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Crying at the Jewelry Counter

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“… and this one is $1,500 sir.”

My heart pounded loudly in my chest and by that time I was certain the look on my face was freaking out the saleswoman.

“I’ll give you some time to think.” She said, scanning my face nervously.

I looked down at the rows and rows of beautiful engagement rings. Stunning, but so far out of my price range I was starting to hyperventilate.

The whole situation was immensely uncomfortable in the first place. I’d told Leah I was working overtime, pulled $100 (a sizeable chunk of my bank account,) and proceeded to the ring counter in the nicest department store that wouldn’t strangle me for getting their pristine floors dirty. It was just too much; in all ways. The cheapest ring was $500 (and the saleswoman couldn’t help but scowl when I asked to take it out.) The whole idea of proposing to Leah still made my head spin, and I suddenly felt so sick I might have threw up all over the shiny, glass display case.

Leah won’t care how much the ring is. I told myself. But she obviously deserved much better. She was smart, sweet, funny, and extremely beautiful. I was way out of her league by most people’s standards. A shy guy who worked for minimum wage and came from a no good family had no place proposing to anyone. But for some bizarre reason Leah had chosen me.

My cheeks grew hot with embarrassment. I was standing here like a total idiot. I prayed the saleswoman would forget about me so I could flee with a shred of dignity. But she kept me in her field of vision and seemed set on a sale.

What happened then was worse than anything I could have imagined. I actually started to cry. A startled look crossed the saleswoman’s face and she turned away. I honestly couldn’t stop the tears. I loved Leah more than I could stand, and if she took me as her husband I would be the happiest man alive. But I just didn’t feel good enough. I’ve had zero confidence my entire life, and now I just felt hopeless.

Hot tears continued to roll down my cheeks and people had begun to stare. I can’t leave now. I told myself. I’ll just buy her a dinky ring in another case and be done with it. My hand shook as I reached for my wallet, and somehow it ended up on the floor.
****

I strode through the department store with surprising speed. I was on top of the world today and I felt like nothing could stop me.

I bought the blouse he’d specifically told me not to get, and proceeded to the jewelry section to get myself a new necklace.

That’s when I saw him; the guy crying at the jewelry counter. He was tall, but slouched, and had dark rumpled hair. His eyes were a deep blue, and the tears slipped from them quietly. He was fumbling in his coat pocket for his wallet, his hands shaking terribly and his eyes wide.

When I saw him I couldn’t help but laugh a little. He looked like me after my first break up: weeping, nervous, and the spitting image of a deer in headlights.

He dropped the wallet, and I reached to scoop it up.
“Hey, are you okay?” I said quietly, passing him the wallet. He stood and nodded slightly. “No you’re not.” I said matter of factly. “You’re crying, and that’s typically not a good sign.” He looked down at the ring case. “Too expensive?” I guessed, and he nodded.

“She won’t say yes anyway. He muttered, his voice threatening to crack if he spoke any louder.

“Hey now, I’m sure that’s not true. You love her don’t you?” He nodded. “And she loves you?” he hesitated, and then nodded again. “Then you have nothing to worry about. If she’s the one she won’t care about a silly old ring.”

“I’m not good enough for her.” He said louder.

I spun to face him fully. “Don’t you ever say that! If she really loves you, you’re more than good enough exactly the way you are!”
****

Her outburst made me jump. Actually, I was still puzzled as to why she was talking to me in the first place. Her emerald eyes were fiery, and stood out against her pale skin. Her curly blond hair was pulled back, and she spoke with grace and confidence.

“What’s your name?” she asked, slightly angry.

“Henry.” I answered meekly.
“Henry you are good enough for anyone. Those who say otherwise are just stupid.”

I stared at her. “I can’t afford a $500 engagement ring and you think I’m good enough for anyone? That’s motivational and all but…” I stopped and flushed bright red. She had taken my hand.

“Trust me.” She said, grasping my palm with impressive force. “I’ve gotten mixed up with people who didn’t think I was good enough. I was stupid enough to change for them and ended up wasting so much of my life. If you’ve got a girl who loves you just as you are then go for it! I don’t care if you’ve never done anything worthwhile. Take a chance and ask her.”

She seemed entirely serious, and astoundingly sincere. So with one last glance at the ring counter I replied: “Thanks, you’re right I’ll do it.” She smiled in satisfaction. “But I still can’t buy a ring here.” I glanced down at the $500 ring longingly and sighed.

“Sure you can.” She said, catching the sleeve of my coat as I turned to leave. “How much you got?”

Why was this total stranger offering to pay for my engagement ring? She did know it wasn’t for her right? I thought. “$100.” I stammered at last.

“Sounds good to me!” She whipped out her debit card and slammed it down on the display. As the saleswoman swiped her card, I glanced over at her.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” I said. “What’s your name?’

“Grace.” She replied, handing me the ring. “Good luck Henry.”
****

I sipped my coffee slowly and flipped through the newspaper. “Ah, wedding announcements.” I said aloud. I smiled as my eyes ran over the photo of a beaming young couple. The caption read: Leah and Henry Jamison would like to thank Grace for their engagement. They hope to spend the rest of their lives together.




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