The Wedding Ring

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They sat side by side at the table. Evelyn Mason had just pulled his plate out of the microwave and Cooper Mason was digging in heartily. Evelyn sighed, her thoughts dwelling on the fact that this was the third week in a row her husband had been home late. Ideas had been floating in her mind since the past weekend: was he really working overtime or was he going out and drinking or did he have another woman? The last thought had seemed to lodge itself within her mind, and, the more it rattled around inside her brain while she stayed at home during the day with only an empty house for company, the idea had transformed into a truth. Even now, Evelyn couldn't help but wonder if he had showered just before coming home to get the scent of her perfume from his skin. Was it Janet, from the office? Or was it Mary, his friend from his college days?

Evelyn's eyes raked over her husband's body, searching for traces of a woman. She frowned at his bare left hand. She must have looked as untrusting as she felt because he stopped, halfway between bites, and looked her straight in the eye.

"Something wrong, Eve?" Cooper asked. He sounded innocent enough, but Evelyn wasn't in any kind of mood to play games.

"Are you seeing another woman?" Evelyn asked, her position at the table unchanging as she stared her husband in the eye.

Cooper spluttered and choked at the question. "What?" He exclaimed.

"Are you?" Evelyn asked, still retaining a calm demeanor.

"Why would you ask that, Eve? We've got two kids! A-and another on the way! I come straight home every night from work! What—"

"You've been getting home later and later for the past three weeks, Cooper." Evelyn pointed out.

"Do you remember what else happened three weeks ago?" Cooper asked, folding his arms and sitting in back in his chair. His dinner remained untouched since the question was asked; the dinner she worked on since four this afternoon that she re-heated for him when he got home at eight.

"What?" She snapped.

"Why are you being so cross with me tonight?" Cooper asked.

"You're letting the food get cold." She pointed out.

Cooper looked down at his food and frowned. "You know what. I'm not hungry anymore." Evelyn stared at her husband as he pushed his chair back, stood up, and walked out the front door, slamming it behind him. His actions shocked Evelyn so much that all she could do was sit at the table.

Why had the conversation disturbed him so much? Was it because he really was having an affair? He wouldn't have been so upset if he hadn't truly been doing what she had suggested. Evelyn brought her fingernails up to her mouth and began gnawing at them- a nervous habit she had retained from childhood. What if he was even seeing more than one woman? She got up at that point and started pacing the dining room. He could even have three different women! He was handsome enough to have attracted other women. No matter if he was an older man, he still looked quite young, and with a wife who usually stayed at home, especially during her pregnancy, it could look like to anyone that he was single- especially because he didn't wear his wedding ring. That dispute still reigned over the house now and again. He had big knuckles and claimed that wearing rings hurt his fingers and that he felt awkward wearing jewelry. He wouldn't even wear the damn thing around his neck. This whole damn situation was all the fault of that stupid wedding ring!

Frustrated beyond belief, Evelyn tore off her ring and threw it at the door. "Take that!" She yelled to no one before stomping into the kitchen and picking up where she left off washing the dishes from when Cooper had walked in. She picked up a plate and started scrubbing it vigorously. The stress with which Evelyn was scrubbing and the pressure she was putting on the plate was too much, and it cracked in her hand- the plate was ruined.

Evelyn's eyes welled up with tears as she stared at the cracked plate. "Stupid wedding ring." She whispered as she broke down and cried.

--

"Cecee, please give him back!" Russell Mason jumped up and down, trying to get his action figure from his sister's hands. "Cecee!" He whined.

"Say the magic words." Cecily taunted, keeping the toy just out of his small hands' reach. Russell moaned and started crying, still jumping.

"Please, Cecee! He's my favorite! Mom got him for my birthday!"

"I know. I was there." Cecily said. She looked down at her little brother and sighed, "You know what you have to say to get it back."

Russell frowned. "But—"

"Just say it, and you'll get your stupid doll back."

"Superman is not a doll." Russell said, his face full of insult for his toy. Russell glared at his older sister and stopped jumping. He was always trying to keep up with her. Cecily was constantly running around and bossing him around—just because she was older and taller. Russell frowned. Why couldn't he have been the older kid? He would have been nice to his little sister. He would have taught her to share—not to steal someone else's toys. That was what he planned on teaching the new baby after all.

Russell Mason could not wait until school started again and she would be away from him for most of the day; yet he felt a bubble of guilt in his belly from the cruel thought.

"Cecee, I'm done playing; please give him back." Russell said, holding out his hand for the toy.

Cecily frowned, still clutching her brother's toy close to her body. "If you don't say it I'll tell dad you wet the sheets again." Russell's blue eyes opened wide as the tears started flowing.

"That's not fair!" He wailed. Cecily grinned triumphantly.

"Say it!"

"Mommy!" Russell cried as he threw open the attic door and ran downstairs. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" He found her sitting at the bottom of the stairs and threw himself into her arms.

"Shh." She said softly, gently rubbing his back as he clutched her thin shirt. "What's wrong Russell?"

"Cecee, t-took my action f-f-figure and s-she won't give it b-back! And s-she said she'd t-t-tell dad ab-bout me w-wetting the be-e-ed" Russell wailed into his mother's large stomach.

Russell heard footsteps descending slowly down the stairs and turned his face to see Cecily's bare feet next to him on the steps. He quickly turned his head and buried himself into his mother's arms again.

One of his mother's arms left him as she pulled Cecily closer. "Mommy?" Cecily whispers. Hearing the concern in her voice, Russell looked up for the first time at his mother's face. He gasped as he saw the tears rolling down your face.

"What's wrong?" Russell asked. Thoughts of his toy disappeared, as did his anger for his sister. "Mommy?" His small voice was filled with worry.

His mother attempted to smile, but didn't convince either of her children, their blue eyes stared at her, waiting to know why she- the bravest, strongest person they knew- had tears streaming down her face.

"I'm fine." She said. Her voice was gentle and calm. It didn't even sound like she had been crying.

"Mom, where's dad?" Cecily whispered. Their mother's eyes welled up with tears again and they spilled fresh over her cheeks.

"I don't know." She whispered. The confidence was gone from her voice. Russell began to cry and buried himself within his mother's embrace once again. What if his dad had been in a car accident like Jimmy's dad? Did that mean he wasn't coming back at all?

Mother and children sat holding each other for a long time, each of their minds racing with thoughts and speculations.

At last their mother spoke in a soft voice, "You both should be getting to bed."

Cecily rose first, drying her face with her hands. She pulled Russell from his mother's grasp softly and said, "Is there anything we can do, Mommy?" Their mother looked at her two children tenderly and shook her head.

"Not right now, love." She looked tired and worn out, Russell thought.

"You should get some sleep, Mommy." He said, holding out his hand. She grasped it tight and smiled a little.

"I will. You two go on up to bed. I'll tuck you in in a little while." Russell and Cecily nodded their heads and hugged their mother once more.

"We left the attic light on." Cecily says.

"I'll turn it off. Go on to bed, now." She nods and, walking hand in hand with Russell, the two head to bed with heavy hearts and minds.

--

Cooper Mason had been walking outside for at least an hour or more. He had circled the park a block away from his house at least eight times and he still didn't feel any better about arguing with his wife. He knew he shouldn't have walked out like he had, but working overtime for the past three weeks and not being able to spend time with his kids had been getting to him. He ran his hand through his black hair for the thousandth time and finally sat down on a bench.

He watched a few children playing on the swing set as their parent's watched. He hadn't brought Cecily and Russell out here to play for at least two weeks now. It was killing him that he couldn't spend as much time with them as he wished. He was jealous of his wife for that. She could spend every day with them, especially during the summer. Even though they had a summer camp for most of the day, she was still there- when they left, when they came home. But he had to remember what he was working for- why he had been putting all those extra hours in to the office.

His hand found it's way into his hair once again. He turned to the west and watched as the sun's last rays vanished from the sky. The late nights that summer held were always a wonder to him. He was always amazed that the sun could stay out so much longer in the summer, giving him and his siblings more time to play in the yard or hang out with his friends at the diner in high school. He smiled, remembering those days. But his days now held something those days hadn't- Evelyn. He couldn't remember being happier than he was when he was with her. Cooper smiled, just thinking of how kind his wife was, how caring, and how devoted she was.

It broke his heart to think she really thought he could ever take interest in any other woman than her. Cooper leaned over, bracing his hands on his knees and letting his head fall into his hands. What had he done to mess up so much? Had he made her angry? What had given her the impression that he would be cheating on her? She knew he was working overtime for—

Or did she?

Cooper's head shot out of his hands so fast he practically bolted off the bench and out of the park. The sky was getting darker by the second and by the time he reached the house it was black. The only light on in the house was in the attic. He ran up to the door and tried to turn the knob but it was locked. He searched his pockets furiously but realized he had left his keys on the kitchen table. He sighed and reached for the doorbell when he heard a soft sound coming from behind the door. He put his ear up to the door and the sound of his wife crying became clear.

"Evelyn? He said loud enough for the sound to travel through the door. The crying stopped but he knew she was still there. "Evelyn? Evelyn!" The door flew open a moment later and before he knew what hit him, Evelyn was in his arms, clinging to him and sobbing. "Eve?" Cooper whispered, holding her just as close. "What--?"

"I didn't think you were coming back. I didn't think—"

Cooper leaned back and took her chin into his hands. "Why would you ever think that?" She looked up into his blue eyes and shook her head.

"I thought—I thought—" She swallowed and shook her head again. "You left and you were so angry and I accused you of something terrible but it's been eating me up and I had to ask—" He cut off her words with a kiss. When they came apart he was smiling softly at her.

"Did you remember what happened three weeks ago? What you asked me?" She looked at him and shook her head in confusion. "You asked if we could send the kids to a private school." He eyes opened wide as she remembered. "I told you that with my hours right now I wouldn't be able to pay for Cecily, Russell, and the new baby," he said, tenderly placing a hand on her stomach, "so I've been putting in extra hours to save up for when the baby has to go to school." Evelyn's eyes welled up with tears once again that night. Cooper smiled and held her as closely as possible in his arms. "I didn't mean to make you worry so much. I thought you would have remembered— you argued your case so much."

"I love you, Cooper." Evelyn whispered softly into her husband's arms. He took her hands, smiling at her, until he felt her left hand.

"Where is your ring?" Evelyn looked down and blushed.

"I was trying to rationalize. I figured that women would be attracted to you and the fact that you didn't wear your ring would make them think you were single and that was how you met them and so I took off my ring and chucked it at the door when you left." He took one look at his wife, her eyes still trained on the ground, before Cooper Mason broke out laughing. Evelyn looked at him like he was crazy, and damned if he wasn't for loving this girl with her giant imagination. He took her face in his hands, gave her a kiss, and smiled at her.

"Let's go find your ring then." Cooper said, taking hold of his wife's hand and lead her back into the house.

"Are you going to wear your ring now, then?" Evelyn Mason asked in earnest.

Cooper Mason smiled. "I think I might from now on, yes." Evelyn smiled up at her husband with such tenderness that Cooper felt his resolve melt. Yes, he would wear that ring—and damned be any woman that try and take him away from this angel.

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