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"This Diamond Once Saved My Life" by Katerie Prior

Katerie lives in Spring Lake, Michigan.


© 2005 Katerie Prior


"Oh 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 his mind.

"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 says.

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 minutes.

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.







All work is copyrighted property of Katerie Prior.






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