The Tiny Little Loan

Jay wants to ask Tally to marry him, but in order to buy her engagement ring, he takes her car payment money as a loan with the intention to pay the car payment before she notices.

The hands of a couple showing off the engagement ring, black & white photo.
Originally published on Vocal.

After 6 months of constantly looking for new clients, Jay had finally reached a point as a freelance graphic artist to support him and his girlfriend. Feeling stable in his career, Jay was ready to take a major step in his life and ask Tally to be his wife. Saving money for a ring was not a priority for Jay because he had put every spare penny toward paying off his student loan debt so they could start off their marriage debt-free.

Tally also wanted to be debt-free. She purchased her first car after graduating high school. It had been difficult to make the monthly payment, but she only had one final payment and she would be free of that loan that weighed on her for almost a decade. When she first bought her car, she wanted to be meticulous about her payments. She bought a little black notebook and wrote all the dates she would have to make those payments in her book. She even kept check stubs, credit card receipts, and noted electronic payments in her book. Any of her car maintenance records also went into it so she had a complete record. She was very proud of what she had accomplished.

Tally and Jay had lived together for just over two years. During that time they had become dependent on the other to handle small tasks. Tally often asked Jay to run some errands for her when she was out of town.

For her final car payment she asked Jay to make sure it was paid while she was away. He, of course, had no problem doing so, but had other things on his mind. He really wanted to get Tally a nice ring and wanted to propose soon because their anniversary was coming up.

Tally went out the door for her trip and Jay started out his day. He had to go to the bank and make the car payment and then he was free to make some calls and see about making some appointments with potential clients. Jay walked out of their apartment, down the narrow staircase that led to the ground floor. As he walked out the exit door to their apartment building he saw Tally’s taxi pulling away. He waved, not knowing if she was looking or not.

He continued on his way walking toward the bank which was only a few blocks away. As he strolled he passed a hardware store. He remembered going there to pick up paint when Tally first moved in. They spent all night painting their new place, laughing, talking, and eating pizza. It was a great memory. As he continued he passed the pizza place where he got the pizza. It was closed now, but the sign still stood proudly above the window.

The neighborhood was definitely seeing a surge of business closures. Jay was saddened by that, but was hopeful that new businesses would come in that would make the area even better. Just before getting to the bank, Jay looked across the street and realized another store was going out of business. Grellman’s Jewelers had been operating at that location for forty years, but Andrew Grellman wanted to retire, so he decided to blow out his inventory at really low prices.

Jay was excited! What if he could find the perfect ring and it was on sale?! He hopped across the street and through the door of the jewelry store where he saw Mr Grellman behind the counter. There was only one other customer in the store, which was surprising to Jay at first, until he looked around and saw that almost all of the jewelry was gone already. Mr. Grellman had liquidated almost everything already.

There were still a few necklaces, earrings, and some rings, but he didn’t see anything that would work for an engagement ring. Mr. Grellman asked Jay if he needed any help. Jay told the owner his situation and Mr. Grellman was sympathetic.

“When I proposed to my wife I had no idea how I would ever get her a ring. I was selling shoes which wasn’t exactly going to make me rich. I really wanted to buy her a ring, but I couldn’t afford it. So, I promised her if she would marry me, I would buy her an amazing ring for our twentieth wedding anniversary.” Mr. Grellman told Jay.

“So, did you get her a ring on your twentieth?” Jay asked.

Mr. Grellman chuckled, “The year after we were married I bought this place. When I opened I gave her the most expensive ring in the store. It almost bankrupted the business, but it was worth it.”

He had Jay wait for a minute while he went to the back room. A few moments later he came out with a ring. “This is the most expensive ring I have in the store right now, which isn’t saying much because I have very few rings left.” Mr. Grellman laughed at his joke while Jay looked at the ring.

It was beautiful. It was exactly what Jay wanted to get, but he knew that even at the blowout prices, he probably couldn’t afford it. “I’m scared to even ask what the cost is.” he said to Mr. Grellman.

“This ring cost me, $1800. Normally I would sell it for $3800. But, today is a good day and I would love for you to have it. Could you buy it for $800?” Mr. Grellman asked.

Jay knew this was a great deal. He couldn’t pass it up, but he didn’t have enough to cover it. Then he felt the envelope in his coat pocket. With the car payment money and what he had in his bank account, he could just barely make the $800 to buy the ring. The car payment wasn’t due for three days and a client had already sent a payment to cover it. It was a risk, but Jay had to take it. He paid for the ring and thanks Mr. Grellman wishing him a great retirement.

Absolutely ecstatic, Jay headed back home. He would make some calls to try and get some more work to help pay for it, but he was comforted by the fact that he could now propose to Tally. Interrupting his walk a man accidentally walked into the daydreaming Jay. Apologizing, the man continued on and Jay walked on to his building.

As Jay approached his apartment building he reached into his pocket for his keys. Immediate panic set in as the ring was gone. He checked all his pockets to make sure, but nothing was there. He thought back to the man who bumped him. Jay sat down on the stoop in front of his apartment building almost in tears. He asked himself how he could be so stupid. After about twenty minutes feeling sorry for himself, he realized that he will probably try and pawn the ring somewhere.

The closest pawn shop was only a couple of blocks away, so he decided to try there first. As he approached Leo’s Pawn he looked around but didn’t see the man. He was walked in and a man smoking a cigar was reading a paper behind the counter. Jay approached him and asked, “Did a man come in here and pawn a ring in the last half hour?”

“I don’t know.” the man said without looking.

Jay felt like the man was lying or perhaps trying to get him to bribe him for information. “Look, I just want to know if my ring is here.”

“And I said, I don’t know.” the man said as he put his paper down for a moment. “I just got here five minutes ago. You’ll probably wanna talk to the owner, but he isn’t here. He’s upstairs in his apartment.” He paused for a moment as if thinking about something. “Yeah, I’ll tell ya, cuz I don’t really care. He most likely took your ring and is giving it to his wife. He always gives her something nice when he cheats on her. He’s been doing it for years. He lives in apartment 3b. He deserves to get his ass kicked so if you’re gonna go up there make sure he remembers it.”

Jay was surprised the man was so candid, and was a little scared to go confront him. After thinking about it, Jay decided to go upstairs and get back his ring. He walked up the creaky steps to the apartment. As he approached the door he heard shouting and the peeked through the partially open door.

“…so sick of you doing this, Leo. I don’t even have to catch you cheating. I know it by the crappy jewelry you always bring me. And this ring?!” Jay heard a woman yelling.

“Look, I wanna be better for you, that’s why I got you a really nice ring this time.” The man, whom Jay presumed to be Leo said calmly.

“Yeah, well here’s what I think about your gift!” As she motioned toward throwing the ring out the open window.

“Nooo!!!!” Jay yelled as he crashed through the door. The ring went flying out the window and Jay almost tumbled out after it.

“Who are you?” Leo questioned as Jay watched the ring plummet toward the sidewalk. With no time to waste, he began climbing down the fire escape. It was only the third floor and the sidewalk was practically empty.

When Jay got to the ground, there was no ring. “What?!” he yelled as he look around. Just turning the corner, he saw Glen. Glen was Jay’s old roommate, so he knew what happened. Before moving in with Tally, Glen lived with Jay for a few weeks. Glen, a Bassett hound, went to live with his owner after that, but Jay remembered that Glen ate everything that was on the floor. Jay rushed around the corner.

Glen was happy to see Jay. It had been a while. He remembered him and licked his face. Jay knew it wouldn’t be pretty but he would have to wait for Glen to give the ring back. He walked Glen home. The next day, Glen’s owner called Jay and told him the good news, but Jay would have to go and retrieve the ring himself.

Jay was happy he would have his ring. The payment from his client came in, the car payment was made, the ring was cleaned, and the couple was engaged. Tally refused to actually wear the ring though, so Jay promised to give her an amazing ring on their twentieth anniversary.