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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Romance/Love · #1491793
"Jack was getting anxious, maybe even worried. He held Axelle’s hand tighter."
“Wow,” breathed Axelle as she stepped out of the cab and onto the gray cobblestone street. Jack, her best friend of eight years and her boyfriend of one, climbed out behind her, took her hand, and gave it a comforting squeeze.

“What do you think?” asked Jack, his voice velvety smooth. He brushed a piece of her long, curly blond hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. Jack had taken Axelle on a trip to England, Ireland, and Wales for her high school graduation present. Axelle had always enjoyed London, and it left her in awe every time she saw it. It was a very nice contrast to the busy Seattle streets that she was so used to.

“I love it, of course,” said Axelle, pulling Jack slowly along the street by the hand. His jet black hair fell lazily in his face, framing his caramel colored eyes perfectly.

“I’ve heard,” laughed Jack. Axelle always talked about how much she enjoyed going to Europe. This was her third time, and now Jack saw for himself why she liked it so much. “Follow me.”

Axelle obeyed. She let Jack take the lead, for he was the one who planned this trip. It had been a total surprise to Axelle up until the minute they had stepped into the terminal back in Seattle. Jack had just told her to pack warm, and to pack a lot. Axelle loved the way Jack always surprised her with the unexpected.

Now Axelle knew why Jack had told her to pack warm. Her skin prickled with goose bumps, despite the light jacket she was wearing. The rain sprinkled down from the dark sky, tickling her cheeks. The street was littered with puddles, like mirrors strewn haphazardly all over the ground. The smell of the wet concrete permeated the air, reminding her of home. Jack’s warm hand clutched around hers was the only contrast to the chilly streets. Axelle couldn’t love it anymore if she tried.

The few people that were walking on the street were moving quickly. There were not that many pedestrians, but the ones that were out didn’t stop to say hello. They kept their eyes down and went on with their business. They looked rushed and slightly unhappy, every single one of them. Axelle giggled and shook her head. She thought that sometimes people were too serious for their own good.

“What?” asked Jack.

“They’ve got places to go, people to see!” exclaimed Axelle, breaking away from Jack to walk briskly down the street. She stopped after getting quite far ahead of him, and tapped her foot impatiently. “People and places, Jack!” she exclaimed jokingly. “You better hurry!”

Jack chuckled. Sometimes you had to be in Axelle’s head to understand why she did some things. She could be quite spontaneous when she felt like it, and she usually felt like it all of the time.

She had once taken Jack to the store at one in the morning just to pick up a pair of knitting needles. She’d had a dream about knitting a hat for her uncle, and she wanted to start on it as soon as she had awakened. Jack had tried to tell her that she didn’t know how to knit, but she didn’t listen. As soon as they got to the store, she realized she didn’t know how to knit after all. Jack had told her numerous times before they even got in the car, but she was so determined to make that hat, she didn’t care. She finally settled on buying her uncle a hat, just so she knew his head would be warm, and skipped out the doors. Axelle was always doing spur of the moment things, but it was one of the many reasons that Jack loved her.

Jack caught up with her, took her hand, and towed her slowly down Belvedere Road. Axelle put her head against his shoulder and hummed the tune to Three’s Company. She’d watched hours upon hours of it lately, much to Jack’s mystification. He thought it was an okay show, but watching four hours straight was just a little too much for him. He did it, though, just to keep Axelle happy.

They strolled leisurely, seemingly oblivious to the rain and the cold. Axelle didn’t mind the way her wet hair clung to her cheeks. Jack didn’t mind the glares they were getting from the unhappy passersby. The two of them were content no matter what kind of surroundings they were in.

The few trees that lined the streets shimmered. The water made everything look like glass. The entire street looked unbelievably fragile. Axelle wanted to go jump in one of the puddles, just to make it a little messy. She never did like things to be perfect. She thought that a bit of untidiness made everything seem a little homier. She wasn’t a slob, by any means, but she wasn’t a neat freak either.

Jack was taking in the sights as he led Axelle to the precise spot he planned to take her. He’d never been to London before, and the only reason he knew it so well was because he pored over maps and travel guides, just to make sure he wouldn’t get them lost. He’d hate to ruin the evening because he took Axelle down York instead of Belvedere. He could see the London Eye, one of the world’s biggest Ferris wheels, from the street, and his heart beat a little faster. Jack was getting anxious, maybe even worried. He held Axelle’s hand tighter.

When Jack turned into Jubilee Gardens, Axelle knew where they were going. The London Eye was her favorite part of London. She loved the way that you could get a bird’s eye view of everything without having to go up in a plane or a helicopter. It was effortless, yet so amazing. The people there were more meandering than walking. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere than the one on Belvedere.

“I love the Eye,” mused Axelle. She looked up, taking in the full sight. The London Eye was much more than impressive. It stood taller than any other structure around it. Axelle couldn’t wait to get to the top.

“Why?” Jack asked.

“It looks impossible,” she answered.

“I… I don’t understand,” admitted Jack.

“Well, just look. It seems like it should tip right over! Just plop, right into the river,” she explained, exaggerating the word plop with a clap of her hands.

“Lovely,” murmured Jack. As if he needed anything else to worry about. Now Axelle planted the fear of plopping into the river in the back of his head. It certainly added to his building nerves.

As they approached the ticket window for the eye, Jack’s heart began to pound. He had to tell himself that there was no way Axelle was going to fall into the river, fall off the wheel, faint from the altitude, or get food poisoning. There were a million things that could harm her, and Jack certainly did not want any harm done to Axelle.

The Eye was huge. Instead of having seats, like the usual Ferris wheel does, it had circular rooms on the end of massive arms. They had to fit at least twenty people each. He looked up to see how high it went, and immediately had to look back down. He felt dizzy just looking up that far. To Jack, It looked like a giant bicycle wheel.

Jack shook his head, clearing out all the negative thoughts, and leaned up to the window. “I’m Jack Robertson. I contacted you earlier this month,” he said, his voice hushed. Axelle was peering out over the water, not paying attention to the exchange between the employee and Jack.

“Oh yes, Mr. Robertson. We have your pod all ready.” She gestured to the right and pressed a button. The door of the massive pod at the bottom of the wheel opened, revealing a candlelit dinner table.

“Thank you very much,” said Jack. He slipped over a hundred dollar tip, and took Axelle’s hand once again.

“Oh, someone has set up a pretty swank spot,” said Axelle, climbing into the pod. “It’s a wonder they’d let the riff-raff in!”

“You hush,” laughed Jack. It was no secret that Jack had money. It was family money, earned years before Jack was born. He felt terrible using it. He’d always felt he should make his own living, but Axelle deserved the best that money could buy, so he was willing to bend his own rules.

The employee closed the pod, and Axelle and Jack started moving slowly towards the top of the wheel. Jack knew it would take about five minutes to reach the top. He had five whole minutes to kill. His breathing hitched up a notch, and his palms got sweaty, but other than that, there was no reason to believe that Jack was nervous. He was amazingly good at hiding his emotions.

Axelle stood at the edge of the pod, where the glass of the curved wall met the glass of the floor. The sun had set, and all they could see of London was a dazzling array of lights. The water got farther and farther below them.

Jack draped his arm around Axelle’s tiny frame. She sighed happily.

“I always liked it better at night,” she commented.

“Why’s that?” questioned Jack. He was always grabbing at facts he didn’t know about Axelle. There were hardly any out there anymore.

“Well, you can’t see the lights reflect off the water when it’s daytime. It’s much prettier at night,” explained Axelle.

Jack examined the river below him. Lights of blue, green, yellow, and red all winked back at him. They were halfway to the top.

Jack took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He knew he had to calm himself down. The item in his pocket seemed much heavier now that he was only moments away from being at the highest part of the Eye.

Axelle placed her hand against the glass. “It feels like I might fall out when I put my hand right here,” she said.

“Well, I’d just have to save you then,” sighed Jack, rolling his eyes jokingly.

“I’d be pretty chilly down there, I’d imagine.”

“Good thing I’m wearing a jacket,” said Jack, grinning.

“Way to look on the bright side of things,” she laughed. She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Jack smiled and looked down. They were at the top of the Eye, just as he had planned. He reached into his pocket.

“Axelle,” he breathed. He took her by the shoulders and turned her gently to face him.

“Yes?” she asked. Her voice shook slightly. Only one person had ever said her name like that before. It was her uncle, just before he told her he was moving to Alaska. Before Jack, her uncle had been her best friend. He was really just a big kid, and they had done everything together. She was crushed when she found out he was moving.

Jack lowered himself to one knee.

Axelle gasped and tears sprang to her crystal blue eyes. It wasn’t like what her uncle had done at all! Jack took her shaking hand in his. He took a deep breath and looked up into her eyes.

“I love you, Axelle. I’ve loved you ever since the moment I met you. The second I broke your arm in fourth grade, I just knew it was meant to be… even though I told you that you had cooties.” Jack pulled a small, black box out of his pocket and opened it.

Axelle sputtered a laugh. The tears were flowing freely now.

“Axelle Scarlett Rayner, will you marry me?” Jack gazed into her eyes.

Axelle’s thoughts were jumbled. Jack wanted to marry her. She wasn’t surprised, really. She just didn’t think he’d ask so soon. Her parents would always poke fun at him. They always asked him when he was finally going to pop the question. He would always just shrug it off, though. It made Axelle think that he was going to wait at least another year. He’d never even mentioned marriage when it was just the two of them.

She looked at the ring Jack held in his hand. It was delicate, silver, and the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. It was set with rubies and diamonds. The light sparkled off it softly.

Jack watched her hesitation carefully. His heart sank, and came to rest very unhappily in his stomach. Jack always thought that Axelle would marry him. She was the only one he ever wanted to marry. Yes, they were fairly young, and no, they never really dated anyone else, but he still though she would say yes.

“Yes,” she breathed.

Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “Yes?”

“Yes!” Axelle pulled him to his feet, so he was standing beside her.

Jack wound his arms around her waist. “I was nervous for a second. You hesitated!” Jack laughed. “If there was one thing that would wig me out right there, it was you hesitating.”

“I know! I’m so mean to you,” sighed Axelle. She couldn’t keep the smile out of her voice. “It was an accident though. I was just thinking about how my parents always teased you about proposing. You should have known I would say ‘yes!’”

“I thought you would, but that pause… I was fairly certain I could have died out of sheer anticipation.”

“Died out of anticipation? You wouldn’t be a very good groom if you were dead,” noted Axelle. “And I’d get the heebie jeebies on our honeymoon.” She was not at all anxious about getting married. She always thought that she’d get married to Jack; it was only a matter of when.

“I’d still be incredibly dashing,” joked Jack.

“True, true,” said Axelle. She extended her left hand out in front of her. The ring fit perfectly on her slender finger. It wasn’t any surprise to her that Jack knew her ring size. Axelle was thrilled with the way it looked on her.

“Mrs. Axelle Robertson,” she sighed. It was a name she could certainly get used to.
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