Brenda and Jack had been the first to leave the funeral and their experience had left them feeling bewildered and sad.
“That’s the first part of the day over with then,” remarked an unusually downcast Jack.
“Hopefully the worse part,” Brenda replied, “as that was a dreadfully horrible experience.”
“Yes, I never thought it would be quite like that.”
They had arrived at the rather posh looking restaurant, privately hired for the wake. The car park was completely empty, and the doors to the restaurant locked.
“I’m glad we’ll never have to go through that experience ever again.” Brenda’s quivering voice portrayed her sadness.
“Yes, to see our little Sarah weeping away like that. The poor thing”
“I know. It was so upsetting to see her, but she was made far worse by that insensitive vicar,” her voice turned to indignant, “why did he have to mention the gory details of the crash? He needn’t have mentioned it at all.”
“Typical. Then to play that awful piece of music during the time of reflection.”
“I chose that,” snapped Brenda, “it’s Beethoven’s funeral march. I thought it was very fitting. I decided on it a long time ago.”
“It just made Sarah cry even more.”
A smart looking woman arrived to unlock the doors. She was followed by a tall overweight man, who hurriedly put on his chef’s whites and set about his tasks. Jack said hello to the woman, but she simply walked straight by him and turned on the lights. With the sudden glare his eyes winced as though he’d left a long dark tunnel and come out into the brightness of a sunlit day. The woman readied herself for the guests to arrive and shortly a couple of well-dressed waitresses arrived.
The restaurant had been laid out earlier that morning. There were far more tables and chairs than would be needed but then the place wasn’t normally used for this kind of function. Each table was laid with a crisp white cloth, and places set with all that was necessary for a three-course meal, each place set with a fine-looking crystal wine glass. Plenty of additional napkins were available for tearful guests. There was a white posy of flowers on each table with a large vase of red and white tulips on the main table.
Brenda walked over to these, “Ahh, our favourite flowers.”
“No. Your favourite flowers! This place must have cost a fortune to hire.”
“The sort of place I would have loved to have dined at, only you were too much of a cheapskate to consider it. Perhaps you never thought I was worth it?”
Jack ignored Brenda’s comment and wandered over to the window to see friends and family arriving. Sarah arrived first accompanied by her aunt, followed by the rest of the party. How sad everyone looked thought Jack. Men in black suits and the women mainly wearing black or dark dresses walking along like models in a fashion parade, still trying to outdo each other for the best dressed.
“The families are arriving” he said moving back to stand next to Brenda.
Friends and families filed in leaving overcoats, hats, scarfs, bags, umbrellas, even a pair of wellies, with the woman proprietor in the foyer. She tried to mimic the sad faces of those attending only speaking in a low soft voice to greet them. Sarah’s aunt motioned her towards the top table, where they were joined by her uncle and two cousins. Sarah had ceased crying though her eyes were still wet.
Brenda went to nudge Jack but made no contact with him, “O look, here comes that bloody Alice, what a cheek! Spends all her life ignoring our family and now has the audacity to show up.”
Jack felt a little flustered as his mind wandered back to the time when he’d had a fling with Alice. It was not long after he had married Brenda, but they had kept it a secret from her.
“I must admit I didn’t expect her.”
The guests began to take their places and wine was served, or a fruit juice for the children and those adults not drinking alcohol. Both Brenda and Jack wandered over and stood in front of the open fronted kitchen close to the table where Alice was sitting. Food the chef was preparing began to arouse their senses. The smell of meats sizzling on a hot plate awoke memories of a woodland barbeque they had recently hosted. The crackling sounds like twigs and branches snapping beneath their feet. Conversations began to flow amongst the guests, and it was as though Brenda and Jack could hear all their chatter, like a flock of sparrows all chirping at the same time. Yet it all made sense. Alice, now well into her fifties, was still the flirty woman Jack remembered from his younger days, only now she wore far more makeup and spoke with a loud shrieking voice like a piece of chalk drawn across a teacher’s blackboard. She was chatting to a colleague from Jack’s workplace, and it wasn’t long before she confessed to this chap that she’d had an affair with Jack.
“What,” stormed Brenda in a loud voice, “you had a fling with Alice? Alice! How could you?”
No-one in the room seemed to have noticed Brenda’s outburst and simply carried on eating their starter that had just been served to them.
“You bloody, bloody,” but words seemed to have escaped her.
“It was just a fling,” but no sooner had he said those words when Brenda overheard Alice say that the affair had lasted a year.
“Dear, it meant nothing to me. It was just sex. I never had feelings for her. Not like I had for you.”
“Just sex. Just sex.”
“You never seemed interested in me especially after Sarah was born.”
“I wasn’t interested in sex with you before Sarah was born.”
“Don’t you dear me.” Then in a moment her anger turned into a laugh. Then another laugh. Then a louder laugh until she suddenly stopped.
“You think you were so smart keeping it from me. You could have chosen someone better than that tart. Although thinking about it, you wouldn’t have been able to get anyone better. Well, I had an affair too.”
Jack thought Brenda was just saying that to cover up her shock and indignation.
“Don’t you want to know who with?”
The main course was now being served. Everyone carried on as though they were unaware of Brenda and Jack’s argument, either that or too embarrassed. It was strange thought Jack.
“No, I don’t want to know.” He did really!
“When you leave here perhaps you should look up your sister.” Brenda spoke with an air of supremacy as though she had got one back over him.
“What my.” She didn’t let him finish.
“Yes, your,” she purposely left a blank in her sentence,
“Yes, your………. Sister.”
“No,” said Jack his thoughts remembering back to a time when Brenda and his sister did seem to spend a lot of time together.
“O yes Jack, you go and ask your sister all about it.”
“I wouldn’t know where to find her.”
Brenda turned and walked towards the exit and with a smirk on her face and loud enough for Jack to hear turned and said, “Well, you have all of eternity to look for her. I’m off to haunt that bitch who lived over the road from us.”
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