He grabbed his foot and pulled it out of the stinging sea water, the wide arc of the cut smiling up at him. He let out a curse, prompting tuts from the elderly couple splashing around in the shallows with their grandchildren, and watched the first drop of blood appear.

He assumed he’d stepped on a broken shell, but he wanted to make sure it wasn’t a rusty nail or anything that required a tetanus shot. This was the height of the tourist season in Constantine Bay, so there was an alarmingly large selection of detritus he could have trodden on. But he wasn’t prepared for what he found in the silt: a thin gold ring with an enormous emerald perched in the centre, held fast with spiky prongs and hugged by a diamond on either side.

He slipped the ring into the pocket of his wetsuit and made his way out of the sea, tugging the surfboard leash behind him. He spotted Craig and Andy lying on a couple of mats at the top of the beach and raised a hand to them, his feet sinking into the warm sand as he walked.

“You’ll never guess what I just found,” he said, producing the ring.

“You shouldn’t have,” Andy said with a grin. “This is all happening too soon…”

“I stepped on it,” he said. “What are the odds?” He held the ring up to the sunlight and watched it gleam.

“Give it here,” said Andy, clambering to his feet. He let out a low whistle. “Mate, if this thing is real, it’s worth a fortune. I know a pawn shop back in Newquay…”

“Drinks are on you tonight, mate!” said Craig.

He snatched the ring back. “I’m not going to sell it. I’m going to find the owner.”

“Here we go,” said Craig. “Sentimental Susie is at it again.”

He rolled his eyes and lay back on his mat, his barrel chest pink and mottled from the sun. “Suit yourself. By the way, your foot is bleeding.”

The holiday hadn’t been a success so far, and his dislike for the pair was growing by the day. When Andy and Craig had invited him to join them on a surfing trip to Cornwall, he’d been surprised: they were the alpha males at Ringwald Estate Agents and he was decidedly beta. But he loved to surf and the promise of a fortnight in Andy’s palatial summer house was too good to pass up. A decision he was now regretting.

He spent the next few days making enquiries in the village, but no one recognised the ring. He had flyers made up and posted a photo on Facebook, asking everyone to share. He knew that a few chancers would try to claim the ring as theirs, but he knew how to flush them out: hidden inside the ring in tiny, delicate script was an inscription: “To EB, for always.”

The holiday rolled on without news. He started to avoid Craig and Andy, spending his days surfing the smaller coves and his evenings alone with a book. He decided to quit his job as soon as he got back to London. He couldn’t take it any more: cold- calling, describing a dilapidated shed as a “fixer-upper”. He was finished. Maybe he’d become a woodworker, he thought. Or teach children to surf.

He went for a final surf on the last day, calling in at the tiny general store next to the cove on his way back. He was looking for plasters: the cut on his big toe hadn’t fully healed and he’d reopened the wound when scrabbling up the rocks. He pulled the ring out of his pocket and held it up forthe shopkeeper, a windswept woman in her sixties, to see.

“I know just who that belongs to!” she exclaimed. “I’d know that whopper anywhere. She’ll be pleased as punch to have it back, I’m sure.”

“Do you know where she lives? I’d love to give it to her.”

“I’m sure I’ve got her address somewhere. Used to deliver the FT there on a weekend.” She thumbed through a binder. “Ah, here we are!” She scribbled it on a scrap of paper and handed it to him. “Good luck!”

He hurried back to the house and jumped in the car, following his directions to a huge house on the cliffs. He knocked and felt a flutter of nerves when he heard footsteps.

The door opened. A sylph-like brunette wearing a loose linen dress stood in front of him, mouth turned slightly downwards. “Yes?” she said.

“Hello,” he said, suddenly feeling himself blush. She was very beautiful. “I think I might have something of yours.”

“Really?” She sounded French.

His blush deepened.

He opened his palm, revealing the ring.

“Oh!” she said, taking a step back.

“It’s yours?”


“The inscription..?

“‘To EB, for always.’”

He nodded and dropped the ring into her hand. They both stared at it for a moment. She did not smile.

Read more: Short story: The Ring by Melissa Pimentel

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