He put his hand on the bartender’s wrist as she moved the open bottle towards his glass to refill.
“That’s going to be it for me, I’ve got an early morning.” He removed his hand from her wrist and watched as she pulled her slender hand away, noting the bright red of her nails. He remembered seeing red nails like that before. It was the same red as the cherry that topped the ice cream sundae you took your girl out for on a hot summer night. It was the same red as the Ruby stone that sat in a high school ring.
It had been more than eight years since he had seen that high school ring. She had been wearing it on a gold chain around her neck as she kissed him and told him she’d see him later. He waved as she got into the car with her friends and they drove off. Even though it had been a girls’ outing, he was supposed to drive them that day. One of her friends was planning to move into the dorm at the university in Syracuse later that summer and they all had wanted to help her make purchases for her room. But the restaurant manager had a last minute opening and he was grabbing all the work he could. So he stayed behind. He stayed behind and worked so they would be a little bit closer to being able to afford getting married.
His high school ring was never supposed to replace her engagement ring. He had been planning on buying one. But they wanted to move the wedding date up. They needed the money so buying the diamond was put on hold. Tom was still working the busboy job that had carried him through his senior year of high school. He had applications in at lots of other places for full time jobs, but the summer wasn’t the best time to get hired. His dad had wanted him to go on to college, but college wasn’t in his plans. Not anymore. He proposed to Joyce on their high school graduation day.
Joyce’s parents tried to convince them each to go to the local community college. They kept telling them that a two year engagement wasn’t all that long after all. Tom and Joyce knew they couldn’t wait the two years. So he worked as many hours as he could as a busboy. He managed to pick up a few extra hours pumping gas at the local station also. Joyce babysat and she was going to start selling plastic kitchen containers to all the area housewives. She wasn’t planning to buy anything that day. She was just going along for the ride. She was just going to enjoy the day with her girlfriends. He wanted her to have fun.
He was dead on his feet after the shift at the restaurant and he just wanted to go home and watch TV. His mom called him before he left work. His fifteen-year old cousin had run away again, something she did an average of twice a week since coming to live with them when she was twelve. Tom always knew where to find her and he picked her up on his way home that night. They were sitting in his car while he once again lectured her about her behavior when the police car pulled up.
Tom knew that his world was about to end when he saw Joyce’s father get out of the back seat.