Back in the beginning—before forever, before goodbye, before everything—we sparkled. Our mouths ached from our gaping smiles. Our palms were damp from hours spent with fingers interlocked. Our bellies were tight from endless laughter.
We were bright. Shiny. New. We were diamonds glittering across the sea.
Back in the beginning, you strung up paper hearts for Valentine’s Day. Hand-cut from newspaper, looped together in twine. A clumsy garland of headlines and obituaries and classified ads selling away the things that were once thought valuable.
I saw those black and white hearts hanging lopsided around the living room, and I laughed.
And that’s when you dug it out from your pocket.
Such a simple question: will you be with me always?
Such an easy answer: I will. I am. I do.
But like buying a diamond ring on credit, I should have known then that nothing is ever that easy.
You picked it out from the jewelry department at Kohl’s. It was sized too big for my knobby finger, but that didn’t stop me from gawking at it, left arm outstretched, fingers arched proudly to the sky.
I wore that precious five-stone set for six years, never understanding why it felt so heavy. Never figuring out how something so small carried so much weight. Or why my palms—no longer found snuggled next to yours—sweated at the thought of just one more year with this ring, this gift, this promise chaining me to you.
In the end—after stillness, after apathy, after everything—that diamond was the last of our sparkle. Our lips formed only straight lines. Our laughter choked by so much left unsaid.
In the end, I found the clarity that solitaire had all along—when I realized there’s more to happiness than carats and cuts.
And I listed the ring in a classified ad of its own.
MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL IN PERSON. PICTURES DON’T DO IT JUSTICE.
Now I wait for some new young lover to buy it and surprise his girlfriend with the proposition of a lifetime. And I’ll whisper “I’m sorry” as I pass it off, tucked securely in the same grey suede box you hid in the pocket of your jeans so many years ago.
I’m sorry I didn’t know me better.
I’m sorry I didn’t know me sooner.
But I’m not sorry for following my heart.
This piece was written as part of a creative fiction challenge in which I found a classified ad and developed the story behind the ad.