wow," the girl behind the counter says. "That's a gorgeous
diamond ring." She ignores my money for the Diet Coke and flips my
hand over to examine the ring. Even in the bland fluorescent lights of the
store, the stone sparkles, refracting flecks of purple and blue light.
"It's two carats?"
"One and a half," I say.
She stares at it and when her mouth drops slightly open, I'm surprised to
see braces. She must be no older than eighteen. When I wear this ring, I
often wonder when it became acceptable to grab a complete stranger's hand
and ask them personal questions. Where did this girl learn it? A sister?
Her mother, perhaps?
"You're a lucky woman to have a ring like this," she says and
looks up at me. She rubs her finger under her left eye and smiles
wistfully. I wonder what kind of guys she's dated. College students. Store
clerks at other shops. Some guy camped on the sofa with a PlayStation 2
controller in his hands and his eyes glued to the TV. A diamond nowhere in
"Yeah," I say, smiling. "He's a good guy."
"When's the wedding?" the girl asks, handing me my change.
"October. That's when he's back from Iraq."
"Oh," the girl says. Her eyes widen and in the pause, I can
almost see her thinking about me and my solider fianc*. He's dressed in a
green uniform, his dark hair cropped to a jarhead under his helmet. The
tearful leaving, the desperate waiting, the triumphant homecoming. Or the
alternative, the phone call and me crumpling to the floor, sobbing, the
other kind of homecoming. "I hope he comes home safely," she
I sigh and hold the bottle in my hand as if it were an Oscar.
"Me, too," I say, pushing open the door and walking out into the
snow. "Geez," I chuckle.
Earlier today when I was at the specialty food store, the clerk, an older
woman, said, "My God! You must be the luckiest woman alive. A good
man to love you like this." She nodded at the ring. "When are
you getting married?"
"In April, before the Beluga season starts. My fiance is a caviar
wholesaler." I looked at the diamond. "It used to be his
mother's. He claims it once saved her life, but he won't tell me the story
until our wedding night."
"Oh," the woman gasped. She looked at me and I swear I could see
the images that came to her mind. I was marrying a dark-skinned man with a
trim moustache and long Vicuna coat. My husband was a man who knew the
good restaurants in town and they knew him. They would jump us to the head
of the reservation list and seat us at the best table. "Well,
congratulations," she said. "Just a suggestion, sweetie. With a
man like that, you should really get a manicure."
As I walk to the bus stop, I look at my hands. My skin is a bit rough.
After my catering jobs at night, doing the dishes and then putting
everything out in the van in the cold weather is taking its toll. As soon
as I can afford it, I'll get a manicure, I promise.
At the stop, I look down at the ring. It means so many different things to
people. To the girl clerking tonight, this ring made me more than just
another customer. For a brief second, my life played out before her eyes,
like it did with the clerk in the specialty store. All because of this
beautiful stone. I like to play along, maybe even encourage them. Because
when people ask about me, I love being someone else just for a few
The stone sparkles in the dull streetlights, but when the bus pulls up, I
stuff my hands into my pocket. Sometimes I even marvel at this ring.
Amazing how similar cubic zirconia is to diamonds. I wouldn't mind if
someone gave me this and asked me to marry them. Too bad I don't even have
a boyfriend. I'm too busy
with catering and running to auditions. As I take my seat on the
bus, I make a mental note to give it back to the wardrobe person tomorrow.
This is the third time this week I've walked out of dress rehearsal and
left it on.
work is copyrighted property of Katerie Prior.