The Woman in Red

Since I have an exam tomorrow, and I recently rediscovered some short stories (that still need a lot of extra work – don’t get me wrong!) on my laptop, I’ve decided to wimp out of actually writing anything and simultaneously give you all a break in the form of a story.

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“So sorry dear. How is your mother?”

My reply is the same each time. “Thank you for coming. She’s well, thank you.” We repeat this over and over and over. Shaking the damp and wrinkled hands, faces scrunched with pity. The procession marches on, an sea of black upon which crumpled parchment faces float from one wave to the next. My throat is dry. A damp patch has begun to grow in the small of my back, though the air is seasonably cool. ‘A perfect late autumn day for a funeral’ as one woman says, deviating from the script. Yeah thanks lady, that’s a great comfort to us all. Thank goodness he died at the right time to allow us to make use of such brilliant burying weather. I keep the mask firmly in place and regurgitate my lines; no need for both of us to stray from the path.

Where is she?

I have been waiting for the woman in red to walk through the door, her coat a beacon, her chin tilted arrogantly; to shake my hand, to follow the script. She’s already left it once today, I cannot fathom she will again. I hide my left hand in the heavy folds of my skirt, twist my ring and shake another hand.

“Thank you for coming. She’s well, thank you.”

I first noticed her when I took my place at the lectern, paper clutched in my hand. I was shaking a little. Public speaking isn’t really my thing, especially in front of this sort of crowd, on a day like this. But then I saw her, standing alone out the back, a splash of blood amongst the crows. Who the hell wears red to a funeral? I think that’s in an etiquette book somewhere as a thing you definitely don’t do. I had never seen her before, which was the norm in this gathering. But she wasn’t. The answer is no one. No one wears red to a funeral unless it’s to say something. I flick through my mental rolodex as I stand there twisting my ring, shaking yet another hand.

“Thank you for coming. She’s well, thank you.”

She just stood there, staring right at me, her left hand flickering up to her breast pocket. Then away. Then back again. There’s something not right about all of this. I twist the ring faster; sweat beads on my forehead.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me a moment.”

I can hear Mrs Dowd behind me, complaining loudly as I fight my way to the door, breath rattling in my chest. She’s not outside either. I am so sure the red woman will be here. Somewhere. I circle around the house, the autumn winds flattening my skirts against my legs, cooling the sweat on my back. A perfect day for a funeral.

The red coat hangs from the back door, fluttering from the breeze. It is still warm from her skin.

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— Ana.

[Images: original artwork by Pete Rumney]

Comments

5
  1. Oh wow, I love this. You capture her state of mind and the repeated lines work perfectly, but they also give it a kind of poetic quality which makes reading it a real joy. Great ending too.

    • Thanks Jac! I was like… Yeah, I’m happy enough with where this is at for the moment (since I don’t have any ‘I’m too busy and I need a blog post’ posts ready right now :p )

  2. Haha, I have a secret stash of short fiction for just such occasions.

  3. Interesting read. Thanks for the visit & WELCOME.

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