This short story is fiction.
Jennifer was in her office at lunchtime when she saw a little square box on her desk, reminding her that her boyfriend, Jack, wanted to get engaged on Valentine’s Day. After one year of dating him, she also felt it was the high time to tie the knot. She was sensible and rational, whilst he was a passionate overreactor; the match was perfect. Besides, her career as a secretary was going well and Jack had a position as a supervisor in another company, both were 22 and were living in Manchester. So, why not?
But when had he had slipped, unseen, into her office to leave the little box on her desk? It was a really romantic, original and unexpected way to approach her on that day. He had probably found his opportunity when she left for a quick coffee downstairs.
Jennifer wasn’t sure if it would be unlucky to put the ring in without him there, but she couldn’t contain her curiosity; she opened the little box. To her surprise, it was the biggest diamond ring she had ever seen, which made her say aloud in her empty office, “Goodness me, Jack must have paid a fortune!” But, guessing that the ring was easily beyond his resources, she thought she couldn’t allow him to make such an extravagant gesture. Worried, she decided to say to him she didn’t find it a sensible buy. Actually, she didn’t need any expensive ring to show the world she was in love and very much engaged. Together, they would go back to the shop and change that enormous diamond ring for something more affordable and hopefully recover part of his money.
Being sure of her position, she kept that little box inside her upper drawer, just waiting to see Jack that evening: they were set for a romantic dinner after work. But in late afternoon, she thought that as the ring would certainly not be their engagement one, why shouldn’t she try it on just one more time? It would be her last opportunity to see that beauty on her finger. Without waiting for Jack, she put on that sparkling ring and it took her breath away.
At this moment, Harry, a mutual friend of Jennifer and Jack, came to her office to discuss a work matter, but she just couldn’t speak to him; she was dumbstruck. Harry left her office, thinking that Jennifer was much too engrossed with that ring. He had gone to the jewellery shop with Jack to buy the ring on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Harry was sure that the ring he had just seen Jennifer wearing wasn’t the same one. Should he ring Jack and tell him, or just not interfere and let both sort out whatever had happened?
Meanwhile, Jack rang Jennifer: “Darling, I’m missing you and have already booked a smart restaurant for a romantic dinner today.”
“We need to talk”, she answered, after hearing the words “smart restaurant”, which sounded expensive to her. She definitely had to talk with him about spending a lot of money on her.
“Yes, we have many things to say to each other,” he answered, excited. “I’ll be fetching you shortly.”
Straight after that, Harry rang Jack: “Look, as your friend, I should tell you…I went to Jenny’s office this afternoon and saw her wearing a huge diamond ring, not the one I saw you buying her yesterday. Are you sure there’s nobody else in her life?!”
Jack remembered, “Jenny didn’t say on the telephone that she was missing me. She only said that we needed to talk. There’s a man called Peter, who keeps texting thank you messages on her mobile. Isn’t your boss called Peter?”
“Yes, Mr. Walker’s first name is Peter.” Harry was amused. “But I don’t think that he and Jenny would…”
Jack was already very angry: “She’s always saying to me how he’s clever, efficient, polite, a true gentleman. She fell for him… And those thank you messages from him on her mobile? How could I have been so blind? The ring you saw today on her finger is his ring!”
Harry, calmly and sensibly, replied: ” Mr. Walker seems happily married and he’s over 20 years older than Jenny…”
But Jack was already out of his mind. Rushing to his car, he quickly arrived at the company where Jennifer worked. Jack desperately begged the receptionist: “Please, may I speak with Mr. Peter Walker? It’s urgent!”
The receptionist asked on the telephone if Jack could go upstairs to which Mr. Walker agreed.
Arriving at his office, Jack started: “I’ve just found out everything between you and my girlfriend Jennifer; you’re lovers! I guess what must have impressed her was your power and manners. I refuse to think Jenny’s a golddigger. I think you’re just an old goat taking advantage of a naive little girl like her!”
Looking calmly at Jack, Mr. Walker asked: “What makes you think that Jennifer and I are lovers?”
“You keep texting messages on her mobile. Your name is always there; Peter,” he answered, upset.
“But that’s too little for you to make such an assumption. Actually, I have never texted her mobile. When I need to text someone a message, Miss Johnson, my head assistant, gets the job done for me.”
Jack didn’t want to believe him: “Then, why is she wearing an expensive diamond ring today? It can only be yours… I can put two and two together.”
“I can’t understand your maths. Jennifer is entitled to wear any expensive ring she wants, as long as she’s not taking it illegally from anybody. If she’s wearing a precious ring today, it doesn’t mean necessarily that it was me who gave it to her. Now if you will excuse me, I need to finish off my work today…”
Jack went down two floors, heading to Jennifer’s office, where he demanded: “Jennifer, do you have someone else in your life?”
She was shocked: “Why should you think that?”
“I can answer this question for you, Jennifer.” Surprised, she turned to that strong male voice and found Mr. Walker together with Miss Johnson. He continued, “You have been receiving texts from a man called Peter and it happens Peter is also my first name. I tried to point this out to your boyfriend that it could be just a coincidence, but he didn’t want to hear me. I came here because he also said you were wearing my ring today. After he left my office, I looked for my ring in my desk but I couldn’t find it. Now I can see you really are wearing it.”
Jennifer blushed,”I’ve been doing a volunteering job in the last two years, reading books for an old man, who is over 90, on Saturdays whilst Jack plays football with his friends. His name’s Peter. The manager of that nursing home texts me thank you messages on his behalf. About the ring, I thought this was an engagement ring from Jack to me.”
Jack interfered, “You must be joking. I’d have to sell my car to buy such a ring. But as you are wearing his ring today, I thought you and him were having a relationship.”
“What a disgusting idea, Jack,” Jennifer answered, feeling sick.
“Did you say disgusting?” Mr. Walker asked, insulted.
Jennifer blushed again: “Oh, no, sir, I mean if you were single and Jack didn’t exist in my life, I wouldn’t see any problems in being your girlfriend.”
Miss Johnson interfered: “She meant you’re much too charming for any woman in this world.”
“It’s not clear yet why my ring came to your finger, Jenny,” he replied.
“I found it here on my desk today, at lunchtime,” Jennifer answered, blushing.
Miss Johnson said, “I can work out what happened, Mr. Walker. Today, a little before lunchtime, you asked the trainee boy to take everything from your desk to Jennifer’s desk, and the box with that precious ring was together with all the papers. It was a simple mistake, I’m sure I’d have made the same mistake if I were the trainee boy. When Jenny found the little box, she thought it was a surprise from her boyfriend.”
Mr. Walker said, “There you are. I hope you’re happy, Jack. Now, please, Jenny, give me my ring. Today is my silver wedding anniversary and we’re going to have a family party in the evening. This ring is obviously for my wife. At least, she doesn’t find me much too charming for her.”
Giving the ring to Mr. Walker, Jennifer said…”I’m sorry about this confusion, sir. Congratulations on your silver anniversary.”
Jack said: “I’m ever so sorry. Congratulations.”
Mr. Walker answered graciously, “That’s okay.” He seemed disgruntled.
When he and Miss Johnson left, Jack said to Jennifer, “Can you forgive me for making a fool of myself? You know I over react…”
“I called my boss disgusting…”
“And I called him an “old goat.” Don’t worry, he’ll come round. Now he has a funny story to tell at his party. But you were enjoying having that ring on your finger…”
“Darling, it was so silly of me. I knew that ring was too much and I was going to persuade you to change it.”
“No need to persuade me. I’ve got a ring I can afford.”
Dropping to his knees, he asked, whilst opening a little box to show the ring, “Jenny, will you marry me?”
She answered, laughing but not blushing now…”Next time you want to know anything about me, ask me before pestering other people. I don’t get upset with your over the top reactions. On the contrary, I find them hilarious. Who else in this world would make me laugh like you? Yes, I’ll be your wife.”
They hugged, kissed and now his ring is on her finger.