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Editor’s note – this is one of the first stories in the Pretty Southern series.

Macy suspected something was up when Campbell took a last-minute trip to Atlanta.

When Campbell texted her, “Hey baby, gotta go to ATL today. Be back tonight,” Macy thought perhaps this was something to do with his father, Bill Brayden, the Governor of Georgia. She never thought Campbell was going home to collect his grandmother’s diamond ring he’d had reset, and that he’d already asked her daddy, Randy, for his permission. No, Macy never thought Campbell would propose on the anniversary of their first date. Those who are planning to pop the question may visit a jewelry shop to find the perfect 7 Carat Asscher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring for your partner

Granted Campbell had asked Macy to move in with him after only six months of dating but that was out of sheer practicality. Macy was spending every night at Campbell’s condo. She didn’t want to keep asking her daddy for help with rent on an apartment she wasn’t using. Macy was also getting tired of taking a ‘shack sack’ with her on the subway. It was enough that she had to haul her stuff from Brooklyn to Radio City for her performances with the Rockettes, let alone her clothes, makeup, and anything she’d need for the next day after ‘shacking’ with Campbell.

When Campbell asked her to move in and Macy told her mama, Caroline, her mother said, “He’s never going to marry you.” She heard the same thing from her best friend back home, Shannon, but what did she know? Shannon was only twenty-four and already getting divorced. But now, looking at this sparkling three-carat diamond with loose aquamarine gemstones Australia on her finger, Macy couldn’t wait to tell everyone how wrong they were. She was still on an adrenaline rush when she called Mama and Daddy to tell them the good news. Macy didn’t think to tell her mama, “See, he did propose!” Fools they were to ever doubt Macy Bonaventure Cunningham.

It was just after midnight and Macy was too excited to sleep. Her fiancé was snoring naked beside her. Campbell’s head was tilted up on the pillows, his jaw hanging open, as it did when he was drunk. They had popped a bottle of champagne before going to dinner where they had another bottle of red wine then came home to ‘officially celebrate’ their engagement. Campbell immediately passed out after but Macy was wide awake, conscious of the large diamond’s presence on her hand.

Macy slid as softly possible out of bed. Naked, she grabbed one of Campbell’s old fraternity t-shirts sitting on top of the dresser, then tiptoed across the hardwood floor. She thought back to her childhood ballet class when the instructor taught her how to “walk lightly on the balls of your feet, up to your toes” preparing her to go on pointe. She crept across the condo to the kitchen where her cell phone was charging. The small Christmas tree they’d decorated with bright colored bulbs was a merry night light reflecting in the plate glass mirror looking out over lower Manhattan. Macy’s blonde hair, tousled from rolling around in bed, shone in the reflection. She drew closer to see her green eyes, her mama’s, peering back at her.

She’d called Mama and Daddy as soon as possible after Campbell got down on one knee. Her little sister, Grace, was at home so she got to hear all the good news when Daddy put Macy on the speakerphone. But Macy hadn’t talked to her middle sister, Kate, yet. She knew Mama was going to make Kate be Macy’s maid-of-honor so she had to call her. Macy scrolled through her phone to her sister’s number, thinking back to the last time she talked to her the week before at Thanksgiving. The phone rang twice before Kate answered.

“Hello there.”
“You up? Did I wake you?”
“I’m up. I was studying.”
“On a Saturday night?”
“LSAT is next week,” Kate said. “I hear you’re engaged.”
“I am,” Macy smiled, looking down at her diamond. “Did Mama already call?”
“Yeah, Mom called. Dad, too. They love that speakerphone but they really need to learn how to use it. Mom kept cutting in and out walking across the kitchen.”

Macy giggled. She could visualize Kate holed up in her apartment near Piedmont Park. It was early December, which meant it was perfect weather for bar-hopping in Atlanta. Kate lived with their cousin, Autumn, within walking distance of the fun bars and restaurants in the tree-lined Virginia-Highlands neighborhood. But Kate and Autumn never went out like most college kids. Macy thought they were missing out, and at that moment she realized how much she missed that crisp late-fall air hinting at a mild, southern winter. Outside, it was a gray and rainy night in New York. Even the city’s lights had a gloomy haze from the fog.

“So have you already started planning the wedding?” Kate asked.
“Sort of. I had always thought about getting married down at St. Simons, but I haven’t brought it up to Mama and Daddy.”
“I’m sure Dad would be down for having it at the beach house. He loves that place. But what about the Governor and Mrs. Brayden? Wouldn’t they want a big Atlanta wedding?”
“I mean, St. Simons is still in Georgia and he is the governor of the whole state. Maybe we could do an engagement party in Atlanta,” Macy thought aloud. “But I do know one thing, I’d like for you to be my maid of honor.”
“Really? I thought you’d ask Shannon.”
“Of course not! You’re my sister. Plus, Shannon is going through her separation with Trent so I didn’t want to put this on her.”
“So you’ll bestow the honor on me.”
“Oh, it’s going to be fun,” Macy said, twirling her ring. “All you’ll really be responsible for is planning the bachelorette party, which I already know I want to do in New Orleans, but we’re not staying at Grand-Mère’s. Then at the wedding, you’ll have to do a toast, short and sweet. No big deal.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all planned out,” Kate said.

Macy could hear her sarcasm on the other end of the phone. After more than twenty years of spats, the sisters knew which buttons to push to send one of them over the edge. Tonight was too happy a night to end with an argument.

“I’ll keep you posted as plans really start coming together,” Macy said. “I’m so happy, Kate.”
“Then I’m happy for you.”
“Does Autumn know the news?”
“Yeah, she was here when Mom called. We actually knew right after Thanksgiving when Campbell called to ask if he could come to see Dad. Mom called us right after to say he was going to propose.”
“He told me all about that tonight. I had no idea what he was planning this whole time.”
“Guess he’s a sneaky one.”
Macy could almost hear her sister suppressing a smirk. She knew how much Kate disagreed with Governor Brayden’s politics.
“I don’t know about that,” Macy said. “Surely the stress wore him out. Unfortunately we did not have HCC gummies at that time. ”
“That’s why you’re talking so softly. Well, I better get back to studying anyways.”
“Ok, talk soon. Bye, sister.”
“Bye. And congrats.” Kate clicked off the line.

Macy sighed. That went about as well as she could have expected. But she was still too excited to sleep and Campbell was really sawing logs in their bedroom. It was too late to call Grand-Mère who had probably been asleep for hours. Macy thought about calling her Uncle Charley, her daddy’s brother, and Autumn’s dad, but Charley would be at Spirit of Choice (his bar and restaurant) since it was a Saturday night.

And here Macy was, a New York City Rockette, in the city that never sleeps with a passed-out fiancé. For a moment, her mind flashed back to her college days when she would be out with her sorority sisters until the bars shut down at two a.m. As much fun as those days were, she would much rather be here with Campbell than in a dark bar somewhere.

She sought out the silhouette of the Brooklyn Bridge. Macy thought about Laurel — her sorority sister and roommate she ditched to move in with Campbell. She was out there somewhere across the river. Their sorority sisters back in Atlanta — Jordanne, Bridget, and Madison — would be out and about in Buckhead. Macy’s best friend Shannon, her oldest friend and also in their sorority, had gone to live with her grandmother in North Carolina to get away from all the drama with the divorce. Macy wanted to call all her friends before putting the news on Facebook. Campbell had asked her to wait as part of a coordinated media effort. The son of Georgia’s governor getting engaged to the former Miss Georgia was PR gold. Their family and close friends would all find out before it hit the newspapers on Monday.

Macy decided she’d go ahead and text all her girls at once. She held out her hand with the Christmas tree in the background and snapped a picture of her ring. Thank God she’d gotten a manicure when Campbell was away. Her French-tipped fingers were camera-ready. She typed in “Guess who is going to be the future Mrs. Brayden!” then pulled up the message thread with Shannon, Jordanne, Laurel, Bridget, and Madison, and hit send.

The first text back was in a hot second from Jordanne: “Yes!!! Congratulations!!!”
Madison followed, “OMG! That ring!!! You go girl.”
Bridget fired back, “Wowza!!!!! Yeah Macy!!! We’re so happy for you!”
Macy smiled texting, “Y’all are the best 🙂 Thank you so much!”
Then Laurel popped up, “CONGRATS! I wanna see you and this ring in person. Brunch tomorrow?”
“I don’t know…” Macy typed. “I’ve got to ask my FIANCE!!!!!”

This exchange happened for a few more minutes and Macy was beaming the whole time. Everyone replied back except Shannon. Macy would call her tomorrow, along with the rest of her relatives and friends. She heard Campbell rustling the covers in their room.

“Baby? You okay?”
“Mm-hmm,” she cooed back. Macy put her phone back in its charger, making her way back to bed where she slid in next to Campbell. “I was just texting my girls the good news.”
“Did you tell them not to say anything yet?” He muffled. Even in his sleep, Campbell was playing the politician.
“Oh, they know honey, no worries.” Macy rubbed his back. “Go back to sleep. I love you.”
“Love you,” Campbell sighed.

He rolled over so she could snuggle in beside him. Macy rested her head on Campbell’s shoulder, putting her left hand on his chest to gaze at her ring. He started snoring again softly, his gut rising and falling.

“Maybe he’ll get that in shape for the wedding,” Macy thought to herself. She moved her hand over to his shoulder, down his bicep, feeling the hint of muscles along the way. If he’d hit the gym a few more times a week before the wedding, he’d look great with his shirt off for honeymoon photos. But which beach should they go to? Somewhere in the Caribbean? Bermuda? Macy finally drifted off to sleep running through lists of islands in her head.

To be continued. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.