It came in a bit short – 662 words, according to the word count on Open Office – but I like it.
A Difficult Funeral
I looked up from my hands, folded neatly in my lap. I had been working on my posture in the car as we drove, pulling each vertebrae on top of one another like a wobbly toddler stacking blocks. My fingers carefully folded and refolded the hem of my skirt from the edge of my knee to half an inch too high. You’ll look like a little harlot if you wear a short skirt, Gran had grumbled, shaking her head as I left. I ignored her, like I always did.
“Yeah. I’m ready.”
The sky outside the sleek black car was obscenely blue, that eye-searing shade you only ever see in paintings or cartoons. Somewhere nearby, a mockingbird trilled out a song in greeting. Obnoxious little fucker, I thought, looking up long enough to blink at the sun’s glare. My mouth pulled down into a frown at the corners. I could taste the lipstick smeared there, an odd pink I never would have picked out myself. Mom had always liked that color on me, though. Today, it made sense.
“It’ll be over soon.”
My heels clicked against the marble steps as I slipped through the huge arched doors of the church. There were so many people here already, faces and names I should remember. They’d been around me my whole life, either as a major part or a part of the periphery. Every set of eyes blurred together, just like their voices echoed in a quiet cacophony of murmured whispers in the foyer. No one person seemed to stand out. No one seemed to notice me there, so wrapped in their awkward pleasantries. I thought about slipping back outside, climbing back in the car and waiting until it was all over; I even took a step backwards when I felt the familiar pressure on my back.
I nodded and kept moving. Slipping around people bunched together in twos and threes, sidestepping a child’s leg, already dangling over the edge of the pew. His sneaker lit up with blinking red lights at each thump of his heel against the carved wood, a light show of testament to his aching boredom. I know how you feel, kid. My mouth quirked into a smile. He wanted to go back outside into the sunshine almost as much as I did. No one likes to be cooped up in a stuffy jacket and tie when there’s sunshine to feel on your cheeks.
The aisle down the center of the chapel came to an abrupt stop at the glowing cherry-colored coffin. The roses on the bottom half threatened to tumble over the edge of the smooth wood like melting snow down a waterfall. I settled into a molded plastic chair nearby, my fingers folding and unfolding the hem of my skirt. Mom’s favorite priest stood, coughing, and the room fell silent. I stopped paying attention; his words didn’t mean much to me, anyway. Tales of God and Heaven and Hell and Redemption and everything I’d learned every week in Sunday School that always managed to slip my mind by Monday morning. It all seemed so futile, really.
“Anne. It’s time.”
Something I’d read somewhere along the line crept into my head. Funerals aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living left behind. It made sense, now. I unfolded my skirt, letting it fall to just above my knees as I stood. Not too short, according to Gran. I licked my lips once, twice, tasting the waxy flavor of the pink lipstick. Mom liked that color on me. My heels clicked on the marble steps as I walked, fingers trailing on the roses. I looked at the sea of faces in the pews. They were all blurred together through their tears. Or maybe they were mine, now. It didn’t matter either way. The red lights of the little boy’s shoes flashed in the aisle.
I climbed into the coffin and shut the lid behind me.