What the Books Told Her by Salena Casha

It all started when the books began speaking to her. It was innocent enough at first, just instructions on when to water the plants and recommendations for a new eyeliner. A recipe for a chicken traybake. In the beginning, she didn’t believe everything they said. But, over time, her mind began to change. 

The eyeliner looked good. The plants lived. The traybake? Delish.

They took their time but one day, while she was doing crunches with Love Island in the background, they asked her a question. 

Does he really love you? 

David? she asked. Well, yeah. We’re engaged. The last part came out as a question. They heard her voice lilt upward. 

If he did, they said, he wouldn’t ask to split holidays with his parents who you hate.

He wouldn’t get you a ring without asking what the setting should look like or what the cut of the diamond should be.

He wouldn’t forget about the only thing you asked him to do this week which was take out the trash. 

Her eyes drifted to the disposal. 

How would I really know? she asked. If he loves me.

If you have doubts, the books said, you can do a simple test. 

So, while Cara and Dani made out on the screen, she turned fully towards the books, intrigued. 

What type of test?  

We have one in mind, they replied. 

And so, that night, she balanced her ring on the granite countertop of their kitchen island. There, she waited until David came out of his office.

“I need a new ring,” she said. 

David looked at her empty finger, and then, to her eyes, and then, to the counter. His Adam’s apple bobbed. 

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t like it,” she said. 

He should know why, they whispered. He should be able to figure it out. 

He took a breath to say something but did not. Insead, he picked up the ring. He’d designed the setting, inspired by her sacred books that she loved so welll. His grandmother’s diamond blinked back at him. 

It was so light. 

He was so heavy. 

He could not admit his hurt in front of her, a deep, belly-aching hurt that stretched into his toes. Not when the ring was already off her finger.

“Don’t worry,” he said, more gently for himself than anything. “I’ll get you a new one.”

And so, he went off with his task. She consulted the books like oracles under low lighting, tracing Alegreya font, re-reading a story about how a man gave up title and country for a woman he loved. 

What should she expect of him, her hero? What happened if he failed?

Patience, the oracles said. We’ll see in time. 

It took him weeks. He harnessed night skies lit by venus rising and braided them with tendrils of smoke from burnt Chenin Blanc barrels. He captured dew just as it began to frost and pressed it into a single, clean pane. He polished the new ring in the cavern of his heart, the place where she lived and the place where she didn’t, so she’d have both with her, always. 

Then, he brought the new ring to her older brother and his husband. Whiskey flushed his cheeks, a half-broken smile on his face as he opened the velvet box. 

It was so different than the first. They gasped at the solitaire cut perched high above an ornate garden of white gold, a band four times the size of the first. She’ll love it, they said, a Greek chorus. How can she not.

When he presented it to her with renewed vows, she blushed a hue she’d never blushed before and kissed him deep and long. 

This, she decided, was exactly what I wanted. 

Are you sure? The oracles said, staring at the ring. You were fine without it. Without him. And now that he’s brought it back, it’s just so…

She stretched her arm out. The light caught its crisp edges. And the more she looked at the diamond, the more garish it seemed. Such a bold trellis. Such a gaudy jewel. 

Her heart began to sink. 

Did he fail? she asked. 

The books said nothing.

Did he fail? She asked them over and over.

Above her own cries, she could not hear David say how he loved her, that it was just a ring. She only saw the books.

And the books, they remained silent. 

Biography: Salena Casha’s work has appeared in over 100 publications in the last decade. Her most recent work can be found on Block Party, Variety Lit, and Ghost Parachute. She survives New England winters on good beer and black coffee. Subscribe to her substack at salenacasha.substack.com

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