Wrapped up in fishing gear, Rhae sat on the bank of a peaceful pond. A simple leather strap pulled her ruby hair up from her face. Cat like ears twitched away a stray gnat. Her dark eyes glowered at the water as she stretched her long legs. She held her pole as the tip of her tail tapped a muted rhythm.
“Wish it would rain,” she said.
The cloudless sky didn’t answer her wish. Afternoon approached with a lazy sun. Her morning wasted without even a single strike. She should have gone with the hunting party yesterday morning but her bow broke during the last excursion. Just the right weight and tension, it was the best bow she had ever used. Toadie imported it for her last summer and she didn’t know how to tell him. As much as she enjoyed goblin bashing, she had declined and gone fishing instead.
A twig snapped. Should’ve known. Rhae waited for the rustling.
“Go away, Toadie,” Rhae said, standing up as a fish struck the hook.
“Awww, how’d you know it was me?” Toadie asked, hiding in the tall grass.
“You’re the worst sneak I ever met,” Rhae said, as the line snapped. “Damn it all.”
Toadie huffed as he waddled over to her side, barely tall enough to reach her knee. He pouted as he picked grass out of his pointed ears and rewrapped his sliver hair with a bright green ribbon.
“I figured you’d be here,” Toadie sang.
“And what of it?” Rhae said as she baited the hook.
His cherub-like body heaved in a deep breath as he smoothed out his olive doublet. A low whistle escaped his lips as he wiped the sweat from his pale face. Adjusting his tiny spectacles on his browned nose, he peered at her with his soulful gray eyes.
“No bashy-whashy gobbies,” he said, “Rhae is a glum chum.”
“Yeah, well,” she said, noticing the new scarf around his neck, “At least I don’t look like badly dressed baby doll.”
The scarf was a paisley mess of dark green, lavender and rose. Toadie played with it, as he said, “I just bought this today. Every fiber is infused with boosty-woosty magi power.”
“As if you need it,” Rhae said, casting out her line.
Toadie danced a bit and squealed, “I bought you a nifty-gifty too.”
Why bother, Rhae wondered as she settled down in the grass.
Ashamed at herself and a bit annoyed at his cheerfulness, Rhae stared at her pole. She heard him fumbling with his belt pack and resisted the urge to peek. When his fingers brushed against her tail, she did look. In his hands was a plaid scarf with colors to match his. He hummed happily as he wrapped it around her tail.
“I’m not wearing that girly thing,“ she whipped her tail away as Toadie barely dodged its smart crack. “So go away.”
“Awww,” Toadie said, “That comes from the eastern islands.”
Home, Rhae thought. Reluctantly she snatched up the fallen scarf and jammed in with the fishing tackle.
Toadie scuffed the ground awkwardly as he pouted, “Gimme a smiley-wiley?”
“No,” Rhae said, hunching her shoulders forward with a scowl.
He huffed, sighed and stomped away. Rhae ignored him as she continued fishing.
“Peek-a-boo!” Toadie said, popping out beside her.
“Fucktard,” Rhae said shoving him away a bit, “I hate that.”
“See,” Toadie said, puffing up and thumbing his chest, “I can sneak.”
She glared at him, “Go away.”
“Awww, I wanna see you happy-dappy.”
“You‘re scaring the fish. Fuck off.”
“Gimme smiley first,” Toadie said, crossing his arms.
“I smile when I feel like it,” she said, bending her knees up to her chest.
“Not leaving ‘til you do,” he said, giving her a winsome smile of his own.
“Look, I don’t care, either fish or go away but I‘m not smiling.”
He stuck his tongue out, “Meanie.”
“Whatever,” she said.
It didn’t matter. Toadie always felt, did and said whatever came to mind. Although happiness was the mood of choice, he wasn’t always a bouncing ball of sunshine. His sadness often meant wailing, retching sobs and finally silent moping. She never saw him angry but the mere idea kept her silent about the bow. In a way, she envied him. She longed to share in his freedom of expression.
Just to be free, Rhae thought, Free to be me.
Whistling her favorite marching tune, he wobbled on his feet. She didn’t smile but her tail struck the beat in the grass. Toadie sighed and pulled out a small ceramic bowl. He took out a paddle of wire and parchment. Sitting down at the bank, he watched the water.
Goldfish scooping, Rhae thought.
She remembered teaching him that last spring. The object was to pop the goldfish into the bowl using just the paddle. He spent the entire night here learning the trick. It almost made her smile.
“Yay,” he sang, “Happy fish.” He showed her the tiny goldfish swimming in the bowl.
“Hooray for you,” she said as she lost another fish, “I hate you.”
“And I wuv you,” he said, placing the bowl on the ground. While humming, he laid down, propping up his head with one hand. “Hello mister fishy. My name is Toadie. This here is my favorite kitty-girl, Rhae.”
Favorite? she thought, arching an eyebrow as she baited the hook again. “I would never believe that you’re a hundred years my elder.”
“The heart of a child is the key to eternal youth,” he said then stuck his tongue out as he closed one eye and pulled down the bottom lid of the other.
“What the fuck ever,” she said, staring at him.
Toadie cupped his hand to his mouth and whispered to the goldfish, “Don’t mind her, little fishy buddy. She’s a bit grouchy.”
Rhae rolled her eyes as he prattled on to the goldfish. He talked about the weather and gossiped about the latest scandals.
Like it cares, she thought.
Running out of topics, he started singing rhymes to it. She resisted the soothing effect of his musical voice. The afternoon drifted along and soon the sun glowed in the rich hues of dusk. Rhae basked in the warm soft light and drank in the cool fresh breeze. It was almost a shame to waste the day away fishing and pining for a broken bow.
“And look at this onion I got from the hunt yesterday,” Toadie said, displaying a large bulb.
“Out of all that goblin junk to choose from and you pick an onion,” she said, plucking it from his tiny hands.
“Gobbies grow the bestest ones. Crisp and spicy just the way you like,” he sang, “Perfect for grilling fish.”
Nice. Rhae’s mouth watered. “You wasted your time. I haven’t caught any fish all day,” she said, tossing the onion back at him. Stupid fish. She reeled in the line and set the pole on the ground. Might as well quit. Frustrated, she picked at the grass.
“Pretty kitty,” Toadie said, sitting next to her, “It‘s just a bow, you know?”
“How’d you find out?”
“People in town,” he said, as he hefted the weight of the onion in his hands, “The hunting party.”
Forever lived and died in their silence as the last of the sunlight faded. So much left unsaid. He‘s right. It was dumb to get so upset over any object. If only she could tell him how sorry she felt.
“Onion not only thing I picked,” Toadie said, “Gobbie gear makes good trade. Got bow comin’ fromin’ the western kingdom.”
So forgiving. Rhae denied the temptation for tears. I don’t deserve you.
“No shamey-wamey in crying hun,” Toadie said, a bit teary-eyed himself.
“Hell no.” She looked up at him and noticed the bowl within arm’s reach. The water was probably too warm and stale for the goldfish by now. On its last leg. “Fuck that noise.”
With a roguish grin, she snatched the goldfish from the bowl. Toadie shrieked, jumping up to rescue it.
“No Rhae, no eat raw” Toadie pleaded, “Lemme cook.”
She planted a firm boot on his chest as he tried to climb on her. With an easy push he fell into the water. She waited for him to sputter out of the water. Toadie’s eyes grew wide as she dropped the frantic fish into her mouth. In two chews the fish was swallowed.
A weak sound gurgled pass his lips, “Yucky.” He clutched his chest in a theatric faint.
“Have I told you how much I hate you?” she asked.
“As many times I’ve said I wuv you,” he answered with his face still in the dirt.
“If you let me fish in peace,” she said as she picked up her pole, “I’ll let you cook the next one.”
“Okies,” Toadie said, scrambling up, “Can I play my flutey-wutey?”
“If you must,” she said, baiting the hook.
A sweet lullaby greeted the rising moon as they sat together on the bank. Rhae lost two more fish before catching one big enough to share.
* Inspired by Final Fantasy XI (FFXI), property of Square-Enix.
Archived on WordPress @ 12 April 2017
Revised and Reposted on WordPress @ 17 April 2017 here.