A couple of hours later, Sam and Anna left. Bonnie shook her fur very firmly and jumped into the car with a look of relief on her face.
“Good girl, Bon Bon,” Anna said, “you were so patient.”
“She’s remarkable,” Sam said. “She has put up with being hugged and kissed and mauled about. I can see how relieved she is to leave. So how does she put up with it?”
“Honestly, Sam, I don’t know. She just always has. She is a certificated PAT dog, but that doesn’t explain it either. Florence, used to be just the same. My best guess is that they somehow know those people can’t help it, so they adjust.”
“Whatever it is, Bonnie is a brilliant dog. Now where are we going?”
“To buy me that kick-ass dress I mentioned.”
The boutique was a small, narrow shop, half-hidden in Brighton’s rambling lanes. The shop owner obviously knew Anna and Bonnie well, greeting them both with affection. “And who do we have here?”
“Mine,” Anna said laughingly.
“Well keep a tight hold on him. Now what can I do for you today?”
“I need a kick-ass dress for a big bash.”
“How kick ass?”
“Right up there.”
“I got three real belters in your size. You want to try them and let mister sexy have a say?”
“That’s about the size of it.”
The first dress was vintage, bronze-gold velvet. Sam hated it and said so. Number two was apricot silk jersey. Sam liked it better, but wasn’t knocked out. Anna shrugged and went back for number three. When she emerged from the changing room, Sam let out a low whistle. Anna stood before him in a skin-tight deceptively simple sheath of grey fabric shot with rainbow shades. Whenever Anna moved, a thread of colour picked up the light. He was stunned.
“That’s it princess. That’s kick-ass if ever I saw it.”
“I thought so too. I’ve got some dangly earrings, so jewellery is covered. Gotta get shoes, though.”
Shoes came from another shop in the Lanes; skinny strapped sandals with toothpick heels.
“My feet are going to hate you, Sam. I’ll be expecting a foot rub at the end of the evening.”
“That’s a deal, and those shoes are so sexy that I can promise more than your feet getting rubbed.”
She snickered wickedly.
“Now. What about you?”
“Got a monkey suit. Clean too. Still in the cleaner’s bag from the last time. Got shoes. Might need a new silly shirt. Think the old one is a bit crap.”
“Well. We’ll get that too. And a new bow tie. A proper one.”
“Shit Anna. I can’t tie one of those things.”
“Oh well. In that case.”
They finished their shopping happily and were just meandering back to the car when Sam stopped suddenly. He stood stock still in front of the window of a tiny jeweller’s shop.
“Look at what?”
He pointed to a ring box in the corner of the window.
“Oh,” Anna said softly, “how lovely”.
“I thought so too. Let’s go see if it’s your size.”
He grabbed her unresisting hand and towed her into the shop with Bonnie at her heels.
“Can we see the emerald and diamond ring in the window please?”
The man got up from behind the counter and unlocked the window.
“No. The one in the red leather box.”
“Ah yes. That’s exquisite. But it is rather expensive.”
“Let’s see if it fits the lady before we talk money,” Sam said firmly.
The square-cut emerald was flanked with blue-white baguette-cut diamonds, and the ring slid onto Anna’s finger as if it had been made for her.
“Like it?” Sam asked tenderly.
“Love it. But it’s a lot of money…”
“So? You can’t have a cheap engagement ring.”
Anna couldn’t speak, so she just blinked and nodded her head. Sam turned to the shopkeeper.
“I think the lady likes it. We’ll take it.”
The jeweller’s face was wreathed in smiles.
“I have a particular fondness for that ring, and it looks as if it was made for your fiancée. It’s early twentieth century and was pretty battered when I bought it. I spent many hours restoring it. If it’s your engagement ring, I’ll throw in the matching wedding ring as part of the deal. It’s platinum too, set with diamond chips, and carved to match the shoulders of the engagement ring. How will you be paying?”
“Debit card all right?”
While Sam and the jeweller did business, Anna stood looking at the lovely ring on her hand. Then she bent and showed it to Bonnie, who wagged approvingly.
“I think this means you and me will be marrying Sam. Do you approve?” she whispered into one soft, black ear. Bonnie flattened those ears and wagged harder. Anna hugged her dog, too happy to be sensible. When she came back to herself, Sam had finished his business with the jeweller and was smiling down at her.
“Come on lovely, we’re cluttering up the nice man’s shop.”
He held out his hand and Anna put her own in it.
They left the shop handfast, clutching multiple shopping bags, and followed by a happy-looking black dog. The jeweller shook his head and smiled.
“Stupid with happiness,” he remarked to nobody in particular, “I wish them well.”
When they got back to the car, Sam stowed the bags and belted Bonnie into the back seat. Anna, still in a happy daze, just stood staring at the emerald as it winked green fire at her. Sam scooped her into the passenger seat and got behind the wheel.
“Now,” he said on a laugh, “you do realise you just promised to marry me, don’t you?”
“I guess I did. But it’s OK, Bonnie approves.”
He laughed, then leaned over to kiss his lady love.
“I ought to ask you properly, though. I love you, will you please marry me?”
“I love you back much harder, and of course I’ll marry you.”
“Good. Now direct me to the Lamb and Flag.”
“Not simple. I’d better drive. I just need to moon over being engaged to you for another five minutes, then I’ll be OK.”
In the end, they both mooned, entranced by the beauty of the ring and the sweet promise of a life together. They were brought back to earth by Bonnie’s wet, warm tongue. Sam laughed until he nearly cried.
“That’s us told. We’ve done sentimental for long enough.”
“We have,” Anna grinned appreciatively at him. “Let’s go book in and take little miss impatience for a good walk.”
The rest of the weekend passed happily. They ate an excellent dinner in the Lamb and Flag’s cozy dining room, where Sam and Ted discovered they had more in common than affection for Anna. In the end she sat back and listened to their banter, learning things about both men she hadn’t thought too much about before: Sam’s year working with Medecins sans Frontiers; Ted’s gap year working in a school in China; Sam’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Monty Python; Ted’s ability to do Margaret Thatcher’s voice; and a whole lot more.
The next morning, Sam and Anna drove to Ted’s house where Anna’s car awaited them, ready packed with her stuff. Sam whistled appreciatively when he saw the black Range Rover.
“That makes the Audi look a bit sick.”
“Yeah, but so would Little Noddy’s car.”
He made a grab for her, and they wound up chasing around the Audi with Bonnie capering beside them. Ted stood in his doorway laughing out loud.
“You are so good for her,” he said to Sam, “the dignified and rather sad Miss Marshall seems to be a person of the past.”
“Thanks, Ted,” Anna snorted.
“Get along with you,” he grinned. “Go home. Drive safely.”
They loaded Bonnie back into the Audi with Sam driving, Anna took the wheel of the stately Range Rover, and they went home.