Emerging breathless onto the street above, I soon found my objective; Brown’s Emporium.
It was only when I stood outside the shop, catching my breath, looking at the jewelry in the window that I realized I was holding Alice’s hand. I looked at her reflection in the window, her gaze taken by the shiny objects before her, then looked down. Aye. Right enough, my hand was clasping hers, and hers mine.
I don’t even recall when we’d started that. Maybe I’d helped pull her up the stairs? It had been a steep climb.
However, letting go seemed to be a damn sight harder thing to do. “Shall we go in?”
She nodded, and as I opened the door, our hands parted. To my surprise I didn’t know if I felt good or bad about it.
On old man roused himself from his Scotsman newspaper and stood up behind the counter. “What can I do for you today?”
“We’d like wedding rings please.” I said with an amazing amount of confidence.
“Certainly,” he began to shuffle trays from under the counter. “What metal?”
“Gold,” I replied. “But nothing too expensive, there’s a war on.”
“It’s all but finished if it’s the paper you’d believe.” The old man said. He placed three trays on the counter. “All gold, all plain. They start at five pounds. They’re all in size order, the nearer to you, the smaller they are.”
I began to rummage, and in three attempts, had one that fitted well. I looked to Alice, who seemingly had done the same. Instinctively we held our hands up together. They looked like a matched pair, and we grinned stupidly as newlyweds would. “How much?”
He looked at the small paper tags that fell from the rings. “Hmm, they’re both eighteen carat; that would be twelve pounds for the two.”
I could hardly believe the cost, but I took a deep breath. “Maybe we should look for something less…”
“We’ll give you eight.” Alice said. Her fingers splayed, looking longingly at the ring. “Not a penny more.”
I stood flabbergasted. I knew my mouth was open. “Agnes?” I said deliberately, giving my wife her weekend name.
Her gaze never left the ring. “This is the first shop we’ve tried. There are lots more.”
To my surprise, the man clasped my hand, forming the fingers into a handshake. “Eight pounds it is!” he deftly pulled the price tickets from the rings. “Hold on, I’ll get boxes for them.”
“No, it’s alright,” Alice/Agnes said, making a fist near her face, and looking closely at the ring some more. “We’ll just wear them. Pay the man, darling.”
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