Engagement Day

A special piece from our own Brad Eveleigh about his recent proposal to partner and fellow Something Clever contributor Karen Touma

Like always, it was great to have Karen fly to Mackay to spend the weekend with me.

We have been taking turns with visits ever since I relocated to the tropical and relaxing lifestyle of Central Queensland in early October for work.

Moving here was a very big decision for us both to make, especially being so far from her back in Sydney. We discussed it time and time again, at length but it was the right decision, as it would stabilise out future financially with a decent Coal Mining wage.

It wasn’t something I considered going back to when moving to Sydney from London but it made complete sense in the end.

My 7 working days on with 7 days off roster allows me to travel back to New South Wales to see her for extended periods without having to take time off work.

This time it was Karen coming to visit me for the weekend. A weekend that will go down as one of those great moments in life where you remember exactly what you had done and where you were.

Karen flew in late on the Friday night when she had finished work and again she had flight delay problems with her departure out of Kingsford Smith and the connection in Brisbane. But again, as always, her athletic skills accompanied by stress got her through another frustrating ordeal.

I collected her at the Mackay airport and as soon as I saw her my heart was racing. This is a normal bodily function for me when I see her but that night it was insane. Little did she know that in just a matter of hours she would be engaged.

I found it extremely difficult to remain normal ever since I ordered and purchased the ring from Nader Jewelers in Parramatta. Especially when I had to lie to her about going the Westfield to do “Christmas shopping” whilst she was at work.

We settled in for the night as we had to be up early to head to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. Airlie is the gateway to the 72 Islands in the region and we had a boat to catch from Shute Harbour to Hamilton Island.

The Saturday morning sunrise brought a mixture of excitement and nervousness to me. The “Are you ok?” question early in the day had me rattled, as I knew I was acting different but I dismissed it and blamed a restless night’s sleep.

After the 1.5hr drive we arrived and dropped our car off at the Coral Sea Resort on the Airlie Beach coastline and got sorted with our day bag and took the short walk into town.

The main reason I organised a day bag was to carry the ring as the box it came in was by far too large to pocket. I told Karen we had to take towels and swimmers to the Island, but I had no intention swimming.

We caught the local bus to the Shute Harbour Marina, approximately a 15min trip, with sweaty palms. We each bought a bottle of water to combat the humidity and I made sure I paid as Karen’s wallet was in my bag, next to the ring. I brushed it off and said it’s only a bottle of water, it won’t break the bank – anticlimax situation avoided.

The day was perfect as too was the trip over. The renowned tropical climate was really putting on a show that day, and thanks goodness for that. Rain really would’ve put a dent in the upcoming events.

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We sailed past the Hamilton Island Yacht club and appreciated the fine architecture as this amazing building was designed to resemble an amazing whale. It was also the venue for myself to drop to one knee in front of the woman I will grow old with.

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We pulled into Hamilton Island Marina greeted by picturesque surroundings. Bright aqua coloured waters, multimillion-dollar yachts and thick green vegetation that stretched into the mountains. Post Card material. It really is one if those special places on Earth. I still can’t believe I live in such a sensational location.

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We arrived on solid ground just before midday and got the shuttle bus up the mountain to hire a golf cart for the day.

If you haven’t been to “Hammo”, the place is just swarming with these carts and very little cars you would find on your typical everyday mainland roads.

We zipped around back to the main CBD, if you can call it that, and followed the coast around to the Yacht Club.

My driving skills didn’t match those I usually possess darting around the Mackay Golf Club with Brendan Thiecke, as I was really starting to shake and get the sweats.

It didn’t help that I was trying to drive with my bag between my feet, reluctant to allow Karen to hold the precious cargo that she was unaware of. But she was right, it just wasn’t possible, she took the bag and I was like a child surrendering a delicious ice cream that they still wanted. I watched it like a Hawk defending its nest at breeding time.

We parked the buggy and proceeded through the reception area of the Yacht Club. Karen ducked off to use the amenities, which gave me a nice little window to get all SAS Soldier like to scope out the place and plan my proposal. I then snuck into the bathroom to make sure she didn’t come out finding me acting all suspicious.

We made our way to the “tail” of the architectural whale for Tapas and drinks on the deck. Adjacent to the top deck was a platform that stretched out over the water. It was like a dead ended bridge you could walk out on and enjoy the views of this incredible paradise. That was the spot. Now, how to get her there?

“Can I get you some drinks?” was a stupid question that the waiter approached us with. I think he was taken back a little with the prompt and interrupting “YES PLEASE” from my nervous self. The second beer wasn’t too far away either.

I suggested to Karen that we should get our photo taken before lunch on the platform from the deck and get the waiter to take it.

I approached the bar and asked the question and let him know that I was about to ask her the big question – tying to make Karen believe I was just showing him how to use the camera application on my iPhone.

We walked up to the landing and I was brought the bag with me. I’m thinking that Karen is thinking “why are you bringing the towels and swimmers, we’re just getting a picture”. Argh! Nervous!!

We get to the landing and an employee decided it was a good time to start polishing the railings, right where I was going to ask Karen to be my life partner. I politely asked her for some space for a photo but thought, “get out of my proposal shot”.

I took the ring box out of the bag and held it behind my back. We discussed where we should stand for the photo then I dropped to one knee.

I opened the box to present her with the custom made white diamond ring to the response of her hands covering her mouth uttering “oh shut up!”

“Karen Touma, you’re my lover, my soul mate and best friend. You’re the love of my life – will you do me the honour of being my wife?”

With a face full of tears and a crying smile she slurred, “yes” followed by exhaling sobs and hugs.

Much to my ecstasy that she said yes, also to my delight I could get off my knee as the scorching hot ground actually burn the skin in my kneecap, and remained burnt for the next few days – totally worth it though. No scars – no stories.

We embraced in celebration as the surrounding patrons applauded the commencement of the next phase of our lives together.

When Karen finally composed herself we returned to the deck thanking strangers for the congratulatory gestures.

I really should have shown the Waiter how to use the camera as every shot that was taken was blurry to the extent of nothing but smudged colours.

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We took a minute to quickly consume most of the full drinks we had I front of us. I had to hold Karen’s hand to stop her from shaking so she could examine the ring.

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Our food arrived and we started calling the family to let them know the news. All were well and truly delights for us. At the end of the day it was just a matter of time before it happened but it was very heartwarming to hear their praises, happiness and we’ll wishes for us both.

We’re both very blessed to have such caring families that have accepted us both into each other’s lives with warm hearts and open arms.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the island, playing Aqua Golf (which we did on our first date) and boosting the profits of the local boozer before catching the last transfer of the day back to the main land.

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We celebrated that night in Airlie Beach with dinner and quite drinks with friends before heading back to the resort where I had somehow ended up booking the Penthouse overlooking the bay. How ironic…

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One of the most memorable weekends of my life – the day I asked Karen Touma to be my wife.

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