After school Ted drove home.
“I’m home!” Ted said walking in the back door to the odor of a house permeated by garlic from a spaghetti casserole in the oven.
He went into his room and picked up the mail on his desk. Beneath was a small box wrapped tightly in brown paper. Ted knew what was inside. It was a box only large enough to hold a ring. “The ring,” he thought, “the first gift he ever gave to a girl.”
He was fourteen and so was… Lisa.
It was cold rainy day in March he peddled his bike two miles to her home and knocked on the door. She was embarrassed, still in her flannel pajamas. She smiled and quickly held her hand over her mouth to hide the braces.
“They’re cool,” Ted said.
“What?” Lisa said.
“The braces,” Ted said.
“They’re ugly and hurt,” Lisa said.
“I don’t think anything could make you ugly,” Ted said. He was shocked at what he said. It sounded contrived and flirtatious. “I really meant that.”
Lisa blushed and gathered the collar of her pajamas tight in her fist and held them close to her neck.
“I brought you something,” Ted said and held a ring in his hand to show her.
“That’s mine?” Lisa said. “It’s beautiful!”
“I was hoping you would like it,” Ted said.
“I can’t believe you got it for me?” Lisa said.
“Yeah,” Ted said. “I bought it for you.”
“Was it expensive?” Lisa said.
“Box of Crackerjacks,” Ted smiled.
“Really?” Lisa said.
“No,” Ted said. “I’m kidding, but I can’t tell you what I paid for it. It‘s some rule of etiquette or something.”
“My dad and mom won’t let me keep it,” Lisa said. “They don’t allow any gifts from boys until I’m 16.”
“I suppose it’s a good rule,” Ted said. “But can you take it now and hide it and when you‘re 16 start wearing it?” Ted said.
Lisa’s eyes glistened. “Okay, but don’t tell anyone.”
“It will be our secret,” Lisa said.
That was the last time Ted saw Lisa.
Suddenly and without notice her family moved. Some said to California, others to Florida, and yet others said to Europe.
Like many first loves it was painful to get over and lingered for more than need be, but Lisa was always buried in Ted’s heart; never quite forgotten, a mystery surrounded her departure.
And now the ring was in the box and in his hands.
Ted was suddenly 14 again. Opening it would be like reopening an old wound to a tender heart.
It sat on his desk for two days.