Every signing in their town took place at the massive title company in the central part of downtown. The real estate attorney -- or, if one were recognizably fortunate, one's very own boyfriend -- would accompany the about-to-be owners and a lot of papers would be signed, maybe they'd realize how much money was being spent and how long debt would go on and they'd break into a cold sweat, and then it was over and the place was purchased.
But first, she had to meet her boyfriend at his office.
Mike's offices took up the entire 29th floor of a midrise building that had space overlooking the lake, the park, and a museum. Mike's corner office looked east and south which gave him a lot of sun and let the three tropical plants in his office get enormous. The rest of the space was occupied by his less-senior law partners, more than several paralegals, an IT department of some size, plus many administrative assistants. People seemed mostly not miserable. Mike's own administrative assistant was competent, professional, polite, the mother of four, and happily married for 25 years. What Mike liked to say about her was that she eased his path. She was fiercely loyal to him as he'd taken a chance on a mother of four who was reentering the work force because she wanted to help her family make ends meet.
Her own boss got up and left abruptly about thirty minutes before she was supposed to leave telling her, "Oh, yeah, good luck with that signing. Ha ha ha! Debt! Ha ha ha!" He then blushed and ran out. She didn't think much of it because she didn't know him that well.
When she got into the lobby, she was hoping to run into Mr. King to share the good news but he was nowhere around.
"Is Mr. King nearby?" she asked the young man at the desk in the lobby.
"He had to go some place," said the young man with a strange smile.
"Thanks," she said.
"Good luck to you, then," he said.
Usually he told her to be safe; maybe he had a new catch phrase.
She walked quickly to Mike's office, arriving right on time. She prided herself in arriving on time.
"Oh!" said the receptionist when she walked in. "Hello!"
The receptionist blushed.
"How are you doing?" she asked the receptionist. "Are you okay?"
"Oh!" exclaimed the receptionist. "Yes! Of course! Why?"
"You're blushing," she told her. "Like you're embarrassed."
The receptionist stood up and said, "Mike's in the big conference room finishing up a brief. Go there. You know where that is, yes?"
"No," she said, "I'm not sure I do."
"Good!" exclaimed the receptionist. "I will show you. But first, let me lock the door and put the phones on hold."
The door and phones were all done through her computer screen in about twenty seconds. When the task was completed, the receptionist, blushing even more deeply, escorted her down the hall to a set of double doors. She knocked with an excited vigor.
Both doors swung open with no one standing there and she walked into the large room.
There was an enormous conference table where Mike was seated at the head, with her cousins and their husbands and his father sitting next to him. Lee was at the other end with Mr. King and her boss. Her former boss, who'd had so much faith in her, was with them. Mike's partners and what seemed like every other person in the office was either sitting at the table or standing against the wall.
A very handsome man came from behind the door. He had a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. His eyes met hers and suddenly his eyes welled up and tears came rolling down his cheeks. He gasped and seemed to gain his composure.
"May I share with you all about the locks of love?" he said and delivered a moving speech that she'd heard before in her own office.
It was delivered with such elegance and grace, such beauty and longing, that those in attendance got misty; they would all talk about the lovely things he said for the rest of their lives. At the end of the tender speech, Connie unlocked the handcuffs and the briefcase and produced the most sensationally large diamond on a ring that anyone of them had ever seen. He handed it to Mike.
Connie stood tall, trying not to look at her, trying to smile.
Mike had walked around the table during Connie's speech and went down on one knee and took one hand in his and said, "No, I'm the lucky one. Will you marry me?"
She closed her eyes and teared up herself and said, "Well, of course I will."
Mike stood and they kissed.
The ring fit perfectly. Everyone applauded and people started embracing her and Mike. Connie went over to the side to pack up his things which seemed to be taking a long time.
She stepped over to thank the jeweler.
"Thank you so much, sir," she said. "The ring is terrific. You don't see diamonds like this every day."
"I got it in Africa. It was a long process. It took months really," he said, looking like he was about to say more.
She suspected what would come next and she had to make Connie understand that she was perfect with how things had turned out for her.
She said, "I'm a very lucky woman."
She reached out her hand to shake his. He stared at it and then shook her hand with a few hard pumps.
Connie spoke quietly so only she could hear it, "No, he's the lucky one."