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She knew this would happen eventually. Claudine, while putting on her makeup, heard a clatter and without even glancing down she knew her engagement ring had gone down the sink.
"Why don't you get one of those ring holder?" Paul had said one morning, watching as she spread out all of her beauty accoutrement along the edge of the tiny sink. There wasn't room for one, she said, and besides she always put it behind the mouthwash, where would it go.
They were out of mouthwash.
She finished her eyeliner and looked at the drain to see if perhaps the ring had gotten stuck on a clot of hair (she shed like a golden retriever), or maybe had caught just perfectly on the bit of wire in there like a rusty peace sign. No dice.
Claudine sighed. She had to get ready, she had to go to work, and she didn't have time for Paul to come in and ask, pull the sink apart, search the u-bend, picking through whatever disgusting horrors lurked there (she had washed a spider down the drain once) to find the ring and make her put it back on her finger.
When Paul gave her the ring she was thrilled. It had been his grandmother's, bought at a time when his family had more money and diamonds were cheaper. It had an enormous stone, Claudine gasped when she saw it. She hadn't been going with Paul for that long, less than a year. She'd let herself get swept up in the romance of quickly fired courtship, and of course, she was enamored by the ring.
She wouldn't marry Paul until they lived together. He didn't see the point in waiting, but agreed anyway, saying he didn't want one of those engagements that stretched out endlessly. He was approaching thirty and feeling like time was running out. "I want to be a young dad," he always said, to anyone who would listen, looking to Claudine for a reassuring smile.
Once the fire had been reduced to coals though, after a year of living together, Claudine found herself gazing more adoringly at the ring than at Paul. He laughed too loudly at movies, even in the darkened theater among strangers. He always wanted to be outside, doing athletic things. Claudine had humored him in the beginning. She'd loved seeing his smile when he was in the woods, and loved the way he'd take her hand over any slight irregularity in the path, as though she were a fragile, wonderful creature. She didn't think she'd have to keep going. After a while even the ring lost it's luster. She saw it as a promise she no longer wanted to make.
Claudine sat at the sink and thought about all of Paul's faults. His tiny hairs from shaving clung to the side of the sink. His dirty socks were on the floor behind her. She envisioned him still sleeping, knowing he would wake soon and come in to kiss her with his foul breath, ruining her lipstick, and knock about the kitchen making breakfast, singing-- singing!-- as he did so. She imagined the rest of her life picking up socks and fixing her lipstick.
She thought about her old life, living alone, often lonely, eating ice cream by the pint and drinking wine by the bottle, watching romantic comedies and wishing. But she also thought of quiet mornings. A house that looked the same when she came home as when she left it.
She hurriedly slapped on some mascara and threw her makeup into a bag. She ran the tap for a full minute, imagining the ring working its way through the pipes, buoyed by the clean tap water, all the way out to the sea.