We pulled up to the church. Well, not a church in the traditional sense, but a free-standing chapel used by nuns when there’d been a convent here during the 1960s. Today, it didn’t look like a solemn place of worship but a bag of fairy floss you indulged in when the circus came to town. A jumble of balloons covered the sandstone exterior: hot, blush, pale, baby, fuchsia. Their latex bellies bucking in erratic unison. Every hue of pink dancing in the wind.
‘You said you were going to a funeral.’ The Uber driver said taking in the festivities.
‘I am,’ I sighed.
An electric shock bit my fingers on the metal handle. I winced and stepped out. A playful breeze whipped up my hair before flicking it over my eyes. I brushed it away. Using my palm to stop my ironed hair resembling an abandoned bird’s nest, I watched people laugh as they milled around sipping—what? Champagne?
Stella always knew how to have a good time, I thought as I reached under my skirt to adjust the petticoat now stuck to my nylon black stockings. Bloody August winds and its static electricity.
I tottered down the cobbled path concentrating on my balance. I glimpsed at my watch. Late. Always late. The last of the guests funnelling into the chapel. A kaleidoscope of colour being sucked in through the double wooden doors.
I was the only one in black.
I entered to Pharell William’s ‘Happy’. A montage of images moved slowly across a large screen suspended from the ceiling. A visual reminder of Stella’s free-spirited life. She had warned us. This would be a celebration.
‘Welcome to Stella’s final goodbye,’ one of her friends said as she cut a piece of cake and handed it to me. ‘Now feel free to take as many photos as you want. Don’t forget, its hashtag stellalovesaparty,’ she said in a voice reserved for theme park attendants.
‘Yes, she does … did.’ I corrected.
I scan the crowd. Stella was popular. I caught my mother waving at me. A spot waiting for me between her and Auntie Sasha. I walked down the aisle smiling at people as they scattered their condolences at me like confetti.
The white casket, flanked by two fragrant bouquets, lay at the centre, silver ribbons cascading over the side. An assortment of flowers sat underneath, their colour bursting against the worn sandstone floor. I stare at Stella’s portrait and my heart plummets to my feet. I’m going to miss her. Her life, her joie de vivre, her love, her uncensored craziness. A zaniness she turned up full bore when meeting a new boyfriend. It was her way of measuring their suitability. If they could handle Stella, then they were good enough for me.
‘Nicky,’ my mum kisses me on the cheek as I sit down. ‘Do you need a comb? Your hair looks like an abandoned bird’s nest.’
‘Hi Mum,’ I ignore the comment. ‘How are you doing?’
‘Just fine.’ She hands me a pair of small scissors.
‘What are these for?’
She glanced at the coffin. ‘After the service, as we say our goodbyes, we cut a ribbon. There’s an affirmation pinned at the end.’
I smile at the photo of Stella. The warm smile, crinkling her grey eyes, deepening my love for her. She knew how to deal with life. Nanna’s last words of wisdom.
Valerie is a secondary English teacher and a writer. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and daughter, after moving from Sydney three years ago. Valerie is currently completing a Master of Letters in Creative Writing and writing her first novel. She is the daughter of Italian migrants and enjoys writing short stories that have an Italian cultural and family focus. Her dog Mischa and cats, Daisy and Miss Lilly, are her writing companions. Valerie loves reading a wide range of genres. You will always find a novel and notebook filled with ideas and observations, tucked away in her handbag. She believes in a balanced and serene life to nourish the mind and body. Valerie is an advocate for the environment and for living a more sustainable life.