The varying shades of one woman
Ruby has returned home recently after a long absence.
Â She's depressed by her lonely house, so she's pleased when an old friend drops by.
Â Her friend asks about Ruby's husband.
Â Ruby is puzzled and a little fearful because she doesn't recall ever having a husband.
The Color of Ruby
Blood red were the color of the velvet drapes that adorned her living room. The paisley print of the carpet held the same jeweled color. Wallpaper, painted with roses that held one ruby red crystal at their center, invited awe. Each painting and each stick of furniture called to mind its owner, Miss Ruby Rose.
Dumping her bags in the foyer, she heaved a huge sigh of relief at being home. Her beauty served only to grace the decor. Her amber colored curls and fine porcelain skin added warmth to the room, like a fireside hearth. The sparkle in her bright green eyes though slightly dimmed from the weariness of her travels could not be contained. Her lips seemed to dance in the up-stretched arc of a smile. Ruby was unaware of her beauty, only the mirror on the wall gave witness to the scene
"Home, my sweet, sweet home. Too long have I been gone. The familiar welcomes, but the silence is so deafening. How I long for voices to greet me. It is people that make a home! Even the rosebuds on the wall lack the vibrant embrace of a family. I have created my own garden of sadness. Things will have to change around here, if this is to be a proper home!" Ruby shouted to the room.
Marching to some imaginary tune that played in her head, Ruby descended on her bedroom. There were more roses and rubies with all the shades of red that decorated her sleep chamber. She took no notice of the furnishings as she plopped onto the bed. She shivered from the coolness of the blanket against her skin. Alone, a solitary figure in the large bed, Ruby wept at the emptiness of her abode. Then she slept a long and much needed sleep.
Ruby woke to the sound of doorbell chiming. Startled, she sat upright in the bed rubbing her face in an effort clear her mind. She glanced at the rose-petal clock on the nightstand noting the time as six. The dirty hue of light filtering in through the shades confirmed the early evening hour. The dusky sky echoed Ruby's mood as she swung her feet over the side of the bed.
The bell continued to ring, as she scooted down the hall to answer it. Ruby wasn't awake enough to know if she was happy at the prospect of a visitor or irritated by the interruption of her rest. She peered through the peephole before opening the door and selected the proper temperament based on the guest standing on the other side of the door. Joy, stirred by the sight of her old friend, plastered her face.
She threw the door open in her excitement.
"Marshall, get in here you old scallywag. Does a body good to see an old friend," Ruby exclaimed.
"Miss Ruby, you are a sight for sore eyes! Still as beautiful as always. You've been gone way too long for my liking."
"Ever the flirt. Even when we were in elementary school, you were always the charmer with the ladies."
Ruby threw her arms around his masculine frame, briefly admiring the scent of the outdoors that kissed his skin. It was an aroma that spoke of rugged adventure and the pursuits of fun. She glanced at his denim jacket and tight fitting dungarees making her heart swoon. She could feel the old familiar feelings cause her heart to race. His wavy black hair and the slight stubble of his beard elicited new unsavory desires. Her mind swirled with thoughts of how just one whiff of the man reminded her of all the things she wept for earlier. She brushed away the sadness and invited him to a seat on the couch.
"Can I get you a glass of wine? We have so much to catch up on."
"That we do, Ruby. I'll take you up on the offer of some vino."
"White or red?"
"In this house? Red of course, nothing else would do!"
"It is a little overdone, isn't it? When Mom and Dad died, I wanted to make it different. You know, take away the memories and the pain that was staring me in the face. I wanted to make it mine, but I think I went a little overboard. I think I just shaded over the pain with roses and rubies."
"Ruby, that was over two years ago. They wouldn't want you to continue to grieve. This house is yours now and you decorated the way you saw fit. They would be happy you made it your home. It has your colorful personality. Now, you may have to man it up a bit for that new husband of yours."
Ruby felt the walls closing in on her. A shudder of disbelief racked her body as the man spoke. She searched her memory banks for the validity of his statements. His casual use of the word, "husband" seemed to gag her as she fought to speak.
"Yes, I'm a little hurt that I wasn't invited But I couldn't be happier for you. Aunt Paula told me all about the courthouse nuptials. Glad she was able to be there for you. Your parents would have loved that."
"I don't understand.... what?"
"Paula told me about the gorgeous ring he put on your finger. Emeralds suit you! And I hear he is quite the catch."
Ruby gasped at the jewel sitting on the third finger of her left hand. The oversized green gem covered half of the slender digit. Diamonds encircled the pear-shaped green stone.
Ruby had no memory of the ring, the wedding, or the man.
"So when do we get to meet this man? Nicolai Ramirez is his name, correct?"
Like a bug smashing against the windshield, Ruby felt the thud of the unfamiliar name battering her brain. Her mind carried only shadows of some unknown territory. Questions seemed to form with every detail Marshall inflicted on her. Suddenly, she couldn't stop the flood of tears falling from her eyes.
Marshall turned the color of the drapes in his confusion. He jumped up from his seat to comfort the woman. Clumsily, he wiped at her tears with his thumbs not understanding the reason for the outburst. He knew only that chivalry demanded it of him.
"Marshall? .... I don't even know where to start. Everything you said seems real, but I have no memory of any of this."
Ruby twirled the ring on her finger, staring at it as if in a trance. The feel of the bauble was alien to her touch. Her mouth, like a fish reaching for the bait, opened and closed many times as she tried to form the words.
"I have never seen this ring before. It is not mine and I don't know how it got there," Ruby vomited the words out as they appeared in her head.
Marshall pushed himself back from Ruby. Looking into her eyes to study the truthfulness of her statement, he saw only a shimmering plea for help in her eyes.
"Ruby, I don't understand. Paula told me the wedding was very elaborate. She described the ceremony in great detail. Everyone around here was eager to celebrate the return of Ruby and her new husband. And the ring, how could you not remember that? It is huge! And how do you just forget being married? I don't get what you're telling me."
"I don't know. I can't explain it either. There was no wedding! I have no idea how this ring got on my finger! There is no husband! Certainly, I would have remembered him."
Ruby first felt the anger rise in her chest, like a bad case of heart burn, the flames spread to her face leaving wicked splotches of red on her cheeks. She had trusted this man and now she doubted every word he said. She knew the truth and for some unknown reason, he was feeding her a line of lies. He was playing games and hurting her with the weapon of her heart's greatest desire.
"Marshall, there is no husband and there was no wedding. I don't know why you are making up these lies, but it is not funny. It is very hurtful. Please leave!"
"Ruby, please, I'm not trying hurt you. Obviously, there was some misunderstanding. Let's figure it out together. Let me help you."
"I think I need to be alone right now! Please, go. We will talk later. Ask Paula if she could stop over tomorrow. We have many things to discuss."
Marshall moved slowly towards the door with the pain of the encounter visible in his eyes. He had no scripted lines in his head, only the grief resided. If only there were answers to help his friend. He found himself wishing he had never come to the house.
Glancing back at the woman, he saw her looking frail and vulnerable, and his heart ached at knowing he was the cause of her distress. With his mind a jumble of thoughts, he paid no notice of the large suitcases still lingering in the foyer. He tripped over the bags, but righted himself quickly as he exited Ruby's house for the last time.
Like a proud peacock, she stood stiffly staring after Marshall. She knew the truth and she refused to let his lies harm her. She couldn't help but sigh a breath of relieve at his departure. He had managed to stir all of the emotions she had buried for over two long years.
"Why would he speak such lies? And Paula, she had been such a good friend to her parents. Why would she make up such things like she did?" Ruby whispered to herself.
She couldn't deny the ring.
All the unanswered questions waltzed through her psyche.
"A dream...this all must be a dream! None of it is real!"
"Yes, I'm just sleeping. No wedding! No ring! And no husband!" she screamed into the night air.
She wrenched the emerald ring from her finger and tossed it across the room. The ring bounced on the carpet skipping towards the suitcases. The ornate band landed in a small puddle of goo that had leaked from the bag. Ruby dashed to retrieve it. Her hands and the beautiful ring were splattered with the scarlet colored remnants from the puddle. The blood on her hands matched the tint of her surroundings.
As if a hurricane had descended upon her, her mood had changed. A violent and bubbling transformation was occurring inside her mind and Ruby was unable to fight it. This was a familiar battle and she was too weak to defend herself. The personalities laying dormant in her mind cascaded to the surface, with one evil identity gaining its power. It was always her. She had always been the strong one stripping away all the things that Ruby loved. Waves of searing pain crashed at Ruby's temples, making her feel like the vessels in her head were bursting from the pressure. Ruby, the beautiful gem, was submerged into the caverns of her mind and the wilted rose was no more. Her last sensation, like the swoosh of a swirling river, was the emergence of her alter-ego, Miss Crimson Rose.
"Better put these suitcases away. Won't be going anywhere for a long time, now that I'm an old married lady. Right, Nicolai?"
"I think I need to introduce you to Mommy and Daddy. Let's go get you unpacked, my dear. You'll love it in the closet. I had it lined with rose scented paper. And the color is to die for!"
Word count 1985