Carla Hedgeman cocked her head, hearing Warren's car in the drive. He
was home. She sighed and wiped her hands. In a moment he would come
stumbling in the side door calling “Carla, I'm home, dear.”
She despised him. How long had they been married—eight years It
seemed a lifetime. She had been only nineteen, not nearly old enough to
marry. But Warren Hedgeman had come along with a car, a job and a
smooth line that she hadn't heard before and she had fallen under the
spell. And the chance to get out of her parent's house.
She heard his step on the walk at the side door. The door opened and
slammed. She held her breath:
“Carla, I'm home, dear.”
She let the breath out and sighed. Picking up a saucepan, she rattled
it against the sink. Now he would come in and peck her on the cheek.
How had she gotten herself locked in this prison? The walls of a crummy
little house in the suburbs, in the clutches of a stove, a kitchen—and
she never could save enough money to take a plane somewhere. Other
people disappeared into the blue. Why couldn't she?
She looked up to see him standing there, a big, good-natured oaf. She
forced a tight smile.
He kissed her on the cheek. “Have a good day, dear?”
She wanted to say what the women said among themselves, 'shitty,' but
she knew it would shock him. Everything shocked him, even the dancing
girls on TV.
He was tall, about six inches taller than she, with brown hair and
eyes that drooped. Like a wounded beagle—someone had said that about
him one night at a party and she couldn't forget it. It fitted him to
She lifted her shoulders an inch. “Like all days,” she said. She
fussed over dinner while he stood in front of the living room TV set,
listening to the news.
When she served dinner, it was on the table in front of her plate.
A small package.
She looked at him in surprise. “What's that?”
“Open it up, dear.”
He had a silly, pleased look on his beagle face. He had bought her a
Frowning, she ran quickly over the anniversaries and birthdays in her
mind. It was none of them. She sat and picked up the box. It was
probably a watch or a ring.
“It's a ring, huh?” she asked. “Do you know my size?”
He leaned on one hand and waited. The tiny box was tied with a
ribbon. Pushing it off, she shook the box. Nothing. She ripped the
paper with her fingernail and looked at a plain black box. She glanced
at him. He had the same stupid expression on his stupid face.
She opened the lid. It was a ring. She cocked her head and stared at
it. It was a curious ring, and it looked old. “Where did you get this,
Warren?” “Look at it, dear.”
She picked it out and turned it around in the light. It was ornate
gold with a grayish stone of some sort in the setting. “It's costume
jewelry,” she said.
“It's not at all. It's an antique. It's very old. The man said he
didn't know how old.”
“What man?” She examined it closely. He was right for once. It was an
antique, and very old. The band had cabalistic designs and the
workmanship was amazing. She knew at once that it was valuable. She
“The man at the antique shop,” Warren said. He took his fork and
began to eat. “I talked him out of it.”
“What did you have to pay for it?” “It's a gift. Never mind what I
paid. Put it on. Does it fit?”
She was very pleased with it. It had a lovely feel, heavy and
important. She tried it on the third finger and it went on smoothly.
She held her hand out, turning it this way and that. It felt wonderful.
She found herself getting up to go around the table to kiss him. She
was surprised at the act. She hadn't done that in—a long time.
He was pleased too. “It fits, huh?”
“Yes, thanks, darling.” She sat, forgetting her food. She felt
wonderful all at once. She didn't get enough gifts. She had never lost
the little-girl feel of a gift.
“Eat your dinner,” he said.
“It's a very beautiful ring, darling. Beautiful.”
“I'm glad you like it, I thought you would.”
She felt better and better. She looked at him, across the table. Even
he looked better somehow. A warmth seemed to steal through her. The
evening was nothing like what it had been only a short time before. She
felt absolutely delicious. She regarded him steadily, and felt
something she had not felt for a long while. She wanted sex.
It almost shocked her, the feeling. She picked up her fork and
dropped it. Warren glanced at her, smiling. She began to eat, pecking
at her food. God! What a strange feeling! She wanted to go to bed. Her
loins were warm; she was horny—she knew what that meant. Did a mere
gift do that to her? How long had it been, since they'd had sex?
A long time, weeks. She could think of nothing but bed. She wanted to
undress and run about the room naked. To shake her titties at him! She
took a deep breath.
Her face was hot. He smiled at her, “What's the matter, dear?”
“I don't know. I feel—sort of—I don't know—”