“You incredible bitch!” His voice cut through her flesh and deep into her soul. “You’re the most pathetic excuse for a woman God ever put on the earth.” With that, he threw the ring back at her with such a fury it skimmed over the side of her cheek, cutting her face. The searing pain to her face was nothing compared to the devastation she felt course throughout her body.
Robert hated the fact that she shopped at the second hand stores and garage sales. She loved the bargains but he refused even to consider using other people’s “crap” as he called it. His clothes had to be only the best, purchased at the most elite shops. She loved him and it didn’t matter to her that she wore cast offs of others. If they fit and were a bargain, it offset the ever-increasing amount of money Robert needed for his clothing.
“You purposely lose your job and expect to make it up to me with a cheap trinket? It’s not even new, it’s just more crap you found at those second hand shops and garage sales. It’s as ugly and useless as you are and frankly, I’m glad to get rid of you both. If you can’t bring in an income, then you serve no purpose in my life. That’s right, you have no value.”
She wanted to cry, every cell in her body heated with the tears she held back. She knew Robert hated it when she cried so she held her breath hoping even the faintest of tears wouldn’t flow, but her eyes filled with a mist she couldn’t stop. “I…I’m so sorry. I just wanted to surprise you with a gift. It just looked so beautiful…I thought…”
“Quit trying to manipulate me with those tears. You know damn well that without a job you’re nothing. You can give me nothing. I found someone else that is far better in bed, more attractive and has a decent amount of money. The only thing worthwhile you ever did was introduce me to her. That’s right; it’s your boss, Elaine.”
Now it all made sense. She’d been set up by her supervisor and didn’t even realize it. Those nights Elaine made her work late and left early now all made sense. She hadn’t miscalculated the formula; Elaine had doctored the results so she could have Robert to herself. She knew that if there were no money, Robert would never remain with her.
He slammed the door as he left. She sat numb in the living room, not knowing what to do. The room darkened as the hours ticked past but she made no attempt to move from her position. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep, she simply sat. She was oblivious to the sounds of morning and the crisp call of the birds as they began their daily routine and then, the house was dark once more.
It took several days before she considered even the most basic of personal care. She hadn’t eaten in that time but did manage to drink some of the coffee left from days earlier. There was no potential for sleep. There was nothing, just the nagging realization that she was really alone for the first time in years. She had no one to turn to since her mother died. Robert didn’t like her talking to other people. He said it was a waste of her time that she needed to devote to him. Even talking to her mother was difficult and had to be done in secrecy. She had only Robert and her job and now she had nothing.
Time was a blur. Was it a week, two weeks, she didn’t know how long ago Robert left but she knew she had to accept the loss and live her remaining years in loneliness. He was right; she wasn’t good for anything if she didn’t have a job. She was ugly and useless, but even useless people had to eat and so she dragged her frail body to the kitchen.
There was no food. What happened to the food she just bought? Then she remembered. She hadn’t taken the groceries out of the car but had come in immediately to give Robert his surprise. She ran to the window but knew what she would find. The driveway was empty. He insisted on selling both cars and purchasing one car that was far more expensive. Now she knew why. It was all falling into place.
Reluctantly, she showered and prepared herself for the long walk to the grocery.
“That will be $56.75 please.” The girl at the registered smiled and waited as Darla swiped her debit card.
“I’m sorry, the transaction won’t go through. Would you like to try it again?”
“Yes, I’m sure there’s enough money.” She had just deposited her final check, vacation pay and her entire pension into the account a week ago. Robert insisted that now that she was unemployed, they had to keep the extra cash on hand for emergencies and living expense.
She tried again and again the clerk informed her that the transaction was denied.
“I’ve got a credit card. Let me use that until I get this straightened out.”
“I’m sorry, this one is denied too.”
Frantic, she dug through her purse looking for some cash. She found a twenty and some coins. The line behind her became restless as she sorted through the items, selecting those she wished to keep and tallying it as she went. Her humiliation grew as she heard mumblings and cursing from behind her. The walk home seemed even farther and now there wasn’t enough money to take the bus if she tired.
When she arrived home, she called the bank immediately. She had to get this straightened out. Maybe they withheld payment until the checks cleared. They should have cleared even before Robert left. Even without the checks, there should be plenty of money.
“Good afternoon. How can I be of service?”
“There’s a problem with my account. I should have plenty of money but tried to use my card and it was denied.”
“Your account number?”
“Our records show that you have $23.82.”
“That’s not right, there should be well over $300,000.”
“On 8/15, there was a withdrawal for $308, 500. The transaction took place at the Wager Street branch. Would you like to dispute that?”
It had to have been Robert. He always went to that branch and flirted with the tellers. They knew him well by now and would easily have given him the money.
The call to the credit card company revealed the same thing. Cash withdrawals daily until the card was maxed out. He had the password. He had a card, but the card was only in her name and not held jointly. He past credit wouldn’t allow him to get a Premier card with the lowest interest and highest credit line. He insisted that just listing him as a user was all right with him. Now she had $40,000 of debt, no job and no money.
It took several days for the gravity of the situation to sink in. The postman brought that when he made his monthly delivery of bills. She needed money and she needed it fast. There was the mortgage, the utilities and of course the credit card payment all begging her for money. The groceries she purchased were gone and she was left eating what she had on the shelf and in the freezer. She had to do something.
Her mind raced. She could sell her things. However, it seemed like Robert took everything of value. She still had her wedding band that might bring enough for the utility bills. She had her mother’s jewelry and something might be of value. There were some other pieces of jewelry she found at garage sales and second hand shops Robert didn’t bother to take. Maybe she could pawn or sell them for enough to get by until she figured out what to do.
She put everything in a bag that might have value, brushed her hair and headed for the door. A glint of light from the corner of her eye caught her attention. It was the blue stone in the ring that she bought Robert. It was probably junk like her other items but she’d take everything. Maybe she’d at least get her $50 back, so she stuck the ring in her pocket and left the house.
She approached the counter at the pawnshop. She was the last customer in the shop. Darla had no idea how this worked. Did you ask them to buy the item, just hand them to the clerk or what?
“Are you alright?” The gentleman behind the counter looked to be close to her age. He had a kind face that now showed genuine concern for Darla. “You look like you’re about to faint. Please. Sit down back here.” He immediately came from behind the counter and ushered her to a chair.
“Can I get you some water or something?” His concern touched her. For the first time since this started, no long before that, she felt the warmth of human compassion.
“I’m fine. I need to get money though and I don’t know how this is done.” Tears welled in her eyes and her voice choked as she talked.
“I’ll help you through the process. You don’t look like most of my regulars. Sudden emergency? I’m sorry that’s none of my business.”
Darla started to weep. It was the tears she held back for weeks that now surfaced in a raging torrent from her eyes. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t help it. I’m trying to stop but I can’t”
“It’s okay. Everyone has to let go sometime. Let me lock up while you gather your thoughts.” He reached over her shoulder and produced a box of tissues.
When he came back, he knelt down to her eye level. She hadn’t intended to tell him everything but once she opened her mouth, everything that happened the past few weeks spewed forth. At the end of the story, she paused. “I’ve got this bag of items I purchased through the years and few pieces of jewelry my mother gave me. I need to know if there’s anything of value I can pawn or sell, to keep going until I figure this all out.”
He put his hand on her shoulder, “Let’s see what you’ve got. Who knows, maybe there’s something there worth more than you think.”
“I hope so but I’m not getting my hopes up. I think Robert took everything that had value.” The mention of Robert reminded her that she put the ring in her pocket. “Here’s one more. I bought it for Robert. I thought the stone was a topaz but I think he might have been right. It may be just glass and worthless, but put it in with the rest.
He laid the items on the counter and began to sort them into several stacks. He inspected each item and she watched his face as he did. She couldn’t get a read on him or if the items had any value. There were three stacks of items. Most of the jewelry was in the first stack. He placed a smaller number of items in the second stack and the third stack only contained three items, an old watch from her mother, her grandmother’s necklace and the ring she bought Robert.
She waited as he inspected each item a second time, wrote notes on a paper and tallied up the final verdict.
“I’ve got some good news and some bad news, which do you want first?”
“Just start wherever you want.”
“I’ve put the items in separate piles. This pile,” he said pointing to the largest one, “is mostly costume jewelry but some of it is gold and there are some precious stones also. I can give you about $700 for the whole group.”
$700 wasn’t much but it was a start. He continued. “This second group has more value. Some of the stones are quite expensive and some of the items are collectible. I can give you about $4000 for the entire collection.” Her shoulders lifted as she realized she could live for two more months.
“Finally, in the last group, these items are different from the other two piles. I can’t make an offer on the items in this stack. The necklace is very old. Before I made any offer, I’d like to get an appraisal from a specialist. Potentially, it could be worth thousands or simply only of value as a family heirloom. The same is true of the watch. I wouldn’t give up hope but I wouldn’t get my hopes too high either” She felt her heart sink again. She’d hoped they’d bring a good price to tide her over until she found work.
“So that last pile is useless junk like Robert said.”
“No, no, no, no. You weren’t listening. The watch and necklace may not be worth thousands or they could be. The ring, however, is different. That large stone isn’t a topaz.” Immediately she knew Robert was right, just glass and a wasted $50. “However, it’s not just costume jewelry either. It’s the largest blue diamond I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen quite a few. The stones on the side are also diamonds and together they’re worth a considerable amount but I don’t think the value lies in the stones. This ring is very old. It might go back as far as the 13th Century. A very conservative estimate is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially over a million.”
She sat with her mouth agape and a glazed look. He continued.
“We can put the things in the safe and look at them tomorrow. I can buy the cheaper items first to keep you going, but I’d suggest that before we have the expert come in, you might want to get your divorce underway. If you don’t know the value of something, you can’t very well report it in your assets, now can you? No use letting that husband of yours in on your secret now. It sounds to me as though Robert wasn’t a good judge of the value of the jewelry or the value of those closest to him.”
He paused and then shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “I’m going to be dining alone, as usual, and it seems you could use a bite to eat. Would you join me? It’s my treat and I’d really like your company.”