Aven looked up from the intricate gold pocket watch she was meticulously repairing. The soft tick-tock of the tall mantle clock echoed in the otherwise quiet room. Blinking owlishly into the gas lamp next to her workstation she listened for the sound that had disturbed her. The harsh grating of metal against metal mixed with the hiss of steam caught her attention. Removing her magnification goggles, Aven slid off the high stool she sat on to repair watches.
She stretched out the kinks in her back as she scanned the room. Everything looked to be in the proper place. She hoped the heating system that had been recently installed hadn't sprung another leak. The sound of metal against metal came from the floor a few feet in front of her. She looked down and gasped. Tottering toward her was a shiny copper man holding a silver tray on his outstretched hands. She knelt down wincing as her knees popped.
The automaton was covered from the round top hat to the miniature dress shoes in copper plating. He only reached up to her knees. She was surprised it could stand with the heavy silver dome sitting on the silver tray. The dome was almost as large as the mechanical man. It came to a halt immediately in front of her knees. The arms moved upward, as if offering her the tray.
The sound of soft bootsteps drew her startled gaze up to the doorway. Gaelan leaned against the doorjamb. She inhaled and smiled. She loved looking at him. Whenever she saw him her heart ramped up like a pocket watch being wound. He smiled one of his rare smiles at her. Her insides melted.
"When did you arrive? Sarah didn't inform me."
"Sarah is busy. It looks as if you have an admirer." He nodded at the automaton.
Aven looked back to the toy. She peeked through her lashes at him wondering if this was a trick. Despite his quietness, Gaelan loved to play tricks on people. Especially when he believes he's being ignored. She stood up and stepped around the toy. Gaelan frowned straightening away from the dark wood jamb.
"Aren't you going to look under the dome?"
"So something can blow colored smoke in my face?" she asked him, glancing back at the silver tray. She was tempted to give in, but if she did that all the time she'd never get him to curb his impulse.
"I swear on the lives of my people, nothing will explode on you. Besides, it's Saint Valentine's Day, not April Fool's Day. Please open the dome."
"Did you do this?" Aven turned to watch the still toy. Amusement and joy crept in beneath her suspicion. Gaelan loved to leave her presents where she least expected to find them. One time he'd left her an emerald bracelet on her washstand. She had the feeling her maid, Sarah, liked to help him.
"Perhaps. You'll never know unless you open it."
Aven sighed, but she knew he was correct. She returned to the automaton and with shaking fingers and a little hesitation she grasped the little silver knob at the top. As she lifted the lid she held her breath waiting for the joke to explode on her. Nothing popped out, no smoke billowed from under the lifting lid. Breathing a sigh of relief, she yanked the dome completely off. She froze at the sight of a red painted mechanical rose that laid across the silver tray. Aven held her breath as a beam of moonlight filtered through the window landed on the tray.
Gaelan approached her and took the dome from her frozen fingers. Aven heard the silver dome ding against the tabletop to their right. He came around her and picked up the rose. Her eyes lifted to his serious face. He held out the rose to her as if offering her the world. Her heart pounded against her ribs with so much force she was sure he could see it beating against her skin. With shaking hands she took the rose from him.
It was heavy, probably made from brass or steel. The stem and leaves were painted a deep green while the rose was painted a vivid red. She held it up inspecting it. She noticed that each petal was a separate piece of machinery. Somehow it opened.(It must open somehow) Feeling a tingle of excitement she searched for the lever or button that would open the petals. Accidentally she pushed her thumb down on a thorn.
The sound of gears turning and metal scraping against metal filled the room. Aven watched in amazement and rising anticipation as the petals unfolded. A glimmer of pink and red sparkled as each petal fell open. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, but was more like seconds, all of the petals settled. Aven gasped. Her gaze flipped to Gaelan who watched her intently. When she couldn't read anything on his handsome face, she looked back at the open rose.
In the very center of the open metal blossom sat a ring. (In the center of the ring was a rose with pink diamonds with a pinkie size in the middle)It was the most exquisite ring she'd ever seen. The band was a sparkling silver and twined in a circle like two vines wrapping around a finger. The center of the ring was a rose made of pink diamond with a pinkie sized ruby at the center. Her heart felt as if it was bursting from her body as she looked at Gaelan. Gaelan knelt on one knee before her. His face very serious as he watched her.
"Aven Selwyn, would you do the honor of being my wife?"
"Oh, Gaelan. Of course, I will." Aven breathed.
Gaelan stood up with a smile, took the rose from her and disengaged the ring from the metal casing. Aven held out her hand watching as it trembled. Gaelan took her hand in his and squeezed lightly before slipping the ring on her left ring finger. The weight of the ring felt so right, Aven couldn't imagine being without it again. The room shimmered as tears filled her eyes. Gaelan lifted her face tenderly and took possession of her mouth.