The ring on Teresa’s finger sparkled as she held out her right hand to show her best friends, Leticia and El. “What do you think?”
“Oh honey, that is gorgeous,” said Leticia.
Teresa smiled and pointed out the two small diamonds on either side of the center sapphire stone. “This was his great-grandmother’s engagement ring.” She moved her hand around so her friends could see the old-fashioned setting. “I’d much rather have this than a new ring. It means so much more to me.” Teresa beamed. The blue of her dress enhanced the sparkling ring on her finger.
“To Teresa and Jordan,” said Leticia holding up her martini glass. “To Teresa and Jordan,” agreed El lifting her glass filled with
tonight’s special, a Bourbon Lemon Drop martini. The sweet and sour taste was just what El needed for this occasion.
When Teresa had called Cinderella Casey, whom almost everyone called El, two days earlier on Sunday morning with the news that Jordan had proposed, El was genuinely excited for her friend. She listened as Teresa explained how he had surprised her with the ring.
El’s excitement lasted until she got off the phone. She was happy for her friend, really she was. Teresa had struggled after her last relationship had ended when her boyfriend surprised her by saying he needed more “space” after almost four years.
El wanted the best for her friend, but this engagement also made her a little sad. What about her? Where was her ring?
It’s not that El wanted to get married soon, but she did want to be with someone special. It had been six months since she’d broken up with Derek, after he had assumed she’d be thrilled to give up her career
and her life and run off to Asia where he was working. The thought of it still angered her. But the fact was that even thinking about going online to meet someone was also a painful thought. She sighed and unconsciously twisted her auburn hair around her index finger.
The rest of her life was going well. She had gotten a promotion at her company, and she finally felt like she was seen and respected. And while the new job was challenging, she felt great about it. The additional money made the monthly bills much easier to handle, and she didn’t feel as stressed. She stroked Mr. Fluffy, who sat beside her on the living room sofa. There was just one thing missing: she wanted to share her success with someone besides her best friends.
Two days later, at happy hour at the martini bar, El’s excitement had returned and she happily toasted Teresa, who looked radiant. Her long brown braid hung past her waist and swung back and forth as she shook her head while laughing.
“Now, what exactly happened on Saturday night? I want to hear it all from the beginning. I could barely understand you when you called with all that screaming,” Leticia teased her friend.
“Excuse me, I was not screaming. That was just my happy voice…” “Your loud happy voice,” said El.
Teresa laughed. “Okay, maybe. Maybe I was a little loud. But come on…” She wiggled her fingers. “Look at what I’m happy about. I couldn’t help it!” Teresa grinned. “Oooh, he was soooo cute.”
“Tell us, tell us,” said Leticia. Her short dark hair was cut into a wavy cap, accentuating her high cheekbones and almond-shaped brown eyes. Her grey striped suit was simple and elegant and was paired with a cream silk blouse and plain black heels. El had joked when Leticia arrived at the restaurant that she looked “appropriately lawyerly.”
“Wait. Before you tell us, let’s order food. Without a rumbly tummy, I can better concentrate on the happy couple,” El joked, looking down at the menu. She was clothed in an emerald dress today, one that accentuated her green eyes.
Teresa looked as though she was going to complain, but smiled at the last part of the comment. “How about some bruschetta? I really like the fig and pear.”
“Sounds good. Let’s add some roasted peppers and goat cheese,” said Leticia. “What about you, El?”
“Prosciutto for me,” El said, silently acknowledging to herself that she had ordered something that the vegetarian Teresa would not eat. She wondered if her choice was ornery, then decided it was more about what she wanted.
Leticia waved at the waitress and gave their order. Then she turned to Teresa and held up her drink. “Details. All of them.”
Teresa giggled. “Okay, okay. So I told you that he took me to the restaurant that we like to go, the one that his friend’s family owns. He seemed kind of nervous, but I wasn’t really thinking about it because I’d had a tough day at work and I was telling him all about it. Oh, and we sat all the way in the back, sort of out of the way. I even made a joke about it.” She took a sip of her drink and smiled again. “So he was just really sweet that night. And he was listening to my complaints and we had our hands on the table, and he was holding my hand like he normally does and sort of stroking my fingers.” She paused for a minute and took a deep breath like she was remembering. “And he said some sweet things about what a wonderful time he has with me and I thought it was funny to say that then but really nice to hear. And after we finished the entrees, they cleared them away and we were waiting for the dessert menu. It seemed like it was taking a long time and his friend was there that night because he works there sometimes and he seemed to be looking over at us a lot, but I didn’t really think about it at the time.” She took another breath.
“Go on…” said Leticia with a big smile.
“Okay, so then he sort of dropped his napkin and he stood up to get it, which I should have thought was strange, but I wasn’t thinking about it at all. And then suddenly I realized that he was on one knee. And he said ‘Teresa’ in a really serious voice and I looked at him and it still didn’t register. Then I realized that he had a ring box in his hand. He told me that the last few months were the best of his life and he felt so lucky that he had met me.” She blinked a few times as if to hold back tears. Her voice got lower and she said, “And then he said he couldn’t imagine his life without me and ‘Teresa, will you marry so we can spend our lives together?’” She paused again.
“Whoooh! So awesome!” said El.
“I was in shock and realized that the whole restaurant had gotten really quiet and I said ‘yes, yes, yes’ and went to get down to kiss him as him as he was getting up and we kind of bumped into each other and started laughing. Then he gave me a big kiss. And it seemed like everyone in the restaurant was clapping and his friend was there standing by him and clapping, too.” She paused again, her eyes wide. “It was so crazy. Oh and then they brought a special dessert that said ‘congratulations’ on it. He had planned it all in advance.”
“And the ring?” prompted Leticia.
“Oh right, right. I hadn’t even really seen the ring. So he took it out of the box and slipped it on my finger and then told me that it was his great-grandmother Cecily’s ring.” She stretched out her hand to show it off again.
“It’s gorgeous,” admired El. “How did he know it would fit?”
Teresa shook her head and laughed. “He didn’t.” She turned her hand over and showed the back of the ring which had some tape wrapped around it. “He was soooo worried about that but he wasn’t sure how to find out my ring size so he decided to take a chance. He was really afraid that it would be too small and then I’d have to wear it on my pinky until I could get it adjusted. I’m going to have to take it to a jeweler to get it resized.”
El shook her head. “And you had no idea?”
Teresa’s eyes got big. “No, not at all! I was shocked! I didn’t expect it. I mean we’ve only been dating for six months. This was such a surprise.” She smiled again.
Leticia exchanged a look with El. “Yeah, about that. I am so happy for you. I think Jordan is great.” She picked her words carefully. “It does seem a little, uh, fast. I just want to make sure you’re really happy.”
Teresa tipped her head to the side. “I know. But when it’s right, it’s right. I know he’s the guy for me. And I have you ladies to thank for that.”
Leticia laughed. El thought back to the night when Teresa told them that she had met Jordan at her cousin’s wedding but was too nervous to call or text him even though he had put his number in her phone. They made her text him while they were out at happy hour the week after the
wedding, and they forced Teresa to ask him out for dinner and dancing, her two favorite things to do on a date.
“Good thing we made you do something instead of just waiting around for him to call,” said El.
“Thank you. You were so right.” She raised her glass. “To my friends. You are the best.”
The truth was El didn’t feel like she was the best. She and Leticia had been on the phone the night before questioning if Teresa was moving too quickly. They liked Jordan and compared to anyone that Teresa had dated before, he was certainly the best match for her. Jordan had fit into their circle as easily as El’s brother Jack did, though he lacked Jack’s sharp wit and easy-going attitude. Jordan was friendly and quick to offer a hand, an ear, or even dating advice the one time they asked him; he was kind of like a male version of Teresa. Plus it was obvious how much he adored her. But El had dated Derek for almost two years before realizing he cared more about his career and money than about her. She would hate for Teresa to find a different side of Jordan AFTER they married, but when she said this to Leticia, Leticia said, “Girl, Derek was that way from day one. You just didn’t want to see it.”
Ouch, El thought, but she silently acknowledged Leticia was correct. His parents had even joked upon meeting her that Derek was probably attracted to her because of her almost emerald eyes, Derek’s favorite color since preschool when he understood green was the color of American currency.
Leticia interrupted her thoughts by saying, “I just don’t understand what the rush is.” Leticia was intentionally uncoupled. During the past six months she had had a very steamy thirty-six hour date with Jackson Troy Huber III, a Taye Diggs’ look-a-like, who wanted to make them into a regular thing, but whom Leticia said no to more often than she said yes…and yet he still kept trying. And she had four other dates, but she was most loyal to her lawyering and her friends.
El’s brother Jack had joked with Leticia that if the guys presented her with legal briefs instead of boxer briefs, she’d show more long- term interest.
El had completely been on board the Teresa and Jordan dating train,
even though Jordan gushed through John Legend’s “All of Me” to Teresa at a karaoke bar one night. Teresa thought it was the most romantic thing ever to be singled out of the crowded bar with the popular love song about appreciating one’s partner’s imperfections as well as the perfections. But El and Leticia caught each other’s eyes behind Teresa’s back and feigned barfing, and then ordered double Bacardi shots, downed them, and led the bar in a sing-along for the last refrain on stage with Jordan.
After he and Teresa kissed and the whole bar cheered, Leticia grabbed the mike and belted out Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” as her own inner protest against giving herself over to love and a man. A few women in the bar did throw their hands up when asked who identified as independent and which honeys made money, but many didn’t react. El thought that was because most of them looked like they were either on dates or trolling for a hook up.
When Leticia climbed down from the stage, half a dozen guys approached her, offering to buy her drinks. One impeccably tailored, six-foot something guy with a slightly South African accent offered Leticia a “Mercedes SL convertible or any other Mercedes” she wanted if only she’d go home with him that night.
Leticia laughed and said, “Didn’t you listen to the song? ‘The car I’m driving, I bought it.’ I don’t need another. Thank you.” And then she offered to buy him another of whatever he was drinking.
El, a tad drunk from that double shot, watched the scene with awe and wonder. Would she ever be as smooth with strange men as Leticia was…Though the more she thought about it, Leticia was smooth with everyone. El made a mental note that she hoped she’d remember to ask Leticia the next day how she did it.
EL’S LITERATURE REVIEW READING LIST (resources for readers discussed in book):
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Catering to Nobody (Goldy Schulz Book 1) by Diane Mott Davidson
I Need Your Love—Is That True? How To Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead by Byron Katie and Michael Katz
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Talking From 9 to 5: Women and Men At Work by Deborah Tannen
That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversation Style Makes or Breaks Relationships by Deborah Tannen
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
You are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation by Deborah Tannen