She left the ring on the table, watching the liquid pool. Wood meant five years. He’d used that excuse to buy it – a typical couple’s gift, where only one party wants it, but can’t justify buying it for themselves.
It was a thin, modern thing, sliced so fine it looked flayed. One set of legs was longer than the other, so it tilted slightly; not enough to send cutlery flying, but she couldn’t eat an orange without it rolling away. He said it was bold, artistic. She missed the old table.
Five years. He’d imported it illegally. Redwoods aren’t meant to be cut down. This one was a hundred years old, practically a child in sequoia years. She wondered where it had come from. Was there a hole in the ground now, a lacuna amongst the trees, or was there a stump left behind, its rings dating when it died?
‘They symbolise eternity,’ he’d said, polishing the varnished top. He promised he’d sand down the corners, but she still had a blue-black bruise on her thigh from walking into it over and over again.
He’d thrown out the pine table that their friends had grouped together to buy. She hadn’t wanted to put anything exorbitant on their registry and she liked the soft grain, easily pitted and dented through use. What’s more, it lived in the kitchen, where a table ought to be. The kitchen was the heart of the house, a place for kettles and chatter, singing along to the radio and consulting the diary. Dining rooms are a place for performing. The kitchen felt empty now.
She stared out of the French windows, coffee on the table, an orange under her palm. He would wince if he caught her not using a coaster, but he wasn’t here now. She watched the overflow tumble down the mug’s side. She’d taken the coaster he gave her and ripped it in half to rebalance the legs, on an even keel at last.
Five years. She peeled her orange, watching oil jettison from the broken skin, a fine mist descending. It smelled of their honeymoon in Crete. She rolled the coffee and citrus round her tongue, relishing the sweet-bitter contrast. She smiled when she saw the circle; round peg, square hole, a new ring to join the hundred making up that too-soon-slayed sequoia. She picked up the mug, the skin and the suitcase, but she left the ring on the table.
Eleanor Kowol lives and works in Oxford, England. As a philosophy graduate, she likes to play with ethical and metaphysical quandaries in her work, along with silly puns and flights of fancy. She publishes100-word stories once a week to her Instagram and Twitter, @KowolEleanor.