WARNING: This chapter contains sim nudity.
I spent the entirety of our second day in Egypt fishing in the pond, and ended up catching more frogs, crocodiles and Alley Catfish than I could possibly take home with me.
In the evening, I had arranged to meet James at the restaurant in the marketplace for our second and final dinner for the trip. He insisted on ordering the most expensive dish on their menu, which meant my favourite dish, grilled salmon, for both of us.
In spite of the gorgeous dinner, I couldn’t help feeling like something was off between us tonight. James seemed quieter than usual, and seemed to be finding it difficult to look me in the eye.
“Is everything all right?” I asked him, concerned.
“What?” he dropped his fork, and sat up straighter. “Yes, everything’s fine. How’s your salmon?”
“Really good,” I smiled. “Thank you.” He was definitely behaving strangely. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
James made a visible effort to relax. “I’m sure,” he said, with a smile that seemed a little forced.
I nodded, popping a last forkful of fish into my mouth.
When I was finished, I stood up. “Shall we go back to camp, then?” I suggested.
“Actually…” James looked away, scratching the back of his head nervously. “There’s this place I wanted to show you. Could we go there instead?” Yep, definitely something going on.
I shrugged. “Sure, why not? Lead the way.”
The place James brought me to turned out to be a small lake, similar to the one I had been fishing at, but surrounded with lush grass and palm trees. I stared at it for a few moments, speechless.
“Do you like it?” James asked hesitantly from behind me.
I turned around, and took both his hands in mine. “It’s beautiful,” I told him earnestly. “How did you find this place?”
“I just stumbled across it when I was exploring today,” he explained offhandedly. He let go of my hands, walked a few feet away and sat down on the grass in the middle of a patch of lilac flowers. He seemed much more relaxed now that we were here. Smiling, I went over and sat down beside him.
I felt his hand brush against mine as he passed an arm around me and we both leaned back, gazing up at the Egyptian night sky. Here, away from the city lights back home, the stars seemed brighter, closer, more dazzling.
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, James spoke.
“Do you remember the first time we looked at the stars together like this?”
I smiled at the recollection. “Yeah. I like to think of it as the day you let me in. You told me what was really going on with you and Tyler, you let me help you for once.”
He sighed. “I remember… you told me you loved me. I still can’t describe the way that made me feel. I knew you didn’t mean it like that… but I was crazy about you, even then.”
“Even when I yelled at you?”
He chuckled, and kissed my cheek. “Especially when you yelled at me.”
Smiling, we both fell silent again.
A few moments later, James withdrew his arm and stood up. Confused, I stumbled to my feet as well.
“Is there something wrong?”
“No,” he assured me, reaching out to stroke my cheek. “There’s just something I wanted to ask you.”
I waited curiously while he reached down, fumbling with something in his pocket. Then he dropped down on one knee and opened the tiny box, and I felt my eyes start to well up with tears of joy.
James took a deep breath before he spoke. “Bianca Hunter,” he began, while I fought to stop the sob threatening to escape me. “The first time we met on the beach, you won my heart with your kindness, quick mind and generosity of spirit. You were my first and best friend since arriving in Bridgeport, and as I grew to know you better, I realised just how lucky I am to have you in my life. I have loved you since the moment I met you, and more every day since. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. Will you marry me?”
I nodded, finding myself momentarily speechless. “Yes!” I managed to gasp. “Yes, of course I’ll marry you.” I had never been surer of anything in my life.
With the biggest smile I had ever seen, he carefully lifted the ring out of the box and threaded it onto my finger.
The moment he stood up, I threw myself into his arms. Everything was perfect… I couldn’t have imagined anything better.
As soon as we got home, the best frog and the best Alley Catfish I caught in Egypt went into bowls in my ‘fish room’. The rest I kept to stock the garden pond, so I would be able to catch the same fish again without travelling to Egypt.
Winter had well and truly set in back home while we had been away. The pond was frozen over, so for the first time ever I could go ice skating in my own yard.
The ocean, in fact, was the only water in town that wasn’t frozen solid. In my determination to learn more about the winter marine life of Bridgeport, I was down at the beach most afternoons with my rod and tackle.
Ordinarily under such circumstances, Mum would have called me crazy, but as it happens she was even more fixated on her career than I was. She was still striving to reach the top as a singer, and was performing gigs year-round at various locations around the town.
Tyler, meanwhile, was steaming ahead in her relationship with Aron, despite James’ and my obvious disapproval.
He had been her date to the Junior Prom a few days ago, which of course we never heard about until James caught the two of them sneaking out together. Tyler had looked very pretty in her dress, I just wished she had someone more worthwhile to share a special night like that with – especially since I had my suspicions about just how special that night was for her.
Ever since our return from Egypt, both James and I spent a lot of time reading up on our respective hobbies. While I poured over fishing manuals, James, beside me, studied recipes like his life depended on it.
One morning a week after we had returned home from Egypt, I was feeding my fish when my cellphone rang. The name on the caller ID was my sister’s.
“Hey Bridie, what’s up?”
“Bianca! Not much, I was just calling to check up on you. How was Egypt? Tell me all about it!”
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. My sister had always been a bit excitable.
“Egypt was great. I got engaged,” I added with a grin.
“Engaged! That’s amazing, Bianca! It’s to James, I hope.”
I giggled. “Of course it is, silly.”
“Wow, Bianca… we need to organise your bachelorette party.”
Oh, no. “Um, Bridie, I wasn’t planning on having a bachelorette party…”
“What?!” she gasped. “You have to! Come on, Bianca, it’s traditional, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event! Well… hopefully.”
“I don’t know, Bridie… it’s not really my thing.”
It took several minutes for her to convince me, but eventually I gave in and even agreed to host.
“As long as you’ll be there,” I reminded her.
Bridie scoffed. “Of course I’ll be there, I wouldn’t miss it! Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the guest list and everything, you just have to be there and look good! Oh, and we’ll have to have it at your place, mine’s nowhere near big enough.”
I sighed. “Okay, Bridie. I’ll see you later.”
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from a bachelorette party, but I trusted my sister even if she was way out of my comfort zone sometimes. James and Mum preferred to stay out of the way, but I allowed Tyler to come to the party on the condition that she stayed away from the alcohol.
The big day arrived, and according to Bridie’s instructions I let my hair down, put on showy make-up and slipped into a minidress for the first time in years. Looking in the mirror, I almost didn’t recognise myself.
As I came downstairs, I was shocked to find my house suddenly full of scantily dressed women – and in the middle of Winter. I recognised most of the girls from high school, but there were also a few men there that I guessed Bridie had taken the liberty of inviting herself.
“Male strippers?!” I yelled over the deafening music. “Bridie, really?”
“She’s here!” my sister squealed, ignoring my comment. Giggling, she grabbed my hand and dragged me into the middle of the room. “Break open the booze! Let’s get this party started!”
Someone passed Bridie a bottle of champagne, and she popped the cork with practised ease. Holding her thumb over the opening, she began to shake the bottle vigorously with a wicked grin on her face.
“Bridie…!” I realised a second too late what she was doing, and the next thing I knew, I was dripping in champagne.
“Bridie! Oh my god!” I couldn’t help but giggle. The wild atmosphere was starting to get to me.
In spite of my best intentions, I ended up enjoying the evening immensely – which may have been helped by the fact that my sister managed to get me completely drunk within the first hour.
I stumbled upstairs to the bedroom well after midnight, drunk and exhausted. Thank god for my sister, who helped me remove my make-up and get changed before she left. “Never wear that stuff to bed, unless it’s to bed with a cute guy,” she told me with a wink. I had giggled uncontrollably at the time.
Exhausted, I fell onto the bed, not even noticing that it was already occupied.
“Hey,” James said with a grin as I fell into his arms. “Fun night?”
I giggled and nodded. “Better than expected.” At least that’s what I think I said, but judging by the bemused look on his face, it probably wasn’t quite what came out.
James shook his head. “Damn, Bridie really got you into the alcohol, huh?”
I giggled again. “Uh-huh.” Linking my hands in his, I slid forwards and pulled him towards me for a kiss.
James grinned as he pushed me away. “Come on, Bee, you need to rest. Just sleep tonight, okay?”
I nodded without really knowing what I was agreeing to, and rolled over onto his offered arm. The last thing I remembered was the weight of James’ arm resting protectively on top of me, as I drifted into unconsciousness.
Some Bonus Pictures from Bianca’s bachelorette party:
(Isn’t she beautiful? :3)