The door bell sounded at around noon, pulling my attention up from the necklace pendant I was buffing to a meticulous shine. I glanced through the barred door and saw Harry standing there, his expression blank. I buzzed him into the store, unlocking the first and then second security door until he walked through and up to the counter where I was standing.
“Hey, Harry! How’s it going?” I smiled at him, extending my arm over the glass display case between us to shake his hand. His eyes darted from my hand, to my face, and down to the small gift bag in his hand with the name of my jewelry store emblazoned across it in a black cursive script. “Is there something wrong with the rings?”
I tried to remember the exact date he was supposed to be married on, to calculate if I would have enough time for last minute sizing adjustments, engravings… whatever it was he wanted, that was clearly burdening his mind at the moment.
Harry shrugged. “What’s the return policy on these?” I opened my mouth to answer, but he continued, “She left me at the alter.”
I responded with silence. How else was I supposed to answer the man who, just a month ago, came in grinning from ear to ear with an equally mesmerized fiancée to pick up their wedding bands? Who stole quick glances over their shoulders at the other from across the room, while they shielded the little scraps of paper they scrawled out the words they wanted engraved on the inside of their spouse-to-be’s wedding bands?
He turns the bag upside down and two velvet navy boxes tumble onto the countertop. He opens the one closest to his hand and presents it to me as if I’ve never seen it before: “Her wedding band. ‘Here we are in heaven’. That was supposed to be our first dance.”
I stared at him, again not sure what to say. “From that Etta James song At Last, y’know?” He shrugged, turning his attention to the ring that he held in between his thumb and middle finger, slowly turning it around this way and that, captivated by every single angle of it. As if prompted, he returned the ring to its box and opened the second one.
“And here’s what she had engraved on mine: ‘What I do and what I dream include thee’.” He rolls his glossy eyes, red from crying. “Turns out it’s that Browning poet. Wrote a lot of love poems and shit. I looked it up on my phone in the parking lot outside before I came in.”
“I’m sorry,” I offered.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just a pretty ridiculous thing to have engraved in someone’s ring if you want to leave them at the alter, huh? Unless her dreams included leaving her fiancé right before it was time to exchange vows.” He laughed humourlessly, a deep sigh that rattled through his chest more than anything else. “In that case, that includes me.”
“I can give you a refund,” I tell him. “I can melt the gold back down and it won’t be a problem at all, really.” I just felt really, really awful for this guy.
“Just the one.” He slides the box containing the ring intended for his finger over to me. “I’ll keep the other.”