It was their wedding anniversary. Ten years. She sat at the table and considered what she would write. Usually, words came easy for her. She could be honest when writing. She could bare her soul and let the words flow from it in beautiful form. Raw. Emotional. Stunning.
But nothing came. She stared down at the card. She considered writing: I want a divorce. It crossed her mind to write: I cannot find it in my heart to love someone who hurts me. Still, the ink did not connect with the card-stock paper.
She thought about poetry. Something sentimental. But if she pulled out what she had written in the last ten years, there was nothing pretty. It was dark and gloomy. Cries for help that were never answered. Inked screams. Nightmares. A poetic prison.
It took forty-five minutes for her to scrawl her name. No pretty words. No promises of the future. No love, hearts or x’s and o’s. Just her first name, in bright blue ink, in block letters.
She put the card in the envelope. Tucked the flap. Wrote his name on the front and left it lying on the table with his gifts. An assortment of small things – his favorite cologne, a CD he’d been talking about non-stop, a t-shirt she’d ordered online. And a note telling him to meet her at the AT&T store at lunch to get his new cell phone.
He woke up late, as usual. She was one foot out the door with their daughter, headed to drop off the little angel at daycare and spend the day at work. She watched him stare at the table, his face a mixture of confusion and anger.
“Happy Anniversary,” she said.
“Yeah, you too,” he replied, as he closed the bathroom door behind him.
With a sigh, she held her hand out to their daughter and off they went, to begin another day.
The little black box sat on the table, where she’d left his gifts this morning. She stared at it. Wondered when it had appeared. He’d already told her that their anniversary had been forgotten. It wasn’t the first time.
There was no card. No note. Just a little box, a ring box to be exact.
She lifted it from the table and held it in her hand. It was light. No weight. She shook it. Something moved inside.
She closed her eyes and opened the box. Peering into it, she laughed.
A dime, with a hole drilled through it and a small ring, obviously taken from a key-chain, looped through the hole. She stared at it. Tears fell. Uncontrolled laughter escaped. A dime.
“Did you find your gift,” he asked.
She was curled up in the recliner, a book in her hands. A cup of hot tea sat on the table beside her, steaming.
She looked up. “Yes, thank you.”
“I figured it was fitting. A dime for ten years.”
His smirk made her want to throw up. “I’m sure it took some time to put it together.”
He laughed. “You’ll have to buy a chain for it.”
“Of course,” she responded as she picked up her cup.
“You aren’t mad,” he asked.
She shook her head. “What’s there to be mad about?”
“You spent about four hundred dollars on me. I pulled a dime out of my pocket.”
“You know it’s the thought that counts.” She smiled at him, avoiding his eyes.
“What do you think the thought is in me drilling a hole in a dime?” He grinned. “I figured that you’re supposed to get something great for ten years, right?”
“Well, if the last ten years had been great, and you weren’t such a fucking cunt, I’d have gotten you diamonds or something. Instead, I gave you what you’re worth.” He chuckled to himself as he walked out of the room, “Make sure you wear it”, he called as he continued through the house, and out the back door.
She stared after him in amazement. Bile rose up in her throat. She ran to the bathroom and purged everything not already digested.
It wasn’t the first time in the last few months, and she was sure it wouldn’t be the last, that hatred consumed her. She wished she could take it all back. Every penny she’d spent, every second she’d wasted. She could have bought herself something nice. Bought her daughter something fun. She could have … but she didn’t. Because, after all, who would she be if not the idiot? The fool? The one who held onto some string of hope that someday, one day, she would be worth more. She shook her head and dried her eyes. A dime.
She unclasped her necklace and removed the pendent she’d purchased for herself. She slid the dime onto the chain and, with a heavy heart, hung it around her neck. It felt heavy and hot against her skin and she adjusted it twice. Still, it seemed to be her scarlet letter – her price tag – a public display of her value.
She picked her book back up, sipped her tea, and resumed the alternate reality in the pages of her book. At least then, when she was immersed in someone else’s story, she did not have to deal with her own.