Sally's eyes scoured the salt and pepper coloured beach. To some, what the sea washed up overnight was nothing more then debris from the oceans depths. To Sally it was treasure.
Sea shells in all shapes and sizes, colours and textures. They would be transported home with loving care and placed carefully upon window sills, benches and scattered around the garden. As this had been her favourite pass time for over fifty years, she wondered if she might have more shells at home then in the sea.
Some days Sally would find lots, some days not many. Today didn't look to be all that bountiful, until the moment she was about to turn away. And then a glint caught her eye.
Soon an old ring greeted her gentle hand as she scooped it up curiously.
The ring consisted of a single band, impossible in its current condition to determine if it were even silver or gold. There was an unusual clasp in the middle which would have held a single stone. Empty now. It was quite delicate in appearance overall, and Sally deducted it could easily have been an engagement ring.
Tarnished and bent, not much of a prize, but to Sally, interesting and somehow slightly familiar - especially because of the five pronged clasp. Slipping the ring on the chain around her neck for safe keeping, she turned away from the beach.
On her way home she dropped in to see George as she usually did. George was a lovely old fellow, almost eighty years old now. Such a gem. He had lived in the big rambling home up the other end of the street from Sally, ever since she could remember. Even before her mother had passed away twenty years ago. Even before her father had not come back from the war.
George and her father had been the best of friends. Just like Sally, George had never married or had any living family after his parents died, but as a constant visitor at their family home, he had seemed to blend in as a member of their family.
These days it was Sally who did most of the visiting as George wasn't getting around as much as he use to. In spite of his years he still retained his independence and good cheer.
'What treasures did you find today?' George asked, as Sally bent to peck George on the cheek.
' Not that much - except something rather unusual!' responded Sally as she removed the ring from her chain and handed it to George.
George took the ring from Sally's hand. He looked at it intently, so intently that Sally was a little perplexed.
'It's only an old ring George, without a stone.' 'But I think I've seen it before somewhere.'
'Yes - you have Sal. On your mothers finger.'
Sally looked at George with a frown on her face, and George continued;
'It was a long time ago. Oh I wasn't gunna tell you. There was no need. But I guess I had better tell you now I've opened me mouth, and ha, I think you're old enough.' George attempted to lighten the mood.
Sally looked at him with raised brows.
'I might as well just blurt it out. I loved your mother Sal. I loved her from the first moment I laid eyes on her. But she was your fathers' gal. Your father was my best mate. I would never do wrong by him - not ever.'
Sally listened intently.
'Anyway Sal, when your father didn't make it back home after the war, I looked out for you and your mother as best I could....'
'I know you did George - you were wonderful,' Sally interrupted.
George continued, '....I did my best, but there is only so much a friend can do to look after a mate's wife and daughter. Well, I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, your mother might have some feelings for me too. And that she just might marry me - at the least it would make life a lot easier for you.'
'Ah - so that's where I remembered that clasp from...' Sally began to say.
'Yes - your mother accepted my proposal and wore the ring awhile, but then things started happening.'
'What things George. What happened?'
'Well - times were different then Sal. People didn't look at life the same way they do today. The town started chin waggin and your mother felt bad. She loved your father very much and the attitudes of some would have made it so very hard for us.'
'I remember the day she came back from town, tears streaming down her face. She raced down the street past here a hundred miles an hour. I called out to her and tried to catch up to her, but it was no good.'
'She reached the beach and flung the ring as far as she could.'
'I understood Sal. There was nothing that could be done.'
Sally sat stone still trying to absorb everything that George had just told her.
Finally she said, 'George...I'm so sorry.'
George stood up and put his arm on Sally's shoulder.
'There's no need Sal. I loved your mother, and I've always loved you. Ha - even though you're not my daughter - you are - here in my heart. I've lived up the street from you all your life and I get to see you nearly every day - even now.'
'You hang on to that George,' Sally said as George attempted to give her back the ring.
'Now that wouldn't be very fair would it Sal. Remember what you use to say when you were little. Finders keepers! Ha!'
'Oh George, you really are my greatest treasure.'
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