It was Cinco de Mayo when it all happened. Irene had just finished a brutal week of final exams the day before and flew into St. Maarten from Miami that day. It had been more than a year since she was last in St. Maarten. We had many many things we wanted to do, like visit the St. Maarten Zoo, travel to Curacao, visit the Butterfly Farm, eat at Le Cool Heure, and pick up starfish and sand dollars at our favorite spot in St. Martin — Irene Island. However, I had one extra thing I wanted to do that I didn’t tell her.
Just last year when Irene was here visiting me, we discovered a place on the French side that we absolutely loved. It was a bay, surrounded by nature and vistas of mountains and ocean in the background. The water in the bay is shallow and clear, filled with sea urchins, starfish, conchs, sand biscuits, and hermit crabs. Rising right off the shore, a short distance away, was a small island. The path through the water to get there was, at the deepest, ankle-deep. On top of the island is a coral shrine, built up by travelers over the years. It’s absolutely beautiful there and so I called it Irene Island.
The first thing we wanted to do when Irene arrived was visit Irene Island. As we waded in the water, we got to pick up a lot of starfish and sea biscuits. We even saw a sting ray just feet away from us! As we strolled towards the island, the sun set behind us.
Just the day before, I had come to Irene Island by myself and hid a message in a bottle at the base of the shrine. When we reached the top of the island, Irene noticed there was something different about the shrine, but didn’t notice the bottle. As it started to sprinkle rain, Irene suggested we head back. Just then, I got Irene’s attention to the shrine where the message in the bottle was. She immediately knew what was about to happen.
As Irene opened the top of the bottle and unrolled the message, I got down on my knee and asked that special question.
She said yes.