If you’ve not read from the beginning, you can start here.
Chapter 3, Scene 1
It rained from Friday night until Monday morning. After such a massive week, no one really wanted to go out anyway, and the mood was as damp as the house. Even Hannah’s Moodle, Shelby, seemed to drag herself around, plopping down on rugs and resting her cute little head on people’s feet in an attempt to help lighten the atmosphere.
Mum busied herself with making a big pot of stew and Dad made sure that the fire kept burning. Hannah’s parents had a great relationship with her grandparents and so staying together over the weekend was not particularly hard but trying to stay happy after the week they had all just experienced, was becoming more and more difficult as the weekend continued. As cliched as it may sound, the days wore on as if they were wearing their own wet blankets and Hannah resigned herself to long stints of reading, hot tea and personal journalling. But even with these enjoyable distractions, Hannah would be brought back to reality as she heard tears and soft soothing voices. This occurred every couple of hours and the tension was continuing to build. By the time Sunday morning came around, everybody was gearing up to go to church just have something different to focus on.
Normally Hannah would head off to church by herself in her much loved ’69 Countryman but today she really felt like she should stick around and do the whole family thing. Mum and Dad took off in their car and Hannah offered to go with her grandparents in theirs. She was delighted when Pop suggested that they go in her mini and they all squished in, relieved for the change in topic and the novelty of heading off to church in such a little car like a pack of clowns.
Being a small church community, the Barnett’s were one of the founding families and as such, had developed a strong knit group of friends who did everything together, cheering each other on and supporting each other through difficult times. This included a beautiful flower arrangement sent to the house on Thursday and one of those big cards signed by practically every member of the church. Hannah loved this community – they were as much family as her actual family, and seeing them and being hugged by those loving arms was something that she was really looking forward to today.
Church had always been a foundational part of Hannah’s life. Having faith in God had helped her through many different experiences and challenges over the years and she felt such peace when she walked through the doors. As the music began, Hannah let herself be immersed in the familiar and safe environment, allowing tears to roll down her cheeks as she felt God’s presence wash over her, comforting her and bringing her peace. It wasn’t long before some of those arms she loved were around her shoulders and as she opened her eyes she realised that a number of other people were standing around her parents and grandparents, holding them up and pouring love over them as well.
This is what family is all about, thought Hannah and a part of her heart ached as she realised that Flynn was not standing with them today. He’d not attended church for over a year and Hannah could see the stress in her mother’s and father’s eyes as they tried to encourage him to surround himself with positive and supportive people. She just wished that he could receive this kind of empowerment from others instead of the wild and controversial group of friends he had picked up with again. But he was not interested in church or God or any of this ‘stuff’ as he called it, and so all Hannah could do was continue to pray for him and trust that God knew what Flynn needed, even if she didn’t.
Once the service was over, Hannah wandered away from the well wishers, meandering down the well trodden path that led to the covered pergola. Despite the inclement weather, she knew that the love seat would be dried off and carefully checked for spider webs, thanks to Sam, who’d been doing maintenance on the building and surrounds since it was built in 1985. And, as predicted, she found the seat ready for contemplation and she made herself comfortable. Close enough to be found, but private enough to have a few minutes to herself. She was in the middle of her reverie when she was interrupted by a familiar voice.
“I thought I’d find you here.” Hannah looked up to respond but she already knew who it was. Paige, her best friend since kindergarten. They’d met on the swing set and Paige challenged Hannah to swing higher until she actually fell off. Hannah would never forget the look on Paige’s face when she rushed over to find out if she was hurt and knew right then and there that this would be a forever friendship.
“Oh, hi Paige, yep I’m as predictable as always. How have you been?”
“How have I been? Really? Hannah, I think the question should be how are you? I know it’s only been a few days, but I was really worried about you on Friday. I thought about calling you yesterday, but then my dad suggested that your family might need some space so I held off.”
Hannah looked at her friend, and motioned for her to sit next to her on the old seat. She plopped herself down on the cold hard slats like they were a comfy couch. Paige had been her best friend for 18 years and she knew Hannah. She knew what a raised eyebrow meant and what a shoulder slump was for and Paige was one of those people who didn’t let sleeping dogs lie. If she thought something was wrong, she would do what she had to do to get to the bottom of it. Hannah really admired this about Paige and often felt a little bit envious of her confidence.
Paige took Hannah’s hand and squeezed it just enough that Hannah knew she wasn’t going to give up. Hannah looked back at her friend and met her gaze steadily. “I’m fine Paige. Really, I am. Your text messages were really supportive and that’s just what I needed at the time. It’s just been such a bizarre week, especially considering I had no idea that my aunt was even sick in the first place.”
“That’s true’, said Paige. ‘I thought that your mum and your Auntie hadn’t seen each other for years.”
“No, they hadn’t”, said Hannah. ” And what’s weird is that Mum just won’t open up. I tried a couple of times over the weekend but she’s either a stone or a pool of liquid that only Nan seems to be able to mop up. And Mak left me this box-”
“A box? Now this sounds intriguing! Tell me more Han!”
“Um, well, it’s really odd. Nan gave it to me after the funeral, when everyone else had gone. She said Mak left it for me. That there are answers in it. But I just don’t understand why she wouldn’t want Mum to have it instead. I feel kind of guilty that it’s tucked away under my bed and Mum doesn’t even know about it.”
“So what’s inside it?”
“I have no idea.”
Paige looked at her friend in total disbelief. “Are you serious? This is so exciting! Well, it’s terrible that your aunt passed, of course, but this is a genuine mystery!”
Hannah couldn’t help but laugh a little. Paige was a mystery nut and loved to read anything from The Famous Five books her parents gave her when she was eight, to the volumes of Mary Higgins Clark mysteries lining her shelves like trophies.
Hannah let herself fall further back into the seat and Paige realised that perhaps this conversation could wait for another time. Sitting beside her bestie, she quietly prodded. “Han, I’m sorry. I got carried away. That can wait. Is there anything else I can do to help?”
Hannah just stared at the ground, the tears beginning to well up again. Taking a deep breath, she exhaled shakily and shook her head. “Thanks Paige. I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I really appreciate your asking.”
The silence was unexpectedly awkward so Paige stood up, brushing off her Cue pants just for something to do. “Okay, well as long as you are sure you’re okay… I’m meeting Ainsley for coffee in half an hour, so I better get a move on. I am here when you’re up to talking, about anything, okay?”
Hannah stood up to hug her friend. “Okay, I promise we’ll talk. I’d better get moving too. I think we are taking Nan and Pop out for lunch before they head back home. Say hi to Ainsley for me, won’t you?”
“I will. I think she’s met a new man. Can’t wait to hear about that too!”
“Wow that sounds awesome. She really deserves a great guy. I can’t wait to hear the goss tomorrow.”
Paige locked her arm into Hannah’s as they walked toward the carpark. “Are you actually coming to work tomorrow? I thought you might take a few more days off.”
“No, no point dillydallying around. Plus the house is becoming rather gloomy.”
“Fair enough. Well then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With that, Paige squeezed Hannah with one last hug, and Hannah thought to herself how blessed she was to have such a good friend. She would be missing the regular coffee date with Ainsley not to mention the goss as well, but family comes first, as they say. She couldn’t see her family in amongst the cars and so went back into the building to find them.
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(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.