Flakes of iron swirled towards Ruth’s scaly lips as she sipped the last of the ice melt. The water had always been hard in that part of the county.
“I’ll get you some more,” Floyd said. He stood from his chair and reached a trembling hand to his wife.
She shook her head. “I’m done.”
Her wedding band clinked against the glass, and guilt pulled on Floyd’s heart like an anchor chain.
Ruth started to speak … gurgled … broke into one of her coughing fits. Speckles of blood dotted the coverlet spread out over her frail body.
There wasn’t much time now.
Floyd took another step closer and lay his hand on his wife’s. He ran his fingers over the green-tinted ring.
“Ruth.” He cleared his throat and looked out the window on the other side of the room. It was only late afternoon, but the sky was nearly dark. Thick winter clouds promised snow.
He tried again.
“Ruth, I have something I need to tell you. Something I should have told you a long time ago. But now …”
Ruth wiggled herself upright in the bed and tugged Floyd closer. She slid her hand on top of his and flashed her eyes to her ring finger.
“Dear,” Ruth began. “I’ve known since the day you proposed that there is no such thing as ‘red gold’.”
Floyd’s breath caught in his throat. His jaw went slack.
“But,” she cut in, “I know you spent every penny you had on that strip of copper. And I know you poured every ounce of love into making it a symbol of our promise.”
Tears filled Floyd’s eyes. “I’m sorry I lied.”
Ruth kissed his hand. “You kept your promise, and that’s all that really matters.”