“You must be kidding!” Chloe said. She looked around for support.
Chloe stood behind the jewelry counter at Bloomies. Being a potential customer, she didn’t mind spending time with me. She still had hopes of selling me some extravagant gift for my wife, Heather.
Chloe and Heather were best friends. She focused on me and gave me a very serious look. “Dan, I would not steer you wrong on this.”
I interrupted, “Maybe on some things…”
“…But not on this.” She smiled without humor. “If you value your marriage…”
“Chloe, I know you think you are right. But I’ve been looking for this. I can’t believe I found it in time. I mean, is there anything you can’t buy on eBay?”
Chloe looked at the display of jewelry spread before her. She raised an eyebrow. “You’re joking. Now I know you’re kidding.”
One of Chloe’s co-workers sidled over. One doesn’t often hear such heated discussion at the jewelry counter.
Chloe said, “Show her, Dan. Show Fiona what you got Heather.”
I pulled the ring out, an exact duplicate of the ring I gave Heather when we first met. Yes, it was a toy. But it was cute. And playful. It represented the modest beginnings of one of the world’s great love stories. I never knew where the original went.
Fiona said, “Let me see.”
I held it up to her. Her eyes widened. “I didn’t know Cracker Jack still put toys in their boxes.”
“This isn’t from Cracker Jack. It’s rare.” I put it up to my mouth and blew. The whizzing sound of a little toy siren came from it. I had to laugh. “Do you know how hard this is to find? I’ve been looking for this for months.”
Fiona and Chloe looked sadly at each other and then started to laugh. They understood.
Chloe reached for the ring. “Give it to me Dan. I won’t let you do this to Heather.”
I pulled away. “What do you mean?”
“You can’t give her that. You can’t. Have you met Heather?”
“Chloe, she’s my wife.”
“My point exactly. Are you trying to give her grounds…?”
“Heather is nostalgic. She’ll love this. She cries when I give her sweet things like this.”
“I can see that.” Fiona and Chloe looked at each other and started laughing again. “Do you enjoy making her cry?”
I began to get nervous. These two wanted to make a sale. They didn’t know Heather the way I did. I lived with her for the last three years!
“You wouldn’t be fishing for a commission, would you?”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Get serious, Dan. You think I’m dependent on big spenders like you to make my monthly nut?”
“Then what’s your point?”
“Do you care at all about Heather? Do you want her to be happy?”
“That is exactly why I’m planning to give her this sentimental gift from our courting days.”
Chloe stomped her foot and let loose a growl of frustration.
Fiona touched her arm. “Chloe, let me try.” She turned to me. “Dan…”
“We don’t know each other well. We met at your wedding. Remember? I was one of Heather’s bride’s maids.”
“I remember... so?”
“I’ve known Heather all my life, practically. We were in grade school together. I know how she thinks. Trust me on this…”
I protested. “There’s no time. This took forever to find.”
Fiona scanned the display. “Aha!”
She pointed out what had to be the gaudiest, flashiest ring of the bunch. I mean, the stones had stones. It looked like a frosted donut with sprinkles on it. And I don’t like sprinkles.
Chloe said, “That’s it. Perfect.” They looked at me with wide eyes.
These two were authorities. They were pros. They were practically drooling in anticipation.
“I don’t know…”
Chloe held it up and said, “Dan, you give her this, you will have a Christmas like never in your life!”
“Happy New Year! She’ll wear you out!”
Together they yelled, “Guaranteed!” They giggled and jumped up and down together.
I had been so sure. But they shook my resolve. How could they be right? How could I be so wrong? Did I not know my own wife? I took a chance and bought the ring they suggested.
Chloe couldn’t stop grinning as she rang it up. Fiona hummed a Christmas song while dancing turns behind Chloe.
I heard them high-fiving as I walked away. I hoped they were right. It would cost me far more than the stupid ring if they weren’t.
I went home. Doubts consumed me. I couldn’t decide.
I told Heather I needed time alone to wrap a special gift for her. She smiled coyly.
I said, “No peeking!”
I ended up wrapping both gifts in separate gift boxes and put them in my jacket pocket. We drove to dinner at our favorite restaurant.
We had the best dinner ever and completely festive. The wine and the spirit of the evening went to my head.
Heather played at trying to guess her gift. We had fun, especially since I still hadn’t decided which ring to give her. We laughed and bantered over its size. She tip-toed around the cost of it in the most playful way.
When the suspense reached a peak, I reached into my pocket to pull the ring out. I couldn’t tell the boxes apart.
Dodging a pout from Heather, I excused myself and went to the restroom. The boxes looked and felt identical.
WHAT A DOOFUS! I couldn’t believe I didn’t mark the boxes. Now, no matter which present I wanted to give Heather, I had a 50/50 chance of being wrong. What I wanted to do didn’t matter anymore. It was out of my hands.
I tried pulling at the tape of one of the boxes but it started to rip so I backed off. I couldn’t rewrap the boxes. I had to man up and do the deed.
I thought of letting Heather choose which present she wanted. But that would be cheesy. She’d only become suspicious of who I bought the other present for. No way would I get into a ‘Door #1 or Door #2’ scenario.
I closed my eyes and picked a box. I held it and put the other in my jacket pocket. This was it. I returned to our table.
Heather had the phone to her ear, laughing her head off. She enjoyed the wait even if people at the other tables didn’t.
I sat, anxious as hell.
Heather signed off and smiled at me.
“Jennie called. Remember Jennie?”
Who is Jennie?
“I have to tell you her story. It is hilarious.”
“You are going to love this, Dan.” Heather started laughing so hard, people were videoing her on their phones. I thought I heard someone say ‘Heimlich’.
She started again. “Jennie’s boyfriend gave her a present.” She started laughing again. “No, wait! Back up. I have to tell you from the beginning.”
“You know how some guys think they’re clever and put the engagement ring in a piece of cake? Nothing like choking to death while being proposed to, right?”
I began to feel sick. “Right…”
“So, Jennie’s boyfriend, Craig. I think it’s Craig. He doesn’t do that. He takes her bowling!”
Here, Heather almost falls on the floor in another laughing fit. She could barely get the punch line out for her hysteria.
“So, he doesn’t put the ring in a piece of cake. No! He selects a bowling ball for her and puts the ring in one of the finger holes!”
“No!” Now I’m laughing in spite of my terror.
“And the ring gets stuck! They had to get a tool to pry it out of the bowling ball!”
The whole restaurant lost it. Everyone watched and joined with us, laughing their heads off.
I couldn’t wait for Heather to open my gift.
Finally, everyone calmed down.
Heather composed herself. She reached across the table to me. “I’m sorry, honey. I had to tell you. It was just so funny!”
I nod like an idiot, fumble with the ring box and almost dropped it into a glass of water.
Heather caught it on the first bounce and clutched it greedily. “Ohhhh, Baby! You shouldn’t have.”
The restaurant fell silent in anticipation. Waiters stood by with platters of food getting cold. She ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box with a gasp. Everyone applauded.
Who knew women liked diamonds so much?