Louisa was washing her hands after spreading yards of mulch when she noticed it: the diamond in her wedding ring was gone. Why hadn’t she taken it off first, or worn gloves?
The jeweler eyed the ring’s fractured prong. “Was it a smallish diamond?”
It hadn’t even been a half carat. Still, her then-boyfriend, now-husband had valeted all summer to pay for it. A blue-collar boy parking cars for white-collar people, Robert had eyes the color of cornflowers and a smile that should’ve been illegal. Tips were good. So good, he graduated college nearly debt-free. He wanted to go to grad school. She wanted to finish her degree in landscape architecture. He said investing in his education was the more practical decision. They couldn’t afford both.
“If you’re looking to replace the stone, dare I suggest you consider at least a full carat?” The jeweler’s smile was so sweet, Louisa felt almost sticky.
It had been twenty years. Now, he had a six-figure salary while she had a large home with beautiful gardens. Long gone were the days of boxed mac and cheese for dinner and family camping trips in a patched tent and borrowed gear. He’d taught the kids how to fish for bluegills when he wasn’t checking in with the office. But one time, he’d turned off his phone and spread a sleeping bag on the ground so they could lie together and watch the glow of the Northern Lights pulsing and melting into the inky sky.
Last summer, before the twins took off for the Ivy League, she suggested finding a cabin in the woods. They could go hiking and rent kayaks, which looked like such fun. He said a vacation in France was the better choice. So while Robert and the kids had cruised the Louvre, Louisa had hopped a train to see Monet’s gardens. She’d cried the entire trip back to Paris.
The jeweler gave a polite cough. “You know, after a few years, some ladies trade in their wedding rings for something a bit… nicer, shall we say? I could melt this down, make something pretty for your right hand. Perhaps a nice cocktail ring? Then you could choose a new wedding ring. Something that fits your current lifestyle.” His beady eyes slid towards her Mercedes parked outside the window.
A week went by. Louisa hadn’t brought up the ring, mulling her options. Besides, it was spring and she was busy with other decisions, like what color clematis to plant. Her gardens couldn’t compare with Giverny. But she loved working in them, loved the sweet fragrance of her flowers better than the expensive perfume he’d taken to giving her for Christmas: a dozen unopened bottles lined up like soldiers in a lingerie drawer that was rarely opened.
She’d spent a happy day outside shoveling compost. He pulled up in his BMW.
“God, you look like hell,” Robert said, sauntering up the sidewalk. “Why don’t you hire some help? Or at least sod over some of it. Mowing grass wouldn’t be half as messy.”
Louisa’s hands were caked in dirt, but she could still make out the pale line encircling her ring finger. Before he reached the front door, she called out to him.
“I lost the diamond in my wedding ring. Should I replace it or buy something new?”
“Do what you want. It’s your ring.” The door banged shut behind him.
Later, washing her hands, Louisa wondered what an ounce of gold was going for. And how much did a kayak cost?
Tonight, she’d make herself mac and cheese for dinner.
Jill J. Morin writes in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA.