/ Short story

The last note

Toney poured another glass of wine and lit a cigarette, turned towards her cat Fluffy, and slurred “You and I, You and I are going to be together forever, you are not a cat Fluffy, you are my soul mate.”

Toney was forty-six, a lady of great expectations, kept rejecting men who approached her. As time went by, the number of her admirers dwindled. Among all her suitors, was Freddy, who loved her immensely, and hoped to marry her someday.
Freddy was Toney’s neighbour, he blushed every time he saw her, but Toney was indifferent. He sent her flowers and chocolates with small notes every day. Toney kept them, but never responded to his notes. Freddy’s notes were all the same, just on various coloured papers, “Coffee, tomorrow?”

This went on for years. One day Freddy went for a haircut where the barber commented on Freddy’s thinning hair. Disappointed, Freddy returned home and looked in the mirror. He needed to do something to convince Toney to marry him before he gets all wrinkled up like a raisin. He grabbed the ring he has purchased for Toney few years ago but lacked enough courage to give it to her and set out to buy a bottle of Toney’s favourite red wine.

Toney was sitting, smoking and beginning to get drunk. She heard Freddy when he knocked for the third time. Freddy was on his knees, holding up the ring and the bottle of wine.Years of wait for this moment but poor Freddy got nervous and forgot the speech he had practiced. He cursed himself for not making a note of the monologue. “Freddy, are you going to talk or should I get my notepad, after all you always liked slipping notes”, Toney joked about it and grabbed the wine from his hands. Freddy took a breath and entered inside, went to the counter, poured a glass of wine, and drank it all at once. “Easy, easy” Toney said, still laughing.

“Toney…” Freddy mustered some courage and has just started when Toney cut in and mocked, “Brilliant, you found your voice!” still laughing. Freddy began yet again.

“You and I, we are different Toney.
You are the monsoon rain;
I’m the dry sand that gets wet.
Together, we create delightful fragrance;
but sand forever remains in rain’s debt.”

Toney looked at Freddy for a few seconds, too drunk by now to comprehend anything, and fell asleep on the couch. Freddy felt happy for his accomplishment. He spread a blanket over Toney and poured another glass of wine for himself, and poured many more until he passed out on the floor.

“Wake up, Freddy” Toney splashed few drops of water over Freddy’s face. Freddy woke up and with his head in his hands, hung-over from the previous night. Toney extended a cup of coffee towards him and said, “ Coffee?” Freddy smiled remembering the countless notes he had written. Toney looked the other way and said, “Freddy, I know how you feel about me, I am sorry, I just do not feel the same.” Freddy was heartbroken and angry. He replied, “I have waited enough for you, I will marry someone in a week now”, slammed the door and left.

Freddy had now committed something he had no control over. He went back to his place and cursed himself for being a desperate idiot. He thought of going to the local market and hit on any girl who would appear single and then somehow convince them to marry him. After being insulted and cursed by some ladies, he realised that it was a horrible idea. Depressed, Freddy sat on the stairs of a store when a lady greeted him and asked why did he appear so disturbed. Freddy gloomily narrated his story. She felt sad for Freddy. She told him her name was Anna and she was divorced. She has lived alone for the past seven years and empathised with him. Freddy noticed that she was much younger than him, had big beautiful eyes without the sagging skin of Toney. Her spotless face had none of Toney’s freckles and wrinkles and was good looking. In fact, she appeared much more beautiful than old drunk Toney.

“Marry me then”, she suddenly said. Surprised, he stared at her and asked, “Have you been drinking too?” She narrated her story as how she was the heiress to her father’s riches but could not claim them until she remarried. Their marriage could be a solution to both of theirs problem and they could live a comfortable life. Freddy loved Toney, but he had to stand by his commitment, which was now a matter of self-respect for him. He agreed to marry Anna, a strange woman that he had just met and whom he did not love.

Toney received the usual flowers and chocolates for one last time, but with a different note, “Freddy weds Anna.” Toney did not feel anything at first, but later when she thought about it, the news of Freddy’s marriage bothered her, for he was always around her and thinking about his absence made her sad. “One last admirer, gone.” Drunk, she whispered to her cat Fluffy and laughed hysterically. The marriage was supposed to happen in two days.

It was the wedding night. Toney wore a new dress and looked fabulous as ever and went to attend Freddy’s wedding. She took her seat and smiled at Freddy with tears in her eyes that Freddy could not notice from a distance. Freddy smiled back at her. Anna walked down the aisle. Freddy’s smile had dampened now. Toney had realised that she made a mistake by letting Freddy go, but it was too late now and she accepted it for Freddy’s happiness, still failing to realise what Freddy wanted.

The wedding was over and the guests were congratulating them. Toney walked up to Freddy to congratulate him. He noticed that she was wearing the ring he had bought for her. He realised that it must have fallen when he was lying drunk in Toney’s house. She congratulated them on their marriage and then moved closer to Freddy and spoke softly,

“You and I, we are not so different Freddy.
You are the dry sand;
eternally absorbing the water.
I’m the rain;
forever pouring.”

On reaching home, she poured a glass of wine and lit a cigarette, turned towards her cat Fluffy, and slurred “You and I, You and I are going to be together forever, you are not a cat Fluffy, you are my soul mate.” Fluffy could only stare at Toney’s moist eyes.