The Ruby Apple-by Susan Barrett
Joseph and Sophia, Salvadore and Julia were at the Italian Club Wednesday night. Wednesday night is steak night and the Italian Club donates all the proceeds to the local orphanage.
One of the younger women approached their table. "Look, I'm engaged!" she squealed, then waved her diamond ring under their noses. They'd ooh'd and ahh'd at the appropriate moments, finished their dinner, then went home.
The two couples sat at the table playing cards soon after.
Sophia asked Joseph about the ring. "Why did she make such a fuss about her ring?" she said, looking at the thin gold band that encircled her own finger.
After he'd explained engagement to her, she joked with him. "Why don't I have a diamond?"
The men laughed and Joseph said to them "If you had any idea how much it cost to get you two into this country. You know, that little boat trip from Italy wasn't exactly free." Then he continued" In this country, the 75th anniversary of something is called its Diamond Jubilee. It is customary for the wedding anniversary to be called the Diamond Anniversary. Now Sophia, we'll never be married that long, unless of course I live to be 140 years old or so. I'll tell you what, my 75th birthday is coming up and to commemorate the event, should I live so long" he said, looking up to the heavens and beating his right fist on his heart "I'll buy you a diamond. Will that make you happy?"
Sophia replied "YOU make me happy Joseph, but if you want to buy me a diamond, make it a big one, not like the puny thing that girl had on her finger. Now, whose deal?"
Salvadore turned to Julia and said "How about you, Julia my darling? Do you need a diamond for your finger?"
Julia shocked them all when she said "No. If-a you're going to get me something like that, I don't want the same as Sophia. I want my birthstone, a Ruby. I read it in a book. My birthday is in July and that's a Ruby. Now, are-a we going to play cards or a-talk?"
They resumed the game and the girls didn't think too much more about it.
It was Joseph's 75th birthday and the two couples' 5th wedding anniversary.
Salvadore and Joseph entered Salvadores kitchen where Julia and Sophia sat.
They each had a box, wrapped and tied with a bow.
"Happy anniversary!" they said as they placed the boxes in front of their wives.
Sophia opened hers first. "A pan? You bought me a pan?" she said as she looked at the enameled cast iron, covered oval roasting pan.
"Look inside," said Joseph.
"It's a-heavy, it better have-a supper in it" she said, putting the pan on the table.
"Look inside," said Joseph.
She lifted the lid and set it aside, then gently unfolded the soft buckskin suede bundle that lay inside.
She was speechless.
She was stunned.
She reached in with both hands and slowly pulled out a marquis-cut diamond, 8 inches long end to end. She looked across the table at Julia.
Julia's jaw had dropped open.
Salvadore brought Julia back to reality when he said. "Aren't you even interested in what I bought you sweetheart?"
Her hand shook as she untied the ruby red bow. Shook as she opened the silver box and removed the ruby red pitcher from it.
"It's for apple juice, " said Salvadore in mock innocence, batting his eyes at Julia.
"To go with supper." growled Joseph and both men roared in laughter. Salvadore punctuating the humor of it by thumping his cane on the kitchen floor.
Julia reached into the red glass pitcher and pulled out the soft, red velvet bundle, then unwrapped it to expose a perfectly faceted ruby, cut in the shape of a Roma apple and just as large. She held the ruby in both hands and smiled, tears coursing down her cheeks.
Joseph said, "They're both crying Sal. I think that means they like their gifts. Now come on girls, let's go to dinner."
They went to Josephs', the resturant they all owned. As the two couples entered, they didn't notice the maitre'd had put a sign on the door.
It read: Sorry for the inconvenience. Tonight we are closed to the public.
They knew who all the other patrons were, but they seemed too preoccupied with their meals to venture more than a polite good evening to the two couples.
No matter, it was Joseph and Salvadores 5th wedding anniversary to Sophia and Julia. Soon they were all seated at the round center table of their fine resturant.
Sophia put her covered pan on the table right there in the middle, then placed the candle centerpiece atop it. They all laughed when she quietly said. "To go with supper."
The Antipasto came first, followed by Veal Scallopini and Eggplant Lasagne, served with a fine red wine made with grapes from their own vineyard.
They talked, they laughed and when dinner was done, they all drank Sambucca served with coffee beans in the bottom of the cordial glasses.
They were having such a good time in fact, that they didn't quite notice what was going on around them.
Their attention was diverted towards the kitchen as the dessert cart rolled out. 75 candles blazed on the big presentation lemon cake.
Suddenly they were surrounded by their many friends and colleagues. Every one of them burst into "Happy Birthday" song, sung to Joseph.
"Happy Birthday Mr. Tecchi," was repeated over and over again as faceless hands placed gifts in front of him.
Sophia sat beaming at her husband from across the table.
He opened every gift, smiling at each as if it were the best and thanking each giver in turn. When he was done, he rose from his seat at the table and addressed the crowd. "Thank you all so much for coming here tonight. You have no idea how much it means to me to be remembered by you all. I have an announcement to make as well. Sophia, my darling Sophia is with child. I am now the happiest man on the face of the Earth. Now, please stay and enjoy yourselves, but it is time for us to leave. Good night and God bless you all." With that said, the two couples rose from their seats and left the resturaunt.
James, who was Joseph and Sophia Tecchis' chauffer, had driven the two couples to the resturant in one car so that Arlotto, Salvadore and Julias' chauffer, could help out at the bar, so James drove the two couples' home. First he dropped off Salvadore and Julia.The Lincoln had proceeded up the hill to the big brick house, then came to a stop outside the front door. James opened the car door and as Julia and Salvadore got out of the car, he asked "Would you like me to walk you in?" but the answer was no, so he drove Joseph and Sophia home next, then returned to the resturaunt.
Julia stood in the living room, brushing out her long dark hair and said to Salvadore, "Sal, are you coming up to bed?"
He replied "In a minute. I want to catch the late news first."
She went upstairs and fell asleep quickly, not used to drinking so much alcohol.
Something woke her up later. She heard a noise from downstairs and was sure that Sal had fallen asleep in front of the television. She quietly padded down the carpeted stairs and was witness to an awful sight. Salvadore was standing there, poking a strange man in the chest with his cane while another lay motionless on the floor. The man had a knife in his hand. He grabbed the end of Sals' cane and used it to push him back into his chair. Even though Sal was slammed back into his chair, he maintained his grip on the cane, using it like a sword to fend his attacker off.
Neither man saw her there, just as well. She quietly, deliberately walked up behind the intruder. On her way there she grabbed the first thing she could. It was that beautiful ruby apple Salvadore had given her earlier in the evening. She took a deep breath, then another step and hit that man on the back of the head with it. She whacked him with all her might.
She saw his arms splay out and watched the knife fall from his hand. He dropped to his knees and as he fell face first onto the floor, she saw a wide-eyed Salvadore, open mouthed and still in his chair. His gaze went from the men on the floor to his young wife.
"Julia, thank you" he said as he rose from the chair.
She looked down at the heap lying on the floor.
"Is he dead? I whacked him hard."
Sal was himself again, clear thinking Salvadore, the retired hit man from up north.
He almost smiled. "Yeah, you whacked him alright." Then said "Go get a couple of old sheets to wrap them in. Then go pour us both a drink, don't be stingy either."
While she was gone, he picked up the phone and called the resturaunt. He was glad to hear Arlotto on the other end of the phone.
"Josephs' Resturaunt. How may I help you?" Arlotto always did have a pleasant speaking voice.
"I need you at the house right away. Is James back yet?"
"Good. Don't say another word, just get up here. Oh, stop by the orchard on your way up and bring two of those new sapling apple trees." Then he hung up the phone.
"Yes sir, we were closed for a private party tonight, but we'll be open to the public tomorrow" Arlotto said to the dial tone, still in that cheery, professional voice of his.
He hung up the phone and turned to James, his back to the bar crowd and quietly said
"I'll be be back as soon as I can. Cover for me, eh?"
James didn't bat an eye. He distracted everyones attention when he said "This round's on the house!"
No one noticed Arlotto slip out the door, but some saw the car leave.
"Hey, where's Arlotto gone to?" someone said.
James didn't miss a beat.
He pointed to the sweet young thing at the end of the bar and said, "Arlotto looked at that rack of hers once too many times tonight. He's gone home to take it out on his wife." The bar errupted in laughter.
"Don't worry." He continued over the howls, "He'll be back a calmer and much happier man, I'm sure."
Then he poured everyone another round, this time on Arlotto.
In the morning, Julia awoke with a killer headache. She opened her eyes to see
Salvadore by her side, awake and smiling at her.
"O-o-o-o, my head. Sal, Sal, last night, I, you, o-o-o, my head."
Before he could answer, in walked Arlotto, breakfast tray in hand. "Well if it isn't the lovely anniversary couple. Here, have some breakfast and when you're ready, take a look out the window." He said in that handsome, cheery voice of his.
When she finally managed to stand up, Julia looked out the window and there, much to her pleasant surprise were two newly planted Roma Apple trees.
The Ruby Apple- by Susan Barrett 2005