Maggie sat outside at her favorite café, enjoying the late summer sun.  In a few more weeks, the Seattle fall weather would kick in, and the sun would be nothing more than a memory.  She sipped her morning tea and watched the street for her friends.

Sunday morning had been a tradition since they had all met in college.  Friday and Saturday night might be for parties and dates, but Sunday morning was strictly for the girls. Well, the girls and one boy, she thought, as Ty, her eight year old pit bull, nudged her hand for more pets.

Maggie patted his head with her left hand, that hand that, as of last night, was bare of the engagement ring she had been wearing for the last seven months. Her friends had called it the rock, and rock it was.  At a full 3 carats, Maggie had always felt like she was wearing the down payment on their first McMansion.  But a too big, too expensive, ring was not a reason to end a relationship.

It had taken Maggie a bit longer than some of her friends to realize that there were just certain things that weren’t worth ending a good relationship over.  The ring, the proposal via the jumbotron at the Seahawks last home game of the season, with all cameras turned on them because she happened to work for the Seahawks organization, none of that had been what she wanted, what she would have chosen.  But, she had figured, the wedding would be hers, let the proposal be his.

No, some things were not worth ending a good relationship over.  She leaned down for a couple kisses from Ty, but some things were.

Maggie saw Star walking down the street.  She still seemed dressed for Saturday night, but that was not unusual for her.

Maggie waved with her right hand.  A new wave of sadness rolled over her, but she managed a small smile for Star.  Her friend would know something was up, but would not press.  A long standing Sunday morning rule was that nothing important was discussed until everyone was there.

Ty stood up and walked over to give Star some licks and head butts.  She bent down to give him some head scritches.  “Hey baby, want to take a walk with your Auntie Star after breakfast, go up to the club and get my car.”

Maggie knew the invitation really was for Ty, but that she would be welcome to tag along.  They had all been renting a house together the summer someone else in the neighborhood had abandoned Ty.  He was supposed to be Maggie’s, but his food became part of the communal grocery bill, and when he had vet appointments, her friends always seemed to forget to ask her for her share of the bills.

Star looked up at Maggie.  “Ross showed up at the club last night.”  Ross and Star had had a miserable relationship and even worse break up.  “Randy and Victor ended up putting me in their guest room for the night.”  Star gave Ty one last scritch.  “More love in a bit, baby.  I need caffeine.”

Ty watched Star walk into the café, then returned to Maggie’s side.  She mussed his ears.  “I know, Ty, I wish you could go inside, too, but doggies aren’t allowed.”  A man walked out of the coffee shop with two little terriers; Ty gave Maggie a look.  “Okay, big doggies aren’t allowed.”  She fought the anger that discrimination against her dog always brought.  People, she reminded herself, were idiots.

Ty pulled away.  She could feel his entire body wiggling.  Maggie turned her head as Alex rounded the corner and sat down.  Ty was quickly at her side, expecting his morning head pats.  Alex indulged him.  “I sent Winnie in with my order.  I’d mess it up this morning.”

“The baby have a bad night?”

Alex nodded.  “He’s got a really bad cold.  In fact, I wasn’t going to come this morning, but Keith called Winnie to come pick me up and kicked me out of the house.  He said I needed a break from caring for a sick two year old, and that I could trust him to take care of his own son for a few hours.”  A smile spread across Alex’s face.  “I think I’ll keep him.”

Maggie was happy for her friend, happy that she had a great husband and a wonderful little boy, she really was.  But today she could not feel it.  She tried, ended up biting her lip to force back the tears that threatened to fall.  The emptiness was the worst.  Last night, she’d had a fiancé, a plan for the future.  Today, she only knew that her future would not include him.

Alex noticed, and reached across the table to take Maggie’s hand.  “You okay, sweetie?”  Ty came back and rested his head on her knee.

Maggie squeezed Alex’s hand.  “Getting better by the minute.”

Star and Winnie came out of the café with their orders.  Maggie picked up the slack in Ty’s leash so that he could not dance around them while their hands were full with coffee and muffins.  They set down the food.  Then Winnie got down on her knees and patted her chest.  “Come here, Ty angel.”  Ty needed no second request and instantly had his front paws on her shoulders and was giving her kisses as she hugged him.

After about 30 seconds, she pushed him off and moved into her seat.  Ty came back to Maggie’s side, happy now that he’d greeted his favorite people.  He settled down in his customary position, lying next to Maggie’s chair.

“Hey Mags, what’s up?”  Winnie settled comfortably into her seat and picked up her latte.

Maggie took a deep breath and held up her left hand.  “I broke off the engagement last night.”

There was a collective gasp from her friends, and they all leaned in closer.  “Oh, sweetie.”  Alex set her cup down.

Maggie wiped a couple stray tears away.  “We were talking about the wedding last night, and making some plans, and it turned out that Edward had some assumptions about what our life would be like that I didn’t agree with.  When I questioned them, they turned into ultimatums.”

Star frowned slightly.  “Not all ultimatums are bad, Maggie.”

Maggie nodded.  “I know.  I didn’t end the engagement just because he gave me an ultimatum.  I ended it because he forced me to make a choice, and he wasn’t it.  On some level, I keep thinking that he did it on purpose, that he wanted to end the engagement, but didn’t have the courage to do it himself, so came up with a way to make me end it.”  She shook her head and remembered the look on his face the night before when she handed back the ring.  “But he didn’t.  He honestly thought it was a battle he would win.”  She reached down pet Ty.  That always helped her feel better.

Maggie could see the curiosity rising in her friends.  “Did he want you to quit your job?”  That’s what had ended Winnie’s last relationship, the guy’s assumption that whoever he married would become a stay at home wife.

“No.  He loved my job.  Sometimes I thought he was marrying me for my job.”  Edward had loved that Maggie’s marketing job with the Seahawks had resulted in free tickets for most of their home games.

“Was it the shoes?”  Maggie could not tell if Alex was being serious or trying to lighten things up a little.  Probably both, as Maggie’s obsession with shoes could easily get out of control.

She shook her head.  “No, I could have compromised on that.”  She looked at her friends’ doubtful faces.  “Really, I could have, but I didn’t need to.  Edward liked the fact that his clients’ wives recognized my designer shoes.  It was important to him that as a couple we looked successful.”

She sighed and took a sip of her tea.  “Think about it girls.  What is the one thing in my life that doesn’t quite fit the picture Edward wanted to paint of us?”  As a high end stock broker, with multi-millionaire clients, appearances were everything to Edward.  Feelings were important, but only when they supported the image he felt the need to present.

Maggie watched as realization, followed by doubt, crossed her friends’ faces.  “Ty?” Star was the first to speak it, her disbelief obvious.

At the mention of his name, Ty sat up and nudged Maggie for petting.  She obliged.  “He couldn’t even come out and say it.  Instead, he was talking about me moving into his place, and selling my condo to pay for the wedding.  When I asked how soon we’d be moving to a new place, considering his building doesn’t allow dogs over 15lbs, he said he wasn’t planning on moving.  The location was prestigious, and the space perfect for entertaining.”

Maggie buried her fingers in the rolls of extra skin on Ty’s neck.  “So I asked what he expected to happen to Ty.”  She took a breath, trying to calm herself as anger, almost as strong as what she had felt last night, came flooding back.  “He said it was up to me, but considering Ty’s breed, he expected that I’d have to put him down.”

There was a thud of cups hitting the table.  Maggie had known her friends would support her decision, known that they would agree with her, but she also felt the need to defend, as if that were possible, the man she’d been engaged to.  “He said he was more than willing to take a day off work to be with me when I had it done.  And that he’d already talked to a maltipoo breeder and put a down payment on a pup that would be ready to come home just a few weeks after we got back from our honeymoon.  I’d still have a dog.”

“Maltipoo?”  Alex looked very confused.

“Maltese poodle mix.  One of the new designer dogs.  Makes sense for Edward really.”  Winnie had never been a big fan of Edward, nor he of her.  He had always thought she was squandering her education working as a lawyer a non-profit environmental advocacy group, and she thought he cared too much about material things.

Deep down it did not surprise Maggie which one of them had been proved correct, though she wished it did.

Alex shook her head. “What did you say?”

Maggie blotted her eyes with her napkin. “I told him it wasn’t acceptable, that I’d made a commitment to Ty to take care of him for life. And that convenience wasn’t a valid reason for ending his life.” She slipped her fingers under Ty’s collar, holding them against his warm skin. “He said that the commitment I’d made to him should outweigh one I’d made to a dog, especially one I’d made seven years ago.”

A small laugh escaped Maggie. “Giving up Ty was never an option, but it was that comment that made me realize that I couldn’t marry Edward. I mean, if that was his thought process, what would it mean for our marriage, seven years down the road, if he felt something better came along?” She took a sip of her coffee, gaining strength from her friends’ unspoken agreement. “Anyway, that’s when he said it was him or the dog. I think I was already taking off the ring. I gave it back to him and wished him luck with the maltipoo.”

Star looked incredulous. “You gave the rock back? Honey, don’t you know you only have to return engagement rings if they’re heirlooms?”

Winnie rolled her eyes.  “What would she have done with it, Star? Even you agreed the thing was so big as to be obscene.”

Star seemed to think about it for a moment. “Gotten it crushed, turned it into a diamond crusted collar for Ty.” She turned to look at Ty. “You would have liked some of your own bling, wouldn’t you, baby.” His tail thumped the sidewalk.

Maggie could not help but shake her head in wonderment. Only Star would have though of something quite so appropriate, though she was not sorry for giving back the ring … even if Ty would have looked spectacular in a diamond crusted collar.