The Box


  • ‘Charles and his dog’

It was 2002 and Zara was moving to Oxford to begin life as an undergraduate. It felt right to gift her with something that would truly demonstrate my love for her before she left London, fell in love with the clean air, and ‘Charles and his dog’, never to return.

Zara has always been a person who appreciated the thoughtful things, the subtle, the sentimental. It didn’t have to cost a month’s wages, but it needed to have significance and symbolic value. I was 19 at the time, and just about to commence the second year of my degree. I remember being sat, pondering, by my 2GB hard drive PC (my current iPhone storage is way bigger than this! Oh, how times have changed!). What gift could I possibly give her as a sign of my relentless pursuit for her heart?

  • She dumped me

So that you appreciate a little of our relationship history, Zara and I had grown up together and lived in East London during the same time period. Our families moved to Essex and we both ended up at the same local church. We tried the ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ thing but Zara, at the tender age of 17, did not like the “label” so she dumped me within a week! True story. We did, however, become very good friends and spend hours upon hours on the phone.

  • The box

Anyhow, it was now time to work on my masterpiece before she left for pastures new. Out came an empty shoebox, together with the golden-heart covered red wrapping paper, cello-tape, tissue paper, and felt pen. In went the red, white and yellow roses. In went the photos. In went the scented love letter in which I fully revealed the secrets of my heart- oh yes!

The box was complete.

It was no longer a worthless shoebox. It was now a treasure chest. This box had gone from rags to riches and was soon to be handed over to my ‘friend’.

I covered the inside lid with a picture of myself to remind Zara that I was “watching” her (I joke!). I gave her the box, asking her to look after it. She promised. I trusted. Then it hit me! How would all of this play out? The box contained a letter that revealed my deepest feelings, my darkest insecurities…me. The box said so much to her about how I felt. Did I say too much? Was I too open? I felt incredibly vulnerable but not enough to deter me.

  • 3 years and a few love letters later

We were both in our final year of university and officially ‘courting’ (‘Charles and his dog’ lived solely inside my mind, thankfully). Zara kept her promise and looked after the box.  This box meant so much to me, to us. In it contained feelings from the very depth of me…but it hadn’t finished the work I had created it to do.

I asked Zara to accompany me on a drive one December evening. It was cold, dark and the streets were quiet. I asked Zara to bring the box along to her bemusement, but she did nonetheless. Parked up in an empty car park I stepped out of the car and asked her to join me. I wanted to show her something. She was perplexed and I was anxious. Anyone within an inch of my body would have heard my heart beating; my shivers a mixture of cold and nerves.

I asked Zara to open the boot. She obliged. She followed the neatly-placed instruction and searched for the bible verse (Proverbs 18:22) using the conveniently-laid Bible. She followed the next cue, opening the sacred box to find a small, cream-coloured box with a burgundy ribbon. It was empty inside other than the words, “tear at the picture.” “Huh? What picture?” she asked. 

I gestured towards the photo which covered the inside lid of the treasure chest that she had looked after for 3 long years. “The picture of you?” she asked hesitantly, not wanting to tear at the box I’d asked her to guard.

She tore away to reveal the big question I had waited 3 years to hear her answer. The image of confusion, joy and surprise on her face was meme-worthy.  “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” was written in reassuringly bold, font. As she turned in utter disbelief I was knelt down with a ring in one hand to receive her exuberant “Yes!”

I had asked Zara to marry me in 2002, she just didn’t know it. As I pondered on what parting gift would be most appropriate, I realised that the most significant gift I could give her was my heart. So, I gave it to her, sealed in a box, until one day.

How did I know she was the woman I would marry? The truth is, when you know, you just know.

This one is for my help-meat. Flesh of my flesh. Bone of my bone.

JCMC Challenge: Life is short and precious. Take the time to show and tell someone you love just how much they mean to you.



32 thoughts on “The Box

  1. I am sat on my bed recovering slowly after having surgery to remove two teeth under sedation. My face is still swollen, gums delicate, it’s hard to swallow, however…..

    As I cruise onto Facebook the first post i come across is this one….well for every word I read, intrigued and captivated, I’ve forgotten about my aches and pains and the muscles in my face contract 😊. Can’t stop my face from smiling with sheer delight all the way through!

    This has truly made my day!! Fabulous story, written beautifully. Love you both ❤️. Well done Cal-I x


  2. Tears filled my eyes! How beautiful. You are both such an wonderful example of what love is. Thank you for sharing your love story


  3. It’s 1am but had to take time to read this. So well written that you almost feel like you’re re-living it also. Love you both.


  4. To my very graceful and caring daughter in-law Zara and my loving & thoughtful son Cal-I, I would like to thank you both for sharing such a heartmelting love story.. After reading this latest revelation I am sitting here with a heart filled with gladness a twinkle in my eyes coupled with a joyful & contented smile on my face. I have no doubt that your union was truly a match made in Heaven.. That story was just awesome… Wow!


  5. How romantic! ❤️ What an awesome love story. Well done Cal-l.
    May God continue to bless your marriage as you model a Christian home.


  6. I sat in my kitchen and came across this red box on my page, with enthusiasm I logged in to find out what my son was up to now!!!this is just so wonderful’ without saying anything to my son it always stuck in my mind, the car park, my thoughts! without even knowing what lead up to that dark cold romantic night, I remember that so well but had no idea what occurred before that. Thanks for the share son it’s a chapter that has been fulfilled in my book.
    Love you guys so much perfect couple……xxxxxx


    1. Hey Mama,
      I remember the hug you gave me before I left. I think we were both nervous! It reassured me. Gave me the final bit of strength I needed to see it through. Mum gets 10! Every time!


  7. My Brudda…

    I did not know the intricacies of this story. If I wasn’t such a hard-nut, I would be crying, sitting here reading this in the back of this Uber.

    The element of surprise is a powerful thing. The fact that you invested in this 3yrs prior to the act shows intent. I appreciate this bro. It reminds me to continue to do all I can to make my wife feel as special as I thought she was the day I first met her; also, it serves as a reminder that she is even more valued now that I know her so intimately.

    Thank You For Sharing,



  8. Cal-I, this is a phenomenal story! Truly inspiring. Can you imagine when Ebony-Grace and Elijah are old enough to fully comprehend this? In my own estimation, this blog will become a family archive accessible to your children, godchildren, students (past and present), mentees and more. What a heritage. Thank you for sharing this, bro. Much love and respect to you and the family.


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