Ring in the New Year

The windshield wipers beat slowly, clearing the tiny translucent drops from the windshield.  I gripped the steering wheel and pushed against my hands making the obnoxious leather against leather noise that i have come to detest.  My radio is bombarding me with a song sung in a deep country drawl about their amazing girlfriend who becomes their amazing wife.
I was going to be an amazing wife once.  We had this idea to get married.  Maybe it was my idea and he just agreed.  We did most of the typical “getting married” things.  I picked out the rings, I picked out the dress, I picked where and when and what time.  I made the invitations and the guest lists.  I stressed over music and food.  I called caterers.  I did the paperwork to get myself on his insurance and filed all the paperwork to make myself his legal spouse.  I even requested and filed the marriage certificate.  I was off to a great start.
Then he hated the rings, wasn’t going to be around on the day, and was pretty much turned off at my idea of a romantic setting.  His mom completely revamped the idea, re-planned the wedding, and told me when to show up.  I walked down the aisle and into my first divorce.
I knew I found the right one when he held the door open for me on our first date.  My ex never took the time for little things.  He also lets me watch my trash TV shows and I always get to put my cold feet against his legs.  When you’re an anti-social 30-year-old, there really isn’t much else you can ask for in the perfect mate.  Someone who will be there when you get home, deal with your insecurities, and make you feel like you’re the only princess in the world who matters, even if you aren’t the only one.
After my first debacle, I dreamed of the perfect scenes that would come when I found my one true companion.  When things would get serious, I would secretly start dress hunting (something simple, handmade, and slightly off-white.  Who am I kidding?  I can’t wear white twice.) and getting ideas for new and different venues.  I would guess the way he would propose, whether it would be something quiet between the two of us or something involving our families.  I would dream of the ring.
Rain starts to fall faster, harder.  I turn the windshield wipers up and stare at the red brick building like I can see through to the inside.  My breath fogs up the glass.  I wipe at it with a gloved hand, streaking the glass.  A happy couple practically falls out the door, laughing and clutching each other.  I jab at the clock button on my radio.
He needs to hurry up.  We’re going to be late.
He hinted around for months that he wanted to take our relationship a step farther.  It started as one of those dreaming conversations that comfortable couples have.  One of those “Well, if we were married…” or “You know, we could get married and….”  Slowly, things shifted into “When we get married…” and finally settled into “We are getting married.”  There were no more dreams of if, there were plans.  There was no more contemplation of what would happen, we started joining accounts and talking freely about our business that need to be taken care of.
The door of the building swings wide.  He emerges, head nestled deep into his grey jacket to avoid the icy wind.  The car door opens and an empty water bottle blows over under my feet.
“Ready?  Did you get the rings?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
I navigate the snow banks and steer the car swiftly onto the empty main street.  Christmas lights are twinkling on the little houses that line the street.  He is breathing into his hands trying to warm them.  I reach down, turn the heat up a notch, and turn my attention back to the road.
Their house is a small house with pink shingles.  She loved the shingles, he loved the fact he wouldn’t have to mow a huge yard.  They were huddled together on a bench swing on their front porch.  She smiles, cheeks red with the cold, and waves a pink gloved hand at me.  He is walking carefully behind her in case her feet find ice.
“Hey guys!”
Her voice sounds like bells.  I never really thought a voice could sound like bells, but hers is the closest I’ve found.  It almost tinkles off of the windows in the car, cascading among higher notes than most people’s voices.  He carefully taps his boots off on the tire and steps in behind her.  She sits in the middle, he sits behind me with his arm securely around her shoulders.  They smile at each other.
We pull in front of the building.  Our appointment had to be arranged since they aren’t typically open on New Years Day.  A single office light is on, reflecting lines of yellow into the snow.  We get out and hustle toward the door.  They walk through first, he supports the door and helps her though.  I squeeze in underneath his arm.
“You guys ready?”
Our reflection makes us look like the carolers on the Courier and Ives cookie tins.  We’re missing the essential sheet music and street lamp though.  She begins unwinding her scarf.
“Let me help you, sweetheart.”
They stare at each other for a moment, both beaming with joy.  He steals a kiss as he helps her unravel it from underneath her coat collar.  I hear them whispering notes of love to each other.  She pulls her bright pink toboggan off of her head, revealing smooth, shiny, snow white skin.  She runs her pink mitten over it.
“I lost the last of it right before Christmas.  But Santa Claus made up for it.  He brought me a Snuggie!”
“Really?  What color?”
She laughs.  He watches her, eyes never leaving her perfectly white smile.
“Pink!  Of course! Oh, Sis.  Its AMAZING.  Great for my appointments.”
An older gentleman in a grey sweater and grey slacks enters the darkened reception area.  He watches them for a moment and smiles.  His eyes never stray far from her hairless head.
“Right this way!  Are you guys ready?  Do you have the rings?”
“Oh, we’re not going to have…”
I step forward, between them and the justice, “They have rings.”
She stops smiling and stares at me.  I smile, hold out one of the small black boxes that we had picked up not even an hour before.
“I didn’t know what to get you this year since you’re so spoiled.”
She claps, mittens muffling the sound.  They kiss again.
Could I marry him if I knew I’d only be around for short while?  Would he want to marry me if I weren’t going to be able to give him the children he’s always talking so excitedly about?  Would he take the time to propose and be romantic if my time left were short?  Would we have made a spur of the moment dash to the courthouse or would we have tried to make it something special like them?
She shrugs off her coat and lays it on the chair.  Her sweater and pants hang looser than they used to.  Her shoulders lean forward a bit more, as if bearing a great load.
He takes her ring from my box, ring made of steel and pink metal intertwined.  I had it made as a replica of the one she kept in her drawer as a child.  She takes his ring.  It looks large and unyielding in her emaciated hands.  They smile, say what they are supposed to when prompted, and kiss passionately at the end.  He and I sign as a witness, the old man notarizes it, and wishes them well.  I notice he’s carefully picking the words to bestow upon them.
She turns to me and I open my arms for a hug.
“So what did you guys do after your wedding?”
I looked over to him.  “I think we went to IHOP.”
“Let’s go!  Can we stop by the park where Ben proposed?”
“Of course!  We’ll take your wedding pictures there.”
“Perfect!”  Her claps echo through the empty municipal building.
I catch his eyes on the way out the door.  We smile and brace for the wind.

3 responses to “Ring in the New Year

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