I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over the ledge of the roof and on its way down. I scrambled to my feet and to the edge in a futile attempt to intercept my wedding ring as it plummeted towards the sidewalk eight floors below.
My stomach felt hollow as I realized tossing this meant it was over. There would be no more Sunday morning brunches of French toast coated with powdered sugar. No more staying up late, snuggled close on the settee watching black and white movies. No more spontaneous picnics on the apartment building’s roof.
Ours was not the tallest building in the neighbourhood. And the view was not scenic. Only the walls of other apartments or office buildings. No garden on the roof or pigeon cages where birds were kept by an elderly, eccentric, but harmless gentleman whose time had come and gone. Just a flat tar roof with three-foot ledges running along the sides and a small hut in the middle whose door opened to the staircase that led to and from the roof.
But this roof was our private getaway. The door was never locked, and we were never refused an escape from the world that made demands on our time and resources.
We discovered its accessibility one evening when Andrea, in a joyous mood, grabbed a bottle of wine, a blanket, and my hand before declaring, “Tonight we are investigating the heights of this building.” And, while I assured her a locked door would block our adventure, she laughed and assured me nothing would ever block us from adventure, or love. After that, usually on a whim, we picnicked on the roof on a semi-regular basis.
Andrea would pack a wicker basket with whatever we had in the kitchen. It might be leftover chicken or a ham sandwich. We always had potato chips and some celery sticks or sliced sweet red peppers. A bottle of wine and two long stemmed glasses a must. I would gather a blanket and a couple of pillows before making our way up the stairs and onto the roof.
We learned that late evening worked best as the tar was too hot when the sun beat down. Occasionally, more frequently lately, things got too heated without the sun’s assistance. A simple slip of the tongue. A suspicious innuendo. Perhaps a phone call not answered.
“I’m not answering because I want to spend my time only with you.”
“You’re not answering because you don’t want me to know whose calling.”
Little inconsequential things had begun to escalate. It seemed as if we fought every day. Our trips to the roof, although they grew more and more infrequent, were the times we were at peace, and, at least momentarily, in love again. Yet, pride and arrogance had begun to invade even those moments of refuge.
Then, that night, in a passionate rage, the blood throbbing against my temples, my pride wounded over some insult, real or imagined, I pulled my wedding ring off and flung it. In a fit of 2 melodrama, I tossed away the token that I vowed on my wedding night to never remove. A vow I had kept for over sixteen years.
She stood beside me staring over the ledge. The fragrance of Chanel drifted lightly on the evening breeze.
If she had yelled, raised her voice, raged, I would have found hope, but instead her voice was calm. “That was your wedding ring. I bought that for you. Picked it out just for you.”
Her head shifted to look at me. “Is this what you want? To throw it all away?”
I didn’t move my gaze away from the street. “Oh, Andrea. I am so sorry. I’ll find it. It’s down there. I didn’t mean. . . . Can you please forgive me?”
“No. We’re done.” She twisted her rings off her finger and, with a flick of the wrist, tossed them into the night. They fell through the sky like two wounded doves. The wedding band separated from the engagement ring.
I turned to speak, but she was already walking away. Never again would I hold her. Never again smell her shampoo, or hear her quiet laugh. Never again taste her kisses. And, as she passed through the doorway leading downstairs, I couldn’t even remember what we had been fighting about.
Joseph Cover teaches Creative Writing at Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College. He has published short fiction in the Origami Journal, Straylight (online version), and the Moon City Review as well as haiku in the Haiku Journal. He lives with his inspiration, his wife, and a three-legged cat, in a 90-year-old house in rural Missouri.