Beauty From Ashes

Entry by: Briergate

10th October 2016
She gazed at the diamond with a sense of awe. It was large; larger than she ever imagined she could own. As she slipped it on to her middle finger, the saleswoman behind the counter waited expectantly.

Margaret turned her hand this way and that, admiring the way in which the spotlights above her caught the rock and sent pulsed prisms of light through the carved surface.

“It’s perfect. Exactly what I had in mind,” she admitted, pausing to smile at the saleswoman in delight. The woman behind the counter exhaled audibly, relieved to have her commission accepted. It was a big sale; she’d meet her targets this month, after all.

“I’m very glad, Madam,” she said, a tinge of relief behind her words. “Shall I box it up for you?”

Margaret shook her head. Now it was nestled on her finger, it felt right. She didn’t want to lose its sparkle to the confines of a red velvet box.

She handed over the cash promptly, without hesitating. The saleswoman baulked slightly at the sight of the huge wad of crisp notes. It was unusual for a client to pay by cash, no matter how well-to-do they may appear. Her hand trembled a little as she rang up the amount in the till, and presented Margaret with a receipt. Margaret smiled again, thanked her for the commission, and left the shop.

Walking out into the throng of shoppers busying themselves with Saturday purchases, Margaret allowed herself to glance down once more at the beautiful diamond. They’d done an excellent job, she conceded. The platinum was discrete, casing the gem delicately, allowing it to sparkle without anything detracting from its magnificence. She saw a woman walk past and look at the ring displayed prominently on her finger, and almost blushed with the thrill of it. Her very first diamond. Now, she was a someone. It made her feel elegant, and rich, and unfettered. A lady who lunches, she mused to herself, popping into the chintzy tea room on the corner of the high street.

She ordered herself a cream tea, lemon no milk, and took a seat in the window as she waited for it to come. She imagined people walking past, their eyes drawn immediately to the sparkle of her hands. She smiled again, and took out the local newspaper to browse through the stories of the day. The usual tirade against the Council, a few good news stories about what children had achieved raising money for a local charity.

Finally, as a slim brunette waitress set down a floral cake stand with scones, jam and cream, and a steaming silver teapot, Margaret found a story of more interest.

Local Businessman’s body found in river, the headline stated.

Margaret poured some tea, squeezed a dash of lemon into it and continued to read as it cooled. It was an understated story, detailing how the David Pennington-Smythe (known as a little of a local celebrity through his investment in the community) had been dragged from the river, creating a quiet flurry of mourning. An accident which could have been avoided, the paper claimed, had he not indulged in a copious amount of alcohol while taking prescription medication.

“Such a sad thing, that,” the slim waitress commented, pausing in wiping a table to glance down at the paper. “Such a shame for the family,” she said. Margaret nodded, feeling a small pang of sadness herself as she read to the bottom paragraph. At least, she thought, he had no children to mourn him.

She smeared one of the scones with a liberal dollop of clotted cream, flicking through the rest of the paper. The ring sparkled mischievously each time she moved her hand. She found herself focusing upon it fully, taking bites of her scone automatically just to see it catch the light.

She sighed, sipping her tea with a deep sense of contentment. Today, she thought, I have everything I need. A good future planned. A beautiful house. I want, finally, for nothing.

It had taken her almost half a century to reach this point, she mused. All of those days spent with a husband who practically ignored her, leaving her barren in favour of a strong of affairs. All of those days playing hostess to people whom she hated, having to smile and nod along to almost thirty years of senseless conversation. The times she had wept, lonely and adrift, wondering how a bad marriage could have brought her to this state of emptiness.

Finishing her tea, she paused at the Messages section of the paper, scanning the obituary. Ah, there he was. David Pennington-Smythe, beloved late husband of Margaret Pennington-Smythe. She’d done quite an elegant job with it, she thought modestly. Just enough grief to be believable, without being distasteful. She nodded, closing the page down and licking the last crumbs of the scone from the floral plate.

Oh, David, she thought sadly. If only you had taken notice of me. A diamond, a thoughtful bunch of flowers, a gentle kiss now and again. Then, she wouldn’t have been forced to take any action. She wouldn’t have had to administer the drugs which reacted in his system, leaving him drowsy and confused enough for a single swift push to send him to his death.

Never mind. In a way, he was still with her. The diamond really was a fitting memorial to him. Amazing how they could take his ashes, and create something so dazzling out of them.

Now, David, she thought fondly, you will always be with me, my love. You will be present as I set about spending your fortune, this right hand passing over all of the wealth which you ignored me, to accrue.

She left the café, with a quiet thanks to the waitress, pausing only to lay a generous tip on the table with a smile.