She Lost Her Purity Ring at Christmas

She Lost Her Purity Ring at Christmas

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A Short Story by Beverly Stevens

Living in ‘The Graveyard of Hearts'

My name, in case it’s important to anyone, is Grace. I just turned 30 years old, and I have lost my Purity Ring.

What, you would like to know, is a ‘Purity Ring?’

Well, you wouldn’t ask this if you were brought up as I was, in an Evangelical Christian family. We spent a lot of time at church, and when I was 16 I took part in a little ceremony wherein my sister and I pledged our purity to God, publicly. Yes, I stood up in roomful of other girls and pledged my virginity to the Lord, until the time might come when I would find the husband that Jesus intended for me.

I and my fellow Purity Ring wearers live in what I call ‘a graveyard of hearts.’

That was almost half my lifetime ago. Today, I and my fellow Purity Ring wearers live in what I call ‘a graveyard of hearts.’ We prayed earnestly for a husband. We worked hard at honing our domestic skills. We sought each other’s advice and solace when, one after another, the men we loved chose other girls. Or simply wandered away. Or whatever.

What must God be thinking? I know it’s not my place to question the Almighty, but what, actually? Is. He. Thinking?

My sister Heather does not have my problem.

Oh, she is man-less, too. But she has Jaden, my 8 year old nephew, a product of her ‘relationship’ with a fellow student at the state university she attended briefly before becoming pregnant. Jaden’s dad told her to ‘get rid of it’ – a singularly monstrous response, if I do say so myself.

But to my sister’s credit, she did not. Unsurprisingly, Jaden’s ‘dad’ disappeared immediately.

Jaden’s dad told Heather to ‘get rid of it’ – a singularly monstrous response, if I do say so myself. But to my sister’s credit, she did not. Unsurprisingly, Jaden’s ‘dad’ disappeared immediately.

My sister has not lived happily ever after, in case that’s what you’re thinking. She’s got a job that doesn’t pay much, so she lives with my folks. She goes to a different church, though, where the coffee is better and ‘people aren’t so judgmental,’ as she likes to say these days, in a particularly severe tone of voice. I think she’s talking about the fact that she is quite fat now. Or maybe it’s the tattoos.

Sometimes she doesn’t come home until very late at night, my mom tells me, worriedly. Apparently, my sister’s Purity Ring is lost somewhere, possibly permanently.

So, if you’re thinking that I am jealous of my sister, think again. Exasperated, maybe. But not envious.

Sometimes she doesn’t come home until very late at night, my mom tells me, worriedly. Apparently, my sister’s Purity Ring is lost somewhere, possibly permanently.

This is not to say my life is any great shakes. My Master’s Degree in Library Science earns me about $125 more per week than my sister makes working the baggage counter at the airport. (To be fair, Heather doesn’t have student loans to pay off.)

I have a completely different attitude towards my job, though. I am proud of being a librarian. My dream was always to combine being a librarian with being a wife and mother. I know this is politically-incorrect, but my faith in the Lord allowed me to hold this dream, even when most of my friends from college have shrugged it off. In fact, I would say that my Purity Ring has allowed me to keep this dream alive. Every time I looked down at my hand, that simple silver ring on my right hand was a reminder of the vow I made as a teenager.

And now I have lost it.

I should be clear. By the time I lost my Purity Ring, I had also lost faith in the idyll of Romance that I held for so long. Call me ‘jaded,’ but what I have seen of my friends’ lives has made me quite cynical. There’s beautiful Rose, who married fat little Jason, who of course is very rich. Then there’s successful Jessica, who moved in with Spencer a few years ago. She tries to act like the fact that he hasn’t asked her to marry him doesn’t matter. Oh, and how could I forget my BFF Christian? She has divorced Tim, whom she says is ‘boring.’ (She decided this after she went off the Pill to try and get pregnant, strangely. Now she’s dating a married man.)

By the time I lost my Purity Ring, I had also lost faith in the idyll of Romance that I held for so long. Call me ‘jaded,’ but what I have seen of my friends’ lives has made me quite cynical.

So where is God in all this, anyway? My friends and my sister have all screwed up their lives, as far as I can see. And I am now without my Purity Ring.

The strangest thing is, I don’t know where I left it. Did I take it off to wash my hands someplace? I honestly can’t recall.

To tell the truth, I can’t even recall what my ‘purity’ actually was. I haven’t had sex. Haven’t allowed myself to get sucked into the maelstrom of emotions and betrayals that everyone else has. The few men that got close enough simply disappeared once they learned about my purity vow. It seems they didn’t value my purity.

Did I, for that matter?  

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The few men that got close enough simply disappeared once they learned about my purity vow. It seems they didn’t value my purity.

All I knew is that it was December, again. And I was, once again, alone — with my purity.

So two weeks before Christmas I did something highly uncharacteristic. I went out to a bar. (Yes, with Christian, who is normally alone on weekends, as her ‘significant other’ is of course otherwise engaged.)

We took turns talking about our troubles, drank Cosmopolitans, and – again uncharacteristically — wound up talking with some guys at the bar. One of them was a good-looking and intelligent house painter.

Dominick was of medium height, in his middle thirties, with a shock of unruly brown hair. He wore a clean shirt under a black pea coat, and he had an engaging grin.

Unfortunately, maybe because it was Christmas, before long our conversation turned to God. Now, I don’t spend a whole lot of time in bars. So maybe that is why I let the conversation get steered in this direction.

He was, it turned out, a Catholic. But he was warm, and funny. And he seemed to be intrigued by my Christianity.

At first, I thought that he might be good for Heather. Unlike most of the guys she ‘dates,’ Dominick is a successful house painter, with a couple of offices in two cities. He specializes in corporate work, he told me.  Also, his friend announced with a wicked grin that Dominick’s live-in girlfriend had moved out, so that he was a ‘free man,’ available to date.

“Actually,” Dominick sighed to me quietly, once the laughter died down and Christian and the other guys went back to their own conversation. “She moved out about a year ago. I have had plenty of time to think.”

And then I forgot all about Heather. I don’t know what came over me. I just blurted it out.

“I’m sworn to keep my virginity until I get married.”

I don’t know what came over me. I just blurted it out. “I’m sworn to keep my virginity until I get married.”

I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think he could, either. We just looked at each other.

“Well,” he began carefully. “That’s interesting.”

But he didn’t look away, like he was looking for an escape route. In fact, he cocked his head and regarded me with interest.

“So you don’t feel like you have to take a guy for a ‘test drive’ first?”

Now it was my turn to be shocked.

“N-no.”

He nodded carefully.

“I’ve been going to a Latin Mass. Do you know what that is?”

I shook my head, slowly.

“Never heard of it.”

“Yeah, well, it’s made a big, ah, difference in how I see things.”

I didn’t know what to say. That’s when he read my mind.

“You don’t think a house painter is on your level, do you?”

It must have been the Cosmopolitans. In vino veritas.

“Um, it’s not that.”

“You don’t think a house painter is on your level, do you?” It must have been the Cosmopolitans. In vino veritas.

He saw right through me, and laughed like it was a great joke. Through my embarrassment, I liked the way his eyes crinkled. He had a manly laugh.

“Honestly, it’s not that!” I protested, feeling stupid.

“Young lady, I am a house painter with a master’s degree in philosophy,” he declared suddenly, and drained his beer glass. He placed the empty glass carefully on the bar.

“Really?” I said. It came out in a squeak.

We both laughed, then.

“Okay, so now we have discussed sex, religion and social class,” he said, grinning. “I’d say that’s not bad for a few minutes at the bar.”

Between the Cosmopolitans and the conversation, I was feeling a little light-headed, so I excused myself to go to the ladies’ room. When I came back, Dominick was waiting alone, for me.

“Young lady, I am a house painter with a master’s degree in philosophy,” he declared suddenly, and drained his beer glass.

“The others went to shoot pool,” he said, pulling up a bar stool next to him. I sat down, somewhat primly.

“I don’t want you to think that I announce my, uh, convictions to every stranger I meet, “ I began.

This made Dominick laugh again.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, piqued.

He looked contrite.

“I just want to say something,” he said.

His eyes were hazel and kind.

I waited.

“I’m really glad there are women in the world like you, still,” he said gravely, looking with great seriousness into my eyes. “I actually thought there weren’t any, any more. I want you to know that I respect you.”

I took a deep breath, and swallowed hard, suddenly aware that ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ was playing in the background.

“Do you know what a ‘sacramental marriage’ is?” he asked me.

So, that was Friday night. Dominick invited me to his church for Sunday Mass. When I arrived, he was waiting for me, shivering in a suit and tie in the snowy morning air. He stood somewhat self-consciously, waiting, as I ascended the steps of this incredibly beautiful 19th Century architectural gem in a run-down neighborhood that I have, frankly, never dared to enter.

Inside was a riot of gilding and color like I have never seen before. Saints glowed from stained glass windows. The pews were filled with Catholics – lots of young people, and families with many children. Many of the women wore lace mantillas.

By then, I had noticed that my Purity Ring was gone. Somehow, inexplicably, ever since the night I met Dominick, it was no longer on my right ring finger.

And my Purity Ring has not re-appeared, either.

I can’t understand it, at all.

But I don’t miss it too much, really.

Perhaps it has served its purpose.

As I now have a man who prizes my purity.

And my immortal soul.

 Saints glowed from stained glass windows. The pews were filled with Catholics – lots of young people, and families with many children. Many of the women wore lace mantillas. By then, I had noticed that my Purity Ring was gone.

PHOTO CREDIT: Yume Delegato

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