The New Ring

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by Tess Pfeifle

Narrated by Bob Eccles

 
Callie is a cunning girl. It seems as if eloquence was bequeathed to her at birth from her mother, along with a splash of humor from her father. She is always quick to send a thank you note in flawless handwriting. Though our initial taste of adventure has been somewhat dulled, I can still feel it inside of her. When we do something together, spur of the moment, I feel the threat of the unknown that beats somewhere deep in her soul. Riding fast in a car at night, cliff diving, rolling in the ocean’s waves together. Callie is short of temper, but on special occasions, can muster up the most beautiful smile ever seen. She is the best girl for me, the best I’ll ever get.

Or so I’m told.

I love her, and she loves me. Though we have a few sparkling conversations, moments where we both exist completely as ourselves, our love is derived from a forceful amount of lust. But still, we call it love. Go figure.

We spend too many days wrapped in each other’s arms in deafening silence. Her mother doesn’t approve of me, her father likes me, but only because I’m a Republican.

He’s a Democrat. I joke and say he only wants the best for his daughter. He jokes back that his wife’s dad was dead when he proposed. I guess that was a good thing, or Callie wouldn’t be here. Or maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I guess I wouldn’t know.

She’s calling to me, but it seems like the noise passes through mountaintops and low valleys before it reaches my barely listening ears.

“Would you like to find my lost ring today?” she questions.

All her rustling wakes up. Why must clothes be so noisy? “Is there anything else to do?”

“Of course not, Tate. There is nothing else to do today besides look for my lost ring. See? It’s raining outside.” She motions to the dreary landscape that lies outside the window.

“What does your lost ring look like?”

“It’s gold, it has words on the inside of it. That’s all I remember about it. It’s been lost a long time.”

Times like these, I do not love Callie so much. She is beautiful, but empty, like a painting. No matter how elaborate a painting is, it is still only a painting. But sometimes, late at night, or early in the morning when the winds of adventure and the unknown are tapping on her soul, she tells me her ideas, her dreams. She’s in a state of frenzy, almost lunacy, and those are the times I love her. Those times make it worth it. For the most part, at least.

“Obviously,” I say as I put on my pants.

I walk downstairs while Callie continues to get ready. Her parents are gone for the week. I don’t know why she needs to find a lost gold ring; she has enough money to buy another one. She has more money in one room than my parents do in their whole house. Sometimes I wonder why we’re even together.

“Will you make me some toast?” Callie asks, her blond hair delicately braided and hanging loosely on her shoulder.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Okay, I’ll be in the dining room.”

I open the fridge, full of fresh fruit, meats, and juices. An overflowing bowl of fresh salad lays in front of me. Their maid made it last night. This fridge probably cost more than my whole existence. Yet here it is, humming away. Money well spent, in some universe I suppose. Not the universe I’m from.

As I grab the butter and wait for the toast to pop out, I wonder if Callie just sees me as part of the help. I certainly can’t give her anything, or buy her anything. We have decent conversations every once in a while. We are both intelligent people, despite our stark monetary differences. I am good looking; better looking than the people her mother wants her to date.

 

Her mother wishes she would date the sons of doctors, sons who would eventually become doctors themselves or lawyers for private practices. I work at a mechanic shop. Maybe I’ll own one someday.

Callie hates the smell of gasoline and the sight of grease.

I walk towards the dining room, towards Callie, balancing small plates of toast on my arm.

She stands up and kisses my cheek. “Thank you, sweetheart.”

We eat wordlessly; the only noise is the crunching of the bread and the tapping of my feet.

“Tate, are you ready to start looking for my ring?” Callie asks, dabbing at her mouth.

“Of course, darling.”

I get up and take away the plates without being asked. I walk to the kitchen and begin rinsing them off. I think about my future, my future with Callie. We are almost thirty. I know I should be planning my future, instead of making toast, instead of living in this seemingly endless confusion. I feel like the rest of the men my age, conflicted. Young Hamlets tormented with the same beckoning, blistering, biting question. To propose, or not to propose, that is the question?

As if she could hear me, I feel two soft, cold arms wrap around the trunk of my body.

“I love you,” Callie whispers breathily into my ear.

I turn around and grip her close. “And I, you.”

Sometimes I beguile myself into believing I love her. Sometimes I do love her; when she’s dancing, when she’s cooking, when she’s riding a bike. I love her the times when she seems real, instead of the porcelain doll she masquerades as.

“Where do you think you lost the ring?” I ask, stroking her cheek. I’ve seen it in the countless romantic comedies we’ve watched together. She always seems to like actions like that. She thinks she’s supposed to, at least.

“In the game room? Maybe I took it off while I was playing pool?”

“Let’s check.”

I shiver a bit; I haven’t put on my shirt yet, and the early winter chill is beginning to creep in through the windows. The rain isn’t helping either. This big house, this big wealth, this big life, am I ready for it? I can barely support myself and my meager apartment, much less Callie, a girl who deserves and expects the best.

Though I suppose our relationship is proof enough of our love, a rich trust fund baby spending years of her precious youth on a local mechanic.

The newspapers would gobble it up. Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story?

We climb the opulent marble stairs to the game room. Two red, puckered leather doors with round glass in the middle face me. I’ve always thought they looked like two doors from an old, forgotten Italian restaurant. Two days ago, before Callie’s parents left, her father Rod told me how he came to own them. “They were going to demolish the building for a parking lot, but I saw those two red doors from that Italian restaurant and I had to have them, so I got them.” I like the way Mr. Finch talks, makes him less intimidating. The Finches are noveau riche after all, whether or not Mrs. Finch admits it.

I begin looking for the ring half-heartedly. Callie’s phone rings.

“Hi, Daddy. No, we aren’t going outside, we won’t catch colds, don’t worry.” She laughs into the phone. I begin to tune her out, focusing on the leather couch. Crouching on my knees, searching for the ring.

“Tate, dear, Daddy says you better find the ring, or you’ll have to buy me an engagement ring, and that will most certainly be the death of you!” She giggles, but I have to agree. Being married to Callie would be the death of me. The death of a lot of me’s, the death of lower-middle class Tate, the death of grease-covered overalls Tate, the death of cheap takeout for dinner Tate.

We search for the ring for a few more hours until we go downstairs for lunch.

Callie waits in the dining room again. I take out soup from the other night and reheat it, pouring carefully into China bowls with flowers engraved on them.

I bring it to Callie, and once again she stands up to kiss my cheek.

“Tate, what would I do without you?” She beams.

“I suppose you would be pretty hungry.” I laugh, almost believing it. Callie depends on other people too much.

We eat the rest of the meal in silence. Mr. Finch’s playful words echo in my brain until I believe them, until I believe they are a good thing.

“Callie, would you like to be married to me?” I ask, hesitant, anxious, but still void of the feelings I know I should be feeling. Marriage, commitment, children . . . all of this spells death to me. Part of me knows Callie understands it, part of her knows parts of me will die when I give her that ring.

Her eyes brighten momentarily. “Daddy will you give you a job at his advertising firm and our apartment in the city. We’ll be quite happy, won’t we?” Callie says, squeezing my cold hand.

“We will be happy.” I almost believe that; if we grow into what I want, we could be happy, we really could.

A flash of doubt crosses her face, but she races out of the room, the thought of a new life with a handsome man fresh on her mind. I guess I made her forget all about that ring.

I understand that doubt in her eyes, though. I guess it’s pretty hard to believe the last words of a dying man.

 

Bio: TTess Pfeifle loves humor, horror, and of course reality. She’s eighteen and enjoys nothing more than sitting down with a good Kurt Vonnegut book in the sun. If you’d like to know more about her, or read more of her work visit: www.tesspfeifle.weebly.com