The Twelve Days of Christmas:
A Christmastide Tale in Twelve Instalments. With Elves.
The Fifth Day of Christmas
I had to work again the next day. Usually I turn off my phone while I’m working; it’s not cool to have the phone ringing while you’re talking to a customer or, worse, while you’re measuring out pills for a prescription. Pharmacy techs can’t afford to get distracted. But that day, I kept the phone on.
Still no word from Tom.
To distract myself from my—well, I wouldn’t say worries, but let’s call them concerns, I stopped in at Engelhard’s on the way home from work. Engelhard’s is a clockmaker’s and jeweller’s. That’s right, even in a town so small that our shopping is restricted to a grocery store, a drug store and a second-hand book shop, we have our very own jeweller. Old Mr. Engelhard came over from “ze Old Vorld”, as he was fond of pointing out, where he properly learned his trade “back in ze olden days”. Now the shop is run by Young Mr. Engelhard, or, as everyone calls him, Joe, who is about sixty-five. But for all he keeps up his father’s old-world business practices, he added on the tech savvy of a much younger man. Among other things, he’s expanded the shop into an online mail-order business, and he is servicing people’s cuckoo clocks from as far away as Toronto. He loves his work so much, he’s even there on a Sunday—only open for six hours, though, which counts as downright slacking off for him.
What drew me to Engelhard’s was, I’m embarrassed to say, the rings. For a while now, I’d been eyeing up their selection of engagement rings. I’d never actually gone so far as to bring Tom into the store to show him—I’m not quite that un-subtle—but there’s no harm in dreaming, is there?
However, it had been a mistake to look at the rings that day. All it did was to keep Tom at the forefront of my mind, which was exactly the opposite of what I was trying to do.
I let me eye travel over the familiar contents of the glass case. But wait—not all of it was familiar! It seemed that over Christmas, Joe had brought in a couple of new rings. There they were, sparkling against the black velvet of the display: five classic gold rings, the diamonds glittering in their settings. I pulled out my phone. “Do you mind?” I asked Joe, gesturing with the phone.
“No, no, you go right ahead. Make sure you tag us on Facebook if you post the picture.”
I chuckled. “I’ll be sure to do that,” I said and snapped the photo. “You’ve sold the princess-cut, I see.”
“Yes, I did that. Just before Christmas, it was.”
“Who to, I wonder?”
Joe smiled. “Now that would be telling,” he said with a wink.
Oh. Did he mean…?
No. No, this wasn’t helping. I had to get my mind off Tom.
The bell over the door of the shop tinkled, and Joe and I both turned to see who had come in. My jaw dropped. The guy who walked into the store was the most handsome man I had ever seen. Dark hair like Tom’s crisply curling back from his broad forehead; silver-grey eyes with laugh lines at the corners (except that he seemed too young to have lines in his face); high cheekbones and a jaw so chiselled it was downright stereotypical. He dusted fresh snow off his broad shoulders—was it snowing again?—then turned a blindingly white smile on me that made me go weak at the knees.
“Hi!” he said in a sonorous baritone, “I hear this is the place to get rings?”
“I, um, uh,” I stuttered, my mouth dry. Then I pulled myself together and pointed at Joe. “Mr. Engelhard is the one to ask. I don’t, uh, belong here.”
“Ah. That, I find hard to believe. This is a place for beauty.” The man gave me another dazzling smile.
“What can I do for you?” Joe put in.
I beat a retreat. What had come over me, going weak at the knees like that, staring at this guy? I’d seen handsome men before… But there was something about this one, something that drew me… Who was this man?
To be continued…