The Emerald ring was pretty enough, but the man offering it wasn’t. In the glare of the market place, it didn’t matter how attractive the person was who was selling the item, it mattered if you liked the item itself.
And Sharon loved that ring.
“A pretty ring for a pretty lady.” His cracked voice matched his time-withered face as he offered it out to her in the little black box, “Only a few dollars. T’was a family heirloom and I’m selling it now to make ends meets.”
She looked at him – into his eyes – and realised that he wasn’t all that old really. This man was really young, his body was working against him and he appeared old, “Yes, I’ll look at it.” She smiled taking the box.
“I’ll sell it to you for $60.” His smile ripped up half his face while the other half remained expressionless – blank – with a milky, white eye she knew he couldn’t see out of.
“Honey, what did you find?” Brent’s arm moved around her waist as he rested his chin on her shoulder, “Hey, that’s nice, how much?” looked up at the old man, his eyes not resting on him for long as they quickly returned to the ring. She knew the retailer made her boyfriend uncomfortable.
“He asked $60…”
“I’ll give you $50.” He dug out his wallet.
“Sold!” the man limped around and grabbed a crisp, new bag from the table behind him and opened it for her to pop the ring into as Brent handed over the money.
Three days passed before she opened the box. Sharon was going out to dinner with Brent and his parents and she couldn’t find the ring anywhere. She was sure she had put it on the dresser, but it wasn’t there.
She turned and found Brent with it, “Oh there it is.”
“What would you say if I wanted you to wear this as an engagement ring?” he smiled.
“A what?” Sharon couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
He took her hand and sat her on her Grandmother’s Glory Box she had refurbished, “I got this evaluated and the jeweler told me that it was worth a lot of money. So, instead of buying you the ring I was saving for, let’s put that money towards a house and…” he grinned, “Will you marry me?”
The first thing we did was get her folks to the dinner as well as his folks. It was going to be a great night!
Sharon found she wore this ring everywhere and loved it. It didn’t catch on her clothes and everyone she came across complimented her on it. Then, she noticed a few things about herself the longer she wore the ring: she was looking better.
Now, Sharon’s not a vain person, she looked great in anything. But she looked in the mirror one day and found her hair, which was normally frizzy curls, was shiny and had its own beautiful look to it. She wondered if it was the ring or if she done something different in her diet. But no, she was eating and living the same way she did a month ago – when Brent gave her the ring. She shrugged and didn’t worry too much about it… just that it was about time that her hair finally looked this good!
Then, her clothes started to fit her better! Woohoo! She’d lost the weight she’d been aiming for! Party time! She pulled on the blue jeans she had tucked away in the back of the wardrobe, did them up without sucking in her stomach and admired that cute butt of hers in the mirror!
“Girl! You got it goin’ on!” she shook her butt at her reflection as Brent walked in on her, “I fit into my smaller jeans.”
“Yeah, you do.” He smiled walking up to her, “You’re looking great.” He held her close and kissed he neck, “You’re beautiful.”
“Aaaw, you’re just saying that.” She grinned.
“No… I mean it.” He took her hands and looked down at them where he could see liver spots all over them. Running his thumbs over the backs of them, he looked at her face, “You look tired.”
“I am… I’ve had a busy day.”
“How about I cook tonight?”
One Saturday night, Brent was out with his mates at the local pub when one of them noticed he wasn’t acting himself. He sat staring at his half-drunk beer, looking like he was thinking too much.
“Hey, mate… you okay? You look like you have the world on your mind.” He slurred crunching up against him, giggling at himself as he sloshed a little of his brew on his pants, “Oops, I’m drunk.”
Brent smiled a little, but it didn’t stay, “I’m sorry, Terry, I’m not much company. I’m worried about Sharon.”
“Is Shazza okay?” he asked.
“Tell me about it. I’m your mate.”
“I bought her ring at the markets from a really old dude, but he wasn’t old… he looked old, but when you looked into his eyes…”
Terry pointed at him, “He was young inside.”
“Yes. And the ring was an emerald; an expensive piece of rock. So, I gave it to Sharon as an engagement ring and since she’s been wearing it, she’s been aging like you wouldn’t believe.” He pulled out his phone, “Look at this.” He showed Terry a photo of Sharon the night he gave her the ring, “That was a month ago.” He flipped through a few photos and showed him a photo from that night, “This is Sharon tonight.”
“Oh my god!” Terry’s eyes widened, “Fuck man, what happened to her?”
“Terry, Sharon’s only twenty-five… she’s turned into a fifty-year-old almost overnight.” He shook his head, “I don’t want to… you know… make love to her … in case I hurt her or break a bone in her.” He sighed, “I don’t know what to do.”
His mate gave back his phone, “Does she notice this?”
Brent put it on the table, “That’s the thing: she thinks she’s getting younger and looking hotter… and she’s not.” He shook his head again, “Terry, I found her trying on jeans and she looked like a skeleton… she thought they looked great.”
His mate pushed his and Brent’s beers away and leaned forward. He was suddenly serious, “Okay, this is what you have to do: get her to a doctor.”
“I have tried… she won’t go. And I’ve brought a doctor to us, but she refuses their help.” He said.
“You need to get that ring off her… you need to destroy it.” He said, “I have a Pagan friend who could tell you what the ring is if you have photo of it.”
“Sure I do.” He picked up his phone and searched the photos, found it and showed him, “I’ll send it to you.”
Another week passed by and Brent started staying at work longer.
He couldn’t stand being in the same house with Sharon.
She wondered if he was having an affair.
Then, while he was at work, a man approached him he’d never seen before, “Hi. Terry told me about a ring you found.”
“Yeah… come into my office. We’ll have more privacy.” He walked the tall man into his office and closed the door, “Did he send you the photo?”
“Yes. And that ring is dangerous. We must get it off your girlfriend’s hand; and soon, before it claims her life.”
“Look, I’ve bought another which looks just like it… except it has diamonds around it. So we can tell the difference.” He pulled the new ring from his pocket, “So if you’d like to do this now, that’d be great.” Brent started packing his briefcase as he pocketed the ring again.
“The sooner the better, but we must put that ring in a lead-lined box.” He said, “We have to put it inside a curse box; which I have with me.”
He turned, ready to leave, “A curse box, what is that?”
The man sighed, “It’s a protective box which keeps cursed objects from doing what they are designed to do – that is to kill people. Whoever sold you that emerald ring at the market opened the original box.”
“Honey, I’m home!” he led the man inside and through to the kitchen where Sharon was sitting with her mother, “Hey sweetie. I came home early today; after last night, I was told to come home and be with you by the boss.”
“Oh, honey, that’s great.” She looked up at him. He could barely distinguish the difference between her and her mother – except for the ring on her finger, “Would you like a cup of coffee? And who’s that?”
“Oh, that’s Richard. He’s a friend of Terry’s.” he smiled, “Tea?”
“No thank you.” He took a seat at the table as Sharon’s mother stood quickly, looking grateful Brent was home and kind of uncomfortable around the new man here.
“I really must go, honey. Traffic is going to be a bitch soon. Take care of yourself.” Her mother kissed her cheek and smoothed out Sharon’s graying, thinning hair, glanced at Brent and walked toward the front door.
Brent followed her, whispering as they walked outside, “You do know it’s the ring doing that to her?”
She nodded barely holding in the tears, “Just get it off her!”
“That’s what Richard is here for. He knows what it is.” He said, “We can’t destroy it, but we can put it away.” He embraced his soon-to-be mother-in-law before he opened the car door for her, “Drive carefully.”
When he returned to the kitchen, he found Sharon glaring at Richard and the man standing across the room.
“He wants my ring.” She blurted, “That stranger wants my ring!”
Brent slid into a seat next to her, “Honey, I have to tell you something. That ring isn’t what you think it is. It’s cursed; and it’s making you age terribly.”
“No. It’s making me feel good and look good.” She sniffed.
“I was afraid of this.” He stood, picking up his briefcase, “I borrowed a mirror from work, and another briefcase from my boss. It’s one of his metal briefcases.” He opened the briefcase, took out a shaving mirror he had been given by his boss for the night and sat by his wife, “Now, don’t touch it… if you do, the ring’s curse will pass onto the mirror. Look at yourself.”
Sharon rolled her eyes, “Oh come on, this is stupid.”
“Dammit! Look into the mirror!” he shouted.
She turned and looked, blinked and touched her own cheek, “Oh my god. I’m ugly.” She looked down at her hands and saw they were old. Her eyes traveled all over herself, “What happened? Tell me what happened? Brent what’s going on?” she reached out to the mirror, but he pulled it away, “Get this thing off me!”
Richard cleared his throat, “Only you can do that.”
She pulled at the ring and it came off easily, “Where do you want it?”
He opened the curse box, angling it toward her, “Throw it in here.” She did and as soon as he closed it, and locked it, her left hand started to revert back to being young slowly.
“How long will it take?” Sharon asked, “Before I’m back to my age again?”
“A few days? A week or so? I’m not sure.” Richard said, “I’ve never seen that ring in action before.”
Brent nodded as he walked the man outside, “Thank you so much for your help.”
He smiled, “You’re welcome.” He watched Brent go inside as a grin spread across his face, “You’re so welcome.” He walked along the street to where his gypsy wagon was parked, opened the box, slipped on one of the emerald rings inside it and little by little he aged to being the old man from the markets… blind in one eye, almost unable to walk… ready for the next marketplace in the next town.