“So,” Laura said.
“So,” Neal said in response.
They looked at each other expectantly.
“You go first,” they both said in unison. Then they laughed a good-hearted genuine laugh.
“Ladies first,” Neal said.
Laura wasn’t going to argue, or they might be at this all day.
“Okay, well I’m sorry for the way I reacted when you told me how you feel. I was frustrated that you’d kept it secret, and a little surprised, and I treated you quite badly. There was one emotion I felt though, which i didn’t express very well. That emotion was happiness. I was very very happy to hear that you have such strong feelings for me.”
Neal smiled shyly. “I’m glad.”
“Unfortunately, I let my frustrations to overrun me, and drive me to make completely unreasonable demands of you. I’m sorry for that Neal. Please forgive me.”
“Of course, you don’t even need to ask.”
“I just want you to know that I’m not going to rush you. I want us to be together, but I’m willing to slow down a little, and I hope that you will consider trying to speed up – just a tad.”
Neal laughed again. “I promise. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about things over the last twenty-four hours. When you didn’t return to boat I got worried – really worried. When I found you unconscious out in the bush I thought I’d lost you. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I realised how much of a fool I’ve been. I almost let you slip between my fingers, and I’m not going to risk that again.”
Neal stood and moved his chair aside. He dug his hand into his pocket and withdrew something. Laura couldn’t see what it was. “I have something here I want to give you. I got this while I was out. It’s not much, but it means a lot.” Neal sank to one knee. Laura’s mouth went dry.
“Laura Banks, will you marry me?”
Her jaw hung open for a moment, until she realised that she wasn’t speaking. Before she could give an answer Neal started talking again.
“I’m not doing this because you want me to, I’m doing this because I want it. I want it more than anything in my life.” He extended his hand. There was a small metal ring sitting on his palm. It wasn’t a real ring – not jewellery anyway. It had a flat surface and it was a little stained with a buildup of old grease.
“Where did you get this?” she asked, taking it out of his hand and turning it between her fingers.
“Chief Henderson helped me find it actually. It was part of the Endeavour‘s engine. It’s a worn part that had to be replaced.”
“I’m sure there will be a jeweller amongst the colonists somewhere. We can get a real ring made later on, if you’re interested that is.”
She leaned forward and kissed him. “No, this is perfect. It’s a piece of the ship that brought us to this planet, where we discovered our love.”
“Ah Laura,” Neal said awkwardly. “You still haven’t given me an answer.”
Laura laughed at the realisation. “You’re right I haven’t.” She grinned at him. “Now let me see. I might have to think about this you know.”
Instead of looking uncomfortable and shrinking into himself as Neal often did when she teased him, he reached and snatched the ring of her hand. “Okay. That’s fine. I’ll take the offer off the table then.”
He turned and started to leave the tent.
“Okay,” she yelled, with humour and joy coming out in her voice in a way it never had before.
“I’ll marry you Neal!”
He turned on the spot and grinned at her. Then he ran forward and they fell into each other’s arms.
“It’s about time,” the amused voice of Marcelle Heroux said. ” I was wondering how long I was going to have to wait back there.” Laura barely heard it. She was consumed with the universe of Neal Spearwood.
* * *
Boyd stepped onto the bridge of the Endeavour. It was a quiet shift. Commander Lin was sitting in the command chair looking over something on a data pad.
“Ah, Commander, may I have a word in private?”
She looked up. “Chaplain, of course.” She stood. “We can make use of the Captain’s office.”
Boyd followed her in. She sat in the Captain’s chair and he took a seat on the opposite side.
“How are things Commander?”
“I’ve just had the disappoint the Captain I’m afraid. We’ve been searching the planet for evidence of the Phoenix survivors. Apart from the boat that Doctors Banks and Spearwood found, we’ve detected no other evidence. We can’t even find the Phoenix herself, although we know that it did arrive and land on the surface.
“That’s a shame.” He said nothing for a moment. Lin looked at him in silent expectation. “You know I’m not used to sitting on this side of the desk. People come to me for advice all the time. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to someone else for the same thing. That’s probably been a mistake. We all need advice.”
“Lieutenant, I’m here to listen. What do you want to talk about?”
“I had a vision last night. An angel came to me, claiming to bring a message from God.”
“What was the message?”
“I was to bring the message of God’s love and grace to the people on Xinju, to remind them that he still cares.”
“That’s wonderful Chaplain.”
“Then you believe it?”
“Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”
“It’s just, I’m still not sure I believe it myself. I’m not exactly pentecostal Commander. I’m not used to signs and wonders manifesting like this.”
“Well, angelic visitations are not something that happens every day, but at important times in history, God has revealed himself to people in special ways. It’s usually when he has a very specific point to make, or when people are particularly in need of hope. These wonders serve like a bookmark in history, to note a special time of transition.”
“Well our arrival on Xinju certainly qualifies on that grounds.”
“Let me ask you this, is the message brought to you consistent with the teachings in the Bible?”
“Then you don’t need to doubt it do you. Proceed carefully, always checking things against the Bible and talking with others, but accept the message in faith.”
Boyd nodded. “Thank you Commander. I think I will.”
“I’m glad to be able to help.”
Boyd stood. “Do you know when the Captain is due back on board?”
“Yes, later today.”
“Good, because I have something to tell him, and I’m certain he won’t like it.”