A ring of truth to the distrust

'Jaap has the look of a man who has spent most of the night on the doorstep'
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The Independent Online

Jaap has given up trying to talk to me at work, resorting instead to sitting motionless at his faraway desk with a bleak expression in his back and shoulders. The last thing he said to me, several days ago now, was, "I don't understand what I've done wrong" - to which I naturally replied, "Well, if you can't even see that, there's no hope for us."

Jaap has given up trying to talk to me at work, resorting instead to sitting motionless at his faraway desk with a bleak expression in his back and shoulders. The last thing he said to me, several days ago now, was, "I don't understand what I've done wrong" - to which I naturally replied, "Well, if you can't even see that, there's no hope for us."

"Hmm," Jane says, when I call her. "Look, I'll do the sympathetic 'oh poor you' bit in a minute, but first, well, do you think it's possible Jaap really doesn't know what he's done wrong because he hasn't done anything wrong? It is conceivable, don't you think?"

"Nice try," I say, with a certain amount of bitterness creeping into my voice. "Perhaps you can also suggest how I'm going to square that with that text message on Jaap's phone? Does 'READY FOR YOU ANYTIME, CAROLINE' sound innocuous to you? No. Well, let's move on to the being sympathetic bit right now, then."

Jane sighs. "Have it your own way. I was only going to point out that my dry cleaner says exactly the same to me every week - without the CAROLINE, naturally - and I don't think he means anything suggestive by it. Feel free to ignore the story, however. You obviously enjoy being miserable, so why not really go for it?"

I growl at Jane, but deep down I know she may be right - and it's only my pride preventing me from admitting it. Maybe there is nothing sinister going on with Jaap and the mysterious Caroline after all. By refusing to speak or listen to him, however, I'm never going to find out for sure. A temporary truce will have to be negotiated.

"Err, hello," I say to Jaap, as the glow from a large slug of neat vodka reaches my stomach.

"Umm, hello," he replies, sitting down opposite me. "I'm very happy you called. Whatever it is you think I've done wrong..."

There's a long silence, because in order to get seriously worthily cross with Jaap - sort of "I'll take the moral high road and you take the low road" - I will have to descend from the lofty heights and admit I've been reading his text messages and answering his phone. It's not a journey to be hurried.

"Erm," I finally say. "It's, well, umm, well..." And then I get into my stride. "Look, your mobile beeped when you were out getting the newspapers, and there was a text message from someone called Caroline saying she was ready for you anytime. What am I supposed to think? And then she - it must have been her - called again and I picked it up and she hung up. What have you got to say about that? AND WHY ARE YOU LOOKING SO SHIFTY?"

"Look," Jaap replies, and he's definitely squirming now. "It's not what you think. I promise you."

"Oh, yes," I almost shout. "That's what they all say. You don't really expect me to believe that, do you?" Then I throw the rest of my vodka in his face and storm out.

The next morning - Saturday - I open my front door and almost fall over Jaap, who has the look of a man who has spent most of the night on the doorstep. He thrusts a bunch of orange roses at me, and says, "Please, you have to hear me out." He reaches into first one pocket and then another, before finally pulling out a small velvety box. "I wanted to keep it a surprise. I know you're not very good at them, but..." He holds the box out to me and opens it, revealing the most beautiful sapphire and diamond ring I've ever seen.

"Caroline is an old family friend," Jaap says. "A jeweller in Amsterdam - the best. And this - if you'll still have me - is your engagement ring."

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