“Vell, vhat do you zink?” the tall man scowled at us in the most intimidating, pretentious, “you don't deserve to be here” manner.
In other words, he was treating us exactly how I'd expected a jewelry dealer in a store with a big name and bigger price tags would. Between humming the store's jingle in my head for the past ten minutes and trying to place Mr. Better-Than-You's accent, I'd barely paid any attention to the shiny sparkler he'd placed on my ring finger.
I glanced down and watched the fiery stone flicker in the store's overhead lighting. It was lovely. It just wasn't....me.
“It's beautiful,” I said, and the salesman nodded in agreement. “It's just so...”
“So?” he asked, eyebrow arched.
There was no arguing with that. The band all but screamed “Every Kiss Begins with Kay.” It just didn't mesh well at all with my engagement ring. My ring - my beloved, gorgeous, simple ring - was so very loved for so many reasons, that finding a wedding band to go with it had become my newest mission. And so far, squat.
The salesman shot me a smile slick with hidden irritation as I slid the band from my finger. He stuffed the ring back in its display case and slammed it shut.
I stood, pulling JT up with me. “Thanks, but I think I'll keep looking,” I muttered as we made our hasty exit. Once beyond the salesman's sight, JT stopped and turned to me.
“So, that was about our last option and you still haven't found anything you like.” The poor thing was right to be annoyed. I'd dragged him to at least four other stores in the mall just like the one we'd just left and I still hadn't found The One. We'd bought his wedding band an hour earlier when we'd spotted it on clearance. It'd cost a whopping $100, including a lifetime protection policy. I was super glad we'd scored it, but I also realized my hesitation to refinance our mortgage on anything for me was becoming a problem.
But I just had to find the right ring. My engagement ring is so incredibly special, it simply requires something perfect. My ring is a white gold band with a perfect oval stone at its center and two small diamonds perched on either side. You just don't find rings cut like ovals anymore, and that's because mine is truly one of a kind. My dad, who passed away seven years ago, had given this ring to my mother when he proposed in the 1970s. She later gave me that very ring, and when JT got the itch to propose, he had the diamond reset in white gold. It's utterly priceless. I love it, and its companion had to be perfect.
As I pulled the car out of its parking space, I sighed. Now I couldn't cross “Buy wedding bands” off my to-do list provided by The Knot. I'd subscribed to the site minutes after becoming engaged and checking items off the list brought me more joy than actually doing the required tasks.
“Look, there,” I pointed out the window as we passed a strip mall just past the mall. “What's that? An estate store?”
JT peered out the window in the fading sunlight. “Yeah, seems to be.”
“Should we give it a try?” I glanced at the console's clock. 8:45 p.m. We were likely pushing it as far as the store's hours. Having worked in retail, I understood the extreme sense of “oh, hell” store clerks feel when someone comes into their store mere moments before they flip off the flashing florescent “Open” sign.
“Why not? Let's do it.”
“I don't know....” I said, as the car coasted past the shopping center entrance.
“Come on, babe. We're just going home. What does it hurt to stop?”
Just then, another entrance to the shopping center presented itself right at the far corner of the parking lot. That surely was a sign, right? I pulled in.
We parked, walked up to the storefront, pulled open the front door, and walked directly into an episode of “Hoarders: Antique Shop Edition.”
JT and I lurched backward as a mangy chihuahua-like beast hurled itself directly us. As JT kept the dog at bay, my head swirled at it took in my surroundings. The room was a narrow hallway, both side walls lined in floor-to-ceiling glass china cabinets, each one's doors threatening to burst open at the sheer volume of their contents. Inside, organized in no discernible pattern, perched everything from porcelain dolls to cuckoo clocks, Jesus statues to tattered doilies. Every inch of spare space left uncovered by the china closets was home to a piece of furniture apparently plucked directly from Mrs. Havisham's abandoned parlor: low musty chaise lounges coated in stained upholstery and an inch of dust, an eight-feet-tall grandfather clock whose counter lumbered back and forth as if drunk. Oil paintings sat propped up everywhere, each one depicting one anonymous subject or unrecognizable scene or another. The squishy shag carpet beneath our feet was a rusty gold, nearly the same shade as the tiny canine still attempting to intimidate us into retreat.
“Barkley, down!” a voice floated from the back of the room. A waft of cigarette smoke initially obstructed its source from view, but as he took a few steps toward us, I could make out his features. This man, with the slight hunch to his back and slowness to his step, was easily in his seventies, and had clearly kept his fashion sense from the same decade. His polyester shirt was unbuttoned just enough to reveal a tuft of shiny gray chest hair. His obviously dyed hair, a brassy chestnut, sat swept back in a style that stopped just shy of being a true pompadour. He wore no fewer than five garish rings, their jeweled centers each spanning an entire knuckle. The barrage of bracelets he wore jingled as he shuffled toward us. Six chains rested around his neck, landing delicately in the patch of chest hair.
Ladies and gentleman, Yinzer Liberace.
The dog had obeyed his master's command, leaving us in the foray and rushing off to his owner, who scooped him up and planted a big kiss on his tiny snout. The man turned his attention to us, and gave us a “come closer” gesture. We took a few steps, sinking into the plush carpet and landing directly in front of a waist-high glass display case.
“Hello, I'm Jerry," he said. "What brings you in this evening?”
I looked to JT, who gave me a “you go for it” nod.
“I need an, um, wedding band?" I laughed so nervously, even Barkley felt the awkwardness in the air. "And I thought that since my ring is kinda old, maybe I could find something also, um, kinda old to go with it?”
Jerry placed Barkley back down on the floor behind the counter then turned back to me. He stuck his hand out palm up. I slid my own on top of his, and he wrenched my fingers to within an inch of his face to inspect my ring.
“Oh, yes, this is old,” he said, turning my hand this way and that, his own rings clanking together as he did. “And quite beautiful, if I might say so.....I might just have something here...” He dropped my hand and peered into his display case. I did the same, and saw pretty much what I'd expected. One gumball-sized bauble after another in every color of the rainbow.
I prepared to shoot JT a discreet peace sign as it was clearly time to peace out.
“Now this just might work,” Jerry said at the same moment. I whipped back around and there, in his hand, was my wedding band. A stretch of tiny diamonds perched in a fine row, elevated ever so slightly above the white gold band that held them. It was clearly old, and dirty at that, but the second I saw it, I'd known I'd found my perfect match. I lunged for it.
As I slid my engagement ring off and the new/old piece on, I gasped. It looked so sublimely ideal on my finger like it was made for me. As I pulled my engagement ring on top of it, it nestled into place like it had finally found its home.
And it was in our price range. I was so beyond sold. Jerry offered to clean it for me and told me to come back the next day to pick it up.
When I returned, he had a line three-deep at the display case. I took my place behind them, and watched as one woman after another picked up pieces they'd had on hold, then naturally, modeled them for all of us. One had a sapphire so deep I initially thought it was an onyx. Another had a ruby that shimmered in the light every time she so much as moved. I moved to the front of the line, excited and confidant I was doing the right thing. Jerry let me try it on one more time, and the ladies gathered around me, gushing at its beauty and congratulating me on my pending nuptials.
Now I smile for even more reasons every time I look down at my left finger. I totally get that for some people, it's all about going to Jared. Give me Jerry any day.