Second to last installment of what has become a more than year long short story.
For the previous installment, follow this link.
On to the story
Bobby, a name I hated but stuck, reached out to a lone cloud that hovered in an unusual clear sky over London in November. Ginny curled into sleep,beside him, did not really care much at the moment for clouds, people on the sidewalk or the city itself. At least they were quite. Not that my kids cried that much, but when they did it was oddly synchronized. One would start to wail while the other stayed quite. Then the moment the first stopped it became a cue for the other one to start.
Millie, who walked on a leash beside the carriage, had taken to howl loudly the moment the twins cried their little lungs off, which always seem to puzzle Bobby into silence and send Ginny into peels of mad infant laughter. But not today. Today they behaved, no crying, no hair pulling (Ginny’s favorite pastime off late, whether a strand of hair, human or canine came within reach), no spitting up food. Maybe they were as glad to be out of the house as I was. Or maybe they enjoyed spending some time with daddy.
Even for a sunny, if chilly late fall day, Brompton Road was jammed packed with people. The usual mix of posh clientele, the stray politician or footballer’s wife and the ever present tourist. People smiled at the babes, while Millie played gentle bodyguard, body blocking anyone that got a tad too close to the tandem carriage. I stopped in front of Harrods window. Dozens of sparkling diamonds competed for attention, on rings, necklaces and even a tiara.
“So you’re going to pop the question, eh?” said a voice on my right ear.
I jumped and almost tumbled over the carriage plus Millie’s leash. She darted between my legs to greet my aggressor with furious tongue washing. “Stephen, what the f…rack!” Stephen stood a head taller than I. He wore a sensible brown jacked with matching slacks and a multicolored scarf that came straight out of Saturday morning’s children television. Leave it to him to pull it off with elan. He picked up Millie, who proceeded to bathe his face in dog slobber.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about it. These two,” I pointed at the two little darlings whose eyes focused with singular intent on the strange sight of a giant with a wiggling mas of golden hair and paws in his hands, “are soon going to be talking and after that, it will be ‘Hey Dad, how come you and Mum and not married?’ or ‘Tommy said I was a bastard, what does that mean?’”
Stephen put Millie down, “And whose fault is that?”
“By the way, I thought you were going to wait?”
“Well, the more I wait, the more I feel I should do it already,” I said, looking back at the store window.
“Tradition holds that you pay three times your monthly wage on the engagement ring,” he said.
I saw one with a gigantic rock and lots of zeroes underneath, “What tradition is that? And why would I want to give her a rock the size of Plymouth?”
“Okay, sucky puns aside. I want to give her something nice, not a nouveau riche monstrosity. Not that I have that kind of money. You do, but I don’t.”
“Aww, poor little rich boy. The cheque from the Hollywood studio hasn’t clear yet?”, he said.
“Is not that, it’s just….” I didn’t know what it was, just that I didn’t like the idea of that on her finger.
“Then get her that one,” he pointed at a platinum band with a modest diamond on top.
“That looks like something someone fished out one of those machines with the crane thing inside of them. You know the ones that you grab something it always slips half way up?”
“Okay, let me count the zeroes, one, two, three. Oh yeah, pretty cheap, if I do say so myself.”
“And you just did.” Ginny stirred in the carriage. I picked her up. “You like that one for mommy.” Not knowing what I was saying extreme shyness gripped her and she buried her face on my neck.
“You can’t pass this off on her. It’s all you.”
“Yeah. Well, hold this,” I handed Millie’s leash to Stephen. “I’m going in.” I took the kids inside and after haggling with the lovely young lady behind the counter I came out with a little box out of Harrods, with my bank account much lighter.
“Is that it?” asked Stephen.
“Yeah, it is.”
I smiled in total ignorance of what was to come.