Love's Note

Short(ish) story about a man whose wife leaves him a note after she dies. (Rest in Peace to all those who lost their lives as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011- you are in our prayers).


1. The Funeral

Concrete grey clouds huddled together in a sky of misery above New York City, grumbling every couple of minutes to warn those below that a storm was waiting above them. A single rain drop slipped through the sky, slicing through air and falling atop the bare head of a man stood before a rectangular pit in the ground. The raindrop waddled down his face, past his brow and traced the contours of his already-dampened cheek, clinging to his bristled chin before falling to the grass between his polished loafers.

     The man stood with a slight hunch, closed eyes and tear drenched cheeks. His dress was formal: he wore a plain black, silk tie, white cotton shirt and black velvet blazer with suit trousers to match. His hands held each other at his lifeless breast- his heart had stopped beating a month-and-a-half before when it was broken by bombarding waves and cracked earth. He stood as a winter tree, lifeless and motionless, as a coffin was lowered into the ground before him, whimpering with an almost inaudible quietness as it descended past the floor. Even after the damp earth was poured over the coffin the man refused to move, rooted to the ground like an ancient oak tree.

     Every person seated to his right began to stand and move away toward theirs and their friends’ cars, none doing so without patting the dead shoulder of the man and whispering condolences into his deafened ears. When most people had left the area, an elderly woman who was seated at the front row of the spectators moved toward the man, aided by an aluminium walking stick. As she approached, he turned toward her and forced a smile, so warm and yet so icy cold, to form on his purple lips.

     “Are you gonna be alright, Eddie?” she asked with a harsh Brooklyn accent shattered by the torments of despair and sorrow.

     Eddie paused for a couple of seconds before replying “Not for a while, I don’t think, but there you go... are you?” She looked to the departing guests, to the ground, at the sky and then back to Eddie, took off her glasses to wipe her eyes and said:

     “I thought I would be, but now the reality of her actually being gone has kicked in, you know?” “Yeah” he replied, “I know. I’m here for you though you know. No matter what. I promise you, any time and any thing”.

     “I appreciate that, Eddie, I really do” said the elderly woman before kissing his right cheek, “Ellie was really happy with you, she was lucky too”.

      With that she had said too much. Eddie squeezed his eyes shut and covered them with his knuckle before wiping fresh tears away from view. They exchanged a few words about their plans for the rest of the day and what they were to do for dinner after the wake. Eddie wanted to be alone and so did Ellie’s mother, who could not convince herself to attend even the wake at Eddie and her daughter’s home. She was driven back to her apartment on Willoughby Street by the son of her first cousin, and immediately retreated to the comforting confines of her bed. Eddie had to drive himself home and entertain guests- relatives and friends of Ellie’s and his, much to his regret and abhorrence.

     Eddie endured the wake almost completely in silence, almost completely undisturbed by the guests in his home, other than Ellie’s six-year-old niece, Katherine, the daughter of her cousin. She was a small child with a round face, brown-green eyes and deep brown hair that reached just below her shoulders.

     “I’m really sorry about Auntie Ellie, Uncle Eddie” she stuttered. “Thanks, sweetie. It means a lot. Where’s your mommy?” Eddie asked, intending to thank the girl’s mother for telling her to offer her condolences. But the girl shrugged and said:

     “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her or my daddy since we got to your house. I think they might be outside smoking because they both smoke, you know, but I don’t.”

     Eddie laughed through his nose and smiled at the girl with tenderness, “well” he said “thanks for your kind words. You can carry on with what you were doing before if you want, I’ll just bore you if you stay with me”.

     “Well that’s true, uncle Eddie” she said with sarcasm and a childish grin before disappearing into the forest of black suited legs crowded in the room. Eddie smiled and watched her go, thinking to himself that the possibility of him and Ellie having children disappeared in the waves of the tsunami that crushed his wife’s body. With that thought he retreated upstairs to his and Ellie’s room, keeping his blackened eyes fixed on the crimson carpet below his feet the entire time.

     At the doorway to the bedroom Eddie stopped. Standing still he looked around at the room before him, fighting an intense urge to slam the door on his forehead and cry for hours on end on the bed. Instead he walked to the CD player on the dressing table next to the only window in the room and turned it on. The changer was empty so Eddie looked to Ellie’s CD collection, a neat team of memories of her beautiful noise. The music she’d play so often. The classical music: Beethoven, Bach and Debussy while she worked; the eighties and seventies soul music while she dressed to go out: Barry White, Tom Jones and Michael Jackson. His favourite memory at that moment was of when they would change for bed together, brush their teeth together at the sink and sing together before pressing stop and standby on the player and falling asleep in each other’s arms, so he picked their bedtime music- Jazz. ‘The Best of Louis Armstrong’ was the choice of CD; Eddie picked out the disc and clicked it into place on the changer, swallowing hard as he did so.

     The first song that came on was ‘When you’re smiling’; the trumpet danced into the room, wrapped itself around Eddie and cradled him into the bed, on Ellie’s side. The sharp voice of the musician stroked Eddie’s ears as he began to feel tired. By the end of the song, Eddie was sleeping and ‘West End Blues’ had begun to play.

     After three quarters of an hour, Eddie’s guests started making to leave, though not without saying goodbye to their melancholic host. Some searched for him downstairs, some in the garden. One man, a co-worker of Ellie’s named John, tiptoed upstairs and found Eddie’s body tucked into the bed sheets. He tiptoed out of the room, closing the door behind him, before tiptoeing back downstairs where the rest of the party were still looking for Eddie. Collectively they decided it best to write a note expressing their gratitude and condolences to Eddie, but that they had decided to leave and didn’t want to wake him up. Eddie slept well. His slumber far out-lived the playlist on the CD and by the time it had finished Eddie was in a deep sleep- the first time since Ellie’s death.

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