Linda waited while the sales clerk scanned in the bar code on the ring. Linda looked everywhere but at the register and the clerk. The clerk looked at the display. “That will be six thousand forty-three dollars and eighteen cents,” the clerk said.
Linda almost choked, but she hid it well. “Are there any discounts or sales on it?” she asked.
The clerk smiled a disarming smile. “I’m afraid this is a popular setting, so we hardly ever have a sale on that particular style. Sorry,” the clerk said.
“Can you check if there is one coming up?” Linda asked. “It would make things so much easier.”
“I can check,” the clerk said, “but I really don’t think so.” He put the ring back into the case and slipped off to the small office behind the counter.
Linda looked around the store, wondering if she should just leave now. This was a stupid idea. Of course it was just the latest of a series of stupid ideas. Linda took a step toward the door and hesitated.
That was the exact moment when the clerk came back. “There is not a sale coming on, but my manager has agreed to take ten percent off if you buy it today. What do you say?” he asked.
Linda kept her smile on her lips, but the light behind her eyes slowly dimmed and shimmered behind tears that were just barely held in check. She turned around to face the clerk taking the ring back out from behind the glass. He placed it on a silk pillow. Of course it had to be a silk pillow. Linda wanted to take the ring and throw the pillow to the ground, jumping on it till it was nothing more than a remnant of a bad dream.
Instead she picked up the ring and held it oh so carefully. It felt far heavier than it had any reason to do so. She put it back on her finger and it settled into the indent on her ring finger perfectly. Well her husband had always the best taste in jewelry. She couldn’t stop thinking about how natural it looked there, and at the same time how much her stomach turned at that thought.
“So what do you think?” asked the clerk, snapping her attention back to the world at large.
Linda took the ring off. There were other ways. She didn’t need to go back to pretending. She… placed it back on her finger. “I’ll take it,” she said, her voice sounding hollow even to her.
Back home Linda sat with her cellphone, deleting her history as fast as she could. The front door closing caused her to start. She quickly locked her cellphone and walked to the entryway. Carl was shaking off the snow from his hat before placing it on the top shelf of the closet. “Hey there, Beautiful, how was your day?” Carl asked.
Linda just held up her hand where the new ring sat upon the old wedding band which had been cleaned to gleam just as much as the new one. Carl smiled a huge grin. “You found it! And it looks so new,” he said.
“Well I got it cleaned at the store. I wanted them to check it just in case something had loosened,” Linda said.
Carl gave her an awkward quick kiss to her cheek. “Great idea. I’m glad you found it. It cost me a fortune,” he said. “Oh, next week I’ll be gone again. Janet needed a partner for that big presentation next week and she called in her best hitter. Nothing special to me though. Just the same old, just a different day.”
“Yep, the same old,” Linda repeated to the closet as Carl turned on the TV in the other room.
“Have you got dinner ready?” Carl called out. “I’m starving.”
Linda looked at the ring again, tears this time escaping her control. “It’ll be ready in just a minute. I made your favorite, lasagna,” she said.
She waited for a response that never came before going to the oven to check if the lasagna was still as cold as she felt.