The Ruby Ring

By James Gallahan

Once upon a time, there was a ruby ring. I know you don’t start stories that way today, but they did when I was alive centuries ago. 

 

My father gave the ring to my mother. He had it specially made for her. Theirs was a forbidden love. He was a prince from what is now called Ghana, and she was a princess from Denmark. Father was warned not to court my mother. He was told nothing good would come from it. He courted her anyway, and they married. People told them they shouldn’t have children. They had five. I was the youngest. My name is Elsebeth Haniah Ashanti.

 

We did not live like royalty, and our house was certainly not grand. Rather we lived a simple but happy life. Our days were filled with laughter. Our nights were spent telling stories and gazing at the stars.

 

When my mother and siblings passed to the other side, I inherited the ring. It means everything to me. It reminds me of my parents’ love for each other. When I died in the sixteen hundreds, I attached myself to the ring. I won’t go to the light until someone worthy possesses it. 

 

Some people who stumbled upon the ring had been contenders to keep it—at the beginning. Then they failed miserably. After their initial excitement and admiration wore off, those who have found it, thus far, have not lived up to my expectations. With that failure comes my wrath.   

 

It is amusing how some of the undeserving ones have lost their minds due to what I like to call “my visitations.” I can be quite terrifying when I want. Some drank poison to rid themselves of me. A few have thrown the glorious ring away or buried it out of fear. Two people even called in priests and priestesses to try to remove me. None of it has worked. I will not go away until someone proves worthy. I can be rather persistent.

 

The latest finder of the ring—a Rylee Turner—seems different from the others. The young woman has a sensitive soul. But we’ll see how she handles herself over time. My dream of passing on the ring to a deserving person has all but vanished into the air like smoke from burnt embers. 

♦♦♦

Thirteen-year-old Rylee Turner walked over to Detective Joseph Cooper who was typing at his keyboard and eating a sandwich. “Excuse me, sir.” Rylee took out a small box from her University of Delaware sweatshirt pocket. She opened it and slowly removed a beautiful ruby ring wrapped in a vintage lace handkerchief, and handed it to the detective. 

 

“Where’d you find this?”

“I was at the beach down from Rehoboth Avenue this morning using my metal detector. It beeped like crazy next to a horseshoe crab. I thought maybe something had gotten stuck on its legs. It was on its back wiggling, but I didn’t see anything. I flipped it over, moved it aside, and dug in the sand. That’s when I found this ring.”

“It looks expensive. Most people would have just kept it.”

“Thanks. I figured I should bring it to the police station. I’d be going nuts looking for a ring like that if I lost it. So, my dad brought me here.”

Cooper scanned the room. “Where’s your father?”

Rylee turned around and waved. “There he is. He had to use the bathroom.”

A huge man with a handlebar mustache and sleeve tattoos walked up, shook Cooper’s hand, and sat in the chair next to Rylee. “I’m James Turner. I see my daughter’s shown you the ring she found. Looks like it’s the real thing.” 

A fat elderly man strolled by. His matted white beard tied up in a rainbow of colored rubber bands flowed left and right as he walked. He took one look at the ring and crossed himself. “Diablo,” he cried out, wide-eyed, and hurried toward the exit door. “Diablo.” 

Rylee picked at the hem of her sweatshirt and, with a furrowed brow, looked over her father’s shoulder, not at the odd man, but at the empty space behind him.

Cooper smiled. “Don’t mind him. He comes in here every day complaining about something. Says a ghost haunts him because he isn’t worthy. He’s harmless. He used to be rich. Even owned a yacht.”

Turner kept an eye on the man as he left the station. “So, back to the ring, detective. Do we have to fill out any paperwork?”

“I complete a form with your contact info and where you found it. We lock the ring in our dispatch center. If it isn’t claimed within twenty-eight days, it’s yours.”

After giving Cooper their address and phone number, Turner stood up and held out his hand. “Guess we’ll see what happens in a month.” 

Rylee looked over her father’s shoulder again and frowned. 

♦♦♦

Turner pulled over his Harley as they rode through Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. He pointed to a bald eagle flying. Rylee and he took off their helmets and watched the eagle swoop down, catch a fish, and fly away. 

Turner put his hand on Rylee’s shoulder. “You were fidgeting inside the police station. Did that old man scare you, or did you see her again?”

“He was creepy, but she was standing there with her arms folded and frowning, just like at the beach.”

“I wish I could see spirits, too.”

“This one’s young and real pretty. Probably in her twenties. She’s tall and skinny, with dark skin, blue eyes, and curly brown hair. She must have died a long time ago. I remember seeing something like what she’s wearing in our history class—ruffles around her neck, a lot of lace, and a small cap on her head.”

Turner nudged Rylee. “I’m glad you were paying attention in class.”

“Very funny, Dad. She looks like she’s some kind of royalty, but not all hoity-toity, if you know what I mean. Rich, but a regular person at the same time. But there’s something about her. She seems tough, like you don’t want to mess with her.”

“Do you think she’d try to hurt you? I’ll call Father O’Connell if you think she’s dangerous.” 

Rylee remembered the other spirits who had entered her life. Mostly good souls, but not always. “No. She’s different from Oliver. He was just plain ole mean and wasn’t happy that I could see him.”

“You let me know. I don’t want you to go through that again.”

“Thanks, Dad. I’ll tell you if she bothers me.”

♦♦♦

Twenty-nine days later, the ruby ring was released to Rylee and her parents. They couldn’t believe the jeweler had appraised it at $250,000.  

“You can keep the ring in the house for a week or so,” Rylee’s mother said. “Then it’s going in our safety deposit box at the bank. We can’t risk your college fund getting lost or stolen.”

It had been a few days since Rylee brought the ring home. The apparition immediately appeared to her whenever she touched the ring. She would be faint at first and then become more formed the longer Rylee held it. She’d watch Rylee but never say anything.

I wonder if she’ll talk to me today, Rylee thought. She walked around her bedroom holding the ring in the air. “Why are you here? Are you connected to the ring?”

A cold breeze rushed past Rylee’s face. She stepped back when the woman scowled at her. “In my day, children did not speak unless given permission.”

Rylee snorted. “Well, I’m not gonna wait for you to give me permission to speak. What do you want with me? You either tell me, or I’ll get Father O’Connell to say a bunch of prayers and send you back to wherever you came from.”

The woman disappeared. 

“Fine,” Rylee yelled. “I didn’t want to talk with you anyway. You’re just some rich person who thinks she’s better than me. Well, you’re dead, and I’ve got your ring. So how do you like them apples?” She tossed the ring on her bed. The bed rattled and the ring fell to the floor. Rylee looked wide-eyed and held her breath as her school books flew across the room. 

 “Okay…okay. I’m sorry. People are always talking down to me. Kids at school call me “Boo” ’cause I can…see…people like you.” Rylee picked up the ring. “I didn’t mean to make you mad. I was hoping we could be friends. Can we start over?”

The woman reappeared, arms folded, glaring at Rylee. “You talk a lot. What makes you think I want to be your friend?”

“I dunno.” Rylee widened her eyes and wiggled her fingers. “Because I can see dead people.”

The woman clenched her teeth.

“It was a joke. You know, like the kid in the movie. Never mind. My name is Rylee Turner. What’s yours?”

“Elsebeth Haniah Ashanti,” she said as her body became clearer for Rylee to see.

“Wow, that’s beautiful. Where you from?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know—are you from America, Europe?”

“Africa. My father was a prince from Ghana, and my mother was a princess from Denmark.”

“Cool. So, I guess you’re royalty.”

“You could say that. However, my parents were banished from their monarchies.”

“Why?”

“Their countries didn’t want them to marry.”

“My mom’s parents didn’t want my folks to get married either. They get along now.” 

“My mother’s and father’s countries weren’t as understanding.”

 “So why are you attached to the ring?”

“There was no one to inherit it.”

“Why didn’t you just give the ring to one of your kids?” 

“I never had children.” Ashanti shook her head and held up her hand. “You have asked enough questions. Now, it is my turn. What do you plan to do with the ring?”

“Put it in a safety deposit box until I’m ready to go to college, and then sell it, I guess.”

“What if I didn’t want you to sell it?”

“Well, it would have to be a pretty good reason. My parents said it will pay for my college. I might be able to change their minds, but ya know, it would take a lot of convincing for them not to sell it.”

“My father gave my mother the ring. It is precious to me. It cannot just go to anyone. The person who has the ring must prove themself worthy of possessing it.”

“I’m only thirteen, so there’s plenty of time before my folks have to make that decision. I don’t know whether I’m, as you say, worthy of the ring, but I’ll take good care of it. How’d the ring end up at Rehoboth Beach?”

“The previous owner—you saw him at the police station looking as if he saw a ghost when he spotted the ring—wasn’t the right person for it, so I made his life…rather difficult. He threw it overboard his yacht, and a year later, you found it.”

Rylee’s eyes grew big. “What did you do? Did you drive him mad? A bunch of people must have had it over the years. Did you make them all go crazy? Are you gonna make me go crazy too?” Rylee frowned and stopped talking.

“Not if you prove yourself deserving of my mother’s ring.”

“I promise I’m a good person and won’t do anything to dishonor your mom’s ring. You can trust me.”

Ashanti rubbed her chin. “We’ll see, Rylee Turner. We’ll see.” 

♦♦♦

Five years later, Ashanti sat on the beach at midnight looking up at the stars. “I know you are above looking down on me, Mother. During the past several years, Rylee has proven herself deserving of your ring, but college is approaching. I can’t force her to keep it, but I don’t want her to sell it either. The ring could end up going to a person who is beneath it.”

The sound of someone running toward Ashanti grabbed her attention. She smiled when Rylee caught up to her. 

“I knew I’d find you here, Princess.”

She laughed. “After all these years you still call me Princess.”

“Well, you are. You’ll always be Princess to me.”

Ashanti smiled. “Why were you looking for me? You know I’d visit in a day or two.”

“I had to tell you what I want to do with your ring. If you’re okay with it, of course. I think you’ll like what I have in mind.”

“You’re not going to sell it?”

“Yes and no. Well, you didn’t want me to put the ring up for auction. Who knows who’d buy it?”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s not a done deal ’cause I wanted to make sure you were fine with it before I signed the paperwork.”

Ashanti furrowed her brow. “What are you talking about?”

“The Smithsonian Institute will buy the ring from me and put it on permanent display in D.C. That way no one person will own it. The whole world will get to see it and know the story behind your parents getting married and your father having the ring made for your mother. Everyone will know how much they loved each other. So, what do ya think? I won’t do it if you don’t want me to. But I thought you could be at peace knowing your mother’s ring will be safe and honored.”

Ashanti’s eyes welled up. “Will the money you receive be enough to pay for college?”

“Yep. All four years at the University of Delaware.”

A tear rolled down Ashanti’s face, and she hugged Rylee. “I have waited centuries for this day. I don’t know what to say.”

“Say yes, and I’ll do it. You deserve to be happy, Princess.”

“I don’t remember what it is to be happy. It’s been so long. Thank you, Rylee. I’d be forever in your debt if you sold the ring to the Smithsonian.”

“Consider it done.” Rylee then gasped and pointed toward the ocean. “Princess, look behind you.”

Ashanti turned around and fell to her knees weeping. A man and woman seemed to glide toward her as a bright white light glowed behind them. Ashanti got up and ran to them. She hugged them and kissed both on the cheek. “Mother. Father. I’ve missed you so much.”

Her mother held Ashanti’s hand and looked lovingly into her eyes. “Daughter, we have been apart far too long. The ring was a symbol of your father’s and my love. But all of us being together is more important than a ring. It is time to let it go.”

“You are right, Mother.”

Rylee had tears in her eyes as Ashanti walked toward her. “I’ll miss you, Princess.”

Ashanti hugged her. “I’ve dreamed of this day but thought it would never come. I’m going to miss you more than you will know. But I have one more request, Rylee.”

“What’s that, Princess?”

“Friends call each other by their first names, not titles.”

“Sure thing, Elsebeth. Anything for you.”