Last Supper by Rani Jayakumar

He’d signed the handmade cards, chosen the perfect wine, dressed in exactly what he was wearing that day. Their old table was reserved, and he’d even had Louie whip up the same meal, which was no longer on the menu. 

And then he waited. He was used to waiting, after all, over all these years, as she put him off again, and again. She always had some excuse, some reason she couldn’t make it this time. A child hurt, a husband in need, a work crisis, a natural disaster. With good reason, of course. 

But this time the excuses had seemed paltry in the light of his confession, and she had no choice but to acquiesce. “Yes, I’ll be there,” she said, solemnly, but she wasn’t able to keep the hint of resignation out of her voice. 

His food came, and the waiter poured the wine. Condensation formed around the glass, but he left it. He’d let it breathe, save it for a toast. A celebration, as it were. 

He checked his phone -- no messages. She had never developed a habit of being late, had she? 

He began to eat. The food was bland and milder than he imagined, but then they’d eaten here long before even he knew anything of the world. He chewed slowly, and chuckled at how she had once accused him of eating too fast, and not long after dared him to beat her in an eating contest. He’d won of course, before they made a mad dash for the car. Now she could easily out-eat him. Perhaps. 

Somehow the tinkle of the bell above the door told him it was her, without turning around. She was beautiful, as always, dressed far too well for the likes of this place. This was how she dressed now, though, all business and fashion, her stilettos clicking on the tile floor. 

Her lips were drawn into a tight line. She placed a bag with a bottle of water and some pills on the table, and sat down. She touched nothing, but seemed to recoil from this place, looking around as if for the first time, and finding it sorely lacking. Did she remember nothing fondly? 

He tried a forced smile and raised his glass. “Glad you made it.” He was trying to sound casual, like this was not the big deal it was. 

She knew better. She wiped her hands, then folded them above the table. “Get on with it,” she said coldly. 

He wanted to walk her through all the details. The excruciating pain he’d been in these past months. The mounting pile of daily medicines he sorted in a seven-day pill organizer. The endless tests, unresolved answers, the poking, the prodding. The way he missed her smile, which even now failed to make an appearance. 

Instead, he simply passed her the envelope with the charts and diagnoses. She pulled it out, flipped through the sheaf of papers rapidly, and passed it back. “How much do you need?” 

He could have screamed. This is what he had turned her into - a cold, heartless woman with an eye only for money, for fancy things, for business and the bottom line. He shook his head. 

“What I need is to be with you. Spend what time we have together. See the kids, at least.” His eyes were moist, and pleading. 

Her eyes bored into him. She shifted her purse onto her lap. It likely cost more than all the meals being served at Louie’s. He followed her gaze to the jukebox, the one where she’d beg him for a quarter and play “Louie Louie” at the end of their meal, just to be able to say, “Louie Louie, oh no, we gotta go!” She’d dance her way out, and he’d twirl her on the way to the beaten-up car as Louie chased after them, shaking his head, yelling that he’d never let them in if they skipped out again. 

“That’s not happening,” she said now. She said it the way she once rejected his suggestion of the next place they’d drive to, sleeping in the car on the way, washing up at rest stops, panhandling for gas money. 

She pulled out her checkbook and wrote him a check. He took it, half-reluctantly, half hoping just to hold her hand for a minute. She pulled away. The check was for five thousand dollars, pocket change to her. 

She took a sip of the wine, and blanched, putting the glass down gingerly. 

“Can I at least call them? Talk to them?” he begged. “One last time?” He was milking it, for sure, but he was desperate now. 

She smirked. She’d grown up on these tricks, after all. “Hey mister, can you let me sleep here just this one time? I promise I’m going home to my parents in the morning,” she’d say, and then sneak him into the place after dark. 

She flipped a quarter onto the table. “Fine, one last time.” She was a woman of her word. 

Her heels clacked as she walked away. He watched, his little girl all grown up, wanting for nothing, but caring only about what he had never managed to give her. 

He pulled out his handkerchief, and sobbed. 

Published in Issue #16

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