Stepping Back – It’s Official!

It was a short but very happy drive down to the Square; they waited patiently while Lou served some customers and tried to avoid holding hands or showing any signs of affection.

“Hello you two.” said Lou.  “I understand that you are ‘on leave’ Mark because of false complaints made against you.  You look remarkably cheerful under the circumstances.”

“We have some other news for you; much better news.”

Rachel looked over at Mark and took a deep breath. “How do you feel about me actually becoming a real member of the family Lou?”

Lou shrieked. “Are you two – are you really, truly an item now?”

Mark nodded. “Mrs K was a little disapproving when she found us sharing a bedroom this morning, but changed her mind when I announced that I wanted to make an honest woman of Rachel.  She has given us till midday to break the news to you, before it goes public.  In the meantime, we are off to find an engagement ring.  Any ideas Lou?”

“I’m too gobsmacked to think.  Oh Rachel, I am so happy I could skip round the Square!  There’s Ben! Call him over, you have to tell him too.  He’ll be over the moon. Go on Mark, go and get him.”

Rachel took Lou’s hands. “While you are being ecstatic there is something that I need to ask you about.  Pete’s funeral. I know it’s painful but the girls need to have a way of saying good bye, and so do many of the Villagers who knew him.  I will always be grateful that you let me help out with your Mum all those years ago, and now that I know she was Mark’s Mum too, it means even more to me.  Mark and I talked about it yesterday, and we want to pay for the funeral and organise it – if you’ll let us.  This is not something you need to go through on your own, and once it’s over and done with we can get on with happier events.”

“Like?”

“Well, I guess we should have an engagement party, and maybe, a wedding?  What do you think?”

“You’ve chosen the right day to drop this on me.  I suppose I do owe it to the girls to give Pete a good send-off.”

“Splendid.  According to Mrs K, you being a widow woman makes you even more attractive to Dr Hussein.”

“Did she really say that?”

“She did, and who knows better than Mrs K?”

Mark and Ben appeared in the tea shop doorway.  Ben swept Rachel up in a huge bear hug. “Rachel!  You shameless hussy!  You’ve gone and stolen the lovely Marky from underneath my very nose!  I take it that Mrs K hasn’t started up the Village semaphore yet?”

“She gave us till midday; after that, the whole world will know.” said Rachel managing to detach herself.

“We need your help though, Ben.” said Lou.  “Where can they buy an engagement ring?”

“Nothing flash or expensive.” said Rachel as Mark took her hand in his.  “Perhaps something antique?”

“You need look no further than my friend across the water.  He has some exquisite jewellery as well as those gorgeous dresses, one of which you just happen to be wearing today. It suits you.”

“One other thing Ben.  Who can we go to about Pete’s funeral?  Mark and I will be helping Lou and the girls, but I’ve no idea where to start.”

“I am your fairy godmother indeed!  I know a lovely couple of chaps who live up the road and run their own funeral service; cars, flowers, organising the service, and if you don’t want a religious do, one of them is a humanist celebrant.  Shall I give them a call and ask them to contact you, Lou?”

“Sounds good Ben, but I’d rather they dealt with Mark and Rachel for now.” Lou was looking rather overwhelmed by the whole situation, coupled with the fact that the early lunch hour crowd was heading towards the tea shop.

“We’ll leave you in peace Sis.” said Mark as he kissed Lou goodbye.   “I’m going to carry Rachel off on the little pink ferry to see if we can find a suitable ring on the other side of the river.  We’ll be back before closing. Concentrate on sarnies and cupcakes; everything will sort itself out.”

Mark took Rachel’s hand and followed Ben outside into the Square, where he was busy spreading their good news.  After numerous congratulations, they went down to the Quayside and took their places on the little pink ferry.  It was something that Rachel had been promising herself since she had arrived months ago, and she felt quite moved that Mark had remembered how much she wanted to make the short trip across the river. The boat trip was every bit as sweet as she had remembered; being able to look back at the Village and see the Marina in the sunlight, was just another memorable aspect of the day.  Mark sat with his arm around her, and looked every bit as happy as she felt.  The shop wasn’t far from the ferry dock, and Ben had already been on the phone to his friend, who greeted them with enthusiasm, as well as asking Rachel to do a quick twirl in her new dress.  He pulled chairs out for them both in the shop, and after passing over a tray of rings, went into store room, and brought out a bottle of champagne and three glasses.

Rachel saw the ring straight away; a tiny diamond set in gold, surrounded by eight petal shaped sapphires. Gingerly, she took it from the tray and tried it on, anxious in case it was too big, or too small.  Just like Cinderella, it fitted as if it had been made for her.  Mark smiled and raised her hand to his lips.  Rachel gulped, and Ben’s friend handed her a tissue and a hastily poured glass of champagne.

Mark took the ring off her finger and knelt down. “I ought to do this properly.  Rachel, I love you more than I ever thought possible.  Will you marry me?”

“Yes! Oh Mark! Oh!  Is the ring very expensive?”

“It’s the right ring for us, so the cost doesn’t matter.”

Mark handed his credit card over, paid and pocketed the contents of a small blue velvet box as well.  He had a feeling that now the ring was on Rachel’s finger, nothing would remove it.  She sat staring at it and absent-mindedly sipping her champagne while the transaction was taking place. 

An engagement ring!  

Something she knew Sam would ever have entertained, and looking over at Mark, who was smiling happily, Rachel was glad that the subject had never arisen, and that she had made the right choice in the end. The pink ferry was getting ready to leave just as they got to the dock, and the journey back to the Village was even more magical.  Rachel kept looking at her hand, and at the blue and white stones echoing the bright blue of Mark’s eyes and the colours of the river around them. It was definitely the right ring.

“Tell me honestly Mark, was it very expensive?”

“Honestly. No.  The only other experience I had of buying an engagement ring was Sorrel’s.  She insisted on having it made from Cornish gold by a friend of hers.  It was abstract and ugly, cost me an arm and several legs, and I never liked it. The wedding rings were even worse.  It was a good job that I didn’t have to wear mine when I was working.  This ring is you.  It suits you and if I’d looked at the tray first, this is the ring I would have chosen for you.  True blue of the sea and the river, and an absolute diamond to all those who love you.  Pretty scary to those who don’t, though.”

He kissed her in a very thorough way that made her shiver and feel relieved that they were the only people on the ferry apart from the captain, who very discreetly kept his back to them and his eyes on the river.

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