Her dress swirled in the soft summer breeze. The setting sun, with her golden hair, tenderly brushed her white canvas. The yellow paint spread on the white pallet, and outside the formless clouds appeared like random stains on dirty pallets.
She was gazing out to the window, her chin resting on her fingers. Ryan thought she was wondering what to draw.
But she was not.
She was watching at the woman in the street, her diamond ring gleaming in the sun, her silk dress dancing luxuriously. She was marching down the road, with her son trotting behind her. She looked like a queen surrounded by her luxuries and her domestic comforts.
Ryan turned and looked at his wife. Her dress was ragged and dirty, and her sleeves were stained with paints. She looked tired and worn out, though she was a young woman of 29. She was still gazing out with her hands clasped. Her tiny bead seemed pathetic in the hot rays of the sun.
He knew by his intuition: She was tired of poverty.
He did not know what to say. Should he way that he will get a third job? Should he say that this play will be a 'bomb' and he will become a millionaire? He glared at his rejected script lying on his wooden desk.
Ryan down to continue on his work. But he could not focus. Bitter thoughts swam around his troubled mind. Why should she be so unhappy, when she is an artist and she has a happy family? Doesn't she has everything she wants? Can't she be content only by him?
But as he and all the wise adults knew, one cannot live only with love and happiness.
The sun went down to the west horizon. His wife was now setting the table. When the dishes were lain, he sat gladly down on his seat. Perhaps he can say something nice to comfort her. It has been long since they had any proper conversations, except the one about finances. He smiled and opened his mouth to say something. But just then, a loud cry broke out from the room.
Esther dashed into the room like a firefighter who found a whole burning building. The lusty cry of his son echoed through the whole house. She was kneeling down beside the crab, doing cooing and embracing and shaking the toy loudly in the air. Her messy blond hair swayed left to right as she fussed around to calm this gawky boy. Outside her husband munched gloomily at his dinner, with uneaten food in the opposite of him, steaming and slowly going cold.
He cast a vague look at the picture on the wall. The bride was laughing happily, embraced by the broad-shouldered groom. He munched on the food loudly. The scream was still racing in the evening air.
As far as he remembered, his first proposal was made in the library, when he was ten. He took out the bead from his pocket that day, kneeling down beside her. That bead was the button that fell out from her dress, while he was stealing a look at her reading books to her Papa. He stooped down and grabbed it. When he hid back to the door, she spotted him and their eyes met. He still remember her gentle hazel eyes. Probably that was the first moment he loved her.
The next and more serious propose was on the station. She was a woman and he was a man. He glued the same bead on the ring and gave it to her. They moved to the new city and married there. Everything seemed perfect. Proud groom and his happy bride.
He felt small tap on his shoulders. He turned around. It was Esther. Her blond hair was glued on her sweaty neck. Her pale lips were pursed tightly.
"The lettuce is 1$ more expensive now. And the wheat price is rising terribly. I guess we have to save more."
"Oh," Ryan did not know what to say. "Alright."
"Mrs. Brown called me today, too," she continued. "She'll kick us out if we don't pay the money by 20th of July."
She pursed her lips again. Ryan stared blankly at the calendar. It was July 8th. Hold it, July 8th? It was their wedding anniversary! How could he forget it?
"Don't worry, honey," said Ryan, "I'm working on a new script. This one will definitely make us rich."
Esther stared the paper rolling on the table. Her raised her eyebrows. She found out the envelope signed 'rejected.' She smiled weakly at her husband. It wasn't very happy smile.
A grunt came out from the room. She hurried in again. Ryan could hear her singing lullaby with her weak, tired voice.
Sometimes he doubted if the woman standing there really loved him. Shortly after their son's birth, she became a mother and he became money machine. Discusses about rising prices came in the place of loving embraces and comforts. Her attention was always in the cries of her son. Every time he went back home from running out in the streets searching for theaters that would have his script, he found her wife kneeling beside his son's cradle. He did not blame her because he loved his son as much as she did. But the boy needed his mother and he needed his wife.
Ryan stared at the veil she wore at her wedding. It was lying on the drawer beside the table. It was their wedding anniversary and she totally forgot it. Ouch.
Did she really loved him? Was this the marriage life he was dreaming of? Bitter thoughts swarmed inside him.
A bead fell from the veil. He stooped down and grabbed it. He remembered the blond girl reading to her Papa in the library. He remembered the girl who accepted his poor propose and followed him through the strange land only because she believed him. He remembered the gentle hazel eyes sparkling with hope and dream. He pocketed the bead. Esther was out to talk with Mrs. Brown. Exciting thoughts filled his mind and the young man's heart leaped with joy. If her wife cannot fix the anniversary right, he might.
It was wonderful night. The stars twinkled and dazzled, and breeze gently stroked the crumbling rooftops. A night just right for proposal. Ryan's heart beat faster and faster even though this wasn't his first time. He took a deep breath. He asked her to come to the yard first when she arrives. His chest was in serious earthquake.
There she came. She wasn't the pretty young lady he had known before: Wearing dirty ragged dress, her weary eyebrows knitted with worries, and messy hair flying everywhere. But she still was the girl he loved and who joined him in life's harsh voyage and who said 'yes' to his proposal when he had nothing but love to give her.
He knelt down and took out the new ring he had made with the fallen bead. He raised it high so it gleamed in the moonlight.
"Happy anniversary, Esther!"
Smile spread on her weary face. She broke out laughing heartily.
"Gosh, Ryan." she exclaimed, "is that one of my lost button too?"
"It fell out from your veil, Miss," he answered, "it is much more meaningful and much cheaper. "
"Fine. Now I am looking forward to the moment which Mrs. Brown ask me why I always wear lost buttons and beads."
"I was wondering," he suddenly broke out, "if you would still love me when you are having a hard life because of me."
She stared at him blankly. She realized how much she has abandoned her husband. She thought she did the best she could for him but she aimed on the wrong goal.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Ryan," she said, "I'm not a reckless girl who married a man because of romances or luxuries. When I say l love you and I mean it. When I say I'll be your wife I mean it. We're just having troubles fitting ourselves together. Some say we're the perfect match but we're not two pieces designed to fit in perfectly, aren't we?"
He embraced her. She kissed his cheeks and whispered thank you. She pulled his arms toward the door.
"Come," she pressed, "I painted a picture and I want you to sign it."
They walked into the house and she brought a small painting before him. In the painting the man was on his knees and the woman beside him was clasping her hands with excitement. Behind them a train painted in red was passing by. He stared it for a moment wordlessly.
"Isn't it lovely?" Asked Esther.
"Amazing," he admitted, signing the painting. They sank into their chairs and giggled and laughed as if they were young teenagers.
"Now," announced Ryan, "let's talk about Mrs. Brown."
"What about her? How ridiculous she looks when she sits on her tiny stool and grunts?"
Ryan burst out laughing. She really did look ridiculous when she did it.
"It's make a nice gossip, Ryan, but don't you think it's too cheesy for adults to talk about?"
"Alright, then, let's talk about these expensive lettuces."
"Never mind that, honey, I ought to eat less. I'm gaining weight." She said, trying to pinch her thin arms.
"I'm going to get another job," Ryan declared.
"Incredible, we would have decent anniversary next year." She remarked.
"I'll buy you massive diamond ring."
"Of course. Buy me a diamond as big as a soccer ball." She said, leaning on her chair.
Inside the room the boy was fast asleep in his bed. The cold dinner lay completely forgotten. Ryan looked at Esther once again. She still was a poor, tired housewife who had to fuss about lettuce and wheat prices. But she looked like a graceful queen who are surrounded by love and happiness.
Of course, they were hungry and tired and they wanted new house and clothes and massive diamond ring. But as every wise adults know, one cannot live only by money and diamonds.