The stainless steel bucket clattered to the table on top of the Christmas cards he’d promised to help write. Was this my gift? Golf balls! What was he thinking?
“Merry Christmas, baby!”
“Another bid to get me to join you on the course,” I griped. “You have really outdone yourself, Sean.”
I didn’t understand why he was so insistent that I play the dumb sport. Most guys clamber to get away from the girls. My boyfriend thinks we should be attached at the hip.
He had no hope of making me give up that rare free-time alone. Those afternoons he did go out with the guys were precious, the few times I could blast industrial music and read or write to my heart’s content.
“Don’t be mad,” he begged with that adorable pout tugging out his full bottom lip. “I’ll help you finish addressing the envelopes as soon as you open your gift.”
It looked pretty “open” to me all ready. At least he’d saved money, obviously having collected this assorted lot from the public course he frequented.
“I don’t know," I protested, objection softening. “These need to go out tomorrow or they’ll be late. We really don’t have time for you to tell me the virtues of every one. I can see you worked hard gathering them and I do find it sweet, babe. It’s just a bad time.”
Every time was bad these days, truth be told. We clashed over money at every turn.
“Okay,” he seemingly yielded. “You’re going to make this difficult. Can’t you be like most girls and figure out there’s more than meets the eye? Maybe I’ve hidden something inside.”
“You’re supposed to want to look and find out. The present is sort of a two-parter. Or par two, if you will.”
“Ha, ha, very funny.” I continued to complain, “So what’s the first part? That you have my first day’s supply to get me through a game?”
“No, silly. These are for me, actually. No more spending our money on new. Promise,” he stated disarmingly.
“So. Dig in! There’s a secret hidden inside.”
“Okay. Okay,” I couldn’t help replying with a laugh.
He really did irritate me sometimes. Equally, I couldn’t see living without him. Despite myself, I grew vaguely intrigued.
Maybe he put a nice pen set at the bottom. Or could it be a reservation to that writing seminar I’d had to forgo for silly things like, oh, rent?
No. That was not possible. He’d been laid off from real, steady employment for longer than either of us cared to consider.
He surprised me by adding something else to the tabletop. He had a stack of egg cartons. What was this?
“You can put these in as you pull them out of the bucket. That way there won’t be my crap lying all over the place,” he suggested comically. “I know how you hate that.”
“You are a clever boy. Have I ever told you that?”
“Only every time I make you grind your teeth in ecstasy,” he taunted.
With a lurid eye roll I pulled out the first of many dimpled spheres. Sean hinted that I needed to look at each with a little bit of interest.
“Every one? There must be dozens!”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be obvious, but the secret is actually part of one of them. I had Ralph mix them up before we poured them in from a box. That way we’re both in suspense.
“Okay,” I assented.
Glancing at each in turn, I soon filled up the first carton. Halfway through the second, a seam through the middle made apparent this object's difference.
I held it up triumphantly, wondering what could possible be contained within. Not a ring, I hoped. He should know we couldn’t afford a wedding.
Even a small one seemed unobtainable done the way my mother would approve. I shook the orb, relieved at a lack of metallic rattle.
He admitted to additional assistance from Ralph. His buddy had used his woodworking tools in a most unorthodox manner to drill out the center. The halves came apart much like a ring box and I held my breath.
Inside was a wadded scrap of paper. What in the world was this?
Scanning the tiny print, I easily read over the crinkled surface. A squeal escaped my lips.
“You got the job! The one you’ve been losing sleep over!”
“Yes,” he concurred slyly. “And after you get back from your writing seminar next spring we can be married, if you’ll have me.”
From a pocket he held a purple box of velvet. This one had a very prominent stamp from a local jeweler.
“Yes,” I answered, rising to kiss him.