The butterflies in my stomach churned with the movement of the road. I hadn’t driven the old road in years because when I used to visit Grandma mum normally drove. Our relationship had dwindled as I grew up but the remnants of my childhood lived on the petals of Grandma’s rose bush. Her house held magic with which my own could never compare. Going back now, I hoped that maybe some of the magic still lived on.
My brakes slowed the car to a shuddering stop, leaving the grumbling engine to alert everyone in the neighbourhood of my arrival. The skinny two-park drive had been taken up by Mum’s oversized Range Rover leaving me with no choice but to park her in. My car’s shifty gears rattled around searching for first, praying for me to kill the power so the engine could take a well-earned rest.
“I heard the brakes and knew that it was you, I can’t believe you still have good ol’ Berty,” Mum’s voice came clanging down the stairs. I looked up to see a tall, beautiful woman. Her brown eyes flickering over my own figure.
“I can’t be bothered to get a new one, too much work,” I slammed the door to make sure it locked and grabbed my bags from the tray-back, starting towards the front door. The old rose bushes covered the path and turned a simple walk into a game of hopscotch. I accidentally knocked one of the buds which woke an angry pair of fairies. Their little voices became lost in the wind.
“You look tired,” her eyes wavered around the bags underneath my eyes. “I did just drive 10 hours mum.”
“You didn’t have to come.” But her eyes pleaded differently. I tried to struggle past her with my bags and pillow but her hands wrapped around my wrists, then my shoulders, pulling me in for a hug.
She breathed into my shoulder, “Your hair smells nice.” “Thanks.” I hadn’t washed it for at least a week.
We let go and her eyes locked with mine. Sighing, I dropped my gaze and tried to shuffle past her but nostalgia snatched me away at the first glimpse of the loungeroom. The oak grandfather clock was proudly pinned against the wall, made out of the same wood which matched the coffee table and T.V stand. It had all created and carved by John, the neighbour. The crinkled smell of old roses tickled my nose, Grandma’s perfume still clinging in the air.
“It hasn’t changed,” Mum said, leaning on the door frame. “It took me a while too.”
I kept walking down the hall which led into my old room, a small tinkering was following me, but it got lost in the sound of the wind that blew through the open window. My room was still the same, the only difference being a layer of dust, throwing my bags down was like breathing life into an old memory, as the dust began to leap off the furniture. It danced hand- in-hand with the smell of dried roses, but my room wasn’t the main attraction.
I walked across the hall and into Grandma’s room, its large wardrobe demanded the space. The custom-made oak doors mirrored the beauty of what was inside. John had made all the wood in this house, making it unique to Grandma, along with everything else she owned. The doors heaved and croaked as I pulled them back; arguing about whether to let me in, but I was determined to win. On first try I was pulled into my own Narnia1, except Grandma was Mr Tumnus2 guiding me on my way.
“A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.” Pinocchio
“Come here you little munchkin,” yelled Grandma. She was in her room.
“Yes Grandma,” I said as I hurried down the hallway. It was a huge room. Mum always said, “Your Grandmother never knew how to clean her room or her house.” But I loved Grandma’s house, it was colourful and the sound of tinkering followed me around all day long.
“Good morning beautiful, did I wake you up?” asked Grandma as I walked into her room.
“No Grandma,” I smiled at her. She was sitting on her bed surrounded by clothes. She was still in her silks from sleeping, they matched Mummy’s own set at home.
“I don’t know what to wear, want to help me get dressed?” I climbed onto her bed and looked around, pants of every colour covered her sheets. Flower skirts were strewn on the floor. It was like we were sitting on the rainbow parachute that all the kids at school would hide under.
“Pink and rainbow,” I said pointing to the pink skirt, and rainbow shirt. It looked like the one I had.
“Thank you, I’ll dress while you go get some breakfast.” She winked at me.
It was in the afternoon when Mummy’s car came to get me. I hid behind the couch, I didn’t want to leave. Grandma came out from the kitchen with cookies and a bunch of flowers. She always gives Mummy flowers and cookies, the cookies were shaped like puzzle pieces. She had flour all down her skirt. But the flour was no competition for the bright, petal skirt.
Peering in I could see as the fairies hidden inside the flowers, preparing for take-off. “Why do you put the rib-bon around it?”
Grandma laughed, “You still struggle to say ribbon. It’s so the flowers stay together in a bunch.”
“But it makes the fairies go away.”
“They don’t go away, they just fly into the buds until they get to your house, and then they fly out and are released to make your home magical like mine,” Grandma winked. And I looked at the flowers again, watching as the little fairies disappeared into the ‘buds’.
The front door opened and Mummy walked in.
“Hello Olivia, did you have a good day? Mum, what are you wearing?” She turned her head from me to Grandma.
“Olivia dressed me today.”
“I hope you didn’t leave the house like that,” Mum said as she wrapped her arms around me for a hug. She smelt like a warm winter’s night.
“I cut you some flowers Teresa, and Olivia and I made some cookies,” Grandma paused as I let go of Mummy, “You’ve got some soup on your nice blouse love.” Grandma walked over to Mummy, pointing at her shirt.
Mummy grabbed for the flowers and smelt them, she always liked roses. I thought they smelt like Grandma, and I think Mummy did too. Grandma shuffled around the large table and started to set it for the four of us.
“I was making dinner quickly after work.” Mum paused and smiled at me, “Go get your things, Olivia.”
“I made enough dinner for you all too. Do stay! Oh… I must have forgotten to tell you over the phone.” Grandma’s eyes dropped to the floor.
“No just save it for yourself.” “But…”
“Olivia, I said go get your things. We need to go!” Mummy stopped smiling.
I walked down the hallway to my room and grabbed my bag which had already been packed earlier today with Grandma’s help. I walked back down the hall, taking one last peek into Grandma’s room. The rainbow parachute was still sprawled all over the bed. A smile pinched at my cheeks.
“Hurry up Liv,” Mummy still sounded mad. “I don’t want to leave the fairies.”
“I told you little munchkin they go with you in the flowers,” said Grandma. Mum just rolled her eyes and headed for the door.
“Goodbye Mum, thanks for having her again. And thanks for the cookies.” She opened the door, but I didn’t want to leave.
We got home and I put the flowers in water, waiting for the fairies to come out. But the fairies never did. Grandma told a Pinocchio.
“Sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Dr Seuss
The wardrobe held the same colours that I remembered from years ago. The fine silks and cotton were still like a rainbow. Grandma Polly was a small woman, her pants wouldn’t fit me now but I had hope for the wrap skirts. So I sat for hours, trying on clothes, putting patterns aside to transform into new outfits. It was my magical wardrobe, I felt like Lucy Pevensie.3
The sun began to drop behind the curtains and Grandma’s room slowly lost light. My stomach was churning as it called for food and water. I had been in the room for the better half of the day. I only kept a few pieces, a rainbow skirt, a floral shirt and a pair of pants in hope that one day I could squeeze into them. They still smelt like her, the same musky floral smell that coated all of her clothes.
“Hey, Liv where are… why did you pull all them out?” Mum’s voice cracked, “I just don’t understand, I neatly put all of those clothes in sections and piles to sort and donate. And now you’ve…”
“What’d you mean you’re going to donate them? These aren’t just anybody’s clothes, Grandma wore these same pieces for years.” I pleaded with my eyes, angry that she would even suggest getting rid of them. “These clothes are Grandma.”
My throat began to burn, holding the last of my sentence captive. My eyes were welling up, threatening to erupt. Words clawed at my throat, and the churning hunger was washed away.
“I’m sorry Liv, but you can’t keep it all.” She walked out, I listened to her steps die down the hallway. The brief scrape of the chair against tiles meant she’d taken up residence in the kitchen, far enough away that she wouldn’t hear my breakdown. I let the burning go, curling into a ball, the silks scrunched into fists. I didn’t want to keep all the clothes, but I didn’t want to donate any of them, I could sew them into something useful.
I stalked into the kitchen, she was sitting scrolling through her phone, the screen lighting up space around her. Our silence had lasted an hour now, and she hadn’t moved from her spot at the table. The ghost of our argument was still shuffling around, along with the muffled tinkering of a fairy.
The screech of my chair echoed through the house as I sat at the table, but mum didn’t even lookup. Her face was still glued to the screen. I was sure she wasn’t even looking at what she was doing, rather she was passing the minutes through mindless scrolling. But I was hungry, hungry enough to break the silence.
“Do you want me to order us in dinner, or just find food in the pantry?” I turned my head in her direction. But her face didn’t move from the screen. Her phone grasping all her attention. Mum murmured “Hmm”, barely even showing recognition. But I couldn’t stand talking to a blank wall of digital distraction. She couldn’t even flicker her eyes my way. I gritted my teeth.
“What do you want mum? How about pizza from down the road, the same we used to get when I was a kid.” A silence. I looked over to see that she was reading and re-reading emails. Typing, responding to work. I rolled my eyes and sighed, “I’ll just order for myself then.”
I got up and walked away my pulled-out chair was the only remnants of the conversation.
I reached for my keys and left the house, Berty was camouflaged with the night. I turned the keys and she roared to life. I couldn’t understand why mum called me to help if she was just going to throw everything out anyway. I flicked through the radio trying to find a run of good songs and headed into town to buy some take-out.
By the time I returned mum had moved from the table to the couch, she was watching an old black and white as we used to when I was a kid. I shuffled around with the door handle, trying to not drop dinner. Mum grabbed for the door, trying to give me a hand.
“Hmmm smells like pizza, you know you’re never gonna get that smell out of your car,” she said, grabbing the boxes from my hands.
“Yeah I know, reminds me of when I was a delivery driver for the pizza shop back home.” “Sometimes I forget you worked at that little joint.”
“Well, you didn’t get home from work until after I had finished my shift.” I was trying not to start another argument, so I dropped the conversation with a soft smile and walked into the kitchen for cups and plates. But mum followed.
“I regret that Liv, I wish I was home more.”
“You couldn’t help it, mum, your job, it was different from other parents’ jobs.” “But you grew up by yourself.” Her voice went soft, almost forgiving.
“It’s not like we weren’t close back then mum.”
“Yeah, I guess. But we aren’t close now.” Mum sighed and walked back into the lounge room. I had never said anything about not being close now, but we both knew it. I travelled around the world as a journalist and mum, a lawyer, lived in Melbourne. We were only in the same place maybe once or twice a year.
I walked into the lounge room to find mum already eating. I smirked a little, and left the plates on the table, we always needed plates, but not tonight. I began to hack into the pizza, it reminded me of nights after work when I would bring home the leftovers and we would share the pizza in the front room. We would laugh, I would complain about work, customers etc, etc. She would listen and complain about her colleagues and her boss. But it had been an age since we spoke like that.
“Good pizza,” I said, looking her way.
“Yeah, not bad,” she murmured as she struggled to get the sauce from out of the corner of her mouth with her tongue. It reminded me of something I would do as a kid.
That was all the conversation we had, the two of us melting back into the silence of the old black and white on TV. After the movie, we both agreed that bed would be the best option, and sleep stole me away.
“Today or never, that’s my moto.” Mary Poppins.
The skip bin had rolled up early in the morning, the tyres on the truck screamed as the bin was loaded onto Grandma’s front lawn. I barely made it to the front door before the driver was banging it down in a huff of annoyance.
“Skip bin man!” he bellowed into the house.
I checked my watch, it glowed 7:30 AM. “Yes, I’m coming.” I got to the door and heaved it open, he looked me up and down, then slowly inspected my Pinocchio pyjama shirt.
“Sorry I uh, didn’t mean to be disturbin’ ya’. But I be needin’ a payment for tha’ bin.” Of course, mum hadn’t paid for it. “Oh didn’t ya’ be knowin’ that it hadn’t been paid for?” His brown eyebrows knitted together in question.
“Uh, no sorry, my mum was in charge of the bin. Let me just go grab my card.”
“Why don’t we just leave it for now huh’, and I’ll just text ya’ the details.” He shifted his weight and offered a smile that disappeared behind his beard.
“Actually yes, that would be better. Is that okay?” My eyes squinted from the early morning sun.
“Yeah, it’ll be fine, whassya’ number?”
I told him all of my details and the skip man was on his way. He never even said his name, just the skip man.
I boiled the kettle, the skip man’s stale coffee breath reminded me to go make my own heart- starter. The kitchen counter was covered in boxes and dust, but amid it was a piece of paper:
Cleaning mum’s house, and organising funeral checklist.
- Order skip bin, pay for the bin.
- Dust down everything in the house including couch, tables and chairs.
- Pack away cushions, or donate depending on …
- Donate or throw away Tupperware and accessories
- Search for someone to sell the house
- Sort out garden
- Find a date for the funeral
- Go through mum’s bank account, sort out finances,
- Organise wake
- Organise photos, presentation, speech… (maybe not speech)
I couldn’t make out the rest of the writing, it had been smudged by tears and coffee stains. Shhhhhhhhhh click, the kettle shook as the water inside boiled out of the spout.
“Is that the kettle?” Mum’s figure appeared in the doorway.
“Yeah, would you like something?” My hand quickly shoved the list away.
“Yeah, that’d be good.” Her hand was glowing, eyes glued to the screen. She walked over to the couch and sat down on the plastic protector, it crinkled under her weight, scrunching up around her as she found the perfect spot. I brought us both out a coffee and sat down at the other side of the couch.
“Today I was thinking of cleaning out all the rooms down the hall if you wanted to start in the kitchen and the lounge room?” Another silence. “Mum?”
“Oh yeah, sorry what was that?” Her eyes briefly met mine.
“I said I was gonna’ clean out the hall if you wanted to do the lounge room and kitchen?”
“The skip bin isn’t here so we can’t do anything till then.” So, she didn’t hear it show up this morning.
“Look outside,” I said without skipping a beat.
She moved the blinds out of the way, making a rumbling sound, “Oh, but I hadn’t paid for it.” “Yeah, I know.”
“Did you pay then?” Her phone clicked back on.
“No. He messaged me the payment details.” But she wasn’t listening. She just sipped at her coffee and tutted to herself.
“Okay then well, I’ll make a start.” The couch crinkled as I stood up and walked down the hall. There were four rooms, maybe I’d spend an hour on each. Leaving Grandma’s room to last.
I had been cleaning for hours, two rooms down, just old spare rooms, only towels and useless memorabilia that Grandma had kept over the years lived in them. Most of the stuff went in the skip, it was barely midday and the skip was half full. The street was noticing as both mum and I paced back and forth, filling it with junk. Some would come over, rifling through the bin finding keepsakes, others would keep walking, or stop for a chat to wish their
condolences. I only spoke to one person, he was old now, but when I was a little girl, I thought he was Geppetto4.
“Olivia, wow have you grown tall,” The shaky old man walked with a cane as an extension to his arm. He didn’t have the wobble when I was little.
“Holy… John, is that you?” I blinked, focusing in on the stranger.
“You knew me better as Geppetto.” His voice was soft as he continued to walk towards me.
“Yeah, I guess I did,” His hands wrapped around the stick, one atop the other. His shake, stable as he stood in front of me. His beady glasses rounded his eyes, and his hair, white snow falling around his ears, outlining his face. He hadn’t changed, the only sign of age was the pesky stick.
“How have you been little Olive?”
“[looking for Geppetto, who has been swallowed by Monstro the whale]
“Look who it is little Olive. It’s Uncle Geppetto.” Grandma was up on the couch looking out through the window. Uncle Geppetto always visited Grandma.
“Oliveeeeee, guess who it is?”
“Geppetto, Geppetto, Geppetto.” I ran for the door and wiggled around his legs, his little glasses followed me everywhere but he stood in one place. Grandma said that he couldn’t run too well, and she was right because I never saw him running.
“Guess what I have for you. A Pinocchio.” From behind his back, Geppetto handed me a wooden Pinocchio. “I know you just love the movie and I saw this in the store window.”
“John you didn’t have to do that,” said Grandma Polly.
“Yeah, but I love to spoil her rotten Pol. She could be my grandchild if you’d just let me marry you.”
“Oh John, don’t be kidding yourself now.” They both just laughed. I never understood their conversations, but they held hands a lot. Like me and Mummy do. But Grandma wasn’t Geppetto’s mummy.
“I’m going to put him in my room.” I walked away and Geppetto walked into the house.
“He didn’t realise that love as powerful as your mothers’ for you leaves its own mark.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
“Little Olive, where’d you go?” I shook my head, John was just staring at me. My eyes burned.
“Sorry, I just, no one has called me Little Olive since well Grandma Polly and you.”
“Oh, ah well, someone still has to keep ya’ young.” He winked and his little glasses moved with him. “You look like you’ve been getting a lot done, eh.”
“Yeah we have been clearing everything out, I honestly think it’ll be done by tomorrow afternoon. Mum and I are moving at a pretty quick pace.”
“Yeah I’ve been watchin’ you and ya’ mum pacing back and forth, in and out of the house, like a goddam’ tennis ball bein’ thrown around a court and I thought I better come over and say hi. I do miss seein’ ya face around these streets, Olivia.”
“Yeah, I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I’d been back.” I thought a little harder and realised John and Grandma Pol were probably a couple, he is heartbroken. “Did you and Grandma ever…?”
“Ahh, little Olive, love is so much different when you’re older, you’ve both seen everything, done everything. It’s more just someone to check up on you to see if you haven’t died yet, and someone to remind you that being old isn’t too bad. I loved ya’ Grandma Pol, but I wouldn’t say we ever knew we was a couple, that wasn’t the aim.”
“Oh.” I guess it made sense.
“You found yourself a nice fella?” He leaned in closer to me like I was gonna tell him a secret.
“Haven’t been looking, too busy with starting as a freelance writer myself and keeping up a full-time job. But I still have my wooden Pinocchio on my bedside table, he is the only man I need, and of course the wood maker.” It was my turn to wink at him. But we both became enveloped in the same bubble of air. He had lost his friend as much as I had lost my grandmother. “Oh, John, I was talking to mum about the casket for Grandma, and I was thinking maybe, only if you would like, could you maybe make it. She did really like your wooden pieces.”
“Ya’ Grandmother spoke to me about this. When she got sick, we laughed about being buried in the wooden wardrobe I made her. And well I suggested making the casket. I actually have already got somethin’, I just thought maybe ya’ mother would want somethin’ a bit, I dunno’ more flashy I guess.”
“Oh no that would be perfect, uh would it be too hasty to ask if I could see it now?” “No, not at all come right around.”
“Let me just go get Mum so she can see it as well,” I walked up the steps again trying not to trip on the rose bush and opened the oak door.
“Why is old John just waiting out there?” Mum was peering through the blinds.
“He is waiting for me to come back out, and to get you. To look at a casket he has made, he and Grandma looked into it together.”
“What, no, Mum deserves more than just some old tacky wood,” Mum glared at me.
“Mum, Grandma wanted John to make it, they spoke about it, when she was in the hospital. Which is a lot more then you and she did, as you only saw her, was it twice?”
“What did you just say?” Mum snapped at me.
“I’m just saying that you denied she was sick, I mean so did I. We both did, for a long time. But John was there with her throughout, in the thick of it. And they spoke about the coffin and the funeral. And he is offering to help.”
“Well, Liv if you want his help so bad then go and look at it. But I’m not coming!”
I wandered back out onto the lawn where John was squatting next to the overgrown roses. His hands making quick work of the vines, untangling to create a nicer bush. Well, the most that he could make of without secateurs to fix up the rugged mess.
“Mum won’t be coming.” I looked at him and smiled softly. His face crumpled; he knew he wouldn’t get her approval.
“Well, we can just go look at it then.”
The coffin was beautiful, it held the same colour as Grandma’s wardrobe. The wooden detail on top represented a rose. It had large petals, with two leaves falling out from the stalk. The rose itself didn’t have any thorns. My hand brushed over the details. I could smell the strong varnish, a harsh tang that surrounded both John and I. The sun hit it at an angle which made the lid glow, its golden undertones made the rose dance. Beneath the lid darted a small fairy, allowing the soft tinkering to become louder.
“Thank you, it’s gorgeous. How much?” I asked, my eyes still stuck to the wooden box.
“I don’t want anything, except the honour of having built your Grandmother’s final resting place.” His words began to tangle in his throat.
“I can promise you that.” And I took his hand, we stayed that way for a long while. Staring at the box, sharing a silence that grew reassuringly around us. In the corner of my eye, I saw that fairy flying around, back and forth, its petal skirt blessed with a rainbow of colour. She held our stare, and the only thing breaking our peaceful silence was the tinkering of her tiny shoes. I heard Grandma in every sound and movement.
“…mum it was just beautiful. You should have seen it, it was the same colour like this.” I gestured to the wooden coffee table. I had just returned from John’s before he settled down into his nightly routine. “The top has a large rose engraved in it, with two leaves and when it is opened the most immaculate details fly through. I honestly think it’s perfect.”
“Do you remember the last funeral we went to? Aunty Sharon organised it, she had a pristine black and white theme, a traditionally styled coffin, with a small crowd of just close family and friends. That funeral held class and elegance. It was nice.” Her silks rustled as she shifted towards me.
“Do you remember Grandma’s reaction? Do you remember what she wore? I know you do because you belittled her the whole car ride there.” When we had picked Grandma up that
day, she stepped out of the house in an ankle-length wrap skirt which was rich in colour, keeping to a bright but classy theme.
“What she wore was ridiculous. It was something that you, you just can’t wear to a funeral.” She sat on the couch, crumbling down within her own walls.
“It is what she would want to wear to her funeral. You either go see the coffin tomorrow or I’ll give it to the funeral director myself.” Mum’s soft sobbing answered me.
“I just want her to have one last nice thing.” Her eyes wouldn’t let me reach her, they darted away. I moved towards her, slouching down on the couch. The feeling of her full weight collapsing into my own reminded me of nights as a kid, curled up under her protective wings. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a small glimmer. I could hear the slightest tinker, and a thick smell of roses grew, encapsulating us in a bubble.
The sun bled through the windows, pouring into the open space of the lounge room. Everything had gone, packed away or thrown in the tip. A cold space lay next to me, sending shivers down my spine. I was left with the ghost of last night.
“Mum,” the echo of my voice bounced around the house. She wasn’t here. I couldn’t hear anything but the birds.
My feet found themselves sturdy on the floor and led me to the kitchen. A note was next to the kettle.
I have left to organise a few things. The house is cleaned and is ready to be sold. I left the clothes in the piles you made in Grandma’s room. Take them with you, and leave what you don’t want.
The funeral is in a week, I spoke to a lady named Barbara this morning. I told her all about the coffin and she loved the idea.
You can stay in the house until the funeral or go back home. I think I might leave either tonight or tomorrow, but I’ll talk to you when I get back.
I felt for the kettle, its warmth greeted my hand. She was going to use John’s casket. A small smile tugged at my face.
“Don’t you understand? You mean more to me than anything in this whole world.” Peter Pan to Tinkerbell
I pulled up in a hire car, the old ute wouldn’t make the cut for today, and I didn’t want to drive. Mum had sent the car to pick me up. My dress contrasted with its bleak colouring; the polish was nicely done allowing me to see myself one last time before entering the large double doors.
Many people were gathered around outside, pacing, saying their hellos and good greetings. People I hadn’t seen in years were around, it was a sight of respectable black. I couldn’t see my mother in the crowd, maybe she was in the background getting everything organised, maybe she was fashionably late, or maybe she was sitting in the car waiting for everyone to go inside.
Of course, they wouldn’t. They would want to see her.
“Ya, look beautiful,” echoed a familiar voice from behind. I turned to see John, shakily walking, clutching his stick tightly in his hands. His black suit held firm contrasting against the mundane white shirt, but the tie he wore struck differently from the rest. It had a large red rose sewed down the middle, an abundance of petals clustered together to create a realistic flower. It had to be one of Grandma’s choice.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
“Your tie is a standout.” Mum’s voice was calm but strong though the crowd. She stopped John’s movements before he could even make them. He gave mum a cool nod of the head and held her stare. A strong pang of grief was visible in their eyes.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” said John, his hands beginning to shuffle over the stick.
“And I’m sorry for yours,” replied Mum, her voice softened as she walked over and put both arms around John. Her large black coat squeezing both of them into a ball of cotton. They held for a moment, as I stood and watched, my eyes flickering from them to the disappearing crowd. They were all starting to take their seats in the church, leaving just us out the front.
“I have to go in, and so do you Liv,” Mum’s arms dropped from around John’s and walked away.
“I quite like it,” I whispered gesturing to his tie. Smiling, we walked in, a few paces behind Mum.
The path between the two columns of chairs was a harrowing walk. Faces stared as John and I followed Mum. A churning sickness began in my stomach as the uneasy movement stirred up this morning’s breakfast. The pit of guilt and pang of hurt combatted my strength, my throat began to burn all too familiarly.
Mum had stopped walking up ahead and John had taken a seat in the third row from the front, I moved up towards her, readying myself for the day, the hour I would spend sitting in the wooden seats, the cold unforgiving planks. She was staring at the rose, at the coffin. Her hands outstretched reaching for the wood, feeling it. Letting her fingers fall into the details of the petals and the leaves.
She looked towards me, not moving her hands from the coffin. “This is the first time I have seen it. It’s beautiful.”
She dropped her hands from the casket and walked towards our seats.
The ceremony had started, the female celebrant mum hired spoke of the heavens and Grandma’s life, spoke of mum and I and spoke of all things that people say at funerals. She paused, looking towards mum, “And now we will hear a few words from her daughter.”
Mum stood up from next to me, letting go of my hand and unclasping the buttons on her coat, she began to pull it off, showing everyone a rainbow wrap dress, the bottom of the skirt shaped in the way of a petal. It shone with the sun as she moved up to the lectern.
Her glassy eyes moved from face to face, before landing on mine, we shared a single tear. I barely heard what she said as her voice wavered, the room sobbed in harmony.
“…We love you, mum rest easy now,” the words released themselves on a stronger note, her hands held the speech tight, slowly trying to calm the shaking. She walked towards me, her eyes trained intensely on mine.
She sat down, her hand held out towards mine, the silks of our dresses flowing over each other. John leant over the back of our chair and spoke softly, “Ya’ know, the two leaves on the petal are you and ya’ mother. I put some of my best work into those leaves. You both look beautiful today. Would do Pol proud.”
“Thank you, John,” said Mum, they shared a mutual ground. Her eyes softened as she placed one hand atop of John’s and squeezed, “Thank you for being there when I couldn’t.”
Her hand didn’t leave mine for the rest of the ceremony. Once it did, my hands stayed warm, and I heard the brief tinkering of a fairy. We locked eyes, her face old and wrinkled with time, her smell of fresh roses, and her dress made of thousands of petals.
“I told you Munchkin, us fairies come out wherever the roses are and we both know I would never tell a Pinocchio.”
By Hailee Pickering