5 Golden Rings
Everyone had heard the stories about Harriet. They say she married four times, and still had all the rings saved up in her jewelry box. She never wore them, just kept them locked away, gathering dust.
She could have sold them and gotten some decent money. She could have worn them all as a badge of honor. She could have melted them down and made them into something different, like a necklace or a pair of ornate golden earrings.
But she didn't do any of those things. She kept them in a locked jewelry box in a locked room and left the world to wonder why she did it.
And boy, did they wonder.
Her first marriage was to a guy named Carl Deed III. A stiff name, and it fit his stiff demeanor perfectly. He had some ideas about what Harriet should be doing, and Harriet disagreed.
That was the first ring.
The second marriage was to a man named Barry Carver. Barry was a laid back, progressive, handsome art student. He didn't make a lot of money, but that didn't bother Harriet— Carl Deed III lost a key court case and had to pay a massive settlement. What did bother Harriet was the hours he spent in his room, locked away for days without saying a word to her or offering her even a shred of his time.
Harriet almost regretted ending that marriage. She really did love Barry, but he just left her unfulfilled and alone for a little too long a little too often. She couldn't take it any longer.
Her third marriage was to a younger man named Vince Dodd. Vince was young, he was loving, he was kind.
But he was a little too loving, to a little too many people.
Her fourth marriage was her worst. Jack Freud, who she biting called "Jack Fraud" was nice at first. He was rich, but Harriet had been investing Mr. Deed's money and she had an incredible sum.
Jack, of course, couldn't handle a woman having more than him. So he began, bit by bit, to control her finances, to limit her income. He began to belittle her, to isolate her, to control her.
Harriet lost everything when she finally ended things. Her money, her house, her sense of self. It all left with Jack Fraud.
For years, Harriet had given up on love. As she grew older, the world changed around her. She began living in a tiny apartment, got a job as bartender, and worked her way up the ranks.
She was alive. And for the first time in a long time, she knew who she was.
She remembered seeing the article in 2015, the summer of her 51st birthday, and she smiled. When she got her own bar, called the Four Rings, she hung it up on the wall.
No one dared to comment on it. If they had any negative ideas, they kept it to themselves, at least within the walls of Harriet's bar, because good beer and free sports TV was more important than who loved who.
The article from the New York Times that told the United States that same-sex marriage was legal created an awakening in many people, young and old.
But here, no one was willing to talk about that awakening. The only sign of acceptance in the entire town was this article posted on the wall of the Four Rings, and the only negativity was the occasional distasteful look at the framed article.
Everyone knew about Harriet's first four marriages. They knew the story behind the Four Rings, and while some people called Harriet a whore, most people just said "That poor woman" and moved on with their lives.
No one paid Harriet or her bar much attention. They came to drink, and then they left. It was as simple as that.
Harriet flipped the sign over to CLOSED as she mopped the beer stained floors. She put the mop away and she took the flight upstairs. She was getting older, 53 now, and stairs were getting hard, but every night she ignored her fiery joints and climbed the stairs to her room, stationed faithfully above the bar.
She'd heard rumors that a new family was coming to Brown street. A woman and her teenage daughter, no husband in sight.
Harriet didn't care at all. Unless she or her teen buys beer, it's not her problem. They'll just be another face on the block.
But 50-year-old Dana Schoff did buy beer. Drank it pretty heavily, in fact, but never seemed to really get drunk. She was a big woman with a high tolerance for any sort of alcohol.
Only a week after the trucks arrived, Dana found her way into the Four Rings.
"I'd like a shot," she says. "Fill it with whatever, just get me the strong stuff."
Harriet obliges. She only thinks about it for a moment: I don't get many people my age ordering strong stuff. But the thought is only there for a moment, and then she moves on and gets the drink.
Dana downs it.
"I like your article," she says, pointing at the wall.
The entire bar goes silent.
It's an unspoken rule here: no one ever talks about The Article. It's taboo. It's wrong. It's not allowed. The Article on The Wall of The Bar is merely a fuzzy blur shoved into the back of everyone's minds.
"Why, thank you," Harriet says. "I made the frame myself."
And so conversation resumes.
Dana downed three more shots before the bar closes.