. I pulled open the top and my breath caught in my throat.
The little maroon cushion case nestled right where I left it. I popped the cover open and admired the diamond engagement ring. It took my breath away every time I looked at it. I placed it carefully into my inner chest pocket and ran over to Sanjay’s place. Sanjay was ready with the engine revving. We drove to the airport, talking non-stop all the way.
I checked in at 0835 am, said goodbye to Sanjay and promised him to video the whole plan and emptied my pockets by the scanner. That dude at the scanner wanted to check my maroon cushion case and I assured him that that was my engagement ring. He understood and wished me luck. I strolled into the plane. When Sylvia, another cabin crew, saw me coming, she pretended to pull Cherie into their cabin allowing me to slip into the plane and slumped low in my seat. 20 minutes later with that same old boring safety routine and the plane was in the air, Cairns was another 2 hours or so away, there’s plenty of time on my hand.
Sylvia started maneuvering air-plane food down the aisle. Cherie wanted to push the other trolley but another crew took over and asked her to stay put in the cabin to expect a call from the captain. Of course, Cherie wasn’t aware that all the crews had planned the occasion.
At the end of the aisle, Sylvia finished then slowly pulled out a video camera and motioned for me to go over. I slipped out of my seat and walked over, took out the maroon case and placed it on the top front of the trolley. We had rose petals and scarlet ribbons around the case with a hand-written note that said: “Happy Valentine’s Day Mon Cherie, open this case, it’s for you.”
I steadied myself and pushed the trolley back up to the front with Sylvia at my toe, filming every move. Technically it’s dangerous to have your electrical gadgets on when the plane is taking off or is landing but its ok to switch on in the air, thanks to Sanjay.
All the passengers were staring and mumbling at me. What is this fool doing with the trolley and this crew doing with a video camera? You could be sure there’d be panic in the plane. We kept going, whispering and assuring the passengers that it was nothing to worry about. As if on cue, an abrupt announcement crackled from the intercom and Captain Ilave’s voice came through.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of Air Niugini and my crews, I would like welcome you all on board. It’s a really clear day up ahead so we’ll be flying through without any turbulence. The little show going on down the aisle is a Valentine’s surprise for one of our cabin crew. I can assure you, there is nothing to be worried about. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show with champagne and cake coming up, it’s in the house, for a very special friend on board, that idiot behind the trolley, happy Valentine’s day.”
As I laughed and approached the front, Cherie and the other curious crews-who pretended to be surprised-bundled out of their cabin to see what was going on back there. When she saw me with what looked like a decorated trolley with Sylvia filming at the back, she was shocked. I parked the trolley right in front of her and nodded at the case.
She saw it, she got the message, she took the case and as she was opening it, I moved up to her and went down on my knees. Her jaws dropped open both at the sight of the stunning diamond ring and at me on my knees. I wasted no time; I firmly took her left hand, looked up into her pretty brown eyes which was glistening with tears of excitement and with a steady confident voice I spoke.
“Mon Cherie, I’ve always loved you and forever I will. I love you now more than ever. You’re my world, you’re my life and you’re my everything. My sweet, will you marry me?”
In the split of a second she choked “Yes, yes and yes!”
The plane erupted in claps and whistle and camera clicking everywhere. I thought my god, we would either crash or Ilave was getting fired as soon as she landed.
I slid the ring into Cherie’s ring-finger and kissed her hand. I stood up and embraced her close and planted a long cherishing kiss on her lips and her wet eyes and her nose. It was the most wonderful moment in my life-our lives.
My embrace told her that she belonged in here and that she would be safe, sound and home. I let her hugged her colleagues as I turned to the passengers, winked at them and screamed, pumping my hands into the air, “she said yes!”
Captain Ilave’s voice came through again.
“Ladies and gentle, I would like to take this time to congratulate my good old friend Viktor Thron and his fiancée Cherie Manieka, congratulations on your historic engagement. Live long and prosper. And everyone please switch off your cameras, the show is over. Enjoy your serves and buckle up, Cairns is coming up.”
Fifteen minutes later, we rolled onto the tarmac. After everyone piled out, I said thanks to the crews, owe you all one big time and hugged Captain Ilave thanking her for her tremendous help in pulling my plan through with ease.
Captain Ilave turned to Cherie and beamed, “You’re officially relieved from duty until tomorrow morning when I return from POM. Go have fun you love-birds.
As we hugged and walked into the sunshine, nothing in this world seemed impossible to achieve with this wonderful women by my side.