I left the bank with Grandpa’s ring in hand. I felt myself aligned to his spirit now. He’d made me a gift, which I accepted, and in doing so I accepted his presence as my protector. The ring could have been made of brass and paste for all I cared; I felt there was love in it.
When I showed the ring to Mom, she didn’t remember ever seeing it. Then again, she hadn’t been in that safety deposit box since Grandpa died seventeen years ago. I asked if I could appropriate it for the time being. (Meaning, indefinitely. Otherwise known as: forever.) She said that the plan had always been to let each of us children pick one piece from the box when we got married. Two of my three brothers were married already and had each taken something for their wives. Didn’t I want to wait?
Was she kidding? I’d told her a hundred times I was never getting married. A legally binding state-sponsored commitment was anti-romance, and besides it got in the way if you wanted to jump ship. Which was kind of a pattern with me. So no, there was no point in waiting for that happy day that would never come.
In short order, the ring became mine. Next there was the matter of those two pesky diamonds. I wanted to swap them out for a pair of cat’s eyes that would match the center stone. My friend Vivian offered to escort me to the Diamond Exchange in New York, a completely foreign territory where I didn’t speak a word of gemstone. Since Vivian was Jewish and grew up in the garment industry, she was the perfect translator.
And that was how we came to be wandering around the warren of dismal shops in the Exchange, looking for someone who sold cat’s eyes. Nobody did. When we were about to give up, somebody suggested we try a little cubbyhole at the end of a corridor, saying that the owner sold offbeat stones but often wasn’t there. We knocked. No response. We turned to go and almost ran into a narrow little Indian man who had his key out to open the shop’s door. Yes, he had cat’s eyes.
Once inside, he examined Grandpa’s ring, puzzled why I wanted to get rid of two perfectly nice diamonds. They’re not to my taste, I said. He offered to remove the diamonds and put in two cat’s eyes as an even trade. I assumed he was getting the better end of the deal but I didn’t care.
He rooted around a cardboard box until he found the right size of gem, carefully opening a folded tissue on his desk so I could examine my choices. There were about ten of them. Most of the stones were milky and too small to show the hypnotic shifting band of light that characterizes cat’s eyes. But there were two, and two only, of the same green clarity as the center stone: two with the bright vein gliding over the surface.
“I like these two guys.” They were so small I couldn’t pick them up with my fingers, so the man separated them from the others with his little spatula. He gave me a loop so I could see them magnified. Then I was certain: “They’re perfect.”
“Good.” He held a small manila envelope ready as he slipped his spatula under the pair of gems. He lifted them carefully to transfer them to the envelope. As we all watched, the stones sprang up from the blade and disappeared.
(To be continued.)
- I am a restless writer of fiction, film, and music. I scripted such films as 9 and ½ Weeks, Sommersby, Impromptu (personal favorite), What Lies Beneath, and All I Wanna Do which I also directed. Both my documentaries, Marjoe and Thoth, won Academy Awards. Formerly a recording artist, I continue to write music, posting songs on my website. I live in New York with my husband James Lapine. My new novel, the paranormal thriller Jane Was Here, was published in 2011.