All writers say write, write, write and write. Usually I start, falter and never come back. So as I have about 20 readers (thank you – I am eternally grateful) I am sure you won’t mind if I buzz around on here playing in the novella, writing spasmodic bits of fiction. I used to think someone might steal my stuff, but now I think I know all of your names and addresses and that such a thought is largely a colossal, egotistical fantasy. So read or not – I will write. (All feedback graciously accepted in the comments box)
Mildred looked out from the lectern at the people in the pews. They were all suitably sombre and quietly dressed except for one. Hannah had arrived, in true rebellious form in a hot pink sheath with an outrageous black hat surrounded by black netting. She appeared as a huge pink bug caught in a trap. Did anyone still wear hats? Slender columns of perfect pale flesh peeked out from the thighs down, until they found themselves stuffed into ridiculously high black pumps. Mildred felt her own bulk keenly, although significantly diminished from the last two years of caring for Walter. Teenagers never appreciated their perfection until dimpled thighs and voluminous bellies reminded them of a lifetime’s indulgence in booze, fatty foods and avoidance of the gym. Hannah’s matching dainty handkerchief dabbed at non-existent tears. Her mother looked on, dangerously uncomfortable, with a stormy demeanour. It was clear there had been disagreement this morning about suitable funeral attire. From the screen above Mildred’s head the shifting images of her husband Walter, appeared and moved on in a ghostly series of moments in time. Anyone watching would have assumed he was constantly jovial, surrounded by people and music. Which for the most part is the way Mildred wished to remember him. Not the deteriorating, frail, shadow of a man she had been left with, through whatever roll of the dice the gods had deemed a winning combination of misery before death.
Mildred straightened her sensible black woolen dress, tugged at the cuffs and smoothed her grey hair into the tight bun at the back. A hush settled across the room. Mildred thought of it as a room, despite its high ceilings and it’s nomenclature of ‘chapel’, it was decidedly secular. There were no religious symbols. Anyone could be buried here. Although not at all religious, Mildred felt uneasy at this absence of anything resembling tradition, ritual or scholarly contemplation. She cleared her throat and began to speak the way she had rehearsed at home. People would think her terribly brave and her writing skills would be astonishing to the untrained observer. She heard an unsettling croak and realised she had not spoken a word. Then somewhere from down in her belly, panic sewed a tiny seed that took root, thrived and bloomed sending white heat through her veins, upwards of her neck until she could feel perspiration sidling down her temples and crawling slowly down her back into the tops of her tights. A single tear made its way from a blackened duct, her attempts at eyeliner and mascara saboutaged.
Suddenly the large wooden doors at the back made a horrendous bang, carving through the silence and the terrible anticipation. Mildred felt the cooling breeze of relief at the sight of an apologetic woman in similar sensible black attire with just a singular nod at a refusal to age appropriately, symbolised by the same ridiculously high heels as also sported by Hannah the barbarian. While accustomed to the great heights afforded by insanely expensive stillettos, Edith’s mortification at arriving late resulted in a kind of bobbing and bowing gait that gave her the preacarious aura of someone bound to fall. As she condescended to each of the guests stares, glares and inspections each resonating with combinations of surprise, disapproval and curiosity in equal measure, Edith made her way unsteadily along the aisle towards Mildred now glossy with blasted grief, leaking from her eyes.
In attempting the stairs to the lectern, Edith found herself in the common dilemma of having to lift her legs in direct opposition to the give in her dress. She found herself with knees together and legs apart like a giraffe attempting to juggle. Once she arrived safely, ankles intact she stood next to Mildred, smiled confidently and with strong reassurance took up her hand and held it, palm to palm. With the other hand she gently adjusted the microphone to meet her mouth.
Good afternoon, so nice of you all to come…
As Edith’s words filled the place, crept into each corner, rested in the plant pots, relaxed on the shoulders of each guest, a calm settled like someone had dropped a single, enormous sheet of gauzy white silk from the ceiling and allowed it settle. Corralling and enjoining all assembled in a quilty comfort.
Mildred allowed her attention to wander. Edith had been a beautiful daughter. Happy, compliant and picture perfect at parties. All that had changed of course in her teens, where aliens had abducted her and returned an imposter who preferred rebellion, opposition and condescending arrogance. That was not the first time Meredith had questioned her agreement to become “mother” the archetype had horrified her. She was not naturally nurturing or selfless. This all had to be learned.