Lillie-Rose poked Carmella's shoulder with her pointer finger.
"Not a thing." Carmella sat up in surprise and looked into the eyes of her friends. She hadn't heard them approaching.
"She’s probably thinking about Franklin, who else?"
Ivy flopped down in the middle of the flowers at the base of the tree house and began weeding. Lillie-Rose studied the bemused smile on Carmella's face and the twinkle in her eyes before sitting on the heavy iron bench next to her.
"Yup Ivy, by the look in her eyes, I think you're right. Got something you want to share, Carmella?"
Carmella stood, straightened her clothes before removing her sandals and stepping on to the low retaining wall surrounding the statue of the fallen prince. Slowly, walking with her arms spread wide she tried to keep her balance as she moved from the toes of the prince to his chest. Swinging her right leg over to straddle it, she sat on his stomach before answering.
"Don't worry about me, Lillie-Rose we're here because of you. What's on your mind?"
"That's what I'm wondering." Ivy moved closer to her friends, dropped to the ground and immediately dug her fingers into the soil. "It's not like she ever wants to hang with us anymore. Rarely calls, never comes out to play." She laughed.
Changing her position to lay on the bench, Lillie-Rose stretched her limbs, flexed her toes, and relaxed. The coolness of the metal seeping through the thin material of her blouse and making her shiver slightly. She watched her friends giggling and slapping at each other like little kids unable to hold the secret they have on one another. She wiggled her fingers in Ivy’s direction before closing her eyes.
"Maybe it's because you always want to play in the dirt, little Miss Ivy Gardiner."
"Ha, maybe it’s because you have a new playmate and you don't have any time for us."
"Ha, or maybe it’s because you have a new playmate that plays different kinds of games.”
Ivy and Carmella scoffed and laughed loudly before stating their own opinions between bursts of laughter.
“And they aren’t the kind of games you can play with us."
Reaching down to grab a handful of clovers, Lillie-Rose threw them in her friends’ direction, the gentle breeze swirling and floating the petals over and releasing them on their heads, Ivy and Carmella laughed delightedly.
"You aren't funny. Besides," Lillie-Rose closed her eyes again. "I was just with you in Beaumont."
"You noticed she didn't deny having a new playmate."
"Oh, I noticed alright."
Lillie-Rose opened one eye at Ivy's tone. The other woman smiled smugly, the hint of the knowledge of a secret, evident in her tones.
"So, Lillie-Rose." Carmella tapped a tune on the forehead of the prince, immediately receiving an admonishment from Lillie-Rose for her actions.
"Wow, silly laugh and defending the prince." Ivy elbowed Carmella on her rear. "If I have to make a deduction, I'd say our girl has found her a man."
Taking note of the way Lillie-Rose smiled before closing her eyes again, Ivy jumped off her perch, and rushing to the bench, she pushed Lillie-Rose's legs off and sat down.
"Yeah," Carmella joining her friends on the bench, pushed Lillie-Rose from the shoulder until she was sitting up. "Please say its Nathaniel."
"Of course it's Nathaniel. Who else would it be?" Ivy leaned back triumphantly and folded her arms across her chest. “Those 900 bad blind dates were decoys, designed to make sure our little Lillie-Rose kept her mind and her eyes on the prize. Guess my plan worked."
Reaching behind Lillie-Rose's back, Carmella swung unsuccessfully in Ivy's direction.
"What plan?" Lillie-Rose looked from one to the other. Carmella and Ivy made a face at each other over Lillie-Rose's head. Each one unsuccessfully trying to shush the other’s words.
"Don't mind Ivy, she’s talking out of her head. It wasn't really a ‘plan'. More like a wish."
"What kind of wish?"
"You know. I was building a relationship with Franklin, Ivy with Bernard and we didn't want you to be alone."
"We just prayed for the right man to come your way."
"Well, I think your prayers may have worked."
Ivy and Carmella jumped up squealing and laughing like little kids. Chasing each other around the bench and then the statue, ending out of breath in front of Lillie-Rose they grabbed her hands and pulled her up to join them..
"Get excited, girl." Carmella bounced a little in her excitement.
"What makes you think our prayers were answered?" Ivy put her hands on her hips, tapping her right foot in impatience. “I don’t see a ring on that finger.”
“He gave me this.” She pulled the necklace from inside her shirt. “He says the one petal means he loves me and I don’t have to throw petals off the bridge anymore.”
“That’s sooo romantic.” Ivy crooned.
“It really is sweet, but I had my heart set on seeing a ring.” Carmella fingered the chain before letting it drop gently back in its place.
Smiling from ear to ear, Lillie-Rose pulled a small box from her pocket. Without even looking inside of the box, the two friends repeated their crazy whooping run. By the time they returned in front of her, Lillie Rose had already put the ring on her finger.
"I love it." Carmella caressed the diamonds with her index finger. "This is one awesome design. Two heart shaped diamonds, and does the crown in the middle of one heart mean he's your prince charming?"
"I believe so. No," Lillie-Rose pressed her hand to her chest, covering her heart. "I know he is." Both women wrapped their arm around Lillie-Rose.
"I'm so happy for you."
"Me too. I think Franklin is going to propose to me tonight."
"Really, how do you know?"
"Yes. I can tell by the way he's been acting. Since tomorrow is Valentine's day I'm cooking a meal at home tonight so he can plan whatever he wants to do for tomorrow. I think it's something big."
"I get that impression from Bernard, too. He's been secretive and the way they all have suddenly started hanging out together...gives me goosebumps, just wondering what they're planning. Maybe they have a special dinner all set up."
"I hope so. Wouldn't it be nice if we all get engaged this weekend and then we could help plan each other's wedding."
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