* * * * * * * * * *
In the morning, Cherilyn got up, showered and dressed. She was supposed to be away on her honeymoon, and the job wasn’t expecting her for a week, so she could throw on anything to run to FedEx Office, but no one would catch her out in sweats and a t-shirt. She put on a casual linen Capri outfit, sandals and clasped the necklace Nick had given her around her neck. Being her size, she was a stickler for always looking a neat and fashionable as possible. Giving her appearance a final check in the mirror, she rested a hand over the brilliant diamond pendant, which looked stunning against the white fabric, smiled at her reflection and headed out to handle the task at hand.
Before she even got to her destination, her phone pinged with an angry text from Derrick. I know Nick came to see you. Send the ring back. D.
Her emotions churned as she stared at the words on the screen. He had every right to be angry. She’d handled this whole mess totally wrong. If she had only responded to Nick’s messages all those months, she could’ve worked it out before she and Derrick started making wedding plans. They had only been together for three months before he’d proposed, and he’d been so insistent about getting married right away. Nick’s rejection had bruised her heart so badly she’d accepted Derrick’s proposal based more on how much Nick had hurt her than how much she loved Derrick. If she’d ever really loved him at all. She respected and admired him, but that wasn’t enough on which to base a marriage. Was it?
There was no need to try to explain anything to him. She typed, Sending 2 yr office 2day by FedEx. I’m so sorry. C.
A little while later, her phone rang. “Good morning. Are you okay?” Nick asked in a hoarse voice, sounding as though he hadn’t slept much last night.
“Good morning. I’m okay. Derrick just texted me that he wants his ring back, so I’m on my way to overnight it to him. I need to talk to him about the wedding expenses, since we were counting on cash gifts to help out with that.” She sighed. “What do you think I should do?”
“I’m supposed to get off at six tonight. Let’s wait until then to talk about it. I can meet you somewhere to grab a bite to eat.”
“I don’t want to run into anyone we know, Nick. Not yet. I’m not ready to face people and their questions.”
“We can go someplace out of the way. I know lots of those.” He gave a cynical chuckle. “A burger and fries is about all I can afford anyway.”
“I’m not. Meet me at the Vortex in Little Five Points at six-thirty. I don’t think you’ll see anybody you know there, and they have great burgers. If it looks like I’m going to be late, I’ll call you by six.”
“Cher? I went to sleep last night thinking what a lucky man I am. I won’t blow it this time.”
“You’d better not. God don’t like ugly. Goodbye, Nick.”
The sound of his laughter on the other end made her smile. “Goodbye.”
The stop at FedEx Office didn’t take much time. She had to sign a special contract declaring a high-value jewelry item. Before she left the house, she’d looked up the current value of a three-carat platinum ring. Since she wasn’t sure how much Derrick had paid for the ring, she declared the value to be fifteen thousand. Cher hesitated before handing it to the attendant behind the counter then took a deep breath and left the building with a sense of relief that the whole situation was over. Maybe now she could get on with her life.
With no idea what she was going to do with her day, she called Mika. “Hey, girl. What are you doing?”
“I’m working. What do you think?”
“Right,” Cher shook her head. “I’m sorry. Can you talk for a minute?”
“Sure. How are you?”
“I don’t know.” She brought her best friend up to speed on Nick’s visit and Derrick’s text. “I just sent the ring back to him.”
“Ooh, that must’ve hurt. It was a spectacular ring. So, what are you up to today?”
“Considering I was supposed to be on Grand Cayman right now, anything I do will be a letdown.”
Mika snickered. “You really wanted to go to Paris anyway, but you let Derrick talk you into the islands.”
“He loves tropical locations.” Cher wondered why she was defending a decision that hadn’t thrilled her to begin with. She had been to the islands so many times with Mika and her girls, so it held no mystique for her.
“But Nick promised to take you where you want to go.”
“Who knows if we’ll ever get there.”
“You don’t believe him?”
“I believe he wants to, but Nick is so paranoid about money. I’m not sure he’ll ever believe he has enough to take a trip to Paris.”
“Right now maybe he doesn’t, but once he finishes his residency, he’ll be able to travel anywhere he wants.”
“Are you saying we should wait until then to get married? That’s years from now.”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. This is probably the first time in his life that he feels underprivileged. I’m sure his parents gave him money while he was in college. Now he’s employed, has to pay rent, car insurance, utilities and student loans.”
“I suppose, but he needs a reality check.”
“This is a reality check for him, Cher. Try to be understanding. It’s not his fault he was born with money.”
“He asked me to meet him for dinner tonight, and he thinks he can’t afford anything but burgers and fries. I have no problem eating burgers, but he’s being ridiculous.”
“Looks like you have your work cut out for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It appears that you’ll have to teach him how to live on a budget. If he’s never had to count his pennies, then you need to show him.”
“Hmm…” she pondered Mika’s words for a moment. “I can do that. God knows I was budgeting for years before I got this job. I guess I’ll be doing it again to help Derrick pay off the credit cards for wedding expenses. Thanks, girl. I’m going to get some coffee before I text him about the bills.”
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