WHO: Will Moody and JJ Monroe WHAT: Retail therapy and attempts to fit in with the No-Majs. WHEN: Monday, September 9, 2019. WHERE: A No-Maj mall, Billings RATING: Low
There were many concepts that even after three and a half years out in the world Will still didn't fully comprehend, and one of them was what JJ had called 'retail therapy'. Spending money on frivolous things seemingly made folk feel better, though he couldn't fathom why. But he was so relieved and thankful that JJ was free and had been proven innocent that he was happy to go anywhere she wanted to spend time with his best friend, even if that place was a shopping mall full of strange and wondrous No-Maj things. His eyes were wide and his neck was practically stretched out from gawking at everything from people on motorized scooters, to the big fountain they'd passed on the way through the mall, to a store window filled with nothing but athletic shoes. He'd lingered for a moment in front of a store selling art supplies, his mouth open in wonder at the sight of more colors of paint than he'd ever dreamed existed, but JJ's hand in his had tugged him along, and now they were browsing in what he had learned was a "department store", which seemed to sell anything a person could ever need.
He didn't need anything, and the shopping bag he'd picked up at the entrance hung over his arm, still empty, as he trailed along behind JJ, watching her browse through sweaters that all mostly looked the same to him except for variations in color. "'Tis pretty," he said anyway to the one she held up for his approval. "Though it may not be sturdy for working. Hast thou not sufficient warm clothing for the winter?"
A couple of older women passing by turned to stare at them, and Will ducked his head self-consciously. People seemed to be staring a lot, especially when they'd held hands on their way through the mall, and since he and JJ were both wearing No-Maj clothing and hadn't pulled out their wands or spoken about anything magical, he wasn't sure why.
Ignoring dirty or judgemental looks was something of an acquired and engrained habit by now; JJ hardly even noticed the two women or their looks as she held up a jade toned sweater next to the deeper forest green. "Oh, no, darlin'. Angora has very little to do with bein' warm, and just about everything to do with bein' wrapped up in the softest cloud imaginable while winter tries and fails to get past your rabbit fur armor." She took the end of the sleeves and slid it across the back of his hand. "See? Not everything has to be just about practicality."
JJ laughed, and was now very aware of those two women looking at them again. Her teeth ground together, but she still maintained her smile. "I think I just described at least 75 percent of my wardrobe. Oops." She offered her hand to him. "C'mon, let's go see if we can't find you somethin' impractical."
The wool was impossibly soft; Will nodded in response, though his forehead was still wrinkled. He looked up at JJ, about to ask whether she would buy the green sweater, but then she held out her hand and he took it instinctively, smiling back at her. "I have sufficient clothing," he told her, following his friend down the aisle and out of the women's section. "And I don't need anything impractical, JJ. 'Tis wicked to be worldly."
A few months ago he would have said that seriously, like a recitation of a sermon, and it was a marker of how much his viewpoint had shifted that he laughed immediately and squeezed her fingers. "Mayhap I will buy a bride gift for Luke," he mused as they turned down the next aisle. He widened his eyes at the sight of the women's undergarments, right there on public view where anyone could see them, and turned his gaze up at the ceiling, his cheeks gone bright red. "Though he is not a bride," he continued, steadfastly ignoring the brazen sight. "Dost thou consider 'tis something that is done among men as well?"
For a second, JJ couldn't figure out what had put that fresh color in Will's cheeks, but a single glance around them had her biting her lip to try to keep from giggling any more than she had been already at his joke. She dropped his hand and went around him to fit her arms over his eyes. "Don't worry, my stalwart friend, I'll lead thee from this den of iniquity. You have but to follow the dulcet sounds of my siren voice and put yourself in my devious hands."
She was still laughing and knew they were drawing all kinds of attention with her insistance in turning this into a whole production. It didn't touch her in the slightest, but she managed to get them out of the lingerie section and closer to the men's section before she dropped her hands only to come back to his side again, whereupon she took his hand yet again. The hurt from the past few weeks was still there, but she was trying really hard to just be in this particular moment. "Getting back to a thing 'that is done among men', well, I say y'all just do what makes you happy. Most people like gettin' gifts, especially if it's from someone they love. Let's find somethin' for your love, yeah?"
Will laughed, too, his joy heightened by JJ's giddiness. He was truly happy to have her back, and nearly all the liveliness and optimism she'd been missing when he'd visited her in jail. He smiled back over at her and folded his hand around his friend's again when she released him, his cheeks still pink. "Thou'rt making a jest of me," he told her, but he was smiling and unoffended, and impulsively he leaned in to kiss her cheek. "'Tis wonderful to hear thy laugh, my friend," he told her. "Praise the Lord for bringing thee out of thy prison."
An older man browsing the shirts nearby turned to stare unabashedly at that, and Will caught his gaze and dropped JJ's hand guiltily. "But… aye, I would like to have a gift for Luke," he agreed, and turned to survey the next thing in sight, which was row upon row of jeans; he was as lost there as he had been with the sweaters. "Dost thou consider I should get him… clothing?" he asked doubtfully. "I don't know what he may like. He does always look very nice."
Her grin at his open attention couldn't be touched by anything right now, let alone some lookie-loo who didn't have the manners to mind his own business. JJ kept her smile in place as she wiggled her fingers at him. Caught out for staring, the man rushed away. Good riddance, even though that wasn't a terribly charitable thought. Turned out her capacity for gracious acceptance and loving forgiveness was not quite as vast these days as it might have once been. Maybe she'd get back there eventually. She liked to think so. Plucking her phone from her bag, she pulled up an app. "I follow him on pretty much all the socials, so why don't we just have a looksee at his feed, yes? It ain't spyin' if we're friends. It ain't even stalkin', seein' as how y'all are supposed to be gettin' married."
Angling the phone so they could both see it, she started sliding through his nomaj 'gram feed. It was mostly landscapes or groups of smiling people. He seemed to have a fondness for old farms, the more worn down the better. Stretching back a couple of months, there were even a couple of candid ones his friends had tagged him in where he was giving an untagged Will a look of such open affection that it made JJ melt a little inside. "Oh, darlin', woudja look at that? I reckon y'all are pretty much forever. He's gonna love anything you get him. It doesn't have to be fancy, just so long as it's from your heart."
Will bent his head down next to JJ's, peering at her screen. The one she paused on made him beam in unfettered happiness, a flush rising in his cheeks again at the memory of that day the photograph had been taken. "Aye," he agreed softly, still smiling helplessly down at the screen. "He is not worldly. I would give him anything if 'twere in my power, but he wants just me."
His eyes were a little damp right here in public, thinking about Luke and his goodness and the idea of spending all his life with that man, and he had to turn away to blot them on his sleeve. Will twisted the thread band around his finger, where it had sat since Luke had wrapped it as a promise, and that gave him an idea of something he could give Luke that would surely mean something to him. "JJ, dost consider that a store like this may have a ring… a metal one?" he asked, and held up his hand in demonstration. "'Tis a custom for his folk to give rings when they wed. My folk don't do so, and he said we need not, but I consider 'twould make him happy to have one."
It warmed her heart to see him smile with such obvious affection and to hear him speak so openly about a subject that up--until just a couple months ago--he would have fervently denied. She, too, looked at the makeshift ring for a moment and then nodded, determined. "Well, we're in the wrong department for such a thing. C'mon, let's go be overwhelmed by the glitter of worldly things."
Will smiled back at his best friend, took his hand in hers again, and followed her trustingly through the endless rows of things.
A few minutes later, he stood in front of a sea of glass cases filled with rings, overwhelmed indeed by the sheer number of choices in front of him. Fanciful adornments were forbidden in Old Plymouth; he and his sister Fay had even been reprimanded as children for tucking wildflowers into their buttonholes on the way to school. He twisted his woven ring around his finger nervously as he stared down at the shining things, a bit lost.
"Can I help you find anything?"
Will looked up to find a middle-aged woman behind the counter smiling at him; that was such a relief after all the staring that he smiled back gratefully. "Aye, I sorely hope that you can, mistress," he answered. The woman's face changed to a bit of bewilderment, and he flushed. "I mean… yes," he amended. He'd always been able to explain his speech to folk who found him odd by explaining that his folk were Traditionalists, but here in the No-Maj world no one would understand, so he would have to try to speak more like a Stranger instead. "Please. We are looking for a ring for… a marriage ring."
The saleswoman's eyebrows lifted, but she kept smiling. "Well, congratulations!" She looked between him and JJ, and certain assumptions were made. "You two seem a little young for that, but I guess when you know, you know. What kind of style are we looking at, honey?" she directed at JJ. "Any preferences on material or color? Are we looking for a bridal set or something to complement the engagement band?"
As soon as the sales lady walked up, JJ actually started counting down the seconds in her head for this inevitable misunderstanding. The problem was that she wasn't sure just how receptive the woman might be to the truth. Given everything that had gone on with her lately, JJ found that she wasn't much of a fan of even the idea of misdirection, but she didn't want this to go badly for Will. "Oh, no, ma'am. I ain't the lucky girl here. No, I'm just the moral support."
She lifted their joined hands to show her the cloth ring. "It's not all that traditional, but do y'all have somethin' that might go with this? It's one of those inside things, y'know? So sweet if you really knew the two of them."
The older woman, whose nametag proclaimed her 'Marla N.', leaned over the counter to inspect the faded bracelet wrapped around Will's finger. "Aww, that's cute," she proclaimed. "Did your fiancée make that for you, hon? I'm sure we can find something that'll last, and you should put that one in your keepsake box. You don't want to wear it 'til it falls apart." She beamed at him. "I'm getting a picture… modern, fun, easy-going, a little spunky, but something she'll wear for decades. What else should I know about the bride?"
Will considered that question carefully for a moment. "We are Christian and will be wed in the church," he answered after a moment's deep thought. "And my betrothed is not..." He squeezed JJ's hand tight, which gave him the courage to meet the saleslady's eyes as he said steadily, despite the rising blush on his cheeks, "I am marrying a man. He will not be a bride, but a bridegroom, and so will I."
The woman's eyebrows rose even higher, and for a moment she just stared at Will, which made him want to drop his gaze, but he just held tighter to JJ's hand. Finally she shook her head and laughed a little. "Well, that'll teach me to assume," she said. "So we're looking at all mens' rings, hm? That narrows down the field by a lot more than half, and you know, I just might have something in mind. Give me a minute, hon."
She bustled away, still shaking her head, and Will sucked in a breath and looked back at JJ. "Folk don't mind it in the world, aye?" he asked. "I considered 'twas all right to tell, and she seems kind."
It took that laugh for JJ to quietly release the breath that had caught in her throat as soon as Will began to clarify things. Even before the lady walked away, JJ started to feel ashamed for her lack of honesty. "The kind ones don't. I wasn't--I wasn't sure how that might go. Lots of people have been starin' just 'cause we've been holdin' hands"--she tightened her own hold, one part stubborn defiance and another just because she wanted him to know that she didn't care what the world thought--"and sometimes people can be downright nasty if they see or hear somethin' they don't like. I'm glad she's not, and I can't wait to see what she's got in mind."
He nodded, reassured, and released her hand to lean forward and stare down at all the gleaming metal and sparkling stones in the case below them. "I could hardly choose one, there are so many pretty things," he said in wonder. "And I have not asked Luke what sort he would choose. I'm glad thou'rt with me, my dear friend. I would be sorely lost without thee."
Will was more than grateful to have JJ commandeer the process of sorting out the rings while he was still dazzled by their shine. The one she picked up finally was comfortingly simple, and he smiled at the sight of it next to his thread ring. "Aye," he agreed, taking the ring from her to weigh it in his hand. "I mean… yes. It's a pretty thing. They are all pretty," he added fairly. "But this is very pretty."
"I thought you might like that style," Marla told them. "I pulled it out because it's got a religious significance, too. The style is called Cord of Three, and it comes from a Bible passage. I'd have to look it up, but--"
"Ecclesiastes," Will said, interrupting quite rudely, which should have mortified him, but right now he was more occupied in staring at the ring. "The fourth chapter. 'And if one overcome him, two shall stand against him: and a threefold cord is not easily broken.'" He smiled a little, unsure why this warmth was filling him up at the thought of that verse in relation to him and Luke.
The saleslady laughed again, folding her arms across her chest. "That's the one. You know your Bible, hm? The two strands in the ring are for the couple, and the third, the one holding them together, is God. Or love, or faith, or whatever you want to say it is. I'm not religious myself, but I like the symbolism there." She smiled at the two of them. "I can pull out some more of that style if you want to compare metals and colors. What do you think?"
"Yeah," JJ gave the lovely woman a grin and a nod, "that would be perfect, thanks." She waited for the woman to move off again after taking the rings back with her and then took out her phone, making a quick note of the woman's name and which store they were in. "I'm definitely sendin' in an email to corporate about her. She's been really nice and super helpful." After taking a glance around to make sure they were more or less alone, JJ still lowered her voice as she continued, "She's probably gonna ask if you wanna resize it, but don't worry about that part. A little transfiguration'll have it perfect."
Unable to really help it, JJ gave a squeal and did a little dance right there in front of the counter. "I can't believe this is really happenin'! I'm so happy for you!"
Will laughed at her, feeling almost giddy himself. Though the ring wasn't part of his tradition, he'd been shown enough movies to know that it was a big part of a wedding here in the world, and it was exciting imagining how Luke might react. "Aye, it is happening," he agreed, and reached into his pocket for his own phone. "Will they allow me to take a picture? I would send it to Luke. Unless 'tis meant to be a surprise?" He frowned thoughtfully, considering that. "Dost thou consider he should see the ring first? Mayhap he would choose something different if he were here." He really had no idea what he was doing, and while he was confident that Luke would be happy about getting any ring, he couldn't help but think maybe a different one would make him more happy. Will fiddled with his thread ring, his warm happiness tinged with a little worry now.
At first, JJ was all about the surprise element, but the look on Will's poor face gave her enough pause to maybe rethink that stance. "Let's take a couple of pictures and send 'em over. It'll probably make his day." Suddenly, JJ grinned just as brightly as sunshine, and she bounced a couple of times. "Let's make a video! Just a real quick one to say hi, and then text him the rings!" Without really waiting--because she did that sometimes--she thumbed her camera to recording mode and smiled at the display. "Hi, Luke! You'll never believe where I've managed to drag your lovely fiance." She turned the phone around to do a quick sweep of the apartment store. "That's right, we're right in the plummy seat of American capitalism itself: the mall!" Angling it so her bestie was in the frame, she grinned. "Say hi, Will!"
"Hi, my dear one," Will said obediently, wrapping his arm around JJ's shoulders, and smiled into the camera. "We are having retail therapy to make us feel better. And I asked JJ to help me choose a ring to give to thee when we are wed. I'll send thee a photograph, and I hope thou wilt like the one we like, but I pray thou wilt tell me if our choice is wrong--" He managed to stop his anxious babbling with another sweet smile for his beloved. "I love thee, my Luke. I'll see thee soon."
"Bye!" JJ gave a wave to the camera and then stopped the recording. "That was perfect. Now we'll just wait to get a look at those rings again and then we'll pass 'em along to him." She fiddled with the video for a moment, making a couple of minor edits, but then stopped and looked at one frame in particular. It was the pair of them, smiling, his arm around her, and suddenly she was struck by how inordinately lucky she was. It made her throat go tight, and she had to swallow thickly to try to get the sensation to go away. JJ turned, then, and hugged him tightly. She hadn't meant to start crying, but her cheeks were definitely wet. "I missed you so much."
Will was surprised but not overly alarmed by the hug and the tears; JJ hadn't been out of jail for long, and it had been such a difficult time for her and everyone who loved her. He wrapped an arm around her, his hand cupping the back of her head, and rocked from side to side. "I missed thee too," he said, focused on her to the exclusion of everything else, even the people stopping to stare again. "But now thou'rt free and safe, my dear friend. 'Twill get easier with time." He stroked her hair softly. For so long he'd been afraid to touch JJ, afraid of being too familiar and turning every action into something wicked and licentious, and it was freeing now, knowing where they both stood, in the certainty of his love for Luke and her love for Derry, to hold her without fear or shame.
The saleslady cleared her throat softly behind them, and Will patted JJ's back gently and released her, keeping his hand resting lightly on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said, giving her a smile.
"That's all right," Marla answered, her tone entirely sympathetic. "Weddings make people emotional, even when they're not their own. Sometimes especially then. I actually get a lot of tears working this department, you'd be surprised. You okay, hon?" she asked JJ, and pulled a tissue out of a box behind the counter to offer to her.
"I'm fine." The answer was maybe a little too fast, but it had been said with a grateful smile as JJ took a couple of tissues and dabbed at her cheeks and nose. The swell of emotion had tempered into something more manageable. There were still so many unknowns in everything that had happened--chief among them being who was behind any of it--and her future was still a fairly large blank spot, which held its own kind of anxiety. But that was something to unpack at some other time when she wasn't standing in the middle of a mall in Billings, Montana, talking to a really nice and understanding saleslady. "Sometimes you just get hit with much can go right in this crazy world, y'know?" She gave a small laugh and then held her phone up and wiggled it. "Do y'all mind if we take pictures of the ring? We'd like to send 'em to his fiance. He's back in Wyoming now, right?" This was directed at Will. "School's gotta be started back for him now, I think?"
"Aye," Will agreed, squeezing JJ's shoulder softly in support. "He began his classes last week. My Luke goes to university," he explained to the saleslady, fairly beaming with pride, and she made an aww face at him, appropriately impressed.
"You can take all the pictures you like, hon," she told JJ, and spread out a few more rings over her velvet cloth. "So, here are a few more in that style. Are we looking for matching rings for you and Luke? I don't know if there's an accepted way to do it for same-sex couples. You're my first." She smiled up at Will. "I'm sure you can do whatever you want."
He peered down at the rings, which all looked similar but for the different colored metals. "I don't know," he answered after a helpless pause. "I thought I was to purchase one for him as a gift. Am I to purchase one for me? Luke has already given me this." He showed the thread ring again. "It's precious to me. I don't consider I need more adornment." He glanced back at JJ uncertainly. "What shall I do?"
JJ's return look was one of encouragement. She reached for and squeezed his hand before nodding at the lovely Marla. "Well, I reckon this here very smart and very nice woman has the right idea. You guys can do whatever you'd like. And if you do decide to go with the set, I'll bet Luke would be pleased as punch if you decided to treat the one he gave you like your engagement ring. I'll take some pictures and send him everything we talked about, all right? Then maybe he'll weigh in on what he wants too."
So she did just that, getting shots of the different sets of the assembled rings and then sending the video and the pictures. The resultant waiting game was filled JJ encouraging him to look at each set to see if there were any styles or colors that he liked in particular. All told, it really only took a couple of minutes before Will's phone gave a familiar chime for a facetime request.
No one ever facetimed Will except Luke; there were few enough people who had his phone number, and those who did were people he saw nearly every day anyway. His delight at that sound was almost Pavlovian at this point, and as he turned away from the counter to answer the call, his face had already gone dopey and soft before Luke's face even showed up on his screen.
"Hi," he greeted him, holding the phone close as if he could bring Luke closer with it. "Didst thou see the pictures? They're pretty things, aye?"
It was clear that Luke was outside; he was lit by an orange streetlamp somewhere off screen. The light shown off a thin sheen of sweat that covered his face, and his hair stuck out at all angles in the way it did when he'd been running around. He grinned, fit to burst, and nodded enthusiastically. Someone yelled, "Yo, c'mon, man!" off to one side, and he looked over. "Forfeit. I'm taking this now. See you guys tomorrow."
He carried the phone away from the noise of various age groups playing basketball, until he was leaning against the wall of some building. "You're looking at wedding rings?" He was still grinning, eyes shining as he looked at Will's brightly lit face. It was kind of a dumb question, but he couldn't keep the wonder out of his voice. "For us?"
JJ looked on with open affection and leaned toward the counter. She dropped her voice like she was sharing state secrets. "I hope you've been to the dentist lately, 'cause they are just too sweet. Like, all the time."
Marla smiled back at her. appropriately charmed. "Ah, young love," she answered. "I never get tired of seeing it. If I worked in divorce court I'd have to be more cynical, but when I get couples in here it's always that blissful stage. With the occasional money argument, but I love it."
Will couldn't help but hover his thumb over the screen as if he could reach through and brush Luke's messy hair out of his face for him. "Aye," he agreed, and turned the screen so that Luke could see JJ and the saleslady at the counter. "I am here with JJ and this very kind woman who is helping us. Is it all right? I wanted to get thee a marriage ring, to honor thee as thy folk are accustomed, but should I buy two the same for us? I love thy ring of thread, Luke, I will never take it off, but if we are to match then I will wear another, gladly."
There was definitely an appeal from being on the positive side of the whole affair, but that was generally the case with most such things. It took a particular personality type--JJ's mind went uncharitably to Kent for just a second--to be more inclined toward the opposite. She waved and grinned at Luke as he moved his phone back some so he could get his own wave into the frame. "Marla here has been an absolute gem helpin' us out today."
Smiling at the older woman, Luke nodded. "Thanks, Marla--and thanks for being a part of one of the best surprises I think I've ever had. The best one, of course, being bumping into Will on the street one late night." His expression visibly softened when he turned his attention back to Will. "They're gorgeous, love, and the triple knot idea is amazing. It would mean so much, because no one and nothing can tear us apart." He paused to sniff a little, and swiped at his nose with the back of his hand. When he went on, his voice was thick. "I would be honored to share those rings with you, Obedience-To-Thy-Will Moody."
"Aye?" Will smiled back at him, greatly relieved. "Then we will have them, my dear one. They are only little things and the cost cannot be much. I will buy them as a bride gift for thee, although thou'rt no bride." His smile broke into a delighted, proud grin. "And when we are wed, I will put this ring on thy finger, like in the movies."
Behind Will, Luke saw JJ's smile slip, just a little. He knew what that meant, and suddenly his heart plummeted. "Will, I--" and then JJ was shaking her head, and a look of fierce determination made Luke change the trajectory of his words. "I love it, but not nearly as much as I love you. I can't wait to start my life with you, and we can make all the movie moments you want to."
JJ turned back to Marla and started speaking very fast and very quietly. "Look, my friend doesn't do cards and doesn't have a lot in the way of cash on him." She slipped her own card onto the counter. "When they pick somethin' out, put it on this. I'll let him yell at me later."
Meanwhile, Luke was looking back through the photos in a split screen view, considering each closely. "I really like the solid silver band with the gold toned cords. What do you think?"
"Aye," Will agreed readily. He didn't have much of an opinion on the matter, except that anything that made Luke happy would make him happy. "'Tis a pretty thing."
"It's fourteen karat gold," Marla interjected over his shoulder, having subtly palmed JJ's card with a wink and a smile. "That silver is actually white gold, if that makes a difference to you. Then the strands are rose gold and yellow gold. A gorgeous combination, and it will wear well."
Will beamed back at her, surprised and even more delighted. "My Luke is worth more to me than gold," he told her. "So 'tis fitting, aye?" He turned back to Luke, slipping his free hand into JJ's again since he couldn't touch him. "If thou'rt happy with it, my dear one, then I will buy these rings for us."
"More than happy." Luke's smile was warm and his gaze so loving that JJ had to bite her lip just to keep from bursting into tears for a very different reason this time. "I'll drive over next weekend so I can see them in person. But more importantly, you." He laughed and grinned again at the expectant faces behind his fiance. "Thank you, ladies. I'm going to leave him in your more than capable hands." And then he only had eyes for the man to whom he had already given his heart. "I love you, Will. We'll talk again when you get home, yeah?"
"Aye," Will agreed again, and turned away for privacy, as pointless as it was, as he added softly, "I love thee, my Luke. I'll talk with thee soon."
He was pink in the cheeks again as he ended the call and turned back to JJ and Marla, still smiling. "We will have this ring, two the same, please," he told the saleslady.
"I thought you would," she answered, beaming. "That was the sweetest thing I've seen in an age. You don't know how much you've made my night, hon. Now, you're in luck, because I do have this ring in stock in all the usual sizes. If you'll give me his size and yours, I'll box them up and you'll be all set."
Will looked down at his own hand, baffled. "I consider we are both a regular size," he answered after a moment. "Pray give us the regular one, and we will make them fit, 'tis no trouble."
Marla raised her eyebrows and looked at JJ with an expression that clearly carried a fondly exasperated "Men!". "Well, I can measure your finger for you, and unless he's a lot bigger or smaller than you the sizing should be close. What do you think?" she asked JJ.
Pressing her lips tightly together was the only thing that kept JJ from breaking out into giggles. Although she could appreciate the sentiment behind that exasperation, she totally had to cut Will a lot of slack. There was no way she could know about their magic. This was one of those cases where the Statute meant she had to lie, and there was no way to get around it, however much she genuinely like this woman. "That would be great, thanks! We can work around the sizin' thing, if it comes right down to it."
Marla sucked in a breath through her teeth and shook her head. "All right. Well, any good jeweler can resize a ring, and it's relatively cheap. We'll just get as close as we can for your fiance." She reached down beneath the counter and pulled out a blue, plastic sheet with holes of various sizes in it, and held out her hand. "Here, hon, can I see your hand? Left hand," she clarified, and Will dropped JJ's hand to extend it for her, watching curiously as she compared his fourth finger to the different holes.
"Are you from Amish Country?" she asked him. "I've been out to Pennsylvania. Lovely, kind people, and excellent furniture." She smiled at Will and slid the plastic down onto his finger. "Wiggle for me, hon," she directed.
"Amish Country?" Will wondered, obediently wriggling his fingers, and glanced at JJ to see if she knew what that was.
Once again, JJ was forced to keep her smile at a minimum, because the truth was so close to what Marla thought that she almost wanted to tell the woman everything. "They're folks who've chosen to not to have anything to do with modern society and technology because of religious reasons," she explained before looking back over at the saleslady. "Will's people are actually in Plymouth. It's somethin' really similar, but not quite the same. But now he lives out amongst us non-Traditionalists," she leaned against his side, now that she couldn't hold his hand, "and I couldn't be happier that he's here."
"Oh, aye," Will agreed as Marla tried his finger in another hole. "My folk are plain and godly. But now I will live here in this territory, among Strangers, for 'tis forbidden there to be… like me." Marla made an understanding noise and released his hand, and he wrapped his arm around JJ's shoulders for a grateful squeeze. "I am very glad to have my dear friend here in the world. I would be very lost without her."
"Aw, that's sweet," the saleslady told him. "I'm sorry about your family. That must be tough. Will any of them be able to come out for your wedding, at least?"
Will shook his head, looking down for a moment. "Nay. I… my father and brothers may not speak with me, and I have not told my sister, for I fear she would be sorely shocked." He bit at his lip for a moment, and then put a smile back on. "But I have my Luke, and my best friend JJ," he smiled down at her reassuringly, "and all my friends here. 'Tis enough."
Marla smiled back at him sympathetically. "Well, that's a good way to look at it, hon." She turned away to type a few keys into her computer. "You're a size 10, which is more or less regular, so I guess you were right. Give me a minute to get those rings in boxes and we'll finish up here, all right?"
She bustled away with the jewelry, and Will turned to press his lips to JJ's temple for a moment, softly. "Thank you, my dear friend," he said into her skin. "Was this a good retail therapy?"
Turning into him, now that his hands were free, JJ wrapped her arms around Will and squeezed. "It was the best. Just what my heart needed."