Ruth, Roses, and Revolvers

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 Ruth, Roses, and Revolvers

Ruth couched the roses, dark as bloodstains, in the great glass vase that filled out the center of her dark cherry-wood dining table. She’d received the vase, tinted to a shade of midnight blue, as a present at her second wedding. Her second of three, so far.

Ruth wore black every day, out of deference to her husbands, all deceased. It set off her honey-blond hair, her lips rouged to match the roses perfectly.

Her current live-in lover, Lina, came out of the kitchen carrying two fine china plates. She smiled when she saw Ruth arranging the blossoms with her white-gloved fingers.

Lina was broad-shouldered, toffee-colored, with thick black hair she kept pulled back and slicked down. Her heavy black brows always looked like they were halfway to a scowl, but her generous mouth and her eyes, always alert, offset that impression. She had stripped off her shirt, leaving exposed her ribbed white undershirt, but had stayed in her uniform pants, the ones with the stripe down the leg and the belt with its leather holster.

“Another admirer?” Lina asked, nodding at the bouquet on the table. “Isn’t it a little soon?”

“The proper mourning period for a dead husband is a year,” Ruth said, soft as silk.

“Not that that’s stopped you before,” Lina smirked. Ruth smiled and shook her head, but didn’t reply further.

Ruth had met Lina at the funeral of her last husband; Lina had been working as a security guard at the cemetery. It had been a whirlwind affair; soon enough, they were making love every night in Ruth’s marriage bed, and within three months, Lina was moving into the tasteful but richly-appointed house Ruth had inherited in the will.

They never discussed Ruth’s former spouses, or the circumstances of their deaths. The centerpiece of Ruth’s dresser was a small display stand that held three diamond wedding rings, each stacked above the other. Her closet held nothing but the most tasteful of mourning clothes.

But Lina seemed no more than amused by the attentions that other men had attempted to pay Ruth since they’d met. The small gifts, the awkward, respectful gestures of flirting and wooing. The cool reception Ruth always responded with. Lina had never bought Ruth a ring, or any other jewel; her dresser was already strewn with tokens from her former husbands, and Lina’s small salary could never approach the riches they’d endowed her with.