Henri, our most experienced appraiser, took Jane Austen’s delicate and simple gold ring from my glove-laden hand to inspect it once more. As I released the ring, the vision released my mind. The sight of the brown-eyed man with the kind face and rosy cheeks faded like watercolors in the rain.
“The stone is a cabochon of natural turquoise…” Henri spoke again in description of the ring. But I wasn’t listening. All I could think about was Jane Austen’s story. The one that lay embedded in the gold that touched her skin over 200 years ago.
I nodded as Henri suggested certain values to be attributed based upon Jane Austen’s fame and the world’s endless love of her work. But my heart was not on the project. Instead it longed to step back into Jane’s late 1700s life. To wear her simple cotton dress with the empire waist and to stare into the wide eyes of the true gentleman who asked me – or rather her – to dance.
“Love and romance will never go out of style,” I sighed. Henri, being French, understood.
Like an answered prayer, perhaps from the Roman gods of love and romance themselves, Henri’s phone began to vibrate. He placed the ring back into its original box, slipped off his white cotton gloves and peeked at his phone screen. “Speaking of love and romance, I’d better take this call. I’ll just be a moment,” he said in his French accent as he stepped out of the room.
“Take your time,” I said quietly as he disappeared from view.
My fingertips danced across the original black box and the darkened ivory satin interior. Flashes of the 1795 scene I’d lived just moments before began to sputter. As I slip the ring between my fingers the music from the ball serenades me from its place in distant time, bringing me closer to the candlelit room where 20 year old Jane Austen dreams of finding her true love, her husband.
I stroked the pad of my left-handed middle finger over the turquoise stone and land – most unfortunately – on the shrewd glare of Jane Austen’s mother. A light sweat coats my palms at her intensity. I ran my hand across my chest to soothe my nerves, and my nerve. I could feel Jane’s simultaneous disgust over the societal gauge of a woman’s worth as it related to her ability to marry, combined with her excitement at the potential of finding love.
I wondered which emotion would motivate her more.
As luck would have it the man with the rosy cheeks is in front of me once more and it’s all I can do not to throw myself into his arms, feel his warm lips press against mine. Of course to do this would have shamed me and my family for the entirety of Jane’s life. So, both she and I are restrained. But I am in love with him from the moment we see one another.
And it’s obvious. At least to me. That he feels the same way toward me. His eyes sparkle, his smile is warm and gentle and we laugh as if we are the only ones in the room.
I curtsy as he bows.
“May I have the honour of the next dance, Jane?”
The lilt in his voice, his accent, he’s Irish. And there is a streak of independence in his energy that matches mine. Though his is more well-contained.
One dance after another, he is the only one I dance with at this evening’s elegant ball and it isn’t enough. A lifetime with him would not be enough time to share.
To be in the arms of a man who sees no one else in the world but you, is more intoxicating than any wine. I’ve known this experience in my own life with only one man. Blake Greenwood. A man whose affect on me I still don’t quite understand.
“Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, I need to share some of that with my girlfriend.”
I turn toward the voice and see Henri walking into the ball, walking through dancing couples and melting the edges of Jane’s reverie that is held safely in her ring.
“You are positively glowing!” he exclaims. “My girlfriend. I wish she would look at me like that again. She is most unhappy wis me right now.” Henri shook his head and waved his hands in frustration.
I held Jane’s ring between my hands like a child grasping its’ cherished lollipop. “Do you love her?” I asked.
“Oui,” Henri answered as he helplessly ran both hands through his dark, wavy hair.
“Does she love you?” I asked.
“I think so. Though right now I’m not very sure.”
“Perhaps you should go to her. Make things right. Nothing is more important in life than love.”
Henri gave a heavy sigh and glanced at Jane’s ring in my hands.
“You have a special relationship with Ms. Austen’s ring, no?”
“Oui,” I said with a smile that came from the love in Jane’s heart.
“Maybe you’re right. We could take a little break and come back to the appraisal this afternoon.”
Henri walked toward me to collect the ring and I took a step away from him.
Tune in tomorrow for the next scene …