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March 24, 2008

The Ring




This is a very strange story. I think of it often and always fill with that fear one feels when experiencing one of those “close calls” in life.

I was 23 at the time. I was married and had a three year-old son. I was just a young woman like any other. I stayed home with my child, took care of my little apartment and worked part-time from home doing assorted little boring jobs.One night after dinner I received a call from my older sister. She wanted me to go shopping with her at the big department store in town. My husband was home looking after my son and so I decided to go. I was happy to get away for a little shopping time with my sister. I quickly combed my wild, messy hair and slipped on my shoes then waited at the door for my sister’s car horn to sound.

My sister and I shopped all over the big store. We both bought a blouse and wandered around looking at everything else the store offered. My sister wandered off to purchase her favorite perfume. I walked over to the next department which was fine jewelry. I had--and still do have--a weakness for rings. At that point in my life, I owned only a few very nice rings. My parents had given me a beautiful birthstone when I turned 18 and, of course, I had my wedding ring. My wedding ring consisted of a wide gold band with a twisted line of small diamonds across the face of it. On the inside of the ring was engraved my wedding date. It was a nice ring but not a unique or expensive ring. There were other rings around at the time similar to mine.

I started to look at all the beautiful jewelry and I especially noticed the rings. I had always wanted a big diamond ring and loved just looking at them and dreaming of the day I might own one. The store was pretty quiet while we were there. Very few other customers were in the store that night. The sales lady was leaning against the glass case of rings, watching me as I carefully looked at all the diamonds and bands. She walked over and asked if I wanted to see any of them. I told her I was just looking. She mentioned a 75 % off sale on two of the diamond rings and said, “Here, let me show you the two on this incredible markdown.” Not being strong enough to say no, I let her take out a velvet-covered board of rings and hand me the two discounted rings to try on.

The rings were beautiful. I slid off my wedding band, laid it down on the velvet board right in front of me and slid both rings onto my left hand. Oh, how beautiful both of the rings looked! I wanted to simply tell her to “wrap one up” and then waltz home with the big beautiful diamond ring in the department store bag. I looked at my hand longingly, then removed the rings, handed them back to the sales lady, picked up my wedding ring, and then placed my ring back on my left hand.

My sister called from the next counter. I thanked the woman who had shown me the rings and then headed toward my sister. The only other thing we did that night was stop at the local ice cream shop where my sister treated us both to a double-scoop ice cream cone.

The next morning I woke up late. I could hear my son talking to my mother in the living room. I lifted myself from the bed to find I had a violent headache. I walked into the living room to find my son had let my mother into the house. We lived in an apartment at the time built onto my parents’ home. My mom often came in and out during the day. My mother said to me on this day, “It’s 10:30. Are you all right? You look awful. Didn’t you know the baby was awake and walking around the house?” My son then added, “I was calling you, Mommy.” I had not heard my son, could not believe I had slept that late, and my head felt as if it were breaking in half--the pain was so intense. Before I could respond to my mother, I turned, ran down the hall and became sick. Sick was actually being modest. I vomited so much I thought I would turn inside out. My mother stayed with me all day. I laid in my bed unable to stand, walk, eat or drink. I just wanted this unbelievable sickness to end.

Eventually, my husband came home. His plan for dealing with the situation was to take my son to my parents’ house and send my mom back to cope with me. My mom sat with me all night. By morning I was no better. I still could not stand or even drink. My mother and father insisted that my husband take me to the hospital emergency room as my flesh was turning a sort of blue-green tone.

I spent that day in the hospital. It seemed to be a virus or maybe food poisoning. I just wanted to get better. After two more days in the hospital, I was allowed to return home. I was still very ill. I could eat a bit and walk when helped but I still needed to spend almost all of my day in bed. My family was very concerned. I needed someone with me at all times as my balance was off and I fell twice. I was extremely ill. One night my husband was feeding my son. I was lying on the couch in the living room listening to them talk while he coaxed my son into taking bites of his grilled cheese sandwich. As I laid there my hands began to throb very painfully. I twisted my wedding ring, trying to ease the discomfort, and then decided to take it off completely. My hand hurt so much even the ring was too painful to keep on. I slid the ring off my finger and placed it on the coffee table in front of me.

As I laid my head back down on the couch pillow, I became eye level with the coffee table. It gave me a different and very clear view of my ring. I just kept looking at my ring. It looked funny to me. I pushed myself up and grabbed my ring to inspect it more carefully. I felt a chill run down my spine as I held it in front of my eyes. This ring--the ring that had been on my finger since I left that department store--was not my ring at all. I held it up toward the light and looked inside the band. There I found three strange symbols engraved into the gold. It was 24k gold and thicker than my wedding ring. This ring looked very much like my own as it had a similar, almost identical twist of diamonds on its face but it was, without question, NOT MY RING!

I knew in my soul that this ring was the reason I was so ill. I called my husband and showed him the ring. He looked and asked what I did with my wedding band. I told him over and over everything that happened at the department store. I could see he was shaken and confused. I also noticed that almost immediately, after removing the ring, I started to feel better.

I called my parents and asked them to come over. I told them the entire shopping trip story and showed them this strange ring. It made me very uneasy to realize my wedding band was gone and I had been walking around wearing this strange ring.

My dad called the department store. He asked them not if they had found a wedding band, but if they were missing one. The jewelry store manager told him everything was in order and nothing was missing. My dad then asked if he could ask the saleslady, on duty the night of our shopping trip, if anything odd had occurred during her shift. My father’s face turned white as he listened on the phone to the jewelry manager’s reply. My dad hung up the phone and turned to us and said, “The manager just told me there wasn’t any sales lady on duty in the jewelry department that night. The regular lady called in ill so they posted three large signs to go to the front desk for help in that department that night.” My mother called my sister who lived only a few blocks away and asked her to come over for a few minutes. My father picked up the ring and placed it inside a plastic bag and sat it on the table next to the front door. I was now able to sit up and so my mother prepared some soup for me. My husband sat there stunned in the aftermath of this bizarre revelation.

My sister came over with her husband and we repeated the entire story to them. She walked over, looked at the ring, and said, “This isn’t your ring.” And she added, “There were no signs in the jewelry department--just that old woman standing there who insisted on showing you the rings”. We all just looked at one another. As I sat eating my soup, my father said to my husband and my sister’s husband, “Go get a shovel. We’re going for a ride.” My dad, my husband and my brother-in-law all jumped into my dad’s truck, with the ring in the plastic bag, and took off down the road. They were gone for about two hours. When they returned, my husband told me they had driven far away to a deserted wooded area and then buried the ring with a wooden cross my dad made from wood in the truck. They even stopped at our pastor’s house and had the wooden cross blessed on the way to bury the ring. Once far enough into the woods, they dug a deep hole and then placed the ring, still inside the bag, into the hole with the cross on top of it. They then buried all of it together.

I woke up the next day and felt almost completely well. I was very frightened by this experience. That fear would last for years. I had no idea how I ended up with that ring. I had no idea why anyone would want my cheaper ring. Most of all, I was terrified by the realization that somebody’s “imposter” ring seemed to make me so deathly ill.

We talked often about this strange event. It was an odd happening that did not seem to belong in my simple, ordinary life. It could have been a coincidence--the ring and my illness. None of us could explain why someone had exchanged my cheap ring for the more expensive one. Who would do this? Why would anyone want to do this--and how did they pull it off without my knowledge? To this day these questions remain unanswered. I do know I became a more careful observer of both people and places from that point forward. I also refused to go back to that department store ever again.

Beware of what is around you. It is a strange world filled with many unexplained events. ♥
Copyright © 2008 Chris Holly

March 21, 2008

Tall John and Lady June










TallJohn was a large construction-worker-type from Maryland. John was having an online romance with another chatter called LadyJune. It was open knowledge they were in constant communication via the chat rooms, private IMs (instant messages) and of course, phone calls. We all watched as TallJohn lost his heart to the sweet-talking California-born LadyJune. TallJohn, a man in his early forties, was lost hook, line and sinker over the younger, 30-ish LadyJune.

TallJohn, an honest man, filled his online profile with his personal information in an open, simple manner. He posted where he lived, what he did for a living, and that he was looking for love. He published one photo of a tall, strong, pleasant-looking man wearing a large cowboy hat.

LadyJune, on the other hand, had a huge profile. It was filled with photo albums containing page after page of photos. LadyJune was a young, small blond with a sweet face and huge eyes. There were photos of her as a child and photos of her in college as well as photos of her at work, with family and friends, in her car, and at her apartment. One glance at her detailed profile gave us all a pretty complete picture of this charming little lady’s young and vibrant life. TallJohn was struck, as if by lightning, by this girl.

One night, in chat, they announced to all of us they were in love. We all watched intently as this new love seemed born right from the walls of chatland. It was like having an on-going soap opera we could visit whenever we wanted. Their happiness was apparent and we were all happy for them.

A few weeks later, it started to happen. LadyJune started talking about her hatred of small apartments. She spoke often of how she needed at least a two-bedroom home. TallJohn quickly moved to a larger apartment at twice the rent.

I watched as chatters, who knew TallJohn well, suggested to him that he go visit this woman before making any significant life changes. TallJohn just laughed at them. He was in LOVE. Anything LadyJune wanted he was willing to provide.

She then talked about her need for a large, safe car to drive. TallJohn promptly traded his car for one more to her liking. New furniture was also purchased along with new kitchen appliances and cookware and last, but not least, he bought a large, heart-shaped diamond ring.

As this took place, those who knew TallJohn repeatedly urged him to visit this woman in person before spending his life's savings on someone he had yet to lay eyes upon. He became offended. After all, we could see from her profile that only a mad man would pass her by.

At long last the day arrived and TallJohn sent LadyJune her plane ticket to Maryland. She would soon see her new man, her new apartment, her new car, her new life, and her new big diamond ring. They promised to have a web cam at the wedding. We all waited in great curiosity and anticipation of the big day.

The days passed, and then the weeks. Someone noticed LadyJune's profile was taken down. We figured she no longer needed it and so we thought nothing of it. Then it happened.

TallJohn suddenly appeared back in the chat rooms. The chatters were a-buzz wanting to hear all the blissful, romantic details. Reluctantly, TallJohn eventually took the microphone and this is what he told us:


"I went to the airport that day to pick her up. I was dressed in my best with flowers in hand and her heart-shaped diamond ring in my pocket. I watched as the passengers all exited the plane. I waited and waited. No LadyJune. She must have missed her flight, I thought. I was about to leave when I heard someone call my name. I turned to find a very large older woman, about 400 pounds and at least 55 years old, standing there in front of me. She was wearing a bright orange dress with men’s sneakers and a red, sweat-stained face. She had long gray hair with strains of black in places, pinned to the top of her head like a mop. She held a small suitcase and a huge, wrinkled shopping bag. I stared at this strange woman. I had no idea who she could be. Then I thought, oh Lord, something must have happened to June and they sent this woman to tell me. I walked over to her. I asked her if she was calling to me. She laughed, and at once I realized it was June's voice. I nearly fell to the floor. I asked her, ‘Who are you?’ and again she laughed and replied, ‘John, it’s me—June’. I felt my knees give out and made my way to the nearest bench. This large mess of a woman sat down beside me. She took a long look at me and said, ‘John, I knew we were soul mates from our first day in chat. I knew once we met, looks would not matter.’ I filled with anger and disgust and just burst out crying, sitting there--a grown man, blabbering like a baby, with this old silly woman beside me. I told her she was a crazy old liar, a fraud and a sinner, and then she started to cry too. I told her to sit there then I went and bought her a one-way ticket back to California. When I returned and handed it to her she looked stunned and babbled on about pure love being all that was needed. I just stared at this woman as my hopes of love, children and happiness washed from me like a flood of chilling rain. I asked her one last question. I said, ‘Who was that woman in the pictures and how did you get so many of her?’ She sort of snickered and said, ‘Oh, that is my niece. Isn't she adorable? I wanted to tell you, but really didn’t think it would matter so much’”.

TallJohn simply turned and walked away. He returned to his new car, his new apartment and all his new kitchen gear with that big, heart-shaped diamond ring in his pocket.

Word has it John met someone in church. She can cook and loves the ring. June was never seen nor heard from again. ♥

Copyright © 2008 Chris Holly
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