Happily Ever After, Excerpt—A Pearl

A Pearl

We were on vacation in Florida my husband and I sitting at a familiar bistro table on a pier overlooking the river Eclipse where we’d sat dozens of times before. Another beautiful sunny day with the sun reflecting off the water and the wakes made by speed boats splashed up as they sped by. This year as we had so many times before we passed a kiosk where one could purchase the experience of opening an oyster and finding a pearl. All for only $14.99. I felt like a kid when I thought of it and had often said, “I’d love to do that.” As had come custom my husband would reply, “What do you want to do that for?” It was a “waste of time, a “waste of money,” “foolish,” “stupid.” “What are you a kid?” He’d remark and then I’d remain quiet. I thought, “Sure, in the bigger scheme of life in my forties and fifties it’s not that big a deal.” But, the thought of opening the oyster and discovering what it held inside made me feel happy, like a kid.

After years of denying myself a simple pleasure I finally said, “I’m going to do it. I’m going over. I’m going to find a pearl.” I smiled at my husband, got up and walked over to the kiosk. I was so excited.

“Find the ugliest one you can,” the young lady behind the counter said to me. “The ugliest oysters have the prettiest pearls,” she said. So, I took my time and hunted through each of the four barrels positioned at the corners of the stand. I dug to the bottoms and when I found the ugliest oyster, I placed it on the counter. As the young lady reached to take it and open it for me, I held it and asked, “Can I open it?” 

“Okay,” she said and handed me a small tool with which to pry open the shell.

“Now feel around inside,” she said.

“I can feel it!” I said feeling like a kid at Christmas. I removed the pearl from it’s bed and placed it in the palm of my hand. It was a large, white and perfectly round gem. “Oh my god, it’s beautiful,” I said.

“Would you like me to clean it for you?”

“May I do it?” I asked. I wanted to experience it all. 

As I was dipping the pearl in water, a loud thump to my left startled me. It was my husband. He had slammed down my bottle of water on the counter. “You’re still here? How long is this going to take you? I’m not waiting all day. I’m going to get another beer,” he said and shot me look of disapproval before walking away.

“Wow,” I thought. “He acted like that in front of someone else. I’m not the only one who saw it this time.” But his nastiness wasn’t going to dampen my joy. I wasn’t going to let it. After I finished cleaning my pearl, I purchased three more canned oysters which I’d give to Emily, Jeremy, and Josh when I got home.

Back at the table I sat and waited for my husband to join me. Why? I held my pearl and admired it. I had done it! It was beautiful! I felt content and happy and a more than a little proud.

             “No way am I going to wait in that line again,” my husband barked placing two beers on the table before sitting down. I didn’t reply. I remained in my own little joyful bubble. I didn’t know why the experience made me so happy. It just did. I was happy as a little oyster. 

The two of remained quiet. Him with his beer and me with my pearl. As I felt my pearl rolling through my fingers I just smiled. Then without turning to look at him I said, “You know something? You could have made my day by going over there with me and handing the girl $14.99. You could have made my birthday and Valentine’s Day tomorrow with a simple gesture...and fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents. I’ve always wanted to do that. You knew that….And, I loved it,” I said looking down at the pearl in the palm of my hand. “How much have you spent on beer today? You had six? At eight dollars each?” I asked.

“I’ll always have this,” I said holding up the pearl as if it were a diamond glistening in the sun. 

“$14.99,” I thought and smiled. Yup, I’m a gold digger.

That was the beginning of the end for me. Or maybe I knew it was already at the end, but that moment punctuated the sentence. There was so much wrong with the relationship, but I’d kept thinking ‘if I stay a little longer maybe things will work out’—a slot-machine mentality: Maybe. Just one more quarter.