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‘Diana…Will you marry me?’
Howard opened the small black box. Inside was a ring encompassing a small emerald gem. If you looked close enough at it, you could see a small crack down the middle.
At first Diana looked as if she was going to be sick, though that may have been a side-effect of the excessive champagne.
‘H-H-Howard…’she stuttered. Her eyes widened, and began to well up. Howard determined whether they were tears of joy or tears of-
‘Yes,’ she whispered. ‘Yes,’ a little louder. ‘Yes!’ she screamed, ‘of course I’ll marry you!’
They embraced each other, Diana seizing her husband-to-be so hard that the ring slipped from its box. It hit the restaurant floor, and rolled across the room. And then it was picked up.
Howard, realising the ring had escaped from its box, arose from his chair. He saw the old woman and approached her, though he thought twice about doing so.
The old woman’s face was hidden beneath a black shawl. The hand that was holding the ring was withered and grey. She stood up, her face still a shadowy mass and spoke five words, her voice weak and trembling.
‘You must change the ring.’ She held out her shaking hand. Howard took the ring. He looked down at it.
‘Excuse me?’ He looked up, but the old woman had gone. She had had only one thing to say. Howard soon forgot about her, the ring was fine. Diana loved it, he was sure.
The next morning, Howard’s alarm sounded at half past six. He awoke smiling. Last night had been the happiest of his life. He turned to Diana; only her hand was visible from under the quilt. Immediately, he thought something tragic had happened. He swept up her hand and let out a sigh of relief; a pulse. He was just being paranoid. Howard kissed his fiancé’s hand and left the bed.
Howard worked for a modelling agency, he himself wasn’t a model of course, he only took the photographs. And he was very good at his job, he had a knack for capturing young people on screen.
Howard looked in the mirror, he felt a changed man. He would be married soon, committed. It seemed like the right way to live your life; meet someone and give your life to them. Metaphorically of course.
He quickly breakfasted and headed out to the car. Later, he would regret not giving a proper goodbye to his wife-to-be.
Diana yawned, she too felt different. But for the better or for the worse?
It took her a long time to awaken and even after that, her eye sight was unclear.
She arose with great struggle, her back aching. She tried to shake it off, but only gave herself a headache. She had some painkillers in the bathroom somewhere.
Once in the bathroom, she rushed straight to the medicine cupboard, not even looking in the mirror, the way she always did in the morning. Where were they? Her headache seemed to getting worse by the minute- and so did her eye sight. After she had emptied the entire cupboard, she found what she looking for. Diana took two tablets and swallowed them. She arose to the sink, her back cracking unpleasantly, and washed her face. That seemed to clear up her eye sight a little.
Standing up fully, she met her reflection in the rectangular mirror. Diana screamed in terror.
Ahhh… one of the most important things in life was to enjoy your work. And Howard did, very much so. He entered his car with a smile on his face. His life was perfect. He could wake up looking forward to his day, every day for rest of his life. He had finally met the perfect woman and he would love her no mater what.
Well- that’s what he thought…
He rustled around his pocket for the house key. Once he found it, he slid into the keyhole and turned. There was click and the door opened.
‘Honey, I’m home!’
There was no reply.
He skimmed the living room, the kitchen and the downstairs toilet. The ground floor was deserted. He ascended the stairs at light speed. What if something had happened? He wouldn’t be able to bear it, his life had just took a turn for the better, it wasn’t going to be ruined now.
He burst through the bedroom door. There was Diana, under the covers.
‘Oh! You gave me such a fright!’ He approached her.
The quilt quivered.
‘Come on, now. That’s enough joking around.’
Any moment now, she was going to jump out screaming ‘BOO!’ and he would sweep her up and kiss her…Any moment now…
‘You’re scaring me now, Diana.’
He pulled the covers away from her, immediately regretting it.
There sat an old woman, sobbing into her withered hands. On the ring finger of her left hand was a ring, a ring with a cracked emerald gem.
‘Don’t look at me,’ she said, her voice identical to one belonging to woman from the restaurant.
Howard would have been sick, but he was paralysed from head to toe.
For a minute, a young man stood staring at the woman he used to know. And then, slowly, he backed away from her, spoke two words, ‘I’m sorry,’ and left the woman he loved, alone and dying.
She had one chance left. The hooded woman entered the restaurant. Immediately, she saw them, talking intently to each other. She found a seat behind them and waited.
He proposed. And then the ring slipped from the box. It rolled towards her. She picked it up. He approached, and then she spoke.
‘You must change the ring.’
He looked down at the cracked emerald and she faded into nothingness.