By the time we got to the door, I hated it. This was not her ring. I could feel it in my bones as they throbbed, my fingers as they flexed, in my head as it screamed. I stopped at the door to the jewelry store, looked at the ring again, and almost walked back but Bliss called for me and I moved on.
I wish I had. I wish I had gone back, got the money back and done it my way. Things might have been different if I had. Bliss would have been furious. Her parents would have been furious. But by that action, maybe they would have realized this was not about them. This was about me and Bekah, and us developing our relationship the way we wanted it. If I had gone back, returned the ring, gotten the money back and looked at Bliss and said, “No,” then maybe it would have been different.
But I didn’t. I walked to the car. When the car lights dimmed, and I was lit by the dashboard, I opened the box again to see the ring I had bought for my soon-to-be wife, and I didn’t even like it then.
“When are you going to do it?” Bliss said.
“I’m not sure.”
“Do it tonight. It’s Thursday. She will be in town tonight, just give it to her tonight.”
“No,” I said. “I have to pick just the right time.”
“Listen, Jesse, the right time is to not make her wait. Trust me, she wants it now.”
“No!” I yelled.
Bliss fell quiet.
“I am going to plan it out just right. I am going to make it how I want it. I get that. She gets that. We bought it. You wanted to buy it, and we bought it. Now it is out of your hands. Now I get to choose when to give it to her. I am planning it, and it will be special. This part is mine.”
Bliss said nothing. She didn’t speak for a long time before she finally said, “You want to marry my sister, right? I didn’t just buy a ring so you would not propose.”
“I want nothing in the world as much as I want to marry your sister, but you have to back off. This is about me and her. I will propose.”
“If not tonight, then this weekend,” Bliss said.
I turned up the music. I don’t remember what was playing. I know it did not distract me. All I could think about was the ring I had wanted to get her, and the ring I ended up with. Three hundred and thirty dollars. My wife would walk the rest of her life with a bargain ring. I was rushed, and I got what I had to get.
When we got to the apartment, Bekah was there.
“Where were you guys?” she asked.
“We went for a ride.”
“We just got back from Columbia,” Bliss said. “We were shopping.”
Bekah’s face lit up and I smiled at her. “Nothing big.”
“We need to go to mom and dad’s,” Bliss said.
“We will see them on Friday night,” I said. “Honey, it is so great to see—”
“Now!” Bliss said. “Get in the car now. We are headed to the house. Or you can give it to me now.”
“Give what?” Bekah said.
“We’ll go,” I said. “Let’s just go.”
“Okay!” Bekah chirped.
I pulled Bliss aside and looked her in the eye. “No more hints. No more talk about it. I don’t want her to know yet.”
Bliss smiled. “I think she already does.”
When we got to her mother’s house Bekah beat me in the door and from the kitchen I heard, “Let me see it! I want to see it!” Hymnal said.
Bekah giggled and I cursed.
“Bekah, you stay here,” Bliss said.
“Okay!” Bekah chirped.
I walked into the kitchen and I showed it to her parents. Hymnal snatched it out of my hands and looked at it. She smiled. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered. I guess now was the time for whispers.
“It’s small,” I said.
Vigil looked at the ring and said nothing. No opinion from the father and Guardian knew what the man was thinking. He pulled back and Shadow stepped out and looked at the ring.
“When are you going to do it?” her mother asked.
“I have some planning to do.”
“How about right now? We are all here. We can do it in the living room now,” Hymnal said.
“You will not be there,” Shadow said.
They looked up at me as if this was unacceptable, and I looked at them both and to Vigil.
“I propose my way, and when I want to. Maybe this weekend, maybe next month, but it is my call.” Shadow stared at Vigil for a long time while the two women fumed before he nodded.
“His ring. His fiancée. His call. This, we leave to him.”
Both women looked disappointed and furious, then they walked away.
I looked at my $330 offering and hated it more. I promised myself I would one day get her a bigger and better one, a ring I could be proud of. Maybe after college. Maybe after my first paycheck, or the first big book landed, but my wife was not going to be walking around with this all her life.
We went to Pizza Hut. I needed to check the schedule and I wanted to show them. When I got there, I went to the back and saw Business looking over papers. She looked up and shook her head. “Not in uniform, not behind the counter.”
“Bought a ring,” I said.
“Everybody get back here!” she yelled.
I heard Bekah giggle.
The whole crew looked at it and they loved it. Thought it was perfect. Bubbly wanted to touch it, but I would not let her. She thought that was even more romantic. She was even happier not touching it than she would have been touching it. They called Bekah a lucky girl.
Finally, someone told me she was lucky without hating her. But it was soured by the ring.
I went to see Rose and left Bekah at my apartment.
When I walked in, I told her that I had gotten a ring for Bekah. Her lips tightened into small white lines. She flapped her slap and looked at the floor. “Let me see it,” she said.
I walked over and handed it to her. Now was the time she would say something like: “This is the ring you plan on giving your wife. Does this ring show you nothing? Does the fact that you bought her this not tell you that you are not ready?”
But the moment she saw it, she smiled. She beamed. She looked at it, then looked me in the eye, and said, “I’m proud of you. This is perfect. This is the ring that this girl needs.”
I walked away. I wanted to die. I wanted to say no and give the ring back. But I was stuck. I had been stuck since I told her that I didn’t want to look for anyone else. Since I told her I was done searching for love, I had been pressed in. Had been clenched in another person’s fist.
Bell met me at the house. He had found out. He pulled me way out of the house into the massive driveway under the streetlight, and he looked at me. “You were going to wait a while.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You said that this was the one thing you had control over.”
“You talked to me and Burg about this and you said—”
“Listen, I am still in control. I can still stuff a little bit of magic into my wedding, into my engagement, into my romance. I can still make this good. I just need time. I have part of a plan.”
“What is your plan?”
“I am putting it together, man. I don’t want your opinion. Please don’t tell me you don’t like my idea. I can’t take it. Don’t advise me, don’t tell me I am doing it wrong. Just listen so I can say it out loud and hear what I have to say.”
“I’m going to take her to the Ranger Tower. We will climb to the top at night and I will tell her that she is the last girl I will ever take there. I will never look out at the world around me and wonder what my life will be like because now I know.”
Bell wanted to say something, but he didn’t.
“Then, I take her to the bridge at night. When it is dark and all that is around is the moonlight and the stars, and I say this ring does not matter. Tell her it doesn’t matter what it looks like at all. I tell her she is not under the bridge now, she is on it. Tell her that I am asking her to marry me right here in the hub of magic because this is where I want us to live. I pull the ring out of my pocket and I hold her hand and I say, ‘Sight unseen, will you be my wife? When you look around here, you see what I will give you. But not here.’ Then, I’ll squeeze her hand and say, ‘not here. This is not where our love is. This bridge, this magic, this place I have been waiting for you at—this is us. The ring is for the rest of the world.’ Then I get on both knees and I beg her to marry me.”
“Beg her to marry me, for a while.”
He clapped my back and we went back to the house.
That night after everyone left, we sat together on the bed holding each other. She sank into me and she sighed. I told her goodnight and I turned off the light.
She was crying within a full minute.
When I asked her what was wrong she burst into hitching sobs. She wailed that she knew I had the ring, and that I hadn’t asked her, and she said that I didn’t want to marry her. That I had changed my mind.
While she cried, I went to the coat. I pulled out the ring and I asked her to marry me. While she wept and I fumed, I asked my wife to marry me.
I was furious. And now I was engaged.