“I know it’s in here somewhere,” I mumbled, digging around old, unmarked boxes. I was in the process of purging my attic, but I had taken a break to decorate the Christmas tree. “Honey! Do you know where we put the Christmas lights last year? The purple ones?”
“No,” Jake hollered back. “I’ll look down in the basement!”
I sighed and plopped down on what I thought was a bench. I found to my dismay that my seat was not a bench, but a crinkly old cardboard box that promptly collapsed when I sat.
The hard object in the box hit my tailbone and I rolled on the attic floor, half laughing and half huffing at my aching tailbone.
Tailbone still aching like the dickens, I sat up and fished the culprit out of the cardboard ruins. My hand closed around a small box. The cold metal stung my even colder hands.
My heart dropped as I recognized the box. A surge of hot anxiety shot through me; I didn’t know why. I supposed it was because the contents of the box reminded me of one of the worst days of my life.
I slowly opened the lid. The silver metal of the box twinkled from the snow light bouncing off of it. The marbled edges and gold lock grew apart as the sweet scent of nostalgia crept through its edges. It still smelled like my mother’s house. I figured that was because the last time I opened it was there, and that would’ve been three years ago.
The radiant light from the snow reflected off a rose gold band cushioned in the box. An engraving, barely visible, broke the smooth, creamy reflection. I slowly turned the ring so the engraving was in full sight. My stomach dropped. The vivid image of a face from my past flashed across my mind.
All that you are is all that I’ll ever need. I took the ring from its box and looked at the inside. I love you so much. ~Chris.
The first inscription was so familiar. I closed my eyes and thought hard for a moment. Wasn’t it part of a song? Ed Sheeran, I thought. Yes! Tenerife Sea, Chris and I’s favorite song. Well, what was Chris and I’s favorite song. A few tears sat on the rim of my eyelids, ready to fall.
I was remembering when I met Christ, the first person who meant anything to me. Then I remembered the horrible day I lost him. The day everything went wrong….
“Oh my gosh, did you see Matt play last night? He was amazing, like I can’t believe I date him half the time!”
“Ugh, you and Matt,” I groaned jokingly. Sofie was always going on about Matt. Of course, almost everyone was jealous because Matt was everything people said he was. Charming personality, dashing looks, popping muscles, deep, creamy voice––he had it all.
“But it doesn’t look like Matt’s going to win tomorrow night,” Kathey chimed in. “With a team like his, he’ll have to carry all of them, and the team we’re up against has multiple Matts.”
Sofie’s blue eyes gleamed with irritation. “Matt will win, don’t doubt it,” she snapped.
“Girls, girls,” I said quickly, not wanting to ruin our shopping spree. “I’m sure Matt’s going to do great, there’s no use fighting about it. Hey, look.” I pointed in the direction we were headed. “I know there’s a Baskin Robbins just past this H&M. Let’s go get some!”
Immediately, peace was restored in the prospect of soft, cold deliciousness.
“Y’know Jess,” Sofie said, linking arms with me. “I’m sure all the boys are wild over you. Why don’t you get one?”
I laughed at Sofie’s assumption. “No, nobody’s wild over me. Nobody’s even asked me to go to a party with them, and it’s already sophomore year!”
“But it’s college,” exclaimed Kathey. “You’re supposed to find the love of your life here!”
“No,” I replied resignedly. “I’m just going to be an old single lady for the rest of my life.” Little did I know, I never should’ve said that. My friends never let me live it down.
A few days later, a very handsome, devil-may-care transfer student caught my attention. Not even two seconds after meeting him, I was heels over head in love.
Three weeks later, my heart nearly exploded when he asked me out. It wasn’t like other boys, where they asked you out to a party, get drunk, and call it a day. He made us a dainty little dinner, all by himself, put it in a basket, and drove us to an open field nearby.
“It’s beautiful out here,” I gasped. It was a bright, cloudless, starry spring night. The air was warm, but not clammy. It was altogether perfect.
“Yeah,” replied Chris, looking up at the stars. “I’ll show you the constellations after we eat. You must be starving. How was your rhetoric final?”
“It was alright, definitely kind of hard,” I said, biting into the soft crust of a french bread roll. I was delighted and amazed by the quality of the taste and texture.
“Did you make this?”
Chris blushed a bit. “Yeah, I did.”
“It’s amazing! Where did you learn how to bake like this?”
Chris’ blush faded and he smiled. “My mom taught me how. You see, it was just her and me after dad died when I was seven. She needed my help with dinner most of the time because she was at work until the evening and didn’t have time to make it herself.”
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
“It’s alright. He died like he always told me a brave man should die. He gave his life for this country and for our family. His favorite constellation was the Big Dipper,” Christ said quickly, changing the doleful note of the conversation. “He never told me why, though.”
“Which one is that?”
“Here, lay down and look straight up. You’ll know it when you see it.”
I laid down in the soft grass and looked up at the sapphire sky. Billions of stars winked at me. I looked for a few seconds.
“I found it!” I exclaimed happily.
Chris laughed and showed me more constellations. I was enthralled. Who knew the night sky was so interesting?
The night passed swiftly, and soon Chris brought me back to my dorm around midnight.
“I had a fantastic time tonight,” I said gratefully. “Thank you so much.”
Chris grinned. “I had a great time too. Thanks for coming.”
He hugged me goodnight and left a little awkwardly. Neither of us were great at dating, but it went off splendidly.
The next few months were amazing. When school was out, we continued to date because we lived in the same city. When school was back in, nothing changed. We started getting closer than ever.
In the summer of 2014, our senior year, Ed Sheeran’s album “Multiply” debuted. Chris and I traveled for five hours to go to his concert. Our favorite song for the longest time was Tenerife Sea.
In the winter of the same year, Chris gave me a very special present.
“C’mon, Jess, open it,” pleaded Chris, throwing himself next to me on the couch. “I wanna see it.”
“But you’re the one who got it, silly,” I laughed. “Besides, it’s only Christmas eve, I’ll open it tomorrow.”
Chris implored me with his puppy eyes, and I relented, with a special condition.
“I’ll open it if we can walk to the place we went on our first date,” I said. “Then I’ll open it.”
“Ooh, that’s a great idea!” Christ slipped on his coat quickly and helped me with mine. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.”
We strolled along, gloved hand in gloved hand, watching the burning sunset glinting off the snow and talking about a million different things.
We began to cross the long bridge that connected the campus to the city. Being the silly kids we really were, we hopped across all the cracks in the sidewalk.
“Hey, that’s cheating!” I laughed hysterically. “You can’t use your hands to help you!”
A rather noisy car behind us entered the bridge because as we were about halfway across, the bridge began to rattle, and the noise and stench of a bad engine filled the air.
“Someone needs a new car,” Chris said nasally, holding his nose.
I giggled and looked back. Laughter disappeared from my face. I felt paralyzed.
“Hey Jess, c’mon,” I heard Chris say. He turned and saw what I saw.
A scream broke out of my numb throat.
“Run, Jess!” Chris grabbed my hand and pulled me with him.
I looked back. The car was gaining on us. Chris was panting heavily, and so was I. I couldn’t run any faster, and my lungs felt like they were closing up.
Chris suddenly pushed me away with all his might. I flung forward, and everything went black.
“Hey, you’re going to be okay. Can you tell me what your name is?”
I opened my eyes slowly. Blinding light pierced through my parted eyelids. The dim outline of someone clad in teal was all I could see.
“Jess Carter,” I responded weakly. Then everything flashed back into my head. “Where’s Chris?”
I heard someone sigh.
“You’ll be alright, honey,” another voice said.
Nothing more. No more information until the next day when I was able to sit up. Nothing was really wrong with me except a mild concussion, a big gash on my forehead, and a broken arm.
“Where’s Chris,” I asked again.
The nurse looked at the doctor, who had come to check on me.
“The boy you were with?”
“Yes, we were walking on the sidewalk when we saw the car. We started running, Chris pushed me, and then everything went black. He’s alright, isn’t he?”
“No,” the doctor replied solemnly. “I guess he took the blow for you. If he hadn’t have pushed you, you wouldn’t be alive either.”
Fear shot through me like a bullet. “What do you mean by either?”
“Honey,” the nurse said tearfully. “He died for you.”
I slipped the cold band onto my right ring finger. I remembered when I retrieved it from my torn winter coat a few days after they told me about Chris. The wrapping was torn a bit, but surprisingly, not too damaged.
I took the wrapping paper off and opened the ring box inside. My heart had jumped with joy, but then was shot down by pain. A small sticky note with “I promise I’ll always be here for you” was on the inside cover. The cushions of the box held a beautiful rose-gold band. I remember holding it closer to my face so I could see the inscription through my tears.
All that you are is all that I’ll ever need.
I read those words again as I sat in my chilly attic. I had loved Chris with all my heart, and he would always be a cherished memory in my heart. When I met Jake a few years later at a New Year’s party in 2020, I realized that I might have a second chance at love.
We got married four years later. Chris was an amazing person, and nobody could take his place in my heart, but I realized that, even when something devastating happened, there’s something more for us if we just have the patience to find it.
I slipped the ring back in the jewelry box and put it in another one of my old boxes.
“Sweetheart! I found them!” Jake yelled from downstairs. “They were in that boat thingy you bought last year!”
“You mean kayak?” I laughed. “I’ll be down in a second babe!”
I took one last look at the box before closing the bin. I knew Chris would’ve been proud of me, and finding love was what he would’ve wanted me to do.
I closed the bin and waltzed downstairs, humming Tenerife Sea.