It was Valentine’s day and we’d been together for over 9 months. I didn’t know what to expect. Tim was not really into that kind of thing but he knew I was. The post in our house always arrived after I’d left for work so I didn’t know all day whether there would be a card or anything for me. I’d asked friends to post joke Valentine cards, filled in with different pens in different writing, from different parts of the country and I’d had them all sent to the nursery so I knew he’d get them. He had said vaguely about keeping the evening free but that was over a week ago. At least my cards would remind him that it was February 14th.
He phoned when I was on my tea-break. I was filling in for a sick member of staff at our Stafford outlet and there were several of us in the staff room at the time.
“I hope you remembered to keep this evening free?” he asked.
“Did you get my card?” I asked back.
“Which one was from you?” he said, “or were they all?”
“What do you mean?” I said. “Did you send me one? I haven’t seen the post yet.”
“Well you’ll have to wait and see if I remembered,” he said. The way he said it I knew he hadn’t forgotten.
“They were all from you weren’t they? Nice touch. Anyway tonight put your glad rags on,” he said jauntily, “I’m taking you out for a Valentine meal.”
Well I was thrilled. There was a card waiting for me – one from Rob too, straight in the bin. Tim’s said “with all my love,” wow, my heart skipped a beat. I wasn’t sure what kind of place Tim would choose but I put on my favourite dress of the moment – shades of blue and grey, flared at the waist, knee length, low neckline with ruffed short sleeves; my pearls and a matching pearly handbag and shoes.
“Yes,” I thought, “you’ll do.”
I asked Fred to drive us so we could both drink. He said he quite liked these evening jaunts as it got him away from the telly. He liked listening to music and Jean, his wife didn’t. I think it was punk so I wasn’t not surprised. I phoned Tim to let him know but he was a bit put out. He’d arranged for one of his friends to pick me up and drop us off at the restaurant and thought we’d get a taxi back.
I don’t think Tim approved of chauffeurs but I was certain he’d appreciate being driven to and fro. We were taken to a little bistro in Sandbach that I’d heard of but never been to go to. It was quite cosy, lit entirely by candles and scented with joss sticks. Tim had reserved a table in a little alcove and a glass of champagne each arrived with the menus. I was impressed and thought he looked really dapper in the new jacket I’d bought him as part of his Christmas present. It was a fixed price menu which meant I could order what I wanted without worrying whether Tim could afford it.
I ordered the pate and the duck and Tim had the avocado and prawns and the lamb. Everything was beautifully cooked and we chatted away through the meal as usual. I could sense he was on edge about something which worried me but he wouldn’t let on what it was. We were on our coffees when out of the blue he said: “Sophie, um, well, er will you marry me?”
I was really taken aback and didn’t say anything back. I was too surprised.
“I waited until the end of the meal as I wanted to enjoy it whatever your answer. Oh, by the way, I went to see your father this lunchtime to ask for your hand in marriage and he had no objections. All he said was that it was about time somebody took you off his hands. He was joking.”
“You’ve been to see Dad? Wow! I was gob-smacked when you asked me but I’m even more surprised at that. How sweet!”
I was playing for time. It wasn’t as if it was the first time I’d been asked. Rob, my previous, must’ve asked me a dozen times. That was easy though. I had no intention of marrying him so I just fobbed him off as gently as I was able. This was different. I was deeply in love with Tim. I couldn’t imagine ever loving anyone more. But we were very different. My being rich and him not meant we looked at everything differently. This meant we would both have to do a lot of compromising. That’s why I didn’t reply straight away. Of course I’d wondered about marriage to Tim, lots of times. My heart said yes,yes,yes but I hadn’t yet resolved the wealth issue in my head.
“Sorry to shock you,” he said. “I don’t expect an answer straight away. I’ve had months thinking about it. And I know what a big decision it is. Just one thing I’d like to say. It’s not your money I’m after – I know you’ve quite a bit – it’s because I love you and I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you and have a family together.”
“You’re right Tim. It is a biggie and I know you’re no gold digger and I love you just as much as I think you love me. It’s just I’d not thought about it before. We’ve only been together about 9 months. Anyway I’ll sleep on it and let you know soon. Fancy asking Dad.”
“Oh and another thing. I haven’t bought a ring. It would have presumptuous. I thought we could choose one together. After all you’ll be the one wearing it and you might not like my choice.”
I got Fred to drop him off at the nursery so I could have time on my own to collect my thoughts. We hardly spoke on the journey although we did hold hands in the back of the car and I gave him a real smacker when we dropped him off.
Dad was there watching the box. He looked at me quizzically but didn’t say anything so I went straight up to bed. I couldn’t sleep for hours, tossing and turning, my mind racing in one direction, then in another. Then suddenly I knew what to do, what I really wanted, so I sent him a text. It must have been about 2 am. It simply said “Yes my darling.” Then I feel asleep.
Dad and Tracey were both there when I went downstairs for breakfast. They both gave me such a look I had to say something.
“I’m engaged,” I blurted.
“Congratulations my love. I hope you’ll both be very happy.” That was Dad.
“Well done Sophie. He seems a lovely lad and you both seem so well suited.” That was Tracey.
“Has he chosen a ring yet?” asked Dad.
“No, he wanted us to choose one together.”
“Good,” said Dad. “Take him to Picadilly Jewellers in Hanley, you know where I took you for your diamond necklace and earring set. I can get him a good discount there.”
I wasn’t sure about that as Dad couldn’t help interfering – usually for the right reason – but I wanted Tim and I to be free from his influence. On the other hand Tim didn’t have much money and I wanted a nice ring, probably costing more than Tim would want to afford. He wasn’t really into jewellery, thinking the money could be spent on something more useful.
I told Tim about the discount we could get and I could tell that he wasn’t entirely happy to have the initiative taken away but he did agree to go along with it. We went there after work on Tuesday, which was late-opening night in Hanley. The owner there had obviously been primed by Dad. I had been told to ask for him in person. He was quite obsequious and I could see Tim wasn’t happy. The jeweller took us into a back room and sat us both down, excusing himself for a moment and returning with a tray of rings. They were beautiful. “Well young man how much do you want to spend? Don’t shout it out or madam will know what you think she’s worth, just write it on this piece of card.”
Tim wrote down a figure which he told me later was £500. A lot of money for him to find but not much for the kind of ring I wanted.
“Great,” he said, indicating the tray,”You can choose any of these.”
I tried various rings and eventually settled on one with a sapphire surrounded by diamonds. There was no price on it or on any of the others for that matter. By then I’d twigged that we’d been set up by Dad. I could see by the expression on Tim’s face he also suspected what was happening. I half expected him to storm out and when we got outside he told me he’d thought of doing just that.
“I wanted to buy you a ring and I had scrimped and saved so that I could buy you a nice one. I thought we’d just be getting a discount, not a huge subsidy. It’s not like I’ve bought it now.”
He was really upset.
“I’m sorry.” I said. “It’s Dad. He wants the best for me and he values everything in monetary terms. He will want to show off my ring to his friends and relatives and he knew you wouldn’t be able to buy one that was good enough for him.”
“It’s not about your Dad. It’s our wedding.”
He stayed upset all evening and I could see why. However I knew he’d never have been able to buy me anything so lovely with his meagre wages. I stayed at his place that night and tried to make him better in the way only a woman knows how. Afterwards he was more sanguine and eventually said: “Anyway I suppose it’s a lovely ring and I’ve got to accept this kind of thing if I’m marrying into a wealthy family.”
Off to work next morning.
Dad arranged for the ring to be collected next day when it had been resized and it was delivered to Stafford at lunchtime. The ladies there all had a look and made all the right noises. I bet they were green with envy. They were completely unaware of the difficulties it had caused. Anyway I was engaged and was making the most of it, enjoying the limelight.