One of the presents Adam Tiller gave his wife, Leslie, on Christmas morning was a ring she had not seen in six years and never expected to see again.
It was inside a jewelry box, along with a note that asked: "Remember Me?"
"I didn't believe it at first. I really was actually quite confused," Leslie recalled. "I thought, 'What is this?' And he had to say, 'That's our ring!'"
The Tillers, who live in Midlothian, last saw the engagement ring in May 2007, a month before they were married. On Christmas morning, she thought her husband was kidding at first.
"Then I said, 'Where was it?' He said, 'In the car.'" She said, laughing, "'I told you! I told you it was in that car!'"
The ring, with three diamonds that total a carat, disappeared in the back seat of a car belonging to another couple, Jacob and April Hickman, who drove Adam and Leslie home from a wedding in Petersburg in 2007.
At the time, the Hickmans were newlyweds. Adam Tiller, Jacob Hickman and the man whose wedding they attended that day had been fraternity brothers at Randolph-Macon College.
Leslie remembers well the ride home that night. "I was playing with the ring in my lap, twisting it. I actually had gotten a little bit of food or something on it at the wedding. It came off in the car. It was nighttime and dark and when it first came off, when I dropped it, I assumed it was in my lap."
She said she felt around her lap. "Then I kind of felt the seat and I didn't feel it. I didn't say anything at first. Then when we pulled in the driveway and got home, I said, 'Hey, hey, you guys, help me find the ring.'"
But they couldn't find it.
"All four of us ... we all actually were using our cellphones and whatever little car light we had to look in the dark, and we could not find the ring," she said.
The $4,400 ring was not insured, and Adam had not finished paying for it. "We went a little nuts. ... We went crazy and the other couple said, 'You know what? We're going to leave you all alone' because we were kind of having a meltdown."
Before the search was finally called off, she said, "we did metal detectors in the driveway, in our yard. We went back to the wedding site, we looked through trash. It was a big ordeal."
The car also was thoroughly searched, to no avail.
"Me and my husband never saw the car again," Leslie said. "We've seen that couple perhaps once or twice over the last 6 1/2 years now."
"We never thought we'd see that ring again," she said.
But not long before Christmas, Jacob Hickman, who lives in Greenville, S.C., took his car in for servicing. When a technician removed the back seat, he discovered the ring and returned it to Hickman.
Reached by telephone, technician Brandon Estelle said the ring was between a shelf and a cushion under the seat. He said he usually finds things like loose change and french fries, not something as valuable as a diamond ring.
Hickman sent Adam Tiller a photo of the ring via his smartphone, but at first Adam didn't recognize it. Hickman called and urged him to take a closer look.
"I blew it up and it was the ring," Adam said. "And I said, 'Holy cow!' (Hickman) said, 'You're going to be husband of the year,' and I said, 'She's going to get a good Christmas gift.'"
After the ring disappeared, Adam went to the same jeweler and got another engagement ring for Leslie, smaller than the first. They were married June 30, 2007, and now have two children, Mikayla, 5, and Tyson, 3.
Leslie said she will now wear the original ring but will keep the one she has been wearing since their marriage.
The returned ring has an important alteration, however. When it was lost, she said, she was wearing it on her right hand. As it turned out, the ring finger on her left hand is smaller than the one on her right.
She had the jeweler resize the ring, and she got it back Thursday.
"I don't want to take any chances," she said.