The Ring

A Short Story

Maggi had a feeling that Pamela’s party was going to be one she couldn’t miss, so she’d made special efforts to prepare. She’d cleaned the apartment and done the washing up, spent the first sunny Saturday morning in weeks vacuuming the carpets instead of lolling around on the grass next to the Serpentine and perhaps even feeding the ducks.

Instead she started getting herself ready at two in the afternoon, even though she had worked out exactly what she was going to wear days earlier so that it was easy to fish it out of her wardrobe when the time came. After her long and rather pleasant shower, where she’d taken the time needed to relax herself with the hand-held shower-head so she wouldn’t be too tongue-tied if a man spoke to her. She had to be careful. She’d taken care to buy a new soap without scent, so that Thierry Mugler’s “Angel” would not have to compete with the aroma of cheap Strawberry from the Gel. She was quite sure about her underwear too, having long ago written “Bridget Jones’ Diary” off as simplistic rubbish. She slid into her lacy Pierre Cardin cami-knickers, and felt a rush of raw sexuality shiver through her that exposed the concept of “lucky” unattractive panties as simple-minded idiocy. Her apricot beige trousers, that looked like silk but actually weren’t, covered the Cami-knickers that looked like silk and actually were, wafted around her legs in a luxurious dream that made her feel somewhere between naked, and armoured. The trousers didn’t especially flatter her bum, but they made her tummy far less lumpy. Smoother. It was almost sinful, but she knew she needed to look her best tonight. The vintage white ruffled silk blouse that had cost such an astronomical amount that she was still almost scared of it. Her favourite war surplus puffy quilted jacket with the furry hood that she’d had dyed Burgundy red and her spring-loaded six inch knife, because well, it made her feel safer than the crucifix she no longer wore. Funny that. She was finishing her hair when the taxi rang the downstairs bell.

The feeling of Deja vu washed over her when she saw the letterbox in Pamela’s front door. She’d seen it before but somehow tonight it was different, somehow the light was oddly familiar and tonight a group of three young men in dinner suits were standing at the door at the other end of the hall, talking. Maggi’s head felt light and wobbly as if it was a balloon tied to her shoulders. A green balloon, an overinflated one. She put out her hand to steady herself against the wall, and faced up to the party. It turned out to be easier than she expected. True, when the young men stood aside and ushered her through the door into the front sitting room, the room was mostly full, all the armchairs pressed up against the Burgundy and gold embossed wallpaper were taken and every eye in the room did zero in on her when she walked in – especially the sociopath Jennifer who was something-or-other in publishing on what had once been called Fleet Street, but Katherine was there and Louise and Monica, so at least she had some like souls to talk to. She acquired a Moet and found a vacant patch of wall to take root on.

She felt absurdly grateful when Monica got up from the spot where she’d been crouching next to Pamela’s chair. It made her feel valuable and interesting – until the doubt set in, as it usually did. Had Monica just taken pity on her and come over to talk because she’d looked alone in the increasingly crowded room? She mumbled something that sounded like English and scuttled to the bathroom to fix her makeup. Her palm was sweaty on the doorknob and her spot on the wall was almost the same size when she returned. Monica had waited for her. Mostly Monica talked, it seemed that Monica’s mother was increasingly old and after some problems had reached some kind of rapprochement with the pixies, and Monica actually wanted to talk. Maggi wallowed in the attention, and in being at a party and in actually having quite a good time; all things considered. Monica listened hard when Maggi talked about her own mother too; first they laughed, then they cried. That bit wasn’t much fun but they both knew it was good for them. Monica talked about a man she’d been seeing who she thought had the kind of issues that made continuing to see him a mistake, and after she’d heard only a few pennies worth of back issues, Maggi agreed completely and told her to stop seeing the man, and quickly. After all, it was easy for her, she’d never had a relationship herself; “Not a proper one”, she amended.

She was staring blankly at the open kitchen door when he walked through it. An easy stride, no sidling or scuttling. Tall enough to be seen over Magda Brownloe’s hat. Light sandy hair, good skin. What looked like a good suit, straight back and nice square shoulders – but on a man those three things in conjunction could be as deceiving as the right bra on a woman. He must have felt her looking at him, he looked up; she felt as if she was suddenly, unexpectedly made of lightbulb glass and he could see right into her.

They spent two hours talking in the kitchen while the party in the rest of the house became increasingly raucous. His name was Crispin and he was something in the foreign office – a job that sounded like an article of luggage and was obviously available to the “right” people, and Maggi could tell that Crispin was definitely that, with ancestors who’d probably owned the ship William the Conquerer came over on; and who’d done well for themselves ever since – and not by as vulgar an activity as trade; no, by simple dint of doing as little as possible but doing it with the aplomb to impress the powers that be. Maggi gathered that Crispin’s family was “ Quite well off” but not from anything that Crispin said – the subject was far too gauche for him. No; Maggi found out when she met Pamela in the bathroom, when Maggi was repairing her lipstick and Pamela was peeing as only a profoundly classy woman can when she finds herself sharing the bathroom with someone she knows.
“He Maggi, is Crispin Montague the third, equerry to her majesty herself and almost surely within grovelling range of a knighthood in the next year or so – a knighthood at least” she amended. “Ask him about his time in the army, he’s been a very busy boy.”
Pamelas’s lipstick could do with some fixing too, Maggi thought. All-in-all Pamela looked rather dishevelled. It was very unusual for her. In fact Pamela looked rather scatty, distracted. Maggi wondered what was going on. Pamela finished, wiped herself, washed her hands, but didn’t leave. Maggi was outside in the rear sitting room when a man she didn’t know knocked on the bathroom door and Pamela let him in. Maggi shrugged and went back into the kitchen. Crispin was talking to an attractive woman called Susan who was somewhat the worse for Champagne, but he seemed very gratifyingly pleased that she’d returned.

They pushed their way through the solid mass of people and the wall of music in the main room and fucked on the thick rug in the narrow space between Pamela’s bed and the French doors. Maggi orgasmed multiple times which was unusual for her. It was probably the urgent gusto with which Crispin ravished her and the wanton harlotry of the whole experience, being fucked doggy style directly in front of the windows to the courtyard that did the trick. She was rather surprised at herself. She’d found some core in herself where she was quite free of her mother, her school and her Catholic guilt. Who knew how long it would last? Who cared?

Maggi and Crispin were married nine weeks later at the delightful village church in Whittlesford near Cambridge where Crispin’s family came from. The wedding reception was quite small, only eighty guests at the Red Lion Inn near the church. After the usual activities that occur at such events, the Newlyweds retired upstairs to discover whether the Maritial vows made any difference in the performance of their favourite activity.
Maggi was ecstatically happy and entranced by the village church, the village itself and the pub they were in, which had hand-worked roof beams which, it was thought, dated back to the eleventh century. Maggi barely had time to wonder how many bonking couples they’d supported in the nine-hundred years they’d held up the first floor. It was a sobering thought.

The upstairs corridor made her head spin. Built up over the hundreds of years, the building reminded her of the crazy house in a carnival she’d been to once when she was growing up, in Swindon. The floor was completely uneven, angling up and down while never being level either. The ceiling was so low in places that she actually managed to bang her head on a beam and she was only five foot five. Crispin walked bent double, sometimes using his hands for support. It was hard for him, he’ drunk more than her. It got stranger still though, the loopy corridor ended in a blank wall with a hatch in it, the bottom of which was roughly at the height of her shoulders. Their guide, the Publican’s wife, did her best to calm Maggi’s qualms, opened the door and let them make their own way in. The room was tiny and delightful. So tiny that the double bed almost filled the room and swallowed all the available floorspace. They teetered over the bed on the bed, laughing. Lying down would the room seem bigger.
“Woman!” Crispin acted his favourite character from “The Muppets”, he pushed her backwards onto the bed. The mattress caught her behind the knees and she bounced weightlessly on the thick foam, and Crispin threw himself on top of her. Maggi loved her Muppet. He made her blonde and young.

The straw crackled scratchily under them. It was crazily, brutally cold in the suddenly huge room. Across from her someone was crying, habitually keeping the sobs fuelled with frequent snotty nasal inhales. Maggi was utterly familiar with the snivelling and wished the bitch would die. Crispin’s eyes were a cold hard blue and his cock rasped in her dry clenched vagina. She wanted to scream but she knew what happened to girls who screamed. Up the chimney. She clenched her teeth and grunted at each impalement hoping that her noises would be taken for passion and hopefully, please god spur him to come soon, and stop. It took an eternity. At long last, after a final frenzy where he held her spreadeagled against the wooden shelf that the straw mattress laid on, he screamed like some kind of carnivorous bird and ejaculated deep into her. The next few thrust were far less unpleasant, being lubricated by his ejaculate, but simultaneously accompanied by liver-lipped kisses that seemed to cover the entire bottom of her face like the application of a large affectionate snail.
Somehow it stopped. Crispin’s face changed into the Crispin she’d married, not this monster who’d loosed over her, lit intermittently by the searchlights from the guard towers, soundtrack furnished by the brutalised bitch in the corner near the door, the twisted waterlogged voices from the public address system and the multitude still rheumatically breathing of this room of the dead.

She rolled across the soft mattress and dishevelled bedclothes till she sat, her bare toes brushing the thick carpet and the reapproachment began. “Maggi! Darling, what’s wrong?- Why are you crying?” Of course questions like that are infuriatingly obtuse and only serve to show the lack of understanding of the male sex, within a realisation that requires the production of more tears which in turn can only result in more obtuse questions and fumbling attempts at stilling existential terror with body contact. As far as Maggi’s heightened senses could tell Crispin’s attempts were honest and they fell asleep in the warmth.

In the deep still of the night Maggi eased out from under her husband’s arm, slipped out through the French doors, dropped the short distance to the garden and sneaked across the road to watch the guards unload a new load of prisoners from a transport train. She was found by a station worker huddled on a bench, shivering in her nightdress. Crispin was woken and brought her back to the room at dawn. The station was empty of all but ghosts. Her eyes flicked around, examining details, filled with terror. Crispin told the Stationmaster and the Publican that his wife was prone to sleepwalking. He hugged her close when he said it. Their honeymoon proper was in the far north. Way back in their relationship, when they been talking in Pamela’s kitchen, they’d discovered that they both had a life ambition to see the Northern Lights. When Crispin’s mother had heard this, she told her brother, who was something important in the foreign Office. He’d pulled strings and mother had bought them a week in a glass igloo in Kakslauttanen Hotel in Finland. Better even than that, the week was in the “high” season for seeing the lights which minimised the risk of them freezing their tits off for nothing, which was what had happened to Antonia – a girl who they both knew. Antonia had been disappointed; But on the other hand her boyfriend had proposed marriage under a sky filled with nothing but stars.

Maggi discovered that smoking marijuana kept her “waking nightmares” as she had learned to call them, at bay; either stopping them completely if she was so stoned she made no sense to anyone who wasn’t in the same condition as her, or greatly reducing their severity if she was merely “enhanced”. Needless to say, she held very high hopes for the honeymoon trip to the Northern Lights. She told Crispin that what she wanted was to get very stoned and lie naked in a big warm bed under the Northern Lights, while went down on her. Crispin’s reply was chivalrous and sensible in the extreme. He said that while was doing her he would not be able to see the lights himself and that that would “suck”- but that he would be overjoyed to do the work required provided his good lady wife would be so kind as to return the favour.

It was not for nothing that he came from a family of diplomats.
The flight to Finland was highly unpleasant for Maggi. Due to a highly developed fear of drug-sniffer dogs inculcated in her by the media, she took care not to use Marijuana on the day of their departure, and definitely not to carry any with her. She slept fitfully on the night flight convinced that she’d been packed into a train that rattled through a snowy black night, packed with the living dead. She awoke during a patch of turbulence, in Crispin’s arms, screaming and crying, sure that the train had reached its destination. The hotel was everything they’d been led to expect and hope for. But the Northern lights weren’t. They spent the first three nights in their warm bed, under the bright stars. They were happy. Then as such things happen, Maggi rolled across the bed laughing wildly and her left arm flailed out limply over the edge of the bed. Her knuckles stopped suddenly on the glass top of the bedside table. The part of the sound which hurt and stopped her laughing was the dull undramatic “thunk” of bone, insufficiently cushioned by flesh, hitting glass. The other part of the sound was a sharp peremptory “clack,” that sounded like it would have broken the glass if it had been allowed to. Her wedding Ring. Maggi rolled slightly back toward the centre of the bed and pushed ineffectually at Crispin’s loins so she could see her hand up close. Crispin responded by selflessly trying to reinsert his penis in her mouth. Maggi did not try to stop him instead she tried to say “Its inscribed!” With her mouth so full the words did nothing more than penetrate Crispin’s dedication to the task in hand and cause him to enquire rather grumpily. ”what?” 
“It’s Inscribed! The words fit funny in her mouth and her jaw hurt.
“What is?”
“My wedding ring! You had it engraved!” Maggi rolled around on the bed, held the ring to the flame of the candle, and squinted.
“No I didn’t!” It must have been from before. I told you, that ring was my mother’s. My father brought it back from the war and married her with it. She wore it until my father died. What do the words say?”
Maggi was squinting hard in the dim light through a haze of the Afghani has they’d got by asking the right person, in the right bar.
“ I can’t read it, it doesn’t seem to be in English.”
“Really?” “Give it here!
“Don’t snatch, its rude!”
“Sorry. You’re right. It isn’t English. I think its Yiddish.Hebrew.” Oh”
The letters danced with strange fire, far above them the Norther lights had started.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

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