It was the night before my wedding, and had just had a visit from Ma Toro, my soon to be mother – in – law. As she was leaving, she gave me a gaily wrapped parcel, and asked me to open it when I was alone. It was strange, she had this really … strange … look on her face, kind of, I don't know, reflective, and happy, and a bit wistful all at once. I'd never seen her with quite that expression on her face before. Well, I was alone tonight, Ray was, as tradition dictated, not seeing me tonight, night before the wedding and all that, so, when she left, I decided to open my gift, and see what was inside to make her look so strange.
Inside was a beautifully carved wooden keepsake box, inside of that was an ornate leather bound book, almost like a photo album, or scrap book, but grand. Opening the front cover, I found, in Ma Toro's very neat and precise hand writing, a note, saying 'My dearest Kat, My new daughter. I knew right from the start that you would be the one for my son, I only had to see how protective of you he was to know you were special to him. As you've both grown and matured, that knowledge became certainty as you went through school, so protective of one another. Here, my wedding gift to you, is something that I've been working towards for all these years in the certainty of this day's eventual arrival. I hope you love it as much as you do my son. All love, Ma Toro.'
Curious now, I opened the front page, and was instantly taken back to my first day at preschool. For there, on that first page, was the painting Ray did when we first met, and he took me to go painting, leaving his friends to play on without him. Sitting there, a relaxing cup of Vanilla Red Bush Tea beside me, I let my memory wander where ever the book from Ma would take me. I smiled to myself as I recall Ray leading me by the hand at break time that first day, over to meet Mikey, Bob, Frank and Gerard, how they were so certain that I couldn't play like them, HA, my race with Bob and Frank sure showed them. After that, we were the super six, where you found one of us, you'd find all of us.
The walking bus home after, holding Ray's hand as the six of us laughed and giggled all the way home. Ray's birthday party, when I got to meet his Dad and brother, the fuss he made of the small size guitar Mum helped me choose for him, and how Frank had wanted to play it, but Ray wouldn't let him. Exchanging Easter Eggs and cards, while my Mum made a posy of flowers for me to give to your Mom, and a basket of Easter Cookies for us all to share at preschool.
Still smiling, I turn the page, this is a photo your Mom took of us doing country dancing at the Mayday fete. How smart you looked in your little suit, and how you squirmed to get rid of the tie and jacket as soon as the dancing was over. You were lucky, I was stuck in a naff dress for the whole fete. I couldn't wait to get out of it when we got home after, but I stayed until the end of the fete just to be with you longer. That was when we shared our first kiss. I was crying because I'd not won the Tiger from the hoopla stand, then you did, and gave it to me, and I kissed your lips for the first time. I remember it, even now, you'd just finished a strawberry ice cream, and you tasted cold and sweetly of strawberry, I've loved strawberries ever since.
Turning another page, there was your first day at school, our first day apart, I was miserable a preschool without you. Gerard had left too, and it just wasn't the same without you. I loved you even then. Reminising over our early years together, I almost don't hear my phone ringing, and I have to scramble to answer it. It's you, of course, ringing to tell me you love me, and will see me at the Church tomorrow. Your thoughtfulness nearly makes me cry.
Another page shows us at the school, on my first day, when you took my hand and dared the bullies to do anything to me, you may have had the gang behind you, but you took them on, even if you were alone. My knight in wild brown hair, even back then. The summer our families, all five of them, went camping together, how Gerard made a fuss of having to sleep in a tent, and Frank screaming like a loony everytime he saw a spider. Bob 'drumming' on anything that came to hand, Gerard using that stick for a microphone, while you, Mikey and Frank played air guitars. That was a really good summer.
Then came a wrench, you left junior school to become a sophomore, and I was left behind again, but this time, our schools were a bus ride apart, and you had tonnes of homework every night, we saw each other only at weekends, pretty much. I was so afraid you'd meet someone else while we were apart, but you never did. My coming to be a sophomore at your school was a massive relief, until I found that the years weren't supposed to mix due to the social hierarchy, we did anyway, we didn't care what anyone said.
The next few years were tough, you going to college, my still at school, then on to an apprenticeship for the next few year, our meetings were short, but so sweet. I grew my hair, then had it coloured, your afro just got more wild, a mass of rioting curls in a wonderful array of browns, as many as matched the facets of your inspiring personality. As time went on, I grew to realise I didn't want you as just a friend any more, I was in love with you, and desperately wanted you to love me back. I could almost – ALMOST- bless the cancer scare I had for making you wake up to the fact you felt the same as I did. Do you remember, I wonder, how I burst into tears when, at my hospital bedside, you asked me if I'd go out with you. I couldn't speak for joy, just nodded, but you understood.
Another page turned, and our first Christmas as a couple, the way my Mum and yours got in mistletoe and hung it just about everywhere, even over your bed. We became inseperable, as much as we could be. Then Mum got sick, and I had to leave my job to look after her. You came round every other day, and rang on the day's when you couldn't get there. When Mum, miraculously, got well again, she sent us on holiday together, just a week in a cheap motel, but precious time alone together. It was the end of that holiday that you proposed. I couldn't believe my eyes when you dropped down to one knee in the snow covered park, and asked for my hand. Again, I just nodded through my tears.
Leafing through the rest of the book, I find a place empty – and under it, in your Mom's careful script, said 'For the first day of the rest of your lives' With the tomorrow's date, a place for a wedding picture. Ray, I love you more than life itself, and can't wait until the man in the black robes announces to the world that we are man and wife. But I think, deep down, I knew from that first day, all those years ago when you took my hand and led me away from my Mum, I knew than that you'd be the one for me.
My knight with the wild brown curls.