They cuddled for a few moments then Anna reached into the drawer in her bedside cabinet.
“I do have a thing for you. It’s not as special as my box, but I can’t make stuff like you.”
She handed him a small box wrapped in shiny silver paper with hearts on. He smiled into her eyes before opening it to find an elegant watch. He took it out of the box then stopped with his mouth agape.
“God Anna, it’s a bloody Rolex. You can’t go buying me Rolexes.”
“Could if I wanted to. But I didn’t buy it. It was my dad’s. He loved it more than any other possession he ever had. So I kept it. Now I want to share it with you.”
Sam put the watch back in its box and gathered Anna into his arms.
“Oh, love, that makes it so special.”
Her face glowed as she looked at him.
“You really do understand. Some guys wouldn’t be at all pleased to be given a secondhand watch.”
“Maybe, but that would be their loss. Some women wouldn’t be delighted by a wooden box. They might even throw it in a skip.”
“No. Sam. She didn’t!”
“She did. Carrie rescued it, so I told her to keep it.”
“Fucking bitch! Christina, I mean. I hope Tariq stripes her ass night and morning with a leather strap.”
“He probably will. And I find I couldn’t care less. I have all I want in the world right here.”
“Soft on me, aren’t you?”
Anna grinned wickedly.
“Will you please turn the watch over and look at the back.”
He did as she asked, to find tiny, neat engraving in an elegantly simple script. He read it out loud. ‘Sam from Anna on our wedding day. All the love in the world.‘
After a lot more kissing and a few tears of happiness, Sam looked at his wife-to-be.
“I reckon we’re soft on each other.”
They hugged again, then Anna sat up.
“You get your shower and I’ll go make bacon sandwiches.”
“I’m on it.”
By nine o’clock Sam, Anna, Bonnie, Danny and Paul were fed, and a rather battered Ford Focus drew up outside to disgorge Ben and Colin. Ben was as red-faced and hurried as ever if a bit unwilling to meet anyone’s eye, while Colin was at his campest and most waspish.
“What’s up with you two?” Anna demanded with her hands on her slender hips.
Ben mumbled something, and Colin looked fixedly at the sky.
“I asked Colin to marry me, and he said no.”
Anna turned to look at Colin.
“Oh. He only asked me because his oldest friend is getting married and he doesn’t want to be left out!”
Ben looked at his partner and huffed out a laugh.
“So that’s your problem is it?”
He got down on one knee in the gravel of the drive.
“Colin. I love you. Life without you would be pure misery. Please marry me so we can grow old and grumpy together.”
For a moment Colin’s reaction hung in the balance, then he grinned down at Ben.
“Are you sure?”
“Never been more sure of anything in my life.”
“Well OK then. Let’s get married.”
Ben leapt from the ground and grabbed Colin in a huge bear hug. Anna tugged her men indoors.
“Let’s give them a few minutes. I’m off to make myself beautiful.”
She climbed the stairs, leaving Paul and Sam to look at each other in amazement.
“How does she do that?” Sam exclaimed.
“Do what?” Danny laughed.
“Make people see sense so easily.”
Danny thought for a minute.
“I think it’s something in her eyes. It’s hard to hang on to a grievance when she looks at you with all that tolerant understanding. She had such a difficult childhood and adolescence, but instead of making her bitter and self pitying it just made her understand human frailty.”
“It did indeed. It’s among the five million reasons I love her so much.”
Then the door opened and Ben and Colin came in looking much happier. Colin was carrying a big white box and Ben held another.
“Where’s the bride?” Colin asked.
“Upstairs making herself beautiful.”
“Well this is for her. You’d better take it up Sam. She probably wouldn’t like me popping in if she’s not dressed.”
Sam took the box that was thrust at him and cantered upstairs to the master bedroom. Anna was half naked, and turned a questioning face to him.
“What love. I’m about to take a long shower.”
“Present from Colin and Ben.” He put the box on the bed and stood back.
Anna went over and opened it; her mouth formed a small o of delight. “Come see Sam.”
He looked into the box to see a bouquet of cream roses and orchids, plus a delicate wreath of the same flowers, obviously meant to go in the hair.
“I never thought of flowers,” he said a bit sadly.
“Me neither. I see Colin’s hand in this. Aren’t they lovely.”
“Indeed they are. But not as lovely as you.”
He grinned at her with an evil spark in the back of his eyes. “I think I’d better shoot off now, before I get any ideas.”
With that he was gone, and a laughing Anna began her preparations for her wedding.