The Love Beat

Jackie Haberfeld and Hal Biagas

Jackie Haberfeld has an autographed Latrell Sprewell jersey hanging on her office wall. The basketball player played an unwitting Cupid in her engagement to Hal Biagas.

When Mr. Sprewell-then of the Golden State Warriors-ran afoul of the N.B.A. for choking his coach in late 1997, the National Basketball Players Association called on Hal Biagas, its deputy counsel, to defend him. The hearing took place at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. One day, Mr. Biagas was eating lunch in the cafeteria there and started checking out a pair of legs that extended down from a short skirt. They belonged to Ms. Haberfeld, a lawyer at the firm. Mr. Biagas held his gaze just long enough to get busted.

“I smiled, as if to say, ‘You got me, what can I say?'” Mr. Biagas said.

He was a cute, upbeat 34-year-old who loved his work, which married basketball and law. Ms. Haberfeld was a tall, striking, no-nonsense litigator one year his senior; she participated in the early days of the Sotheby’s antitrust litigation. Far from being offended at Mr. Biagas’ clandestine glance, Ms. Haberfeld allowed him to chat her up.

They fell into an instant trance. At the end of their second date, Mr. Biagas asked Ms. Haberfeld what she was thinking. Caught off-guard-after all, how many men do you know who say, “What are you thinking?”-but feeling confident, she responded:

“O.K., I think this is it . What are you thinking?”

“Well, in the cab last night on the way home, I was thinking, ‘What a shame,'” he said.

Ms. Haberfeld felt like she was going to throw up. But Mr. Biagas continued:

“You’ve got such a great place, but it’s a shame there’s not enough room for both of us.”

Phew!

In the days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Ms. Haberfeld volunteered at Ground Zero, helping families process death certificates. In the course of her work-which earned her a glowing feature in People magazine-she came across many people who had non-traditional long-term relationships: gay partners and other couples who, for whatever reason, had never gotten married.

“I never thought I had to explain my relationship to other people, but I could see from this experience there were circumstances in which it’s important that people know how you feel,” she said. “I would like the world to know that Hal is my life partner.”

Almost every day since Sept. 11, Ms. Haberfeld and Mr. Biagas have taken turns asking the other to marry them. Each time, the answer has been yes. They formalized the arrangement on a frigid, wintry night in front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“We’re getting married to declare to the rest of the world what we’ve known since the first day,” said Ms. Haberfeld.

Susie Kiss and Michael Erde

In the spring of 1999, Susie Kiss wandered into a Soho hair salon and encountered a plucky 5-year-old named John, who was toddling about. Ms. Kiss couldn’t resist playing with him. The boy’s mother, a hairdresser, asked her if she would be interested in baby-sitting.

Ms. Kiss, then a senior majoring in art education at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, needed some quick cash and agreed. The babysitting gig took her to the hairdresser’s loft in Long Island City, which she shared with a friend of hers named Michael Erde. Mr. Erde, a computer-systems engineer at M5 Networks-an Internet and telephone service provider-was a nice guy with seductive dark features and an easygoing persona, but he was also 10 years older.

“I can’t date the baby-sitter,” Mr. Erde remembers thinking.

But he could. The age difference quickly evaporated, and within weeks they were joking about marriage. There was a hitch: Mr. Erde was set to leave in August on a yearlong trek through Europe and Africa with a friend. He hadn’t counted on stumbling into a red-hot romance two months before his departure day.

“I was all fraught with indecision,” he said. “We hadn’t been together for so long, and the trip was my biggest dream for the longest time,” he said. So he went.

It was a bitter pill for Ms. Kiss, who wasn’t keen on starting an ultra-long-distance relationship. She was about to give up all hope when, two weeks into his trip, Mr. Erde called to say he was ditching his friend and coming back to Ms. Kiss.

“I was crying, I was so happy,” Ms. Kiss said. “When he came back from Africa, after he had given up so much for me-I knew I was in love with him.”

Mr. Erde proposed to Ms. Kiss beside a lake in the backyard of her parent’s home in Pound Ridge, N.Y. It was the very spot where, as a little girl, she had fantasized about getting married. The ceremony will be held July 21 at the Glen Island Harbor Club in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Ms. Kiss, now an elementary-school art teacher in Stamford, Conn., said it feels like she and Mr. Erde are “playmates, like two little kids.” She recalled a starry night on a deserted Florida beach when he spun her around in the ocean.

“I could only see Michael, and everything else was like a blur around him,” she said. “It was us looking at each other, and I felt like it was really just us two in the world.”

Larry Romeu and Mila Dodin

It was a gorgeously warm June morning, and Larry Romeu was sweating heavily-and not just because of the weather. Mr. Romeu, a 26-year-old stockbroker from Staten Island, was wearing a heavy coat to conceal the large engagement-ring box in his pants pocket. He and his girlfriend, Mila Dodin, a 27-year-old claims processor for Allstate Insurance, were waiting on line at the bottom of the Empire State Building.

The plan was to pop the question on the observation deck, but Mr. Romeu hadn’t counted on the metal detector at the front of the line.

“I don’t know about diamonds, metals; I don’t know what’s going to go off,” he said. “She’s going on about how’s she’s psyched about the view up top, and I’m freaking out.”

Mr. Romeu decided to transfer the ring to his jacket pocket, figuring that he’d put the jacket on the conveyor belt and avoid getting frisked. But only bags were allowed on the belt. He had no choice but to walk through and set off the alarm.

“I thought I was dead,” he said. “The guard, she’s searching through my jacket-she doesn’t speak a word of English-and my fiancée is one foot away.”

Mr. Romeu made a last desperate grab at his jacket pocket and shook the coins inside, as if to say, “Look, it’s just change in here.” The ploy was successful.

“It was the most stressful part of the most stressful day of my life,” he said.

Minutes later, they were on the observation deck staring out over the horizon.

“What do you see out there?” Mr. Romeu asked Ms. Dodin.

“I see buildings,” she replied.

“No, that’s our future,” he said.

When she turned around, he was down on one knee.

You can reach The Love Beat via e-mail at engagements@observer.com.