Lucas Courfeyrac was nervous. He hid it well from his boyfriend Jean Prouvaire, but nothing was going to take away the knot of anxiety that was coiled in his stomach. Thanks to a friend, Lucas had heard about the cutesy, very homey Southwick Zoo with the forest of deer that you could walk through, and the petting zoo full of goats. There were two llamas, but sadly no alpacas. There was an alligator, though.
One mention of the word Zoo had Jehan lacing up his hiking boots and staring impatiently at Lucas, holding the keys to the car.
The drive through the Massachusetts countryside was nice. Lucas hadn’t realized that with two turns, you could be in farm country - an hour south of Boston and Jehan was kicking himself for not discovering this zoo sooner. Lucas grinned to himself as he drove, as Jehan kept pointing out interesting things on the side of the road. They pulled into the dusty zoo parking lot, and stretched their legs. The crisp autumn air felt wonderful. The view from the parking lot was lovely as well, overlooking a valley painted with crimson and orange leaves.
Upon entering the zoo, Lucas and Jehan were greeted by a peacock flying down from the roof of the gift shop. Both stepped back in surprise, laughing at the unexpected welcoming committee. They walked a short ways, and Lucas let out an excited yip and dragged Jehan over to look at the Capybaras. “Look! ROUS’s Do Exist!” Lucas crowed excitedly. Jehan pulled out his camera and took several photos of the giant rodents. They continued on, past the Wallabies, and the giant Aldabra Tortoises - stopping to take pictures at each exhibit. They continued along the outer loop of the zoo, past the picnic tables, and the carousel towards the Rhinoceros. Jehan laughed excitedly as another peacock (or perhaps the same one?) was preening itself on a rock overlooking the Rhino, providing an excellent opportunity for pictures. Slowly, they made their way past the Leopards, stopped to coo over the Prairie Dogs and were laughing at the Chimpanzees when Jehan spotted the sign that Lucas had hoped he would.
“Deer Forest?! We can pet the deer???” Jehan exclaimed in a half whispered shriek.
“Yes, we can… lets go!” Lucas chuckled, pausing to snap a picture of the sheer joy on Jehan’s face.
They entered the Deer Forest, jokingly calling the double gates an airlock. Lucas could barely contain himself, because it was nearly time. Jehan was distracted by the deer, and didn’t notice Lucas’ nerves. Lucas pulled out quarters that he’d brought just for this occasion, and bought some deer food. Jehan squealed with excitement when the first deer ate out of his hand, leaving a trail of slime behind. There soon was a crowd of whitetail deer begging for attention and food, trying to head butt one another out of the way. Jehan giggled as a small deer snuck in by forcing his way beneath some of the bigger ones. It did not take long for them to exhaust his supply of food. Lucas retrieved several more quarters, and Jehan filled his pocket with the remaining food. While Jehan was distracted, Lucas asked a teenage girl who’d been photographing the deer, for a favor. Jehan protested Lucas handing his nice, expensive camera to a stranger, but relented, when Lucas made the face. She gladly agreed, once Lucas whispered the plan into her ear, and began to photograph the interaction between Lucas, Jehan and the deer.
Jehan realized he was running out of food, and frowned slightly. The little deer who’d forced his way through the crowd before was now rubbing on Jehan’s legs, begging for attention. Jehan knelt, and was scratching behind the deer’s ears when he ran out of food. He looked to Lucas, and tipped his head hoping there were still quarters left.
Lucas rooted carefully through his pockets, until he found what he was looking for. He held his hand out, closed, to Jehan. Thinking that Lucas had found more coins, Jehan put his hand out to receive them. Lucas swallowed, and grabbed Jehan’s left hand quickly, before he could lose his nerve.
“Jean Prouvaire, will you marry me?” Lucas asked with quiet excitement.
“What? Ohmygod… yes!” Jehan cried, and after Lucas slipped the ring on his hand, leaned forward to embrace him. There was one small problem. The deer wanted to get in on the action and stuffed his little head between them. He let out an indignant huff when they hugged anyway.
“Does this mean you don’t have anymore quarters?” Jehan asked after wiping the tear from his cheek. He and Lucas dissolved into laughter, as the girl with the camera tossed a handful of deer food over the couple, causing chaos. The photos would turn out amazing.
“Well, you can use them here… or we can go to the petting zoo…” Lucas grinned, standing and offering Jehan a hand. Jehan grasped his hand firmly, and stood just looking at Lucas for a moment.
Jehan leaned in and softly kissed Lucas, fully aware that they weren’t alone. Lucas wrapped his arms around Jehan’s waist and lifted him off the ground, kissing him deeply. When Jehan’s feet finally landed on the ground, he was blushing furiously, and buried his face in Lucas’ shoulder. The girl who’d been photographing them asked them to pose for a couple more photos - in more standard traditional poses. They exchanged information with the young lady who was planning to go to college for photography, and continued on their adventure.
The petting zoo was fun, they laughed as the goats fought one another for food, and the sheep lazily wandered about looking for leftovers. It was wonderful. Lucas posted a photo of Jehan’s hand on a sheep, with “He said Yes!” and promptly shut his phone off. He grabbed Jehan’s phone and did the same. Today was theirs. They’d celebrate with everyone else, tomorrow. Besides, Lucas hadn’t told Jehan about the bed and breakfast they would be staying at that night, or that they had plans for the rest of the weekend…