The Ring

Nora lifted the empty glass from its perch on the edge of her coffee table, only to reveal the ghostly imprint beneath. She ran her finger over the white ring to test its stubbornness; it glared back at her, a single white eye in a dark sea.

Ben had left that morning—had dressed and washed his face and eaten breakfast as Nora pretended to sleep in their bed, hands clenched under their quilt. She didn’t know if he would return and she could not decide if she really even wanted him to. She wanted to cry out to him, wanted him to comfort her, but couldn’t be sure that her body wouldn’t bristle under his touch. He had not kissed her goodbye, but after five years of marriage, she knew that never was his custom.

Nora took the glass to the sink, let the hot water scald her hands as she washed the outside rim and then sank her hand down inside its hollow. They were going to name the baby Samantha. She scrubbed harder, left herself for a moment to observe the young woman slouched over the sink, her unwashed hair, the robe that she knew would stay on all day shrouding the flat stomach.

Samantha. The name sounded as foreign as a word repeated so many times that it loses its meaning, syllables broken and unable to mend themselves. Nora concentrated on drying the glass for much longer than necessary before righting it in its proper row.

She had driven herself to the hospital when the bleeding started. Sitting on cold vinyl still in hospital gown, she had listened to the doctor’s verdict with no arms to hold her. Afterwards, at home, she had set her purse down in their living room and opened the door of the would-be nursery, its walls still smelling of fresh paint, had allowed the dreams for her daughter to wash over her in waves—the newly-assembled crib, the old rocking chair her mother had given them, the rug with its price tag still attached.

After several minutes of the slow drowning, her body kicked into survival mode: crossing the room in three strides, she ripped the curtains down in one violent motion, and then, as methodically as a rosary prayer, she took her time pulling the yellow lace from its fabric, the pop-pop-pop of torn thread no match for the roar in her head. When Ben finally came home from work, he found her shivering in a bath long grown cold, her eyes dry and staring.

They used to be in love. But they had been young. They hadn’t known any better. Nora wasn’t sure when they began growing apart; it was a gradual shift, like continents slowly tearing away from one another, the sea between them lapping respective banks, eroding all that seemed familiar. Even before the summer night they finished off two bottles of Pinot, lay naked by the window air conditioner, kissed a little too desperately and made something just a little short of love, there were talks of separation.

They might have made quite a family, she thought. A baby might have saved everything. Nora had focused all her hope on the magic inside her belly, had believed with all her heart that she would never be alone again. “If it’s a girl, I hope she has your eyes,” Ben had said, beaming at her in uncharacteristic admiration. She wanted to hit Pause, relive that glow she had felt then forever. The next day, she ripped up the piece of paper her friend had given her with the lawyer’s number, threw it in the trash.

He listened with a stoic’s face to the news, delivered as it was in broken bursts of courage. Wordlessly, he filled a glass with ice, two fingers-width of vodka and transferred it delicately to her shaking hand. Nora drank without tasting and followed the trail of cold liquid over her tongue and down her throat until she felt it coat her empty stomach, the subtle burn. They sat in silence for a long while before he took the sweating glass from her, set it down on the table and led her to bed.

To anyone else, to any visitor, it might not have even been noticed, so weak was the white outline. And even if it were, it would have been acknowledged and then ignored as a charming mark of character to an old piece of furniture, some child’s negligence, the last echo of a memory trying to keep its place.

Heidi Evans

Heidi Evans has an M.A. in Creative and Media Writing from Swansea University in Wales. She teaches writing and literature at Nashville State Community College, and her work has appeared in Nashville Arts, Swansea Review, and other journals. She can be reached at

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