This is a romantic short for my newsletter subscribers.
Hope touched the glass that protected her from the cold vacuum of space. Her time was running out. She had to decide her fate by nothing more than what a ring looked like. Each ring represented an offer of marriage.
Stars twinkled in the window and the cusp of the planet was just starting to come into view. She imagined it was lush and tropical, filled with living organisms which would defy description. There would be food and sunshine. Which was something she didn’t have a lot of experience with.
The colonization ships had fled long ago, and the remnants of humans on Earth were left with an inhospitable surface and the deep-levels. The deep-levels were subterranean cities crammed with humanity.
Humans were not meant to live without the sun. The lights they put up in the underground cavern didn’t help the depression or the sickness caused by the lack of sun.
A sudden need for women opened up an opportunity. That was what her mom called it–‘an opportunity.’ An opportunity for more. A way out of the concrete and the system that tested people and put them to work in the most useful employment based on their skills.
She was what old romance novels called a mail-order bride, with the twist that her only information was the ring each man had sent with his application. If she did not decide, something unpleasant would happen. Her mom wouldn’t tell her what, but had said, “Please, just pick a ring. No matter what happens just pick one. It would be better than…” Then her mom shuddered. “Just pick one.”
She tried not to look at the four rings that hovered in the air. She had narrowed down the options from hundreds to these four. At first it had been a game. The ugly rings or the ones which were obviously too big or too small went down the chute. The rings would be recycled for some other girl to choose.
Her whole future rested on this decision. But now with only four left, it had gotten harder to decide.
Hope was not ready to face the choice yet. So, she did what she had done for most of the voyage. She danced. The computer was not programed to supply music, but she had the tunes in her head. She’d created routines. She decided she needed an upbeat sequence.
Once the sequence was done, she landed, panting, in front on the rings. Her mind still balked at the idea that this was her future.
The planet grew bigger in the window. Soon the warning buzzer would sound. Her time was running out.
She looked at the rings.
The first was made of a polished metal. The ring was flawless, with no texture or writing, and polished to a finish that seemed to glow.
The second had many interlocking pieces of different colors and textures. ‘Woven’ was the word which came to mind.
The third was layered with diamonds. It was so encrusted that no surface was left un-bejeweled.
The fourth was a simple gold band. She’d almost discarded it a hundred times, but never could do it.
The warning bell went off. She had to decide in five minutes. What did the rings tell her about her future situation?
The first ring was cold. Calculating. Worn down.
The second ring was difficult and uncomfortable. Complicated.
The third ring was pretentious. A status symbol. A possession.
The fourth was straightforward? Did the lack of gems mean poor? Was young? Was unestablished? Yet, so attractive.
She sighed and rubbed her eyes. Her mom would think her a fool.
The bells sounded their final call as she plucked the last ring out of the air.
As she did, she saw the writing on the inside.
“In the dance of life, those with the right partners have the most fun.”
She’d never felt hope before, but now the quote brought tears to her eyes.
When the ring slipped on her finger and fit perfectly, she knew she had made the right choice.