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The jewellery box is tucked in the back of the drawer. I open it, and my fingers explore the shallow grooves delineating boundaries, and the gem that marks the spot. The pendant warms under the heat of my fingers. On this golden African map, Tanzanite, a rare blue gem, marks the position of Tanzania. As I rub my fingers over it, I drift back to the Zanzibar market where we bought it twenty years ago. The fragrance of spices filled the air, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves blending a scent so redolent of the place that to this day the scent of mixed spices takes me back there:  to the claustrophobic heat, the dust, swarming people in narrow alleys, the magic and the mystery of that exotic place, the hazy view of eyes in love. 

Sipping a cold glass of chardonnay, we sat at a cafe on the beach, while crystal waters tasted white sands. He gave me the oblong, blue velvet box. Nestled inside, the chain glinted gold in the bright sunlight, and the blue stone broke sunlight into shards. 

“O David, It's beautiful. I love it.”

“Do you want me to put it on for you?”


The metal felt pleasantly cool to the touch, a welcome contrast to the heat. David sat down to admire the effect.

“It looks great.”

I leaned across the table and kissed him. “Thank you.” 

I remember how happy we were and so much in love. We thought it would last forever. How young and foolish we were. I smile at the memories. After all, what is youth for, if not for folly? 

We’d returned from our tropical island paradise on a happy high. I was sure I’d found the one. I hoped he felt the same. We were inseparable. At family weddings, the dreaded question of every singleton turned from “so when is your turn dear?” to “So when are you and David going to tie the knot?” But he was taking his time in the asking. He’d been restless for a while, and I wished he’d get on with it.

He told me he was taking me to dinner at The Grand, and I knew this was It. I pulled out all the stops, lotions and potions, waxed and buffed, and knew I looked sensational, affirmed by his low wolf whistle, and covert glances from other men in the restaurant. I was so excited I barely noticed the table settings - silver sparkling in the candlelight- the warm lily scented air. I can’t even remember what we ate, although I remember it was beautifully presented. 

Then finally, anxiously shifting in his seat, he said “I wanted to talk to you about our future.” My heart leaped, and I had to control the urge to say yes, waiting for the question. But nothing could have prepared me for what came next. 

“I’ve joined the army.”

“What?” The world came to a crashing halt. The air grew thin. I couldn’t breathe.

“I’ve been dreading this. I didn’t know how to tell you. I wanted to tell you at Zanzibar, but I couldn’t find the right time.  It’s not forever – just a few years. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and well, I need to do it.  I love you, and I will come back for you.”

It took a while before I could form a coherent sentence. 

“I thought we were going to make a life together? I thought your interest in the army was just a hobby.  People get killed in the army!”

“My grandfather was a soldier, so was my dad. It’s in my bones. Please let me do this. 'I'll come back for you. Please wait for me.”

I'd railed at his choices, begged, pleaded, cajoled, bargained and finally threatened, but he was resolute. He'd discovered his purpose.  

I saw him off at the airport. I cried for weeks. At first, I wrote to him every day, waited desperately for him to reply. I savoured his texts and emails, then the infrequent letters when they shipped him to Afghanistan. I watched the news constantly, and any mention of Afghanistan, my world would stand still as I focussed, praying he was far away from the explosion.

Gradually, my tumultuous emotions settled. I re-entered life. I went out with my friends, became engrossed in work, accepting singleness.

Two summers later he returned, as promised. I was eager to see him. I had so much to tell him. On a rare sunny English summer day, we met at the fair that had camped on the green. He’d changed. He was taller, lean and muscled, and had a confidence that he’d lacked before.

“What was it like?” 

“How have you been?” we asked at the same time, slightly awkward, familiar yet strangers. 

“I missed you. You look wonderful,” he’d kissed me lightly on the cheek I offered.

“You look good too. It’s nice to see you.”

There was so much to tell him, so much to catch up on. It was hard to know where to begin. Enticed by the sweet smell of candy floss, we gave in to temptation, and wandered round the booths, eating spun sugar. 

We reached the target shoot, and he was eager to show off his sharpshooting skills.

“I'll win that teddy bear for you.” He pointed to a sweet grey teddy on the shelf. 

“Come on, these things are rigged. No one ever wins the big prizes.”

“I will,” he said, determination etched on his face, as he handed over his money

It took a while, but he did it. The woman in the booth smiled as she handed the bear over. “His name is Edward,” she told me

“Look in his pocket,” David urged. I felt inside the fur pocket and found the ring. The game had been rigged.

“I told you I’d come back for you.”

I stared at him, then looked at the ring. How could I tell him I’d met someone else? I'd come to the fair to end it. 


Denice is a freelance writer, who has a patchwork of jobs on Academic Research Projects. She lives in England with her husband, and kowtows to the six cats, who are their furry children. Follow her on twitter @denicepenrose or through her blog:


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