From the Sky - Part IX

"I saved money too, Joe. We might have enough for a down payment on a house, unless you buy that monstrosity. That's also simple pie. Let's get something reasonable."

The jeweler's face was now expressionless. His easy sale having evaporated, he dutifully began lining up a selection of less expensive rings for us to consider. Joe and I teamed up on a compromise. He picked out a sweet and sensible solitaire ring with a white gold band. Together we chose a small, round, nearly colorless half-carat diamond from the assortment the jeweler spread before us. The jeweler plotted out the flaws, sized my finger, and promised the ring by Friday. He said it would be a bargain at nearly four thousand dollars. I went right to work on him, objecting immediately to the price. I relish haggling. In the end we got the ring for less than half what he first offered. It still cost enough to make me blush, but we didn't blow the down-payment on our house. Mission accomplished.

We use a similar strategy these days for all our big-ticket purchases. When we bought our last car, for example, Joe picked it out. He knows anything and everything about cars. Then he turned me loose on the salesman, who took one look at me and thought he had an easy commission check coming. He took me lightly, and I love being underestimated. I put that poor fellow through the wringer. I was merciless. I squeezed every possible penny out of him. It was exhausting and exhilarating, but we got Joe's car at my kind of price. Of course, that happened before I went deaf. It's harder beating up salesman these days, but I manage. I have to. Otherwise the haggling duties fall on my full-price husband.

Joe slipped that ring on my finger during Sunday dinner at my father's house. Unlike the current weekly ritual of dinner with my aunts, most Sundays when I was growing up it was just my Dad and me. We saved the big get-togethers for special occasions or holidays. My first Sunday home after graduating qualified as a family celebration. We were all at table: Dad at one end, Rae at the other, Joe and I on Dad's right, Sal and Zia on his left. Dessert was underway when Joe nudged me with his knee. We stood simultaneously. Everyone stopped talking and looked at us, puzzled.

Joe cleared his throat. No one moved. Aunt Rae's eyes narrowed.

"Mr. Tarentella, I want to marry Renata. I would like your blessing."

Dad's face froze. Someone dropped a fork, and it clattered hard and loud on the china.

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