Carly awoke with the sun. The first thing she saw was Ralph’s face. He was still sleeping. She smiled to herself. She liked waking up to him. Ralph didn’t officially live with her, but she couldn’t remember the last time he wasn’t sleeping over.
She sat up slowly, gently slipping away from under the covers so that she wouldn’t wake him up.
“Morning, Lottie,” Ralph opened his eyes.
“Rats, I was being so careful and I still woke you…” she pouted.
“I was already awake,” he yawned.
“Come back to bed,” Ralph purred when she stood up.
“I can’t, you know Saturdays are always busy at the restaurant,” she shook her head. “I’ve got to be there earlier to get things ready. And I wanted to go on a little excursion before work, my collection is laughable…”
“Your collection is fantastic,” Ralph objected. “I particularly like the fossilised moustache.”
“You would,” Carly giggled. “But anyway, lots to do today, as I said.”
Ralph pulled her closer. “I think it can wait. It can all wait.”
“Maybe a little while…” Carly gave in.
“So what are your plans for the day?” Carly asked while cooking breakfast when they finally did get up.
“I’ll pop by to see the bookies first…” Ralph started.
“Again?” Carly interrupted him.
“Sshh… Then I’ve got to go to the library to fix a leak. And after that, I’m meeting this guy who’s selling an antique chair – I’m pretty sure I can fix it up and resell it for triple the price. And later on, I’ve got to go collect a mystery package.”
Carly arched an eyebrow: “A mystery package?” Ralph picked up a number of odd jobs to make a living, some odder than others.
“Yep. Just a quick and easy thing.” He shrugged.
“Ralph… we’ve been through this. Is this another sketchy job? Do you even know what’s in the package?”
“Wouldn’t be much of a mystery package if what’s in it wasn’t a mystery, would it?” Ralf laughed.
Carly frowned: “That’s not funny! You’ll get into trouble…”
“Relax Lottie, I know what’s in the package.”
“You do?” Carly wasn’t too reassured.
“I do. I promise. It’s perfectly fine…” He said with a charming smile.
“You said that the last time,” Carly grumbled.
“It’s no big deal, honest,” Ralph told her. “I’ll tell you what’s in the package tonight, deal?”
“Ok,” she sighed. “Just be careful…”
A grin spread across Ralph’s face. Lottie didn’t need to know everything…
Carly loved mornings before work. She enjoyed the routine, finding joy in the simple things.
But she also enjoyed the unplanned, like seeing what birds will show at her bird feeder that day, if any. Each day, they seemed more colourful and beautiful than the last.
Her siblings teased her about the bird feeder and acting like an old lady, but she didn’t care. She appreciated the small discoveries.
Somewhere between the routine and the unexpected, Ralph would show up to kiss her before she left for the day. It was a regular occurrence, but way too exciting to be called a routine. They’ve been together for a few years, but he still made her weak in the knees.
After that, it was time to explore. Carly’s modest collection of frogs, fossils and crystals was growing steadily, but could definitely use improvements.
Besides, Carly loved the opportunity to explore Newcrest while looking for treasures. Walking around all the places her ancestors have built, and finding items that may well have been around since their time… it felt special.
Every time she’d come across anything even remotely promising, she’d start digging straight away with quiet determination.
And nothing would beat the satisfaction of actually discovering something worthwhile.
She spent a good few hours scavenging the neighbourhood, and was rather pleased with the new additions to the collection. But she couldn’t admire them for too long. Work was calling.
Carly was the only one of her siblings who still worked over at Leo’s restaurant. But that didn’t necessarily mean nothing had changed since her awkward waitressing days.
Carly was now the assistant manager, Leo’s right hand. She’d taken over most of the management tasks, from making sure the customers were happy with the service to dealing with employees and setting their shifts.
Carly didn’t exactly feel passionate about being a restaurateur, but she did enjoy her work and felt a great deal of satisfaction from it – her role allowed her dad to focus on his true passion, creating new tantalising dishes in the restaurant’s kitchen. And making her family happy made Carly happy. Each day was rewarding, and she’d almost always finish the shift with a smile.
Today was no exception. Especially when she saw Ralph sat at one of the tables, doodling away.
“Feeling artistic today?” She walked across to him.
“I was just waiting for you to finish up.” He replied. “Though I do think that I’m rather talented, now that you mention it.”
Carly laughed and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Thanks for coming by. We’re just wrapping up here. You could have just waited at the house, you know.”
“I know, but I didn’t want to.”
They left the restaurant shortly after, once the last patrons made their way out.
“So, I was thinking maybe we don’t go straight to the house…” Ralph suggested coyly.
“Oh?” Carly was intrigued. “What did you have in mind?”
Ralph grinned. “Well, I’m glad you should ask…”
They wandered along the water front, hand in hand. Carly’s eyes lit up…
She sped up her pace a bit, running towards a rusty bench.
“Aww, Ralph…” she managed.
“You remember this place?” He beamed.
“Do I remember it?” She felt like dancing. “This is where we had our first kiss!”
“I know,” Ralph nodded with an unusual softness in his expression. “I didn’t just take you here randomly, you know. There’s this thing that’s burning me in my pocket.”
And like in a dream, Carly watched Ralph go down on one knee.
“Lottie… I could give a speech about how you’ve changed my life for infinitely better, and it would all be true, but you know I don’t really do grand speeches. I do grand gestures. So would you do me the honour of taking this shiny rock and becoming my wife?”
Carly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“Of course I will!” Her heart melted. “And that ring is beautiful… hang on! Is this the mystery package you were talking about collecting earlier by any chance?”
Ralph’s lips curved into a grin. “Perhaps…”
“Ralph! You said it was no big deal!” She burst out laughing.
“Well, I did have to downplay it a little obviously…” He picked her up in his arms. “I guess in hindsight, it wasn’t completely insignificant…”
Carly couldn’t stop laughing. “You’re going to give me a heart attack one day…”
She grew more serious when Ralph put her back on the ground.
“But honestly though, how about from now on, no more mystery packages. No secrets between us… deal?” She asked.
Ralph pulled one of his trademark smirks: “No secrets? Nah, that would be pretty boring, don’t you think?”