After a very sleepless night, I decided to call the whole thing off. Call me a coward, but I had had time to think things through, and that morning, after I showered and dressed, I called the man I had met at the deserted cafe` the other day. I told him I had changed my mind but that he could keep the retainer. He seemed to find this suited him as much as it did me. We ended the association amicably.
I would have to deal with Delilah on my own. She was no longer engaged to Stan, and I very much doubted that she would consider a reconciliation. Stan’s attitude toward her had become frigid since he had learned the truth, and that she had only used him to get to me.
Geoffrey kept dropping by so I surmised that he and my half-sister were an item. For some strange reason, I do not think Stan even cared. I was reluctant to approach him about his broken engagement, and so I determined I should return the ring to him today. Get it over with, I told myself.
Going into the butler’s pantry, I closed the door behind me, opened the wall safe, removed the ring and made sure my brooch was still inside. Mine! It felt right to refer to it as mine. I wondered what special occasion would prompt me to wear this wonderful piece of historic jewelry.
Returning to my room, I picked up Stan’s wallet that I had found yesterday and placed the engagement ring inside. Going to my desk I removed a thick cream colored envelope from the top drawer. Sitting down I wrote a note on matching stationery, and when I had finished, I wrapped the wallet and ring together. Opening the envelope wide, I placed these items inside and sealed it shut.
Using the house phone I called and asked the driver to bring the car around. Then I went downstairs and slipped out the front door. Once settled in the car, I instructed the driver to take me to Stan’s house. He lived downtown in the affluent Pearl District. When the driver pulled up before the brownstone, I got out and climbed the steep stairs.
I rapped on the door using the brass knocker. When that brought no response, I slipped the envelope through the letter slot. It was a French antique that Stan’s parents had brought back from one of their trips to Paris. I allowed myself to dream of Stan and me in Paris one day. Almost at once, the door flew open and who was there? Stan! He was holding the envelope and staring straight down at me.
“I was hoping that was you at the door.” He went on, ” I called the house and Delilah said you had taken the car out. Won’t you come in?” he asked.
Caught unawares, I made motioning gestures toward the driver and back to myself. My mouth simply didn’t want to work, so instead I nodded my head in agreement. He waved to the driver indicating that he would bring me home later. I watched as the car pulled away from the curb, traveled down the street and stopped at the red light.
I followed Stan inside, walking past the tank full of exotic fish. They all seemed to swim toward me and then follow me down the hallway. I looked back to see their little faces staring after me. Turning away so I could watch where I was going, I felt Stan take my elbow and escort me to the plush dark green velvet sofa.
After I had taken my seat, Stan opened the envelope and removed the contents. He glanced at the letter, looked at the wallet and then opened it to remove the ring he had given Delilah, only two weeks before. Looking a little sheepish he admitted, “I cannot pretend that I am sad she called off the wedding. We would never have suited, even had there been a child.” He walked toward the crackling fire to stand, his back toward me. “Are you glad I won’t be marrying your sister, Constance?” He asked quietly.
I looked down at the thickly carpeted floor. My hands were folded in my lap and I was determined not to fidget. My answer seemed to surprise him, “I hated that she lied to you and used us both so disgracefully. No, I am quite happy you are not to become my brother-in-law.” The emphatic delivery of my words had him closing the distance between us, and without so much as a by-your-leave, he began kissing me soundly. Very soundly indeed.