THE RING • by Saanchi Saxena

They were still there hours later, standing wearily in the swanky, air-conditioned interior of the jewelry shop. Brenda had rejected every ring the sales assistant (whose departmental smile was just beginning to crack) had shown them.

“Too bright.”

“Garish.”

“Plain ugly.”

“Ridiculously large.”

“Please, I’m not stepping out in that.”

“Even Shadow would be ashamed to be seen with it.”

Brenda wanted nothing more than to go back and grab a drink with the rest of the gang, but Livvy ploughed on relentlessly. “How about another one? The last?” she said, with a touch of exasperation.

The girl behind the counter exhaled in frustration, bent down and pulled out a ring from the depths of god-knows-where.

As an art consultant for seven years, Brenda had been trained to take note of the first word that popped into her head when she set her eyes on a painting. If it was encouraging, she immediately told her client to buy it. So when her eyes fell upon the ring —

Mine.

She wanted that ring. She wanted to make it hers, to wear on her finger and show it to the world. A simple platinum band inlaid with diamonds that screamed ‘understated elegance’. All of a sudden, her stomach lurched in that familiar uncomfortable way.

“Sooo?” Livvy asked.

“I’ll take that one instead,” Brenda found herself saying, pointing at the least offensive ring in the earlier batch.

“Wha — but no, what about this one? I saw your eyes. They were shining,” Livvy added in an accusing voice.

“Nah, this one’s better.”

“Is this about the cost? Cause Stuart said — ”

“I know what Stuart said, Liv, okay?” Brenda wished Stuart was here with her, not on that business trip to Korea or Japan or wherever. They hadn’t even celebrated their engagement properly. The uncomfortable feeling in her stomach worsened.

She looked back at the ring lying in all its perfect glory in the velvet box. That annoying voice in the back of her head suddenly spoke up — You’re holding back. You don’t want the perfect ring because you’re still waiting, waiting for — Brenda shut it immediately. She’d gotten good at it now.

Stuart is a nice guy, she thought firmly, he’s charming and polite and I like the way his arm feels around me and the way his blue eyes crinkle when he smiles —

Crap, where did that come from? Stuart doesn’t have blue eyes.

Brenda gave the ring one last look of secret longing and turned her back on it, with what she hoped was a sense of finality. “I’m taking the other one, Liv.”

“Hmph. Okay, as you say.” She shook her head, sighing at her best friend’s apparent foolishness.

They met the rest of the gang for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Mark was the first one to arrive.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he said, sliding in opposite Brenda, “nice ring.” He winked.

“Thanks.” She smiled and fanned out the fingers of her left hand and fisted them again, studying the effect of light on her ring.

“How’s the wedding preparation going?” Mark asked. “Did you find a last-minute getaway driver yet? Cause I’m totally up for it.” He sounded serious but his blue eyes twinkled at her.

Brenda laughed, injecting the right amount of humour and flippancy in it but when she straightened her fingers, there were crescent-shaped marks on her palm.

***

They were still there hours later, trying in vain to fix the bride’s hair: the result of an errant open window and a sudden gust of wind.

“This isn’t working! I look horrible!” Brenda wailed. The bevy of bridesmaids crowding around unhelpfully around her, clucked in sympathy.

“No, you don’t,” said the Maid of Honour. “How about we get rid of all these unnecessary pins and just let those flicks hang around your face?” Livvy artfully framed Brenda’s hair around her face and brought a mirror to her. “Better?”

Brenda nodded. She took a deep breath. “Liv?” she said quietly, “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Of course you can. You look better now. Plus, Stuart loves you no matter what your hair looks like,” Livvy said soothingly.

“I’m not talking about my hair.”

She stared at the bride for a moment. Then with trademark Livvy brusqueness, she said to the bridesmaids, “Okay, ladies, you should go check out the flower arrangements.”

“But we already did!” Tanya said.

“Get out.”

Once she’d shut the door on them, Livvy pulled up a chair besides Brenda. “Look, I know you’re getting cold feet but that’s perfectly normal. When I was getting married to Adam — ”

“You left him at the altar,” Brenda pointed out.

Livvy made a dismissive gesture. “That was clearly not meant to be. This is a different case. You know you’re doing the right thing, aren’t you?”

Brenda closed her eyes and brought to her mind the first words that struck her when she thought of a wedding.

That ring. Those blue eyes.

“Aren’t you?” Livvy repeated with faint disbelief.

Wordlessly, Brenda reached down and brought up a small bag that she hadn’t let anyone touch the whole day. In it was the ring she thought about whenever she stared at the ceiling in the dark. The one that made her feel all lightness and joy. The one that reminded her of mint chocolate chip icecream, three-way frisbee with Shadow, bittersweet regret, and those rain-soaked days before the party where she met Stuart.

The other ring slipped easily off her finger as she finally wore the one she’d always wanted to. Brenda and Livvy sat admiring her left hand for some time before Livvy whispered, “When?”

“Last week. I took a quick detour to the jewelery shop when I was supposed to be shopping for shoes.” Brenda rubbed her finger across the second ring and placed it in Livvy’s hands.

“Give it to Stuart. He’ll understand.”

A slow smile spread across Livvy’s face. “Do you want me to call the ‘last-minute getaway driver’?”

She found her answer in the brilliant sparking reflection of the ring on Brenda’s face.


Saanchi Saxena is a 17-year-old student who writes in her diary instead of studying Physics.


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