“You know, eating tofu doesn’t make you a good person,” Carla banged the cherry bowl down on the table and looked disdainfully at Arthur.
“Sure it does. I’m going healthier than meat and protecting the environment.” He stuck his fork in his mouth again.
“Phytates will reduce the absorption of crucial minerals!”
“Honey, I think it’s high time you dropped the nutrition course.”
Carla scowled. “Never supportive, never.” She knocked over theglass of prune juice as she violently leapt from her chair, then opened the screen door and crashed it closed behind her. Arthur sighed and looked at the kitchen clock. Time to wash the car. And the table. He was hosing down the windows when his neighbour came up behind him.
“Hey, Arty. Any idea what I should buy Sandy for our anniversary?”
“Hey, congrats, Greg.” He looked up at the telephone wires. “You’re so fortunate, you know that? You can make her happy. You’re a normal husband…well, from what I can tell.”
“Well thanks, but Sandy’s usually happy, and it’s usually nothing to do with me.”
“See? I told you. Carla is the opposite, unhappy all the time, and it’s everything to do with me. Or at least my food choices.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“I try to remember the time we met whenever I start to think about, um… how free I’d feel separating. Or our visit to the marriage certificate office. We were thrilled. She couldn’t be happier. I could eat all the burgers I wanted, she just wanted to hold my hand.”
“So the good old days get you through the days, basically. I just thought of something. Why don’t we go now and both buy something nice?”
“I don’t know. I have the day off, but she doesn’t like anything! I’m telling you.”
“Let’s just go, see what we find. I know a gift is a quick fix, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“Go tell her now you’re going out with me and – “
“No need, she doesn’t mind if I leave without permission. She still knows she’s not my mother. Sort of. I washed the car. The garbage is out, so I’m good to go.”
“See? You’re a fortunate, independent guy yourself.”
“Maybe I am.” He laughed. “She doesn’t even make me take the garbage out all the time, you know that? That’s not like most wives, right? I think it’s because she likes to go through it first for compost stuff.”
“Whatever floats her boat!”
Half an hour later, they pulled up to Sophie’s Jewels & Watch Repair. “This is the place?” Arthur looked around cautiously.
“Yes, I took us to the right place, just follow me. I’ve been here a ton of times to buy her something and when broken chains need fixing.”
The pieces shone behind the glass, all kinds of jewelry for all kinds of people. They walked around, pretending to notice the unique beauty of each item.
“Greg, look at this nonsense. They’ve got a mood ring? You think it means anything?” He crouched down further.
“Can I help you?” The woman behind the counter was so laden with necklaces and bracelets, it was hard not to mistake her for a stand.
“Does this actually work?” Arthur pointed to the clear ring. “What are the colours and options?”
She smiled wide and swiped open the door. “Oh, this is something special! It changes colours, there are fifteen different shades for moods.”
“How many are negative?”
“I believe there are ten positive and five low moods. Purple is boredom, Red is passion, Orange is anger, Yellow is jealousy,” she ticked off on her fingers.
“I thought green was jealousy,” Greg interjected.
“Green is envy. Men,” she tut-tutted, “you should know the difference.”
They looked at each other and shrugged.
“Well, try it on first.”
She gingerly dropped it into his hand, and he forced it up his pointer finger.
“It’s turning blue. Deep Blue Generous. It’s $550.”
Greg picked out a heart-shaped ankle bracelet for Sandy (she already had an overload of earrings and necklaces), and they scampered back to the car.
“I can’t wait for this, do you know what this means? I’ll know her mood and what to expect. I’ll actually be prepared for her mood swings. For the first time in my life!”
Half an hour later, he flung open the front door and wrapped his arms around Carla, who was coincidentally standing right there. What amazing luck. “I have a surprise for you!”
She gasped and held him there for a nanosecond, then backed away.
“Woah. Arthur, where have you been? I was just mixing a salad and wondering where we left off... I was thinking, you know, it’s not the biggest deal – “
“Wait! Just see what I got for you first.” She plopped down on the couch and opened the rainbow box he put on her lap.
“Oh, interesting. What’s this for?” She put it on.
“Uh.” What to say? He had to let the shade guide him first.
She looked up at his face, and the stone turned a threatening red. His face began to match it. She’s mad again. This is insane.
“I knew it.” He inhaled shakily. “Nothing satisfies you. I think it’s time. We have to reconsider our marriage.” He exhaled sharply, turned away, and put his hands around his shoulders.
“What?” She spluttered, tears coursing down her cheeks. “I thought we just made up. I don’t understand you.” Her hands furiously wiped away the moisture. “I never did. I know, I never even did!”
Her heart forged on. “I can’t live in this confusion. I just wanted to burn fat, and now it’s going to be our marriage? You said forever, and what about Simon and Sophie?”
“They don’t exist.” Unborn-baby naming was for babies, he always knew that.
“I wanted a family!” She tore off the ring, which was yellow with pain. “This whole block is covered with kids. Why not any little Coopers?”
She pulled the couch blanket around her, her face numb. No more tears. He picked up the plastic shopping bag and climbed heavily upstairs. At the landing, he pulled out the receipt. Searching for ‘$550,’ his eyes fell on a column of coloured dots instead. “Where’s the freaking receipt?” The red dot answered.
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Wow. I haven't read anything this good in a long time. I wish I could leave a long detailed comment about how much I enjoy it, but I don't really know what to say. I love the mood of the story? Since when are mood rings so expensive? I guess if it works... It just goes to show an important lesson. The signs of people's moods are there, but you have to know how to read them. Also, I love the name!