Ouch. This bittersweet story by AJ Joseph will surely turn your heart into a pincushion. But, don't take my word for it. Read on and do leave a comment, would ya?
23rd December 2011
Margaret tapped her feet on the floor as she sat on the plush sofa while attempting to sing along to Wham’s Last Christmas. She was waiting for Simon, her best friend, to return with the glass of punch he’d promised to get her. That was 15 minutes ago.
“Last Christmas...mmmm...my heart...mmmm...next day....you....mmmm...away. This year...mmm…semi-frontier...mmm -”
“- save me from tears,” a laughing voice said next to her. “It’s save me from tears, Mar, NOT semi-frontier.” Simon sank into the sofa next to her and handed her the glass of punch that was now lukewarm. Warm punch, she thought, Ugh. “Only you’d butcher a perfectly good song.”
“I know that, Simon. Semi-frontier sounds better though.”
It was Jolene’s annual Christmas party and she’d invited everyone she knew, including most she didn’t. It was a crush. The music was so loud, Margaret had to shout in Simon’s ear whenever she wanted to tell him something.
She was supposed to be at the party with her boyfriend, Alex but at the last minute, he’d told her that his folks had asked him to help them with an errand. He’d given her a kiss on the forehead, like a little girl and told her that he’d meet her at Jolene’s. She pouted but he’d already walked away and missed it. Something was up. She felt it. He seemed distant.
So, here she was waiting and still no sign of her errant boyfriend. She took a deep breath, let it out with a whoosh and brought the glass of warm punch to her lips. She could smell vodka in it and scrunched up her nose. Oh well, it wouldn’t be a wild Christmas party without a little spiked punch.
As the liquid touched her lips she heard - CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!
“What the -?” Margaret put the glass down and looked around What WAS that sound? Everyone else seemed to be occupied, even Simon. The sound must’ve been her imagination then.
Margaret lifted the glass to her lips again and was ready to take her first sip when - CLINK! CLINK! CLINK! “Jeez! What IS that sound???”
“I think it’s coming from inside your glass,” said Simon next to her. She glanced at him then peered into the glass. Inside her glass? Yeah right. It was only vodka, punch and ice.
She scrutinised the contents of her glass. Wait, one of the ice looked a little more shiny than usual. Ugh. Foreign matter. She fished the ice out of the glass and held it in front of her eyes even as the drips slid down her arms. There was something embedded in it.
Suddenly, Simon exclaimed “It’s a ring!” She startled. She’d forgotten that she wasn’t alone.
The ice melted slightly and she could make out the curved edges of the object. Huh. Simon was right. She was turtle slow that night. She picked at the ice until most of it had melted and eventually pulled a silver ring out from its cold prison. It was exquisite - the setting was a heart-shaped turquoise. It was the exact ring she had been coveting several weeks ago when she and Alex had stopped at Elixir, a jewelery store in the mall. She’d admired the ring in the display and had almost forgotten Alex beside her until he’d tugged at her arm and reminded her that they were going to be late for the movie if they didn’t get a move on. She turned to look at him, her eyes glazed from admiration. He had a small smile on his lips.
Margaret heard someone clearing their throat and looked up, her brown eyes met with Alex’s hazel ones. He stood at the doorway to Jolene’s living room looking down at her, love shone from his eyes, a roguish grin on his lips. “Phew, thought you were going to swallow it. Then my whole plan would’ve gone down the drain.” Margaret was sure that her mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish out of water by then.
He walked towards her and kneeled down. Taking the ring gently from her hands, he slipped it on Margaret’s finger. “Mar, I love you. I’ve loved you since you spilled popcorn all over me at the movies.” She chuckled then, remembering their awkward first date.
“Will you marry me?” The ring fit like a glove, snug and warm.
There was a moment of silence then Margaret flung her arms around his neck shouted “Yes! Oh, yes!”
“Merry Christmas.” He whispered against her lips. Merry Christmas thought Margaret. The merriest Christmas of all.
23rd December 2012
Simon held Margaret’s hand. Or rather she gripped his. Tight. “Are you sure about this?” His concern evident in his voice.
Margaret gave him the best fake smile she knew she had in her. “I’m sure. I’m fine. I’m good, Simon.” She squeezed his hand again in reassurance.
“Don’t give me your best fake smile. I taught you how to do that. It’s good though. You’ve been practicing.”
She let a chuckle slip before the heartbreak slid in place.
“Come on, the ceremony’s about to start.” He pulled her forward as they took their seats in the last pew in the church. As it was, they were late.
She heard the priest say “Repeat after me, please. With this ring, I thee wed.” The glowing brunette with the twinkle in her eyes repeated it and gave her groom a smile rivaling a sunset.
Then it was the groom’s turn to declare his commitment. “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Margaret watched, transfixed as Alex slipped the silver ring with the turquoise heart setting, identical to the one Margaret kept in a box in the drawer in the wardrobe of her apartment, onto the slender finger that was not hers.
Margaret clutched Simon’s arm tight, a lone tear tracked down her cheek. Merry Christmas, she wished herself. Merry Christmas.
AJ is a bookaholic, semi-insomniac, unsuccessful recovering java-holic and most importantly, an aspiring writer. Her first writing piece was a poem about stars which she wrote when she was eight years old. She's been in and out of writing since then, trying to fit it in between work and travels. She's recently decided to give writing her all and in the new year will be re-structuring her life around her first love - words.