If you’ve not read from the beginning, you can start here.
Chapter 2, A trip down memory lane
Hannah scanned the room for faces she recognised. It had been a number of years since this particular group had assembled but the family unit overall wasn’t terribly big. In addition to family there was a steady stream of new arrivals she’d never met until earlier that day. She found out that her aunt actually had quite a decent group of friends and she wondered why her mother never mentioned this about her sister. There were many questions.
She hardly recognised her twin cousins, Levi and Mason, who had shot up like pine trees. When was it? At least two years, surely. They must be about 14 now, she thought, and she made a mental note to chat with them once the formalities were over. And then there was little Ellie, who would now be 11: a red headed fireball with a heart as big as a lion. She’s so much like me, considered Hannah, as she looked at the young girl, today a shell of herself, wide-eyed and reclusive.
It was understandable – after all, even Hannah found it hard to sit still in the same room she’d been in only a week before. Walking into Mak’s house again so soon, and her no longer being here, was tearing at Hannah’s’ heart. There was so much to know, so much now left unsaid. Hannah quickly swiped at the tears forming and brushing them away, smiled over at Ellie who was trying to navigate sitting on an oversized ottoman without looking like a little girl. Ellie returned her smile while unsuccessfully attempting to cross her legs the way Hannah did and Hannah pulled a face to try and settle her nieces’ nerves. Ellie grinned then realising the event she was at, became wide-eyed and threw her hand to her mouth in concern as she remembered why she was here.
Hannah tried to distract herself by looking around the room. With everyone dressed in somber tones, she noted how comical the backdrop of eclectic furniture, wall hangings, paintings and bric-a-brac seemed. The austerity of the guests assembled, matched by their quiet whispers and gentle hugs, played against the brazenly bold and colourful environment. Hannah knew that Mak had added a request into her will that people attended her funeral wearing bright colours and share in her love for vibrant tones, but despite her best efforts to honour her aunt’s request, she herself had chosen a plum coloured dress, devoid of pattern.
‘I’d love to have known she was back in Sydney’.
Hannah, startled by the sudden question, looked at her brother, a good foot and a half taller than her, with dark brown hair that hung longer than Hannah’s and she wondered how he was managing this scenario. He’d never really been one for funerals or serious gatherings, but it was nice that he’d come.
‘Yes, I was just thinking the same thing. I still don’t get why Mum and Dad never spoke of her leaving all those years ago. I mean, I knew she and Mum had some kind of fall out but it always bothered me that they didn’t ever seem to reconcile,’ she mused.
‘Yeah, I agree. But maybe we should have done more… I dunno. I just feel a bit guilty for not pushing them to work things out. And now she’s gone.’ Flynn replied.
‘I have to say though, being here, in this room – it’s like when we were kids again, isn’t it?’, Asked Hannah. ‘Do you remember nearly breaking that vase? I thought Mak might expel you from her house forever that day!’
‘Hm, the vase… oh yeah! Yes, I do remember. I don’t think I’d ever seen her so upset. I had no idea it was even there. So glad it didn’t break!’ he replied. ‘I can’t work out why they didn’t work things out though.’
‘Mum and Mak? Yeah, it’s such a shame. Did you manage to get anything out of Mum this morning? I saw you guys talking and thought maybe you’d managed to get a little info from her’.
Flynn lent back on the daybed, taking in his own memories of the quirky lounge room, completely unaware of his sister’s wet face – her memories were so raw right now. ‘Nope. She’s like a clam. But it’s weird. When I went back to the house this morning to get my oils, I happened to walk past her bedroom. She was sitting on the bed looking at a box full of stuff and just crying, but there was no noise. Just tears rolling down her face. I felt really uncomfortable, so I just kept moving.’
‘Hm… I haven’t managed to get much out of her either.’ Hannah paused then took a chance to clear the air. ‘Flynn…’
‘Are we okay? I mean, you and me. Are we okay?’
‘Sure we are. What do you mean?’
‘Well, it’s just that… the argument you and mum and dad had, and well… how you left the house. I wasn’t sure. It’s really odd without you there to be honest. Mum and Dad are quiet, and really low. Maybe it’s just all this with Aunty Mak. I don’t know. I just – ‘
‘Han, it’s all okay. It might be weird but the fight was with them, not you. Really, it’s okay. I’m not upset with you at all. It’s just been really awkward since then and I’m not really ready to confront their accusations at the moment. But you and me? You’re my little sister – we’re always going to be tight!’
Hannah tried to smile at her brother. ‘You need to sort this out Flynn. It will only get worse. Maybe you could talk to them today and -‘
‘Sorry sis, not gonna go there right now’. And with that Flynn stood up, tousled his sister’s curly hair and wandered out the back for a cigarette. Hannah flopped back on the daybed, exhausted from the conversation. I wish he’d stop smoking, she thought.
Sitting here was becoming too draining. Hannah’s emotions were reeling from the week that had been so she got up and made her way through the now crowded lounge room in search of the bathroom. Being an introvert, she had managed to drink her weight in punch to keep from talking too much and was now feeling like she was about to burst. Once relieved, she slowly wandered back up the hallway. She could hear her Dad asking everyone to come in so he could thank them for coming to the wake.
Listening to her dad lovingly thank everyone for coming, Hannah leaned against the kitchen door frame. Out of nowhere, her vision began to spin and she thought she might pass out. For just a few moments, wandering down the hall, Hannah had let the idea of being at a wake slip away. Mak was only 64. Only 9 years older than her Mum. It’s just too young, she said to herself. Once the spinning stopped, Hannah continued to take her time, letting her body calm down and surveyed the hall walls, covered with artwork and framed photos of destinations she had so far only dreamt of visiting. In every spare space, skinny wooden shelves proudly displayed trinkets that matched the corresponding photos. It was excessive, but it was Mak to a T.
As she reached the entrance to the house, just opposite the lounge room, she could hear her dad speaking kind words to Mak’s companion, Hudson. What a kind and generous man, she thought, and realised she was thinking this of both Hudson and her father. I hope they’re both coping with all this mess, she said to herself. Pausing at the hall table, she was caught by a small square frame sitting proudly in the centre. Inside was a black and white photo of Grace and Mak. Two sisters, arm in arm, cheek to cheek, eyes gleaming with joy and smiles as radiant as the summer sun.
Under the sister’s embrace was a word that looked to be written with a black sharpie – ‘Us, 1981’. Next to that was a hand drawn love heart. Hannah had always loved this picture and as she picked up the old frame, she noticed that the black paint around the edges was quite worn. It was almost ‘shabby chic’ but it was evident that it had been picked up and held countless times, due to the wear being just in places where fingers had held it.
Suddenly the noise of the house disappeared and Hannah had an overwhelming sense of peace wrap around her like a soft blanket. She held the frame and gazed at these two women who seemed so much a part of each other’s lives, and she couldn’t help but wonder what on earth happened to make them separate for so long.
(c)2016 Miriam E. Miles. All rights reserved. Please respect my copyright as I have worked so hard to bring this story to life and would be devastated to see it plagiarised.