“An engagement ring is hidden somewhere in the apartment,” said Bob. “See if you can find it before everyone arrives.”
Envy put her purse on the counter. “What?” she said.
Bob was hanging their jackets in the closet near the front door. He turned and smiled at her. “Surprised?”
“We never talked about this, not even remotely,” said Envy.
“No, and it’s time we did. Don’t you want to marry me?”
“I never thought about it for a moment,” said Envy.
“So now you are thinking about it.”
“You can do better, you said so on our first date.”
Bob joined her at the black granite topped kitchen island. “I did say that. It was awhile ago and I’m sorry I upset you, I already apologized.”
“But you don’t deny it!”
“You are unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I love you. Please marry me and be my wife.”
At least he’d learned, since they started dating, to not always offer his Radical Honesty unsolicited. That was something, surely. He was, except for his inflexible, uncomfortable bluntness, an impressive package. Handsome, fit, smart, well-read, funny, strange— Envy liked interesting people. But how did this happen?
“What makes you think I want to marry you?” she asked.
“We have fun, the sex is unique, you’ve indicated you care deeply and I’ve just told you how I feel,” said Bob. “You like marriage. You love loving and being loved.” He got two bowls from a cupboard, and bags of chips and nuts from the kitchen pantry. “I think I have some smoked salmon, somewhere…”
“–lied and cheated and tried to kill you, blah blah, I know,” said Bob.
“You had good times, sometimes.”
Envy considered getting her coat and simply leaving, never mind the impromptu after-dinner party she and Bob had initiated. She watched him overfill the snack bowls. Chex Mix littered the counter and spilled onto the floor.
“Envy, you don’t think you are pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to be happy and loved. I think you are.”
She had always, always harboured a suspicion that Bob didn’t really, all the time, tell the honest truth, that he was sometimes the opportunist, that he was not averse to a sweet lie that might forward his agenda, though his agenda was never revealed. She felt her distrust wash over over her in a wave.
“Pumpernickel or melba toast to go with the salmon?” Bob asked.
“My parents don’t like you,” said Envy.
“I’m not all that thrilled with them.”
Envy was shaken; she went to the fridge and pulled out the ubiquitous chilled white wine; then to the cupboard above the dishwasher where he kept his stemmed glasses. In one of the glasses, something caught the light.
“I knew it wouldn’t take you long to find it,” said Bob.
It was a wide band of gold with three inlaid rubies.
“I’m against diamond mining,” he said.
“I know,” said Envy. It slipped comfortably onto her ring finger. “If someone else had found it, would you have been engaged to them?”
“I guess so,” said Bob. “Unless it was that lame-brained brother of yours.”
The phone buzzed, and Bob picked up and listened. “Speak of the devil,” he said to Envy as he pressed the button under the receiver. “They’re here, and so are Stuart and Greg.”
“I don’t know if you truly love me,” said Envy.
“Forget about me,” said Bob. “How do you feel?”
Envy rinsed the glass that held the ring, then filled it with wine. She ate a salted Cheerio and took a long sip. Someone pounded on the apartment door; Cash, probably. He really could be lame-brained sometimes. Bob ignored the noise and waited.
“I don’t know,” said Envy. “But I’m keeping the ring.”
Bob laughed, and opened the door.