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The Last Strawberry Cake (Short Story)
"I love you more and more each day, as time goes by..."
The faint sound of the song seemed to come to her from far away. Martha was sitting in the backyard, deciding on how to pass this another hour of Sunday. Fifty-eight years old body, she thought, didn't accept lot of her old pastimes - dancing, swimming all drained her. Chatting with her husband, well that she would've done, if David would have been here... alive.
It had been five years since the funeral, and she had observed she could think of good times without pain now. The time had been transitional - from shock, to constant pain and finally acceptance. And transition was not easy. But she was trying. For she knew, she owed these honest attempts to the wonderful times she had been blessed with throughout her marriage. They were both working, sharing everything which life ever brought them.
Just that one regret. And it wasn't a sensible one, she knew. But she had never been the sensible one in her relationship. This regret just remained intact, it was not getting affected by the years which passed by. Her heart simply complained.
David had a thing for Strawberry Cake. And Martha was a good cook, but when it came to baking this special cake for her husband, she ruined it. All those years of togetherness, and she felt awful about her wretched baking skills. David laughed at her persistence, was brave enough to taste each time she messed with the oven, and consoled her, "It's okay honey, this is not the end of life you know." He winked.
But ironically strawberry cake had been the end of life. End of life as she knew it.
Five years ago, she had tried again. With a new special recipe and everything, and it looked as if she got it right this time. But David was in hurry, he had an important meeting, and she packed the stuff for him. The box containing the cake was damaged after the accident - along with her happy life.
She was angry for a long time, then she realized she is being ungrateful. She had had a wonderful life, a wonderful husband and she had to accept nothing lasts forever. Nothing, but the love which she still cherished. And with her attempts, she felt, she had started her life again. Not exactly deliriously happy, but she smiled. Helping the children in the orphanage along with her job was fulfilling the emptiness in her heart.
But this regret. She knew it was pretty idiotic. Somehow she felt that he had tasted the cake. That he would have liked this one, this last time. That if given the chance, he would have said with a wink, "It was delicious honey, end of the life as I've known it."
She got up to switch off the CD player. It was David's favorite song, and she loved to hear it. The CD was getting old and the sound wasn't as great. But she still loved the memories the song brought back.
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She realized Mike had been standing there too. The little boy of the neighbor was a really cute fellow. Unlike a lot of children of his age, he was quiet and shy - at least that was what Martha made out of his behavior. He often came to see Martha, brought her flowers, but didn't say much. She tried to make little conversations with him, and he gave monosyllabic answers. At last Martha had given up, she simply smiled at him, and gave him some toys which were actually for keeping her naughty grandson busy during his occasional visits. Mike's family had shifted here about an year back and were about to leave in a few days. His dad had had a switch in job.
The last day, just before they were about to leave, Mike came in with flowers for Martha. Martha smiled at him, she was definitely going to miss this quiet little boy. He stayed for some time apparently busy with the toys, and then before leaving, handed her the flowers, an envelope and a CD case. She was about to ask what was all that about, but he turned and ran away.
The CD player started playing "I love you more and more each day as time goes by...". Martha wasn't surprised, Mike liked to mess about with the player. But as she differentiated the crisp, clear sound of a new CD, and opened the empty CD case in her hand, she realized the little boy had gifted the replacement of the old one. She moved on to the Verandah to wave at Mike as she opened the envelope. The scribble was faintly recognizable. It said:
"The Last Strawberry cake was delicious, end of life as I knew it."
Gobsmacked, she looked in the direction of Jeep, Mike was waving frantically at her, giving her the biggest smile ever.