There it was—like a non-judgemental mother musing at her teenage daughter growing up too fast to comprehend, a ring sat in his empty tea cup. Unassuming, almost hidden in the shadow of the dark tea, it had nestled, snuggling in the assurance of warmth.
Daniel felt lost.
It was a nice—a simple frill-free band of silver with no ugly engraving or dents. It was the perfect multi-purpose ring, with just enough ambiguity to serve both as an accessory and a testament to a sacred commitment.
Who put it there though?
It seemed silly. To place a ring in a cup of tea. It was the kind of thing non-drinking, overly health conscious, hopeful hippies would do. He smiled. Whoever did this knew him well. Enough to know how much he dreaded jewellery and the spotlight that came with it.
His curiosity was piqued. He hadn’t told many people about his parents pressuring him to find a partner. So whoever did this was close to him.
Except he couldn’t quite tell who.
He looked around for a clue.
Time stood still. Behind the till, Augusta, her face screwed in concentration, held a twenty dollar bill in her right hand and a pile of miscellaneous notes in the other. She was an economics student at the university working casual hours, trying to make some extra cash on the side. She hated math, Daniel recalled her bold declaration in one of their small talks. It couldn’t have been Augusta. She was too involved with her life, and he in math.
Barista Jason’s hand was frozen in midair too, hovering over the milk nozzle, ready to caress its smooth curves. Not him for sure. He was way out of league for Daniel—in every aspect, except perhaps money.
Cafe chatter he’d gotten used to over the last five years had ceased in mid-conversations, vowels hanging, modifiers dangling, and fragments awaiting completion. Beyond the tainted glass, cars were a blur, as if caught red-handed by amateur photographers, whizzing passed red lights.
He looked back at the ring. And almost instantly, the world went back into motion. Annoying giggles started up from the table nearby and impatient honking from the street waltzed in through the door as someone walked in.
It felt wrong to take the ring without knowing who it came from.
What the hell.
Pocketing the shiny silver, Daniel walked out the cafe, waving at Augusta and Jason on his way out. It was a good day.
The door clinked behind him.
Not two seconds after, a purple-haired man in the cafe wailed, “Oh, my goodness! They gave you the wrong cup!”