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The Proposal

Will you marry me? Or, will you marry him?



by

Sam Steve























































The Proposal

by Sam Steve

Copyright 2019, January 22.


Formally published on Draft2Digital as “In Love with Rat.”


Published by Creative Minds Story-Writers Publishing (CMSWP)

a division of Creative Minds Publishing

Lagos State, Nigeria.


For a writing contract, write: creativemindseditor@gmail.com

Or, call: +2349053661752


Cover design by Creative Minds Graphics This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise a without prior written permission of the publisher.


All Rights Reserved

Produced in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United States of America.





*Do add your comments to help the author know what you think about this story.











A Night Of Nights





Country gentleman Garrick Woodward wished he could marry the beautiful lady—Kara Neville—from the Old Eagleville (Mr. Neville's mansion which was a popular building in the city). Although, he knew Kara hated to be persuaded to marry wealthy men, who didn't even care for the poor, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Even his father—Old Woodward—concluded he had wasted enough time thinking about someone who didn't care if he loved her or not.

To Kara, she wanted a poor man, not because she hoped to lord herself over him, only that she treasured the honesty and humility which most of them expressed even in moments of exploitation. Despite the fact that she and Garrick grew up together, she didn't want that to be an excuse why her view of the rich would become distorted.

Now it's Saturday night—a night of nights—and Kara's birthday. Mr. Woodward persuaded his son to join him at the party. It was an opportunity for Garrick to propose if he wanted to. So, both Garrick and Hasty Lumpur, his best friend, took a forty-five-minute drive to the Old Eagleville. Fortunately, Kara had a cousin who was the direct opposite: she loved the rich and detested the poor. She always yearned to fall in love with a wealthy and prominent man, but most had turned her down. They were either rude, proud or arrogant, but poor? No. Only a few gentle and kind men came around, but they weren't her type.

When they arrived, Hasty and Garrick went to one of the maids, and asked to see Kara. That's when Hasty noticed a short, pretty lady leaning against a railing and gazing at the people streaming into the house. Their eyes met. Hasty looked away and cleared his throat, provoking a suspicious glance from his friend. “Oooo. . . Who's that damsel hanging eyes on everyone, bro?”

She's Kara's cousin. Betsy. You might be lucky.” Hasty brightened up and climbed the stairs to rest beside her on the railing. He introduced himself as Garrick's cousin and commented that she looked prettier than the Old Eagleville's Ms. Neville, inviting her for a dance. First, she noticed he was a rich kid, polite, and handsome. Next, his accent betrayed him to be Latin American. But it didn't matter—he had won!







Will You Marry Me?



In the meantime, the romance between Hasty and his new love was growing. Kara came from the Changing Room with a couple of maids beside her, both holding flowers. She was dressed in a beautiful pink gown which exposed her cleavages and caught the eyes of the people that had come for the ceremony.

But where was Garrick? His father thought he had gone to the restroom. Kara thought he didn't want anything to do with the ceremony since they were at odds with each other. Hasty believed his friend was too cold and couldn't appear before Kara. All might have been true, but Betsy confessed she had seen him with Hasty before he disappeared.

Suddenly, a poor fellow in a tattered shirt and dirty pants walked into the hall. His face was red, as if he had been beaten, and he had a dirty long hair and unkempt beard. Everyone's eyes swept towards him, burdened by the unattractive figure.

“Guards! Get this man out!” ordered Mr. Neville.

But he didn't let that stop him. The poor fellow shuffled towards Kara and bent on a knee before her. “I'm Ian Rat.” Everyone laughed, thinking it sounded funny. He stretched out his hand, still gazing at Kara. He was holding a beautiful rose flower which spread a lovely scent round the first four rows of folks witnessing the scene.

“Will you marry me?” he asked, tears filling his eyes.

Everyone's eyes goggled in amazement and unbelief.

Kara enclosed her mouth with her hands, deeply touched by the romance and bravery conveyed by this poor man. But what would she say? She recalled how the same poor fellow had rescued her from the fierce rain some twelve nights ago. She had gone out for a stroll without an umbrella, and her gown had completely got wet. That's when he showed up... Ian, with his old umbrella which had some holes. Although that didn't prevent her from getting soaked up, his act of kindness touched her heart.

Now, seeing him twelve nights later seemed like a miracle. While she badly needed someone like him, he simply showed up from nowhere. So, what would she say?

Will you marry me?” The stranger floated the honest proposal once more.

“What nonsense!” grumbled Mr. Neville. “Over my rotten coffin.”

The guards grabbed Ian and dumped him outside the Eagleville, leaving Kara's gaze after him. Hasty thought she was stupid, and Betsy concluded she was out of her mind. Mr. Neville instructed that the party continue. The next four minutes, Garrick slid out of the restroom, running down the stairs towards Hasty and Betsy, who narrated the scene to him. He was jealous. He smartly walked to Kara and grabbed her arm, but she yanked his off. He accused her of taking interest in a low class individual who seemed like a skinny pig that wallows in the mud.

Feeling insulted, Kara confessed that Garrick's pride was the reason why she loathe the rich and loved the poor. Now it was Garrick who felt more insulted than she did. The onlookers believed the same about him—he couldn't eat with poor folks or even pass a greeting to them.

“So you are going to marry that. . . rat?” he wondered.

She eyed him and just walked away, up the stairs.

“Ahhhh. . . My eye!” mocked Hasty, making it more insulting to him. Garrick shrugged and went out.

I don't think he's proud,” confessed Hasty, with Betsy clinging to him, as they walked towards a silver couch. “Last time at Nostra Villa, I found him defending a poor man from one of the rich molesters. Why he did that, who motivated him to begin living that way, I have no idea. It's not the first time. First, Nostra Villa Castle, then the New Hampshire Inn, Garam Village, Nostra Villa. Now, it's Old Eagleville.”

“Well, Garrick's handsome, kind and friendly. Kara doesn't know him, Hasty,” Betsy said, as she rested her head on his shoulder, both staring at the moon.







In Love With Raaaat!



Unfortunately, Kara had overheard the brief conversation between Hasty and Betsy. Now it seemed crazy to imagine she had insulted him before the entire body of people standing there. Gradually, it started to make sense—Garrick used to love the rich and walk away from the poor, and she always walked away from the rich but loved the poor. So, both practiced class distinction.

That's when Ian climbed up her window, sliding under her bed. There had been a series of gunshot from the guards watching the gate. Ian had quickly climbed the fence into the Eagleville before a rear guard noticed his form and alerted the others.

Deep in thought, she had no idea someone had slid beneath the bed. Then an officer in grey costume appeared at the door, demanding if she had seen a man in rags climb into her room through the window. She had no idea, so he left, leaving her to ponder if it was truly Ian they had seen. That's when the bed shook, with Ian rolling his form away from hiding, surreptitiously covering her mouth to prevent her from alerting the guards. He whispered that he was Ian and promised he wouldn't harm her.

He told her that he was once a proud prince of Nostra Villa before his father, the king, died. She claimed to never have heard of a proud prince from the Villa, insisting that the king had only two sons and four daughters. “Except one—me. My mother was a harlot. I became prince after she died, but I grew proud. My brothers kicked me out after our father's death. Now I wallow in mud like pigs.”

Kara remembered Garrick's words of Ian wallowing in mud like a pig. “Being poor is no one's will, M'lady. Life made it that way, but rich folks can help many a poor man become rich in a second. Now, I'm no poor man because. . .”

“You loved a rich woman?”

“No, because I found love.”

He went down on a knee again, presenting a ring-case. He opened it and presented it to her. She enclosed her mouth, amazed. It was a gold ring with a diamond as its eye.

“We had an unfinished conversation, M'lady. Will you marry me?”

She couldn't say no this time—she knew he truly loved her. It seemed like he had sold all he had to buy that ring.

Yes,” she answered, “right from the first night you were good to me.”

He gladly jumped on his feet. “Yes!”

Then he wore it on her ring finger. Within seconds, the door slowly opened with guards heading towards Ian. Kara tried to prevent them but they said her father had commanded his arrest. So, they dragged him out. She followed them, yelling for them to stop, but it fell on deaf ears.

Ahead, her father was dining with four noblemen from the Nostra Villa Castle. Kara ran into the meeting, making complaints about the unfair treatment of a poor man. Her father excused himself and placed an arm around her shoulder.

“Whoever he is, he's not got good intentions. He just shows up to marry you, and you're out of your mind. You don't even know who he is.”

“He's one of the sons of the Nostra Villa king, father,” she mentioned, “and he was banished by his brothers.”

“How many brothers does he have?”

“Two. He's the third.”

“No, the king's got no sons, Kara,” he corrected. “The one on the throne's the husband of Princess Aurora. The king's got only three girls.”

“You're saying he's lying?”

“I'm saying you met him this once and fell in love—okay?—but you can't marry someone you just met.”

She sighed, unable to argue with Mr. Neville. She ran out of the dining hall, weeping, until the slamming of her door betrayed her.



* * *

“Has anyone seen Garrick?” asked Mr. Woodward, steadying his stick as he approached the kitchen. “He hasn't returned since last night.”

The cook and several attendants shook their heads in the negative.

“Garrick's out at New Hampshire Inn doing some paperwork with the innkeeper. You know, it's some stupid project he's been working on for months,” Hasty said, leaning against a sink.

“Paperwork? He didn't mention it.”

“Ah. . .” he paused briefly, then went on, “He said to make it a big surprise, so just to leave it sweet.”

Mr. Woodward smiled, nodded and headed out of the kitchen. He thought it wasn't necessarily any project but all about dealing with fruitful ways to get Kara to comply to marrying him, and that required the inn keeper, Grozo, giving all worthy advice.

Meanwhile, Ian had been confined to a dirty prison webbed from side to side, dusty and similar to cages meant for beasts. Mr. Neville had concluded that good prisons were meant for humans, but animals like Rat needed a cage.

Betsy found her way into Kara's room and saw her crying on the bed. She knew it wasn't Garrick. Kara had fallen in love with Ian faster than she expected.

You can't cry for an animal, can you?” Betsy mocked, massaging her shoulders. “Ian's human too, so you can cry as much as you want.”

Dad doesn't understand, Betsy,” she wept. “He thinks it's rather strange that I accepted his proposal. Do you think he's right?”

Betsy shrugged, as if to say, 'What can I say?'

Kara's head dropped. “Ah. . . I should have known. You're taking his side.”

I'm not taking his side, Kara. I just can't hide the fact that he's right.”

About me accepting Ian's proposal?”

About you agreeing to marry someone you just met.”

Well. . .”

Come on, girl, doesn't it look suspicious?” Betsy protested. “Someone shows up in your ceremony and asks for your hand in marriage. You don't even know him. You have no goddamn idea where he's from. You. . .”

He's one of the sons of the Nostra Villa king.”

I'm so sorry to say this, Kara, but the king has no son—he's only got girls. The enthroned prince is the husband of Princess Aurora.”

But he told me!”

And he could be lying, Kara,” Betsy said. “Hasn't that ever occurred to you?”

Well, you just met Hasty, too.”

But we ain't talking about marriage. We're only getting to know each other.”

Someone began to knock so hard. “Princess! Milady!”

Kara got up from the bed and opened the door.

She asked, “What's it this time?”

I'm sorry, Princess, your father wants your room guarded.”

Why? I don't need guarding.”

Well, the prisoner we found in your room has just escaped.”

What?!”







Unveiled



Grozo said to greet ya,” informed Garrick, dumping a sack of turkey on a small kitchen table, where his father sat, watching the cooks.

God punish Grozo, too,” grunted Mr. Woodward. “God punish him today, tomorrow and next.”

All the cooks glanced back at him, shocked.

Why talk this way, Father?”

Son, tell me, were you really with Grozo?”

Yes. You don't believe me? See. . .” He pulls a paper from his pocket and unfolds it. Mr. Woodward sighed and laughed. “It's not funny, Dad.”

Ahem, it's not. I know you too well, boy, but just take my advice.”

What advice?”

Just, you know, just my weeny bait,” said Woodward. “Tomorrow's Kara's final birthday ceremony, and it's your last chance before she's completely lost to Rat. This time, tell her for real, and let her know you're different. You can do it, boy, so get her this last time.”

Garrick folded the paper, then he nodded and walked away from the kitchen.

His father continued, “Foolish boy! He thinks I'm good enough to be deceived. Grozo's an idiot!”



* * *

The ceremony had commenced, with guards securing every place. Mr. Neville had given instruction for Ian to be arrested without being hurt—if indeed he decided to show up. Hasty and Betsy still believed Kara was out of her mind to agree to such a ghostly proposal. To them, Ian was nothing but a stranger.

Kara arrived at the ceremony, still pasting eyes from corner to corner if she would spot Ian around. Garrick, on his part, had left for Nostra Villa, hoping to complete an assignment he had received from a countryman downtown. Although, his father had persuaded him to attend Kara's ceremony, Garrick insisted he wouldn't, since he had lost his love for Kara, and had found someone else. He had said all that.

Now, songs! Young and old couples started out with a romantic music, as they danced. Mr. Neville kept an eye on the entrance, muttering repeatedly, “Where are you, you Jackass?”

Do you think your new boy will show up?” asked Betsy, curious.

I hope not,” Kara replied. “There's a dozen men waiting to pounce on him at the entrance.”

And where's Garrick?” Hasty wondered.

No idea. I assume he's done with Kara, so no need for him to attend,” Betsy guessed. “You know how Kara embarrassed him in front of everyone.”

I didn't mean that, but he deserved it,” Kara confessed. “If he can't step down and embrace the poor men, there's no use asking me to marry him.”

Must you marry a poor man?”

Well, all rich men are greedy.”

Not all, Kara, if not that would include me.

Sorry.

Here comes your boy. . .” Betsy announced.

From the entrance came Ian in his rags, slowly shuffling towards the guards.

Seize him, and bring him to me!” ordered Mr. Neville.

They arrested Ian and brought him before Kara's father, who was standing beside Kara. He was forced to kneel.

No, Father, you can't do this.”

This guy's really insane,” whispered Hasty, to Betsy, who nodded in agreement.

Who are you?” demanded Mr. Neville.

I already told you who I am.”

A guard struck his face. “That's not how you talk to the Master.”

Ian spat some blood and coughed. “I'm no friend of masters, boy.”

He received a sharp blow on the chest.

Father, you can't do this! He's innocent, and besides, he loves me,” Kara protested.

Will you keep quiet and let me speak? Which bloody terrorist loves you?”

Ian bursted into a pointless laughter, provoking Kara's father even more.

Pass me a scissors!” he ordered.

A scissors was brought, and Kara's father grabbed Ian's beards. “When this is gone, we'll truly see who you are.”

This is insane,” Kara said, turning to Hasty and Betsy, “Tell him to stop. Please.”

But they looked away, ignoring her. Her father began shaving Ian's beards, as Kara peered at his eyes. They were becoming familiar.

Sunken eyes. . . the birthmark. . . his blue iris. . .

Then her eyes drifted to his nose. That hooked nose. . .

And his mouth. No. . . his lips and broad jaw. . . It can't be. . .

The beards was gone, but Mr. Neville couldn't still recognise him due to his muddy face. So he positioned himself to shave his head, too.

Garrick?” Kara exposed, squatting in front of him, as her father stopped, confused. “Is it really you?”

Ian took off his hair, to everyone's surprise. Hasty's and Betsy's mouths fell wide open, just as Mr. Neville's scissors fell from his hand.

I knew this boy was up to something,” confessed Mr. Woodward. “He truly loves Kara.”

Kara felt the mud on his face. “You didn't have to do this, Garrick. Why did you have to punish yourself like this?”

Because I love you, Kara, and I will do everything I can to make you see that.”

Tears streamed down her cheeks. “You could have been killed.”

Then I would gladly die knowing I tried.”

Hasty drew closer and whistled loudly. “Yeah, you're the man, Garrick!”

Garrick wiped Kara's eyes and smiled lovingly, remembering how much she had changed him.

I'm so sorry for the way I treated you, Garrick,” she tightly embraced him. “I'm so sorry.”

Amazed, the onlookers started to give their plaudits, while several couples continued to comment about Garrick's wisdom. Kara's and Garrick's fathers just watched the entire scene in unbelief. Now, they broke the embrace, with Kara wiping her face, almost choking, as she swallowed.

Will you marry me? Right here and now?” Kara asked.

What?

Will you marry me? For real this time.

Garrick paused the briefest, then grabbed her from the waist and lifted her up.

Of course, Milady, it's my dream!” He confessed, as he lifted her up and twirled her.

Right there and then came the soft romantic music that first brought these lonely hearts together, as they finally discovered that love has no boundaries—whether white or black, rich or poor, tall or short, and fat or thin, love brings them together and creates something new—something special.

So, whose proposal did you accept?” asked Garrick. “Ian Rat's or mine?”

What? That's ridiculous!” Kara laughed, as she slapped his shoulder. “I don't want to know.”

Yeah... Yeah...” he also laughed, as they danced alongside Hasty and Betsy. It was a proposal they would never forget.















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* Broken Trust

* The Mission

* Battle of Archers


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