It was supposed to be a surprise *just* for Keri’s mom and step-dad. Tickets to the Lion King Broadway Musical for their birthdays, and as fortune would have it, my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew would be joining us.\r\n\r\nShe didn’t know I had been working for months contacting the Lion King Team and Denver Center of Performing Arts (DCPA) people. Calling and emailing person after person hoping someone would humor my request. I had found the woman I wanted to marry, and I needed to ask her to marry me on the stage of the Lion King Broadway show.\r\n\r\nWeeks passed with no response. Nothing. Stress and perseverance became a daily companion. I had to step up my game. I showed up at the DCPA administration offices. Someone would hear my plea, someone would help me make this happen.\r\n\r\nTwo more names, two more phone numbers, and two more voicemails left. And then I waited…\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, on the other side of Stress-ville, I was approving the final design of her engagement ring that I’d been working on for the past 10 months. From hand drawings, to computer CAD designs, to wax resin models, and over 150 emails later, it was done. The actual ring was being cast in gold and hand made to my exact specifications. I sent the final payment. And then I waited…\r\n\r\nUntil October 22nd at precisely 12:15 pm, the ring arrived, but I couldn’t look at it yet. It was locked behind 3 different boxes, and I had to find a safe place to view it. I wasn’t able to get away for nearly 4 hours. There I was at 4 pm, of all places, hiding in a bathroom stall. This is where I would first lay eyes on my creation beyond a computer screen.\r\n\r\nIt was gorgeous. Exactly how I wanted it. Exactly the ring my queen deserved.\r\n\r\nMinutes passed in slow motion in that stall when at precisely 4:15 pm my phone rang from a strange number.\r\n\r\n“Hello?”\r\n\r\n“Hi, is this Gary Nguyen?”\r\n\r\n“Yes it is.”\r\n\r\n“This is Alisha from the Denver Center of Performing Arts. How are you today?”\r\n\r\nMy heart stopped. I managed to mumble, “Good.”\r\n\r\n“Well, your messages and emails were forwarded to me, and I was able to get a hold of Aaron. He’s the Company Manager of the North American Lion King Musical Tour. He said, they’d be able to work out something for you. I’ll be forwarding your contact details to him and he’ll be in touch.”\r\n\r\nMy heart restarted. “Wow! Thank you so much Alisha, you have no idea what this means to me. I literally just received her custom designed engagement ring.”\r\n\r\n“That’s great. We’ll just need to know what show you want to attend. If you haven’t bought tickets yet, we reserve a small number of house seats that are right up front if that’s in your budget.”\r\n\r\n“Most definitely! I’ll call you back in a few hours with a date if that’s okay.”\r\n\r\nIt was happening. The pieces fell into place. Fast Forward.\r\n\r\nThis past week I had Aaron send us an email announcing that we had won a contest I had entered giving our entire party a Back Stage Tour after the Lion King show.\r\n\r\nThe stage was literally set. After the show, I would be proposing to Keri Watts center stage of the Lion King Broadway Musical. Only my sister and brother-in-law would know that on the night of November 20th, I would ask Keri Watts to marry me.\r\n\r\nNovember 20, 2015. 6:00 am\r\n\r\nSix a.m. and I’m wide awake. My heart is fluttering. My mind is racing between “Does she know?” and yet another version of what I want to say.\r\n\r\nA couple of hours pass before Keri wakes up and on a mission to clean. Of course, with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew arriving, the house had to be spotless. So off we go cleaning and tidying up, at least that calms me a little.\r\n\r\nWith cleaning done, lunch with the family over, her mom and step-dad arrive ready for their birthday surprise. All they knew was that we were dressing up and going downtown for dinner and something else.\r\n\r\nOn the way to dinner, we fire up the Circle of Life on the car speakers to unveil our surprise. “We’re going to the Lion King Musical!”\r\n\r\nExcited and surprised, we continue our journey downtown while I ponder if you can actually bruise your heart against your ribcage.\r\n\r\n“Keep it together Gary. You got this. She has no idea. Stay cool.”\r\n\r\nWe arrive at Panzano’s for a nice dinner, with most not knowing what the night had in store. Keri knew we had one more surprise for her mom, step-dad, and my niece and nephew. We had decided to not tell them about the Back Stage Tour until after the show.\r\n\r\nSurprisingly though, when we were at our seats in the theater, a nice woman approached us and asked, “Hi, are you Gary Nguyen?”\r\n\r\n“Yes I am.”\r\n\r\n“Hi, I’m from the Lion King Team. I just wanted to let you know to stay in your seats after the show and Aaron will be out to meet you and take you on the Back Stage Tour.”\r\n\r\n“That’s great. Thank you so much.”\r\n\r\nKeri looked over at her mom and noticed her face in a full jaw drop position.\r\n\r\n“We get to go back stage?!?!” she asked.\r\n\r\n“Happy birthday!” we said.\r\n\r\nThe “last” surprise had been revealed. I smirked inside.\r\n\r\nKeri had no idea. I had done it. She was going to be surprised. My heart shifted gears. I still hadn’t figured out exactly what I was going to say. Sometimes you just have to trust your heart to say what it needs to say, I told myself.\r\n\r\nAnd so we all enjoyed the phenomenal Lion King Broadway Musical, and it was time for our Back Stage Tour. As soon as my front foot hit the stage, my mind goes blank. Nothing after this point was planned. Fate, love, and destiny take over.\r\n\r\nMy sister discretely passes me the ring box behind my back, and I slip it into my pocket. She suggests that we all take photos on stage so we all have to put our jackets down. “Let me take a photo of Keri and Gary.”\r\n\r\nWe move onto Center Stage, take a photo, and then I take both of Keri’s hands.\r\n\r\n“Honey, I have one more surprise.”\r\n\r\n“Two years ago, I had the feeling that I needed to go to Colorado. I didn’t know why, I’d never been here.\r\n\r\nAnd, I did. I got rid of all my stuff and I drove here, never living in Colorado before, with no rhyme or reason, and three weeks later I met you.\r\n\r\nAnd my life changed forever.\r\n\r\nThree dates later, I think we both learned the meaning of “When you know, you know.”\r\n\r\nAnd so, on our first date you asked me if I had any tattoos, and I told you I had two Lion King Tattoos and you asked me why.\r\n\r\nAnd I told you, it was the quintessential story of masculinity where a guy goes through a lot of trouble and has a hard time. And then he comes back to face his responsibilities and rule over the Pridelands. And I left out the part about him having to find his queen.\r\n\r\nAnd, I never thought that I would find that person in you. I never thought I would find the person I would want to spend the rest of my life with, have a family with, and care about safety features on a car to keep them safe.\r\n\r\nSo I want to ask you, if you will be my queen and wife and marry me?”\r\n\r\nShe whispered yes, and they lived happily ever after…