I Knew Him Well – Alex S. French

Suzanne untwisted her wine cap and plonked some more Rioja onto her misplayed Tetris of fruit. She shook her head as the crevices filled and floated, “I don’t know how you do it, Jane. You’re such a saint.”

It was the type of compliment that knifed and niggled and cut more one day than the next. Jane smiled dreamily in response and looked off to the side where the breezed trees chattered a soft chlorophyllic chorus. Let them whisper away another slight notch to her soul.

Through the sliding glass door Jane could see Graham and Trudy laughing as Rick pranced about the room in some manic self-made game of Charades. They were two of his oldest friends and had no qualms about being stuck with him for the rest of their lives. Though the obsessive in Trudy could leap out at Rick’s impish prodding, the anger never truly lasted. It was hard to stay mad at a man so innocently preposterous.

Panting with campy exhaustion, Rick breathlessly rolled up to the counter and pulled from his can of beer like an inhaler. Chugging at the contents, his left hand twiddled and tapped his steel wedding band onto the Formica.

How many rings had he lost in exactly the same manner? Or when he decided to play quarters with it? Splashed from hand to glass to gullet in so much as a tiddlywink. She personally had seen him over eagerly swallow enough to adorn all his fingers. It was surprising that both his and the home’s plumbing had managed to handle the strange digestif so well.

If they could accept it, she had decided she could as well. There was no real expense to the lost rings. He made cupfuls of them at a time in his metal shop in the backyard shed. It was more the ease at which his hand looked free that bothered her. Monogamy had always been so simple for him. There was no threat in his suntanned fourth digit. Running ringless through the bars of their town or the bookstores for her work was of no concern to anyone who knew him. It was simply par for the course. Another chip shot from the shaggy well-manicured rough he had come to exemplify. Their marriage, their relationship, was not a question for him.

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