Five Gold Rings
“Are you sure about this?” Cassie looked up into her boyfriend’s dark eyes. They had always reminded her of chocolate buttons, but she supposed this wasn’t the time to think of that. She had more important things to worry over.
“Stop worrying, Mom will be thrilled to meet you,” Josh said as he pushed open the door. “We’re here!” he bellowed along the beautifully decorated hallway. Dark evergreens adorned the white bannister, intermingled with glittery scarlet tinsel.
“They’re here!” Loud voices echoed as a door open and two children emerged in a fluster of noisy movement, accompanied by two identical long-haired dogs which barked in apparent excitement.
Said dogs and children, which looked alike to Cassie, threatened to bowl her over until Josh stepped forward with a hand held out.
“Stop!” he laughed, dropping to his knees and grabbing both children in a warm embrace, leaving Cassie to fend off the over-excited dogs.
“Charlie! Mattie! Behave yourselves!” A tall, elegant woman appeared in the hallway from the same doorway, her voice carrying easily but it didn’t seem to have the required effect as the two dogs knocked Cassie on to her rear. Large, wet tongues covered every inch they could find, causing Cassie to giggle until she realized that the tall, elegant woman stood over her with an unamused look on her face. “Charlie, Mattie, go outside!” She pointed a long finger into the direction the two dogs had emerged from and she waited silently until they slunk aware with barely a wag between their tails.
“Cassie, you are okay? They can be a little mad when they’re excited.” Josh held out his hand to brush thick fur from the length of her new black trousers – the ones she’d saved up for and bought especially for today. The ones now covered in dog fur.
“Please accept my apologies.” Josh’s mom stood back, appraising the woman lying on the plush carpet at her feet. “Josh knows better than to let the puppies loose on strangers.” She nodded once before retreating back the way she came, clicking her fingers at the children who then followed like little sheep.
“They were puppies?” Cassie giggled like a naughty child, accepting the hand held out to help her up.
“They’re baby mammoths,” Josh chuckled. “Who knows how big they’re going to get.”
“And that’s your mom?” Cassie’s laughter faded under the thought of how evident it was that the woman had taken one look and instantly disliked her. Wasn’t that the story of her life?
“She came over a little harsh,” Josh said with a little shrug. “She’ll love you when she gets to know you, promise.” Cassie didn’t answer. She had already worked it out. “Come on, honey. You need a strong coffee after that welcome.”
She followed her boyfriend into a warm, bright kitchen with sunny yellow walls and cream cabinets. This was a kitchen to die for. One day, she would have a kitchen this big and well-equipped. Right now, her entire apartment would fit into this room with enough space to fit a car in too.
She sighed as a huge smile curved her lips – the food she could prepare in here. She couldn’t hide her looks of admiration.
“I told you she’d love it,” Josh addressed a man perched on a black stool and leaning on the top of the breakfast bar. “Cass, this is my dad, Jack. Dad, meet the most beautiful woman on the planet.”
“Cassie, it’s very nice to meet you although I have to protest about the most beautiful woman part. Josh’s mom wouldn’t take kindly to me agreeing with him although my son has very good taste. Coffee..?” Jack stood up, a hand held out to her and she accepted without hesitation. He looked like Joshua, or how he’d look in later years and it was a look Cassie appreciated. The touch of silver around his temples made him look, dare she say it, very sexy.
One cup of strong black coffee later and Cassie had begun to feel at her ease. Jack was as easy to talk to as Josh and the feel of inadequacy faded until Josh’s mom reappeared in the kitchen.
“Here you all are,” she said, with a cursory look over the half empty coffee mug and the small pile of cookie crumbs laying claim to how many Cassie had gobbled down. It had been a long journey and she’d eagerly accepted any food offered. “Josh explained that you both have to dash back to college tonight,” she said with a tone which said that she didn’t quite believe it.
“I told you that Cassie has a job, and with it being so close to Christmas, the restaurant is fully booked,” Josh said quickly as though he’d just thought it up. Even to Cassie’s ears, it sounded like a lie.
“You’re a chef?” Jack asked with evident interest as he nodded as though he now understood her reaction to the kitchen he’d designed.
“I’m just a cook,” she admitted, her face growing red. “But, one day, I’d like my own restaurant.”
“You’re studying French Cordon Bleu at college?” Josh’s mom, Clare, asked in a hopeful tone.
“I'm not at college,” Cassie admitted, her head dropping to avoid seeing the looks of disappointment.
“Cassie and I met at the restaurant. I insisted on meeting the creator of the most delicious dessert I’d ever eaten. Of course, I didn’t know she’d be so pretty too. Cassie really does deserve her own restaurant. I know I’d eat there every night,” Josh jumped in quickly. Cassie looked up into his eyes and smiled her thanks but she should have known his parents wouldn’t accept her – not since they lived in this huge house in a wealthy area. She came from nowhere and had only her dreams to offer. She couldn’t afford to go to college and barely made her way on the money she earned in the restaurant but one day…
“It’s getting late,” Cassie leaned over to whisper in Josh’s ear. They’d had a fun afternoon in the park with Harry and Raya, Josh’s younger siblings and the two dog monsters. She hadn't known a family could be so much fun, but now they had to say goodbye to his parents and she wasn’t looking forward to it.
“I need to use the bathroom before we go,” Josh said, holding the door open as the twins and the puppies rushed through. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Cassie waited awkwardly in the small entrance hall by the back door, unseen by Jack and Josh’s mom.
“What does he see in her? She doesn’t even have a college education,” Clare muttered. “Did you see the amount of rings she wore? Who needs to wear four gold rings? It’s so cheap.”
“She’s easy on the eye, she’s great to chat to and she knows a lot about food,” Jack defended Cassie. “Besides, she’s the first girl Josh has brought home and I wonder why that would be.”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Clare huffed loudly as though this was not the first they’d had this conversation.
“No one will ever be good enough in your eyes for Josh, but it’s his decision. They’ve been dating for nearly two years…” Jack paused as though he realized his mistake.
“I didn’t know that!” Clare grasped.
Cassie closed her eyes and sighed softly. Of course, Josh hadn't told his parents about her. Why would he, although, she didn’t know why he’d brought her to meet them now. She thought he’d understood her lack of interest in family Christmases. The holiday season was very different in the children’s home she’d grown up in, although they had tried their best to make it festive.
“I don’t care what they say,” Josh told her as though he’d heard his parents’ conversation. “I love every bit of you.”
“They’re right though,” Cassie whispered as though her voice didn’t have the strength to admit the truth.
“Come.” Josh said as he took hold of her hand to lead her into the kitchen. He nodded at the twins as they perched expectantly on identical chairs each with a large puppy snoring at their feet. Jack turned with a huge grin on his face at their arrival as though he, too, knew what to expect. Clare simply stared coldly, a cup of coffee held in her hand.
“Mom, Dad, I had a very good reason to come here today,” Josh started, pulling Cassie along in his wake. His warm hand told her not to worry, his smile sang of his love and his chocolate brown eyes asked her to be brave. “I wanted you to meet Cassie and I really wanted you to love her like I do. She’s beautiful and funny and brave. I've never known anyone like her. I don’t care if she’s never been to college because she’s taught me so much about life and love and I never want it to end.”
He dropped to one knee, whilst keeping hold of Cassie’ hand and ignoring her grasp of astonishment.
“Cassie Evans, cook extraordinaire, to-be-owner of the best restaurant in the world, will you marry me?” Josh stared up into Cassie’s face with a look of nervous anticipation.
Cassie didn’t know who gasped the loudest, her or Josh’s mum but she realized that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of her. The man that she loved and adored loved her back and he believed in her dreams. How could she say no?
“I thought you’d never ask,” Cassie laughed. “Of course, I’ll marry you, but only once you’ve finished college and not before.”
Josh leapt to his feet, his lips caressing hers as cheers and applause echoed around them. Even Clare managed a small smile.
“Oh, I nearly forgot,” Josh gasped, fending off excited children and two large dog monsters as they bustled around them. Out of his pocket, he pulled out a small black box and extracted a shiny golden ring which he pushed onto Cassie’s finger. “Now you have five gold rings,” he laughed, leaning in for another kiss, knowing it was going to be the best Christmas ever.
The EndFind Julie on Facebook and Amazon