We talked about... everything... from the weather to religion to politics. He was quite a knowledgeable gentleman. He had been all over the world with his balloon. He told me of a trip he was making to Provence, France next month. He made it sound so exciting. I didn't want the night to end.
We felt as though we were suspended under the twilight canopy. The air was cool and I shivered. He put his coat around my shoulders and gave me another kiss on the cheek. It was so quiet when the burners were off at times you could hear a pin drop. We breathed in the clean cool air.
"Aren't you afraid we will get lost," I asked Nick?
"No I'm not... We'll search the sky for a star to guide us home. And if that doesn't work... I always have my GPS." He laughed as he pulled me close and kissed me. "This is nice," he whispered. "You are the first woman I ever felt like taking on a night ride for free." I doubted if that was true... but it sounded nice to hear and it made me smile.
I wasn't sure if he'd ever call me again... but at that moment... I was glad I had said yes to the date.
All too soon the horizon looked familiar. Balloons of all colors got bigger and bigger as we made our way back to the fairgrounds. He landed the balloon at his spot, walked me to my car, and gave me a kiss goodnight. It was a magical night. One I will never forget.
Abbe was waiting for me when I got home, and I had to fill her in on everything that happened. She wanted no detail left unsaid. I showed her the pictures we took on the camera and sent her to bed.
Once Abbe was safely tucked in I turned on the computer to put the pictures on it. I was so wound up I could not sleep. There was an e-mail waiting for me. It was from Nick, thanking me for a lovely evening. He wanted to take me to dinner the next night. I e-mailed back a yes and shared a few pictures with him. Tired now from the evening cool air I when to bed. In my dreams Nick and I were sailing across the sky.
The next few weeks Nick and I saw each other almost every night. He took me up on many evening balloon rides when he wasn't busy with customers. My fear of heights lessened with each ride up. Even Abbe came up with us one night. She liked Nick and I could tell he liked her too. Soon he would be leaving for France and we wouldn't be able to see each other for a few months. I was miserable thinking of him being away for so long. We had grown quite close. Maybe even "loved" each other? I didn't want to presume too much.
"Next week I leave for France," Nick said to me one night as we sat on the porch swing. "I want you to go with me. I have made a lot more money than I usually do at the fair. It has been a great year and I have been saving. I have not spent much the last few weeks because you and Abbe have made me so many wonderful dinners at your home. Please say you will come with me? I want to share Provence with you." He waited for my answer.
"France??? Me go to France? I never thought I'd ever get to travel out of the USA. YES!!! I will go with you." I jumped in his arms and gave him a big hug and kiss.
"Then... maybe... if by some chance you find yourself loving me... When we get back... We can get married," he asked? He got down on one knee and opened the tiniest black box I'd ever seen. It held a diamond ring. "I know it's not a big diamond but we can get a bigger one later if you want." My eyes filled with tears. All my dreams were coming true. "It's perfect," I cried. He put it on my finger and we kissed.
The next morning I told Abbe that Nick and I were engaged. She started jumping up and down and giving me hugs and kisses. I then told her about the trip to France and she slumped in a chair with a frown. I was sorry that Abbe couldn't go but she was happy for me. I promised her I'd take lots of pictures and bring her presents and that seemed to make her feel better.
The week went fast and soon Nick and I were on a plane to France. He had some friends meet us at the airport. We would be staying with them. They had a new balloon they wanted Nick to teach them to fly.
The countryside smelled of lavender as we drove. There was purple everywhere and now and then sunflower fields could be seen mixed in with the lavender. This was the perfect time of year to visit Provence. It was just before harvesting time. The sweet smell of the flowers filled the car and I found myself closing the window. Nick and his friends laughed. They could tell I was a tourist. "Tourists are not used to the smell like we are. Don't worry... you will get used to it in a day or two," Nick said.
He was right... Within a few days I didn't even notice the aroma. Abella and I got along great. Her and her husband, Henri had gone to school in the states. That's where they met Nick. They had stayed friends all these years and through endless borders. I liked that. They laughed when they remembered Nick in school. They were a delight to be around.
The next day Nick's balloon arrived from the states. He and Henri filled both balloons with air and Nick showed Henri how to work the controls. They took a whole day to fill but by dusk the balloons were ready to fly. Abella and I watched as the clouds grew in the distance. We told the men to wait until the storm passed but Henri was anxious to fly. Reluctantly the four of us headed up into the heavens for a "quick" ride.