The ice palace glowed reds and oranges as the sun began to set. Ben reached into his pocket and felt the small box sitting there. Alice was ahead of him, admiring an archway that the ice carver had etched in runes similar to those found in one of Tolkien’s books. That was her thing, fantasy books. Ben didn’t quite understand that part of her. Hell, he didn’t understand large parts of her, but still. When they were together everything felt as magical as the stuff in those books she liked to read. That was one thing he could definitely understand.
“Come look at this,” Alice said, pointing to a particular part of the arch. Ben walked over and took a look. Alice waved her hand underneath a particular symbol and continued. “They have the script mostly right, but I wonder if the sculptor really meant to change gender like that.”
Ben peered at the squiggles, trying to make sense of anything, but after a few moments any optimism quickly evaporated in the freezing cold air. “I don’t know, dear. Maybe he just had his chisel slip?” Ben asked.
Alice laughed. “That’s silly. The word is just totally wrong. I know my Middle Earth script. Whoever wrote this down didn’t know what they were doing,” Alice said.
“But they got most of it right,” Ben said. “That has to count for something.”
Alice turned and looked at Ben like he had said the dumbest thing ever said about Middle Earth script, and that was saying a lot according to Ben. “That is like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” Alice said. “It would be like adding pink flamingos to the Sistine Chapel. It would be like breaking off David’s schlong.”
Ben did a double take. “Breaking off David’s schlong?” he asked.
“You know, the statue by Michelangelo,” Alice said. She spun away from Ben and began to walk to the next room. “He is also my favorite teenage mutant ninja turtle.”
“David?” Ben asked as he hurried to catch up.
Alice gave him a play punch to his arm. “Very funny hun. You enjoy messing with me don’t you,” she said.
Ben laughed a bit nervously. “You know me,” he said. He made a mental note to look up mutant turtles when he got back home and Alice was not around. Otherwise that would not end well.
Alice gave Ben a quick kiss on his cheek. “Yes I do, and you know me,” she said. She then worked her way to the small fire burning in a burn barrel in the center of the open air room. The light danced and played off the almost mirror-like reflections of three walls and diamond-like refractions along the fourth. Here Ben could see why Alice was so entranced by magic.
Alice warmed herself next to the fire, spinning around the barrel to take the light show in. “This is awesome,” she said with a whisper.
Ben smiled. “It is amazing how they can create such an optical display with such primitive optics,” he said.
Alice stopped her spinning immediately. “Don’t go there, Ben. Don’t you drop your engineering physics mumbo-jumbo on me. Just let the magic happen,” Alice said.
“Magic is the same thing as science unexplained,” Ben said. “That’s what makes science wonderful. I can be a wizard of reality, just like Harry Porter-“
“Harry Potter!” snapped Alice. Ben realized he had stomped on one of the things she held sacred.
“Sorry,” Ben continued, “just like Harry Potter was a wizard of fantasy.”
Alice shook her head. “Don’t worry about being a wizard of reality right now,” she said. She gestured around them. “This doesn’t need explaining. This needs experiencing.”
“But if there was magic in the world, wouldn’t you want to know how it works so you could do magic?” Ben asked.
Alice turned back to the fire. “Sometimes I wonder why we are together,” Alice said softly.
Ben came up behind Alice, his hands reaching for her shoulders, but he couldn’t bring himself to touch her. “You just said that you knew me and I knew you. That must mean something,” he said.
Alice kept her back to Ben. “I don’t know why I said that to be honest. It must have been the magic of the moment,” she said. “Then again, you don’t believe in magic.” With that her shoulders slumped.
Ben felt the cold of the room press in on him. This was the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen. “I believe in our magic,” he said with a small voice.
Alice turned around and looked into his eyes, searching for something. Ben resisted the urge to look away. He didn’t want to scare away the small amount of hope he was in Alice’s eyes. “Do you mean that?” she asked.
Ben dropped down on one knee. He pulled out the small box out of his pocket and opened it revealing a diamond ring. The diamond exploded in the play of light in the room. “Alice Walker, will you marry me?” Ben asked.
Alice looked like Ben was speaking another language. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “Why would I marry you? You don’t know me.”
The temperature fell at least another ten degrees in the room sending chills down Ben’s spine. It was now or never. Ben took the ring out of the case and through the ring into the flames. Alice’s eyes went wild. “What are you doing?” she asked.
Ben pulled a telescoping pointer out of his pocket. He extended it and fished the ring out of the fire. He held the glowing ring close to Alice’s face. Alice’s eyes grew wide as she peered close. There around the ring was written in Middle Earth script ‘One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.’
Alice began to tear up. “Yes, yes, yes!” she said as she took the hot ring off the pointer gingerly. She looked at Ben as she juggled the ring from one hand to the other. “You really do understand me,” she said.
All Ben could think of was thank God for the internet. You can base a relationship on what you learn from Google, right?