“Tell me something you lost in September that meant a lot to you.”
“My mother’s lion ring, lost & found 3 times over... Some things aren’t meant to be kept.
Elle stole the ring from her mother and put it back more times than she could count. She rarely even put it on. She just liked to look at the lion's head. It was very handsome, in a lionish way. Her mom never wore it either, but she missed it when it was gone. Elle always put it back secretly, unable to face her mom with the fact she'd stolen it.
She knew her mother must have caught on at some point, but she never said anything about it until she lay on her death bed. “Did you ever put back that lion ring you took from my jewelry box?”
“Yes, mother,” Elle said, holding Mother's hand. “Nearly every time.”
Mother smiled. “Nearly,” she said.
“Well...yes. Most recently I seem to have...misplaced it. I'm sorry.”
“Ah, too bad. Oh, well. It's yours now, anyway.”
“Mama, I just told you it was lost.”
“You'll find it again. I always did.”
“That was me, Mama. I took it and put it back.”
“Oh, no, that's not what I'm talking about. But you'll see. The ring is yours now.”
And then she died.
Elle had strange, sometimes terrible dreams about that lion head ring that night. She woke up from one and immediately tracked it down, in a drawer near her nightstand. It was mother's ring. Mother should have it.
At the funeral, Elle put the ring on Mother's finger. It would go into the crematory with her and be destroyed. She would never look at that handsome lion face again. She would miss it, but this was for the best. She moved back among her family, but no one much talked to her.
After seeing mother to the crematory, Elle took a break outside in the air. A man approached her. “Excuse me...um, sorry to bother you, miss, but I'm a gardener here and I found this just off the path to the crematory.” He held up the lion-head ring.
“My mother's ring! This was supposed to go into the...”
“It's too late, now. Maybe you should keep it.”
“I don't want it.”
“Aw, come on, it's nice.”
Elle held it out to him and he backed away suddenly. “You keep it.”
“I don't want it. Please take it.”
He shook his head and continued backing away. “No, thank you. I'm sorry. I should go back to work.” He turned and ran.
Elle tried to get rid of it by passing it off to her family as part of Mother's estate. No one would take it. Elle was so mad that she wore it to every family gathering.
She sold it at a pawn shop. She passed by it in the window frequently. It went unsold for so long that in the end she bought it back for just a few dollars. Somebody had to keep it. It might as well be her.
It sat in a drawer for months. Elle moved on with her life. She'd look in on it every now and then, but rarely thought about it. Then, one day it was gone. She hunted for it. It couldn't really be gone.
A man lived with her then. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
“The Lion Ring.”
“A ring with a lion's head on it. It was my mother's.”
“I've never seen you wear it.”
“I don't wear it. I hate it.”
“Then why are you looking for it so hard?”
“To make sure it's really gone.”
“Baby, that's ridiculous. You'll never be done looking if you don't find it.”
“You can't just keep looking for it forever.”
She stopped and looked at him. “I...suppose I can't,” she said, running her hand back through her light brown hair. “If it's gone it's gone. If it's here, it'll turn up.”
“There you go.”
Elle began an aggressive cleaning program. The house looked great afterward, but she didn't find the ring.
Then, several months later, just before her wedding day, the ring returned to her. It appeared in her jewelry box like it had never been gone. The lion's gaze was like an icy spike through her chest.
When she caught her oldest daughter, Susie, stealing it from her, she tried to destroy it. She went at it with every cutting tool in the garage. None of them managed more than a scratch or dent, and she couldn't bring herself to try and cut the lion's head, only the band.
Elle threw it in the sea. She was blessedly free of it for three days, until Susie went to the beach with her friends. Then it appeared back in her jewelry box, like it always had done.
When Susie moved out, it vanished again, this time for a number of years. Every time it appeared again, Elle tried to give it to her, but she'd never take it.
Then Elle grew old died and it was Susie's problem.