The Lonely Dance of Ruby Rube (Part 1)
She sits at her glass table—the one he dislikes—sorting through the pieces of a new jigsaw puzzle. She sorts by pattern, colour and design. She lifts a piece, judges it with squinted eyes, moves it to a pile, and lifts another. He
often teased her for this pleasure, rolling his eyes and letting out a
huff of air that sounded like a hog’s snort whenever he saw a puzzle
laid out. In those happy times, she’d giggle and slip her
arms around his neck, nibble his ear and whisper, “What else am I to do
when you’re not here?”
Most of the edges are in place. That’s the easy part. And
so satisfying too, to mark out a territory, leaving a blank interior to
be filled section by section, piece by piece, until a picture emerges
after a great labour.
The puzzle is part of a vigil. She’s lit a candle too, and in the flickering light, her wine glass shines. She takes a sip, savours it, makes a toast to him. It’s a wine he likes, one they’ve shared together often. And the music that plays, his favourite too. With enough details and enough concentration, the spell will work. She’s certain. The phone will ring and it will be him.
“Ruby-rube,” he’ll say, “it’s me.”
She works for an hour, fitting together a section of the puzzle that forms a swirling skirt. When this passes, she thinks, and they’re together again, she’ll dance for him. She shuts her eyes and creates a dance in her head.
From her computer at the other end of the table, two flat notes announce a new message. Her eyes fly open. She leaps up, bangs her knee against the table and puzzle pieces skid. . . .