Crane watched warily as Or-Tikva opened a small painted box that sat on the table next to her and delicately extracted a tiny circlet which shone with light like the sun and the moon.
"Give me your hand," she commanded gently.
Crane did as she bid, and she slipped the circlet onto his finger.
"This ring communicates with me," she told him, "so I will always know where you are and how you fare. Because -" she held up a hand to pre-empt any further protest from him "- what you are about to undertake is unlike any of your previous adventures. You now carry a responsibility the likes of which you have never known. And although I am certain that you are more than equal to this challenge, it is imperative that you remember that you are not alone in this."
Crane was so amazed by the lady's words that he could only kneel at her feet, kiss her hand, and rush out of the room in search of the porter.
"It belonged to my grandma," Sam had said, looking up into Tova's eyes and tenderly wiping a drop of lemon curd off her cheek. "They call it a 'promise ring'; my grandpa gave it to her when they were courting. Tova Greenberg, I'd be honoured if you would wear it for me."
He took her hand in his and slipped the ring onto her finger. She stared at it, dumbstruck.
It was a golden circlet, mellowed with age and set with two small stones, one green and one red.
Sam got up and sat back down in his chair, still holding her hand. All other noise in the hotel dining room seemed to have ceased.
"I wanted to give it to you at Christmas," he continued, "but of course I couldn't reach quite that far." He chuckled. "Gran used to say those pretty red and green stones were to symbolize what makes a good match, a balance of complementary qualities, like sweet and salty, or warm and cool, or thought and emotion, or passion and restraint. Excitement and calm ... Talkin' and silence ...
"Say something, sweetheart?"
"To everything there is a season," she whispered. "Do you think your grandma would have approved of me?"
"I know it," he said.
"You should probably go get yourself something to eat before all the food is gone," she said.
"I do seem to have worked up an appetite," he agreed, and then he stood and announced to the room, "She's wearin' my ring!"
There was a smattering of applause and a few whistles before the regular noise in the room resumed.
Tova had to go back to work the next day but Sam had stayed on in Roseford until the end of the week. She'd gone to meet his plane at the Toronto airport, as they'd arranged.
He'd spotted her as he came through customs and a smile lit up his face. But as she'd walked towards him, a tall blond man in a suit cut in front of her and reached Sam first.
YOU ARE READING
Once upon a time there was a warrior queen who loved peace ... Mild-mannered writer Samuel J. Burnside is working on his latest adventure story, set in ancient Susa, where Queen Esther is teaching former harem slaves how to fight! But can Sam's new...