A SHORT STORY OF FICTION – by Jim Wood
The first time I came across his Facebook page, I began to read the things he had written and I was intrigued. His words sounded different somehow from those spoken by the people around me. Not that the people I work with aren't intelligent; they are, but his words were, how shall I put this, almost Shakespearean. I hesitated at first. I wanted to find out more about him but wasn't sure I should let him know more about me. After all, he might not be the person he claims to be. There are a lot of perverts out there but surely someone whose name is Monte couldn't be one of them.
My finger was poised over the keys of my computer but I hesitated as my heart beat faster. I was sending a message to a stranger, but I craved the companionship that I once knew. My finger slowly lowered and I bit my lip. My feeling of loneliness was overwhelming. I have to let him know that I'm here and enjoying reading his words, but do I dare? My finger pressed the send key and my message immediately went out to his email address. My words were received that quickly on the computer screen of this man named Monte. He must have read them and then sat back and thought of how he might respond to someone he didn’t know.
A few minutes later a reply to my message came in. "I've been wondering if anyone was out there and reading my musings. I hope you don't think they're just silly."
"Not at all. My name is Wendy and I think the things you've said on your Facebook page were very profound. I've enjoyed reading them."
"Profound? I didn't intend for them to sound stilted."
"No, I didn't mean it like that. I meant that… well, I just wanted to hear more, that's all."
"More of what, Wendy? I'm sure you don't care about my political views."
"No, of course not. I mean more about yourself!"
"What would you like to know about me?"
"For one thing, I would like to know what you look like."
"Oh, I don't think you really want to know."
"Why not? Do you have a nose like Cyrano?" I asked him, tongue in cheek.
He typed LOL. "No, I don't. But I think we should just enjoy our conversation. Why don't you tell me about yourself."
"I'm very lonely but I’m sure you sensed that, didn't you?"
"You must be, or you wouldn't have bothered to comment about my little essays. Tell me why you're so lonely."
"The man I'd been living with for the past year decided to take up with another and has moved out."
"So, you weren't married to this man?"
"No, we decided that since we weren't kids anymore, we'd see if we were compatible before we considered marriage. Too many of my friends are already divorced."
"And so he's gone."
"Yes, Jeff left a couple of weeks ago. I've quit crying and being mad and now I'm just lonely. I need someone to talk to. The house is so quiet now."
"I'm here anytime you want to talk." The thought of having someone to talk to in the evenings was a consolation to me. I began to tell him about myself and the next time I looked at the clock almost two hours had gone by.
"It's well past my bedtime, Monte. I work in the town library so I must get ready for bed now. Can we talk again tomorrow night?"
"I would like that very much, Wendy. I'll say goodnight then and sweet dreams." A warm feeling flooded over me and I went to bed that night consumed with affection for a man I didn't know and I slept soundly, comforted in the thought that I might have a friend who would actually sit and listen to what I had to say.
The next day I went to work and made a pot of coffee the first thing. Library work isn't the most exciting and I needed it to keep awake. Patrons started coming in a few minutes later and I busied myself checking out and receiving books and assigning the company's computers to those who wished to sit and do research here. I found myself looking at each man who came in, wondering if any of them might be my new friend but none of their names were Monte.
Lunchtime came and I watched the people come and go in the little sandwich shop a block away. The other ladies who worked in the library brought their lunches so they could watch the soap operas on the TV in the back room but that didn't interest me. I had my own tragedy in life with Jeff leaving but now, it didn't seem so bad with my friend to talk with in the evenings. I like to think of him as being my friend and some day, I hope to be able to meet him and sit with him and talk face to face as friends do.
The waitress brought me the tuna salad sandwich and diet Coke I had ordered. "Wendy, are you okay?" she asked. "You seem to be lost in thought."
I looked up then. "Oh, yes, I was just thinking of a lost love and now I believe I may have a new one."
"That's great! Is he anyone I'd know?"
"I don't think so. He's from out of town," I fibbed.
"What's his name?"
"He might be. That does sound a little British, doesn't it?"
"What's this new man look like?" the waitress asked.
"Oh, he's very handsome. He's tall, he has wavy hair, slightly gray just around the edges and he has a mustache. He looks a little like Sean Connery… except younger," I hastened to add.
"You must bring him in sometime. I'd like to meet him."
"Maybe I can sometime," I told her. I smiled at the mental image I had conjured up as I took a bite of my sandwich.
In the evenings that followed, we exchanged more messages and after some time, his concern for me came through clearly. I felt so comfortable exchanging emailed messages with him; it was as if I had known him all my life. His face, if I could see it, would be smiling and friendly and I would see the kindness in his eyes. I knew in my heart that he must be a very handsome man.
I found myself hurrying through my evening meals so I could turn the computer on. In our talks he spoke of many things, and his nightly comments on his Facebook page seemed to be written just for me. I began to wonder if he could see me somehow. Surely not, and yet…
I became more interested in him as time went on and found myself going to his Facebook page night after night. The weeks went by and it almost became an addiction. I told him about my childhood. I explained my strained relationship with my mother, and he said he understood. I felt that I could confide anything in this kindly man. Then an entire day and evening went by and I hadn't heard from him. The next evening after I came home from work I sent him this message: "I feel as if I've lost my best friend. I just felt so empty when I didn't hear from you."
"I'm beginning to think that you rather like me," he wrote back.
"Of course I like you Monte! You've been a wonderful friend to me."
"I didn't turn my computer on last night because my son came to visit and spent the evening here with me but, Wendy, we can hardly be real friends since we've never met."
"I can tell by your words that are so comforting, so carefully chosen, as if you don't want to say anything that might offend me."
"You mustn't take me so seriously, Wendy."
"How could I not? At night when I go to bed, I imagine that you're holding me and then I fall asleep in your arms. Did you not mean any of the things you said to me?"
"Of course I meant them. I meant every word."
"Then what was I to think? I turn my computer on every evening as soon as I get home from work just hoping for a message. I think I'm beginning to fall in love with you!"
"Oh, Dear Wendy, please don't. I…we can never be together, you and I."
"Why not? Oh! You must be married!"
"No… I was at one time, yes, but that was a long time ago."
"Monte, can we meet somewhere? Please, Monty, I must see you!"
"The truth is, Wendy, I seldom leave the house."
"That's no problem at all; tell me where you live and I'll come there."
"I really don’t think you should."
"I must. Please! I think of you every hour of every day."
"All right then, if you promise me that you won't be disappointed."
Monte gave me his address and I got into my car and drove across town until I stopped to look at the scrap of paper on the seat beside me and check the street number that I had written down. I had stopped at the Sunnyvale Retirement Home. Bewildered, I parked my car and walked in. A receptionist behind the desk looked up from the magazine she had been reading.
"Can I help you, Miss?" she asked.
"I'm looking for Monte. I believe that he must be a staff member here."
"Oh, no, you're mistaken. The only Monte we have here is Douglas Montgomery, one of our residents."
"But I've been corresponding with him and I think he's around my age. Surely, he can't be a resident of the home."
"But he is. Monte is eighty-three years old. He came to live here after his wife passed away and he retired as Professor of English at the University." I was stunned but nevertheless asked to see him. The receptionist got up and pointed him out to me. He was sitting in the main visiting area by the big picture window chatting with some of the other residents when I approached him.
He looked up at me and smiled. "Hello young lady. Do I know you?" he asked.
I put my hand out. "I'm Wendy." He took my hand and gently held it for a moment.
"Wendy, it is you. It's so very nice to meet you but you are disappointed aren't you, Dear? I knew you would be."
I regained my composure and smiled at him. "No, Monte," I said. "Not at all. You're exactly the way I pictured you. Just a little bit older that's all." I added.
"Well, my Dear, I was just born a little too soon and you too late, I'm afraid."
"I think you may be right, Monte. I've developed quite a crush on you, you know." I blushed a little as I admitted that to him.
"I never meant to lead you on, Wendy. I only wanted to comfort you in your loneliness."
"I understand and I do appreciate that." I turned away. "I must be going now," I said.
"Wait just a little while, Wendy. My son is coming for a visit this evening." He looked toward the parking lot. "I believe I see his car driving in now. I'd really like you to meet him. He just got back from Haiti a week ago. He went with the 'Doctors Without Borders' group." I looked out of the window to see a tall, handsome man who appeared to be about my age getting out of his light blue Mercedes convertible. The man walked in then and Monte introduced us.
"Hello, Wendy. I'm Doctor Clark Montgomery." He glanced at my left hand and smiled as he didn't see a ring. "I didn't know there were any beautiful, single women left in this town. Now, I'm glad that I've been too busy to go on many dates." He looked over at his father. "Would you mind if I took her away for awhile, Dad? I'd like to get better acquainted with this lovely young lady."
I looked at Monte. "It looks as if there's hope for me after all," I said, smiling.
Clark took me to dinner that evening, and he and I became acquainted rather quickly. I learned that he's an emergency room physician at the local hospital. We talked as we ate and shared childhood experiences over coffee and soon it became obvious that we were compatible and attracted to each other. He was kind and gentle, very much like his Dad and Clark spoke of him fondly, almost reverently. I explained how his father and I had met over the Internet, how I had thought of him as being a man close to my age and that I had developed feelings for him after several evenings of our conversations by email.
"I shouldn't be surprised," Clark said, smiling. "It's a scramble at every meal to see which of the ladies can get there first to sit beside him." That made me laugh at the mental picture I conjured up at his description of mealtime at the retirement home.
* * *
Clark is an incredible person and very much the gentleman. We dated exclusively for a little over a year and he made me forget that I'd ever heard of Jeff. One night after we left the movie theater, he drove to a Dairy Queen nearby and ordered hot fudge sundaes for us. We sat in a booth and felt like high school sweethearts and that was the night he asked me to marry him. Of course I accepted and we were married in a lovely ceremony at the retirement home with all his father's friends and the staff as the wedding guests. Reverend Sanders, who came to the retirement home every Sunday morning after preaching at his own church married us. I wore a white satin tea-length dress with a sweetheart neckline and Clark looked very handsome in a navy blazer, gray slacks with sharp creases, a crisp white shirt and a burgundy tie with narrow white stripes. Monte looked twenty years younger than his true age in a powder blue suit with a pink tie and matching pocket handkerchief. He was so proud that he was beaming throughout the entire ceremony. The cook had made a three-layer cake and decorated it with pink roses and green leaves in icing on top and on the sides. She wheeled it into the main visiting room on a serving cart just as the minister told Clark that he could kiss his bride.
I won't have to email Clark's father, Monte, anymore if I want to talk to him. I can stop by and see him anytime and I'm always welcome now that I'm his daughter-in-law.