The original proposal was months in the planning, I’ve been told. It involved a call to my family to ‘give them the heads-up’, there were flights to Rome booked, a call around of our friends to meet us for surprise drinks on our return, and print-outs of ring photos slid in my direction to see which ones I liked ‘just out of curiosity’.
In the end, my boyfriend Blake proposed to me over FaceTime; him with a lockdown beard, me in my scruffy homeworking outfit, and no ring. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We have been together for four years, but had spent 13 weeks apart because I was visiting my parents and brother in Cheltenham when Boris Johnson announced lockdown. To say I didn’t expect to be home for more than a weekend is an understatement. I had in my bag one set of clothes, a phone charger, my laptop, a book and a crushed Pret rice cake. Blake was a three hour drive away, back in London with nobody but Wilson, the teddy bear his mother sent to him as a joke, for company.
Neither of us dreamed of breaking the rules to see each other, so our relationship became FaceTime breakfasts and Zoom Friday nights. I worried about him self-isolating alone. And he was concerned for me – and for my parents and sibling, who would be subjected to my ‘terrible taste’ in TV and dissection of the daily Boris briefings during ‘quality family time’.
While living apart we had to deal with his mother’s breast cancer appointments, Blake faced redundancy, and the sale of the house we desperately wanted fell through.
As the weeks wore on and we muddled through Zoom quizzes and virtual festivals, it got harder. There was no end date in sight for the lockdown.
Then, one evening, he asked if we could catch up on FaceTime. I was scruffy and tired, and then I heard him talking about wanting to spend the rest of our life together. I leaned in closer to the screen.
‘Wait, hold on, what did you say!?’
‘I’m saying, I was wondering, if after all this is over, will you marry me? Because with everything that is going on, it’s just reiterated even more what matters is to me – and that is us being together,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to spend any of my life without you as this lockdown has been long enough.’
Of course, I said yes. There was no ring. No post-engagement celebration with friends hugging you tightly. No getting to share the rest of the day with each other. But there was the giddy warmth of hearing people’s screams of excitement on phone calls – and friends and family sending us chocolates, flowers and craft beer to our respective addresses.
It was 13 weeks later when I eventually drove to London to see him again, after Boris Johnson announced the idea of ‘bubbles’ for those living alone. I was nervous; I was about to see the man who is now my fiance after months apart. Should I have planned a celebratory surprise? Did I look OK? Would my crying scare him off? Because there’s no question about it, I would cry.
But there he was, a face I know as well as my own. His eyes lit up in a way you could never capture on FaceTime and he put his hand into mine which was a novel feeling.