“I wish I could have told her more. Explain better why she was here.”
Dad takes his steamy glasses off and wipes them, puts them back on.
His grief reminds me that he is still someone’s little boy, always will be.
His guilt reminds me of his hard choice, one I might need to make one day. Like him, I don’t live near my parents.
I rest my head on his shoulder, I don’t know what to say.
“You can go in now.” The funeral director’s face is naturally kind and grave, years of practice for sure. She extends condolences in a sun-soaked southern accent that there is no taming.
Gran looks small, nestled against the shiny ruffle lining the coffin. She’s wearing her purple dress. They had to tape her mouth shut, Dad says, and I wish I never knew that.
I wonder if she’s wearing shoes. Flip-flops maybe? Giggles and shame rise in my throat at the incongruous thought.
We say goodbye, I stroke the shiny wood next to her name plaque, and we set off to the church.
“We’re bloody late, they left too late, they don’t do things quickly in Provence, damn, there’s not going to be any parking.”
I put my hand on his arm, hoping it’ll get him to lay off the gas pedal, notice how white his knuckles have gone on the steering wheel.
I tell him that you can’t overtake a hearse, really, and that they won’t start without us.
We park far, walk quickly, squinting, smoothing creases.
When we get there, everyone is already gathered. We go around the group whispering hellos, kissing every cheek. The coffin awaits out front, the name plaque glistening bright, those dates meaning everything and nothing.
The smell of aniseed and lavender waltzes along with gusts of wind, the little church’s bright orange tiled roof bleeds into the cloudless sky.
The organ starts and we follow the coffin inside the incense-fogged church, dazed by the sudden absence of light; colourful dots dance before our eyes, disappearing before they can ever be full glimpsed, a strong impression soon fading away into a shapeless memory.
B F Jones is French and lives in the UK. She has stories in various UK and US online publications. Her debut collection, The Fabric of Tombstones, was released in April 2020.
Image via Unsplash.