Our Dear Aida
Aida didn’t have much in the means of funeral attire. She riffled through her wardrobe, pulling back drab clothing after drab clothing. She didn’t remember buying so much plaid, but life had a way of getting away from you like that.
Realizing her wardrobe consisted mostly of beige and pastel, Aida settled grudgingly on the pantsuit she bought for an interview in another lifetime. It wasn’t quite black, lurking somewhere around navy, and it was definitely out of style (it was when she bought it) but it was a suit, it was dark and it would have to do. Teaming it with a sensible pair of loafers, she hesitated over her own jewelry.
Aida hadn’t allowed herself many luxuries over the years, money always seemed to run dry before it got to her hands, all she had in the way of jewelry were a few costume pieces, baubles really.
Aida stood in the mirror, holding a silver chain with a pleasant enough (fake) stone to her neck.
“Ugly.” she said with a smirk.
Aida eyed the reflection of her sister in the mirror. Forever 25, sun bleached hair and sparkling eyes, her bow lips curled in a cruel smirk.
Aida’s shoulders sagged. She took the chain away from her neck, throwing it onto the dressing table.
“Much better. Now everyone with have an excellent view of your turkey neck!”
Aida reached up a hand to her neck. Sharon always had a way of getting under her skin, even now 27 years after her death.
Aida ran her lined hands across her face, pulling it one way, pressing it another. Age had not been kind to her. “Where did it all go?” She muttered quietly to herself.
“Squandered down the drain!” Sharon snickered at her.
Aida sighed then stepped out of her room, entering her mother’s space.
Her mother’s room still smelt like her. The light floral perfume she wore still hung in the air. All of her things were as they were left. The dressing table where her mother put hr face off every morning and took it off at night still held all her paints, powders and brushes. Even well into her eighties she took getting ready very seriously. Aida was always scolded for not putting enough effort into her appearance as a girl.
“She wished you were more like me!” Sharon broke in. She sprawled across their mothers bed, resting her head on one of mothers pretty lace pillows.
“I thought I left you in the other room!” Aida snapped.
“Nope wrong! I’m here more than anywhere!” Sharon wasn’t wrong, there were pictures of her all over the house, looking her most angelic. Her heart breaking face hung in every room, but nowhere more than mothers room. There were pictures of Sharon on the wall in big, decorative frames, a small framed picture of her on the dressing table and a photo album bursting with Sharon in one of the draws.
“And not one of you!” Sharron’s cruel cat grin slinked across her face.
“Oh shut up! And get off that, mother would hate it!” Aida snatched the cushion out from under Sharon’s elbows, dusted it off and placed it delicately back at the head of the bed.
“Ever the matron.” Sharon drawled.
Aida turned from her sister, and went back to the dresser.
“Oooh! Going through mummy’s jewlery box, naughty girl!” Sharon teased. “Do you remember when we used to ‘borrow’ her jewlery, she’d get so mad when she found out!”
“No, I don’t remember that Sharon, but I do remember YOU stealing from mother and blaming me when you got caught.” Aida said passively, not looking up from the jewlery.
“All innocent fun!” Sharon grinned.
God even her teeth are perfect. Sharon thought sourly to herself.
“Twice daily brushing and a lil’ floss now and then go along way” Sharon said, poking her.
“How could I not.” Sharon shrugged.
Resisting the temptation to check her teeth in the mirror, Aida picked out a locket of their mothers and held it to her neck in the mirror.
“Guess who’s picture is in there.” Sharon purred.
Aida dropped the locket.
Grabbing an elegant pearl necklace Aida hurried out of her mothers room, leaving the many radiant faces of her sister behind her.
In the run up to the funeral Aida was kept on her feet, organizing this and that, taking calls. She was beginning to get a sick taste in her mouth at the words ‘sorry for your loss.’ they came up too much at a time like this. Who knew flowers were so difficult to organize? And the caterers! Oh! If she had known it would be this bloody difficult for a company (who was being paid hundreds of pounds mind you!) to put on a spread she would have made some bastard sausage rolls herself!
“You love it!” Sharon smirked, standing over her while she took yet another call (‘sorry for your loss.’)
“It’s mother’s funeral tomorrow can’t you say one nice thing to me!” Aida snapped, hanging up the phone.
“You needn't worry about mother anymore, she’s at peace.”
Aida visibly relaxed, some of the tension leaving her body.
“Because I’m looking after her now and I’m doing a much better job!” The vindication was back.
Aida poured herself a glass of wine and went up to bed.
Aida couldn’t sleep and sat up all night, messaging her man. (well he wasn't her man, but that was how she was coming to think of him) They had yet to meet in person. Computers weren’t really her thing, but on a whim a few months back she had made a profile on a dating site. She felt so embarrassed at first it took her more than a week to actually use the thing. It felt like forever until she got a message from anyone, then Fred dropped her a hello and they had been talking ever since. Night after night she poured her heart out to this man and he kept giving her more.
“It’s not you he loves!” Sharon hissed in her ear.
Aida hunched over her keyboard, keeping her eyes focused on the screen, on Fred’s lovely words.
“How humiliating! Pretending to be your sister to get laid!” Sharron crowed “The minute he sets eyes on you he’ll run a mile!”
Looking at her profile Aida regretted the rash decision she had made to put in her sister’s name and stories instead of her own. But it was too late now.
“Look at you, night before your mother’s funeral, are you mourning? Crying yourself to sleep? Recalling fond memories? No, you’re flirting wearing my skin!”
“Shut up Sharron!” Aida snarled, hurling her empty wine glass in the direction of her sister. It shattered against the wall.
“He wants me, not you!” Sharron said cruelly.
“It’s not true!” Aida sobbed.
“For the love of god never meet him, you’ll only disappoint!”
“Go away!” Aida cried.
Sharron left Aida with her tears and the open chat box with the little picture of Fred’s smiling face. Smiling for Sharron.
The eulogy was good. Aida delivered it with just enough tiredness and grief tinging her voice and face to be sorrowful enough for their families approval, but not so much that it would make anyone uncomfortable. She managed to get through it with minimum help from Sharon too, which she was grateful for.
It was open casket, just as mother had asked for, and her make up was perfect. (Cost an arm and a leg too so it better had).
“Do I detect a little resentment?” Sharon quipped from the pew behind her.
Aida gritted her teeth and focused on getting through the next hymn and saying ‘amen’ in the right places.
When the final hymn was sung and the organ played out, Aida walked up to the casket to pay her dear mother her last respects. This will be the last time I see her face outside of photographs. I must memorize every part.
Stood over her fragile mother’s coffin (£953 solid wood) Aida looked into her dear mother’s face and saw her own.
She was lying dead in the coffin, greasy hair combed into a semblance of style, puffy eyes with dark circles and swollen flabby lips. Her skin was grey and her jaw tense and it was definitely her and she was dead.
Aida gasped, clutching her chest. She hurried away from her mothers side, past her family and outside, towards fresh air.
Aida panted, catching her breath away from prying eyes. Her chest heaved and she felt the taste of vomit in her mouth.
“Live fast and leave a pretty corpse. From where I sit you’re 0/2” Sharon said cattily.
“I’m not dead, I’m not dead.” Aida panted. She felt faint.
“Are you sure?” Sharon looked her up and down.
Aida needed to get home, get on her computer and speak to Fred. Fred would make her feel better. But first the wake and all her family who were expecting her.
“That’s right, the house will be full for hours. Possibly all night. No time to talk to lovely Freddy. What a shame.” the sarcasm positively dripped from Sharon.
“I just need to get through it.” Aida said to herself, beginning to stand straighter.
“Ever the dutiful daughter.” Sharon said dryly.
The wake was just bearable. Aida nodded and gave small smiles at every story about (and compliment aimed at) her mother. She gritted her teeth at every pat on the arm and offers of phone calls, y’know seeing as she’s on her own now. Aida couldn’t bear it and began telling people that she was seeing someone and it was serious, so although she appreciated their kind gestures she would definitely, absolutely 100% be okay. They were all surprised, and mildly pleased for her (‘You must bring him around!’), before talking about themselves or her mother some more.
When the final distant relation was shooed out the door, Aida abandoned the mess downstairs of paper plates and plastic cups with pearl pink lipstick stains on the rim, and practically ran to her room, tapping her fingers impatiently while she waited for the computer to boot.
“Hmm. I wonder what Fred thinks of you two becoming serious?” Sharon mused from the end of her bed.
“I had to say something to shut them up.” Aida reasoned, somewhat tetchily.
“Poor Aida, so upset that no one is there for her, despite pushing away every offer!” Sharon mocked.
The computer finally booted and Aida logged onto the site. There he was, lovely Fred, waiting in her inbox.
“Wake boarding?!” Sharon snorted. “That’s where you’re telling him you were at today?”
“I’m not sad when I’m with Fred, I’m happy and fun – that’s what he needs me to be!”
“What he needs?” Right.”
Aida exchanged messaged with Fred for hours, each Bing back and forth lighting up an addiction receptor in her brain. The three dots before his messages driving her insane with impatience.
Then Fred sent her something that made her recoil.
‘I think there’s something here between us. Lets meet.’
Aida sat staring at those nine terrifying words, panic rising within her.
“What’s the excuse this time sis? Me and mummy aren’t here anymore right? Technically you’re free to do whatever you want.”
“It was never an excuse, you don’t know! You weren’t here, you never were! You were off with some boy or-or dead!
You didn’t know what it was like, staying stuck in this boring town, looking after mother, you didn’t stick around long enough to know! You left me!”
Sharon stood over her, tall and beautiful and everything Aida wasn’t. “I lived my life, without apology! You wasted yours!”
“It wasn’t a waste looking after mother, it was a responsibility and bloody hard work! You wouldn’t know anything about that! You’re so selfish and irresponsible, I had to do everything! I never had fun!” Aida was red in the face, flushed with anger.
“Always the martyr aren’t you Aida? Don’t you ever get tired of swallowing your own crap! Was it me who scrapped your Uni application? Who ended things with the only boy who ever loved you? Who moved you back home after six months in the city when ‘city life’ didn’t agree with you? Who ripped up your paintings after you decided you were a terrible painter who should never touch water colours again? Or was it mum? Did mum do all that to you? Did mum lock you at the top of a tall tower and throw away the key? Did she?”
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Aida screamed.
Sharon grabbed Aida by the shoulders forcing her to look at her “You leapt at the chance to care for mum! It gave you the perfect excuse to never go anywhere, do anything, be anyone! You could just fail over and over without anyone ever knowing! Leaving the impression that you were good and noble when really you’re just a coward!”
Aida shoved Sharon off of her. “You’re wrong! I-I know you’re wrong!”
“And yet you hesitate!”
“I’ll show you!”
Aida sat at the computer and typed out a quick reply. She hit enter.
Aida screamed at an empty room.
The day Aida was supposed to meet Fred came and went. As did the bing bong messages he sent her that used to fill her heart with joy. Now Aida was only filled with dread by the sound.
“Didn’t take long.” Sharon was back.
“He would only have been dissapointed.” Aida said flatly.
“Well who wouldn’t be when they’re expecting me and they get you!” Sharon sneered.
“I hate you.”
“You hate me, and yourself.”
Aida looked at the pile of messages dating back to Wednesday sitting I her inbox. “Maybe he’ll understand?” Aida said hesitantly.
Sharon didn’t even bother to reply.
“You haven’t been to mum’s grave yet.”
Aida was silent.
“But you’ve checked you’re inbox… 117 times.” The judgment filled the room.
“When are you going to pack mum’s things? You can’t just become a hoarder, that’s too tragic!
And when are you going to sell the house? This place is too big for you.
And when are you going to get a cat? Every distinguished, independent woman has a cat.”
It just kept coming. Sharon really wouldn’t leave her alone today.
“Answer your sister!”
Aida’s mother stood in her room, clear as day. Her same powdered face and slightly too youthful dress sense and curly grey hair and the scrunchy expression she wore when something (or someone) was really getting on her nerves.
Sharon’s cat grin was back in full force.
“Why haven’t you visited my grave Aida, I waited for you!”
“Messing around with boys on computers when you’ve got things to be getting on with! And you call yourself the responsible one!” Despite being 4ft11, Aida’s mother towered over her, filling the entire room.
“I’m sorry mum, I’ll do it, I promise!” Tears streamed down Aida’s face.
“Words won’t put flowers on my grave!” Mum snarled.
“Hypocrite!” Sharon cried, they both crowded around her now.
“No! I’m not! I’m just human, I’m just a person” Aida sobbed in the face of the two women who meant the most to her (and took the most from her).
They grabbed hold of her arms.
“Act like your shit doesn’t stink!”
“You wished we were dead… now we are!”
The last words from her mother stung like a slap.
“Let me go!” Aida cried, struggling against their grip, but they hung on like harpies, digging clawed hands into her arms. “You’re hurting me!”
“Good, you deserve it!” They cackled.
Aida struggled, trying to pull away, but there was nowhere to go, they were the room.
Cackling, Aida’s mother and Sharon ripped her apart.
All of Aida’s hurt, her frustration, her anguish, all of her guilt and fear, her hesitation, her resentment and jealousy and self belittlement littered the floor.
“What a mess!” Aida’s mother sniffed.
“I’ll get the dustpan.” Sharon said, bored.