Ring Finger, by E. W. Morrow
Nothing he tries is working. The soap just makes the metal slippery, impossible to grip. Putting her hand in a bag of ice doesn’t cause the skin to tighten or the swelling to subside. No amount of yanking or heaving makes the ring so much as budge. Even when the skin breaks and a trickle of blood oozes under the silver band it holds tight. He has tried everything and the ring is still on her finger. Almost everything.
“Please,” she breathes. “Please, baby, don’t do this.”
There is only one thing left to do. The damned thing has to come off. He kneels and checks the restraints.
“It’s going to be fine,” he says. “We have to get it off.”
“Just leave it,” she sobs.
“It’s not safe.”
“No!” he screams.
“Why?” she pleads.
He doesn’t answer. She sobs quietly as he moves to the corner of the shed. He doesn’t tell her that he stole it, that the old woman haggled over the price of a necklace in his left hand while he slipped the ring into his pocket with his right. He doesn’t mention that she ran after him, yelling in a foreign language, that she tumbled and fell as she spat her curses at him. And he doesn’t tell her that the old woman visits him in his dreams, laughing at him.
What he does is pull the pair of hedge shears from the rusty metal drum in the corner, shaking off the cobwebs. He hefts it, feels the weight of the hardwood and iron in his hand, and gives it an experimental snip.
“What are you doing?” she asks in a ragged voice.
Again, he doesn’t answer. He just pulls out the handkerchief from his back pocket and gently, but tightly, ties it around her mouth. It’s so tight that it forces her tongue away from her teeth. He doesn’t want her to hurt herself. She feels a kiss on the side of her neck.
The screams of protest as he raises the shears into place are mercifully muffled by the gag. She tries to clench her fist but can’t stop the iron blades from curving around the ring finger of her left hand, just behind the silver band of the ring. The blades are cold. She squirms. He looks her in the eye as he does it.
Writhing in agony her screams are muted and long. With one dirty hand he wipes his forehead, rubs his temples. There is a moment of silence broken only by the sobs, and then he breaths out a sigh of relief. Before it has time to drift away, his eyes catch a glimmer of silver and he gasps it back in.
On her left index finger, below the second knuckle, the ring sits, starring back at him mockingly.
With a weary, ironic laugh he lifts the shears again. Through a film of tears he stares into her eyes, and she silently pleads with him to stop.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “For everything.”
The screams end long before he is finally done.