I found a ring on the floor, the other day: a glint, a wink that caught the sunlight every time I moved my head.
No one noticed me as I stood.
No one looked over as picked it up.
It must have been expensive; a solid gold band, with a thin wire of silver wrapped around like the delicate silk from a spider’s web. It weighed more than I expected it to and as I slipped it into my jacket pocket, I could feel its reassuring presence throughout the picnic.
However by the time we reached our cottage, I had already forgotten about the ring. We were stuck in traffic, and thunderstorms followed us on our drive, all the way home. I went about putting the picnic rubbish in the bin, changing into some indoor clothes, generally tidying up.
Meanwhile Jack declared that he needed a nap, all that fresh air and driving had tired him out. I decided that I would like a nap too.
I switched off my phone and settled in next to my snoring husband, barely touching, so as not to wake him
A few minutes later, just as I was about to fall into a really deep sleep, you know, the moment when you’re drifting and you can’t feel your limbs and you start to panic if you pay attention to it! Well, at that moment, I heard a strange buzzing coming from downstairs. I jumped out of bed, irritated and fuzzy.
My immediate thought was that my husband had left his phone on and I would have to answer it. But the buzzing wasn’t coming from my husband’s phone. It was coming from my jacket, the one I put on at the picnic when it got cloudy.
I put my hand into the pocket and pulled out the ring. It was vibrating! The buzzing was surprisingly loud and it was getting hot on my palm as I held it. I dropped it on the floor and the vibrations just got louder, exacerbated, I think, because of the wooden floorboards. I then had the bright idea of dropping it in a bowl of water. Plastic would be best.
I found an old Tupperware bowl, filled it up and dropped in the ring. I watched it fizz and sizzle, the water beginning to bubble to boiling point. A stream of gurgling had replaced the incessant insect drone and I watched, entranced, as I caught my breath.
And then I thought, “Margaret, it’s a ring, obviously it wants to be worn. Just put it on.” I still wasn’t sure so I left it. I put the ring and the bowl on top of the fridge, mentally taking note that the top of the fridge was filthy and needed cleaning.
By this time, all traces of sleep had gone. I decided to put the kettle on. A good cup of tea usually put things into perspective. Automatically, I moved to make Jack a cup too; he was second nature to me now, after thirty years of marriage.
I thought about the ring a little more, as I stirred in the milk and decided, I really should tell Jack. He’d know what to do. But something stopped me as soon as Jack opened his eyes, as I gave him his tea. Perhaps it was the way he didn’t even look at me as he took the cup, or maybe it was what he said, “Do we have any biscuits?” That was all. Whatever it was, it made me realise that telling Jack was not going to be helpful.
I went downstairs to fetch the biscuits and check on the ring; it was still there bubbling away, there was even some steam rising up out of the bowl, so I topped it up with some more water and put it back on top of the fridge. I took the biscuits up to Jack, who had found the day’s newspaper, and I came back down.
I decided to do it. I would wear the ring; I mean what’s the worst that could have happened?
Carefully, I picked the ring out of the bowl, shook the water off and dried it on my dress. I noticed it wasn’t vibrating anymore and it was cool to the touch. I slipped off my wedding band and replaced it with the gold and silver that seemed, not of this world.
I stood in front of the mirror in the hall, just to get a good look from all angles, at my hand. And there it was, all shiny and golden and magical as the sun poured in rays, through the glass of the doors.
Just then, Jack came down and the strangest thing happened. He started calling my name, “Margaret, Margaret! Where are you? I want another cup of tea, Woman! Are you deaf?”
Well, he didn’t see me, couldn’t see me! I was standing right there and he walked straight through me, as if I was invisible.
I suppose, I should have been afraid, taken the ring off and put my wedding band back on, but none of these things occurred to me at the time. After thirty years of faithful trudging, a new idea began to take root; an idea akin to freedom.
I smiled; I may have even shone, for the first time in a long time.
I suppose, yes, just maybe, he could just go ahead and make that second cup of tea himself, I thought, chuckling to myself.