The cemetery was placed on a hill that overlooked a small town. Meaning you could see main street, it’s shops, and that’s about it. The most exciting view was that of the Pacific Ocean. Most days, if the wind prevailed, the waters were flat. At the moment white caps decorated the saltwater as it splashed into rocks and small crabbing boats.
And if you were on main street you could also see the cemetery. Today, if you were at the post office and looked east and slightly up, you could observe a funeral taking place. Nothing quite out of the ordinary was happening for this solemn ceremony. A small gathering darned in black clothes watched as the coffin slowly entered the earth.
“Maybe we shouldn't have come, we’ve never even met this person before.” A woman whispered this to the other woman beside her. She was slightly taller than her partner, her black hair was long, straight, and had a difficult time staying in one place because of the wind.
“It just felt like the right thing to do, didn’t it?” The shorter woman replied even quieter. She wasn’t very much shorter, but with her partner being almost six foot, this made the two stick out in the crowd of mourners (other than the fact they weren’t wearing black clothes). Her brown hair was curly, half curl/half friz, and was cut at the shoulders. She was more angular than the woman by her with a sharp jaw, defined cheekbones, and a bit skinner.
“We should leave before they’re done with the grave.” Said the taller woman.
“That’s a bit dodgy, don’t you think?”
“This whole thing is dodgy, now come on Rain!” The worried woman grabbed Rain by the elbow and backed away from the funeral.
*** Earlier that day***
Mia sat with her legs crossed in the coffee shop, waiting for her date. She hadn’t ordered anything yet because she didn’t want to appear rude, or bring attention to the fact she had been waiting for her date for ten minutes.
Ten minutes really isn’t that late, she thought, but maybe she changed her mind and didn’t tell me. Or it could be the fact I choose the time of the date to be 10:30 in the morning.
Mia’s hands began to perspire. She wiped them across her light washed levi jeans and attempted to keep her right leg from shaking. A server came to ask if she wanted a refill of her water. As she was saying yes the front door chimed open. And there was Rain.
Although it was gloomy out she wore a colorful skirt, tights, boots, with a Fleetwood Mac band tee and fleece lined jean jacket to finish the outfit. She scanned the room with a calm demeanor about her. She locked eyes with Mia and made her way over.
Mia got up from where she was sitting and embraced Rain.
“Hey, you’re as tall as you said you were.” Rain smiled as she said this.
Mia laughed, “Well, only men lie about their height on dating apps.”
After this they introduced themselves more in depth, covering some similar topics as they did online: hometown, work, family, and hobbies. Mia had been born and raised in the city of San Francisco, which is where they were currently. Her mother and father started a business appraising houses and now had a very impressive house for themselves. She explained to Rain how busy her parents were growing up, how she was the oldest amongst four and became more of a live-in nanny. Rain talked about growing up hours north of the city. How she always wanted to be from here because her hometown was so small and lacked the big city luster. So it was no question of where she would go to college, San Francisco State.
Rain was talking about her hobby of answering help wanted ads from the newspaper when the server came with their lattes.
“I just- it’s fun? I feel like there could be more things to do with your free time.” Mia said looking down at her muddled latte art.
“Hm I’ve decided that I’m offended at that statement. What are your hobbies then?” Asked Rain in a playful manner.
“Oh well now you’re going to be more offended...I walk dogs.”
“That’s not a hobby! That has to be considered more of a side job.”
“Ok,” Mia said, “let’s go on one of your help wanted adventures. Show me the ropes.”
Rain looked around and spotted a newspaper stand. She got up to get a paper when she spotted a familiar looking newspaper on a table a couple of feet away. The table looked deserted so she swiped the paper.
“We’re in luck!” Rain came back to the table and showed Mia how the paper was weirdly enough from a town close to where she grew up. She told Mia to pick an ad.
Please Help An
Elderly Woman Move
An Expensive China Set
Mia circled the ad, “So you would look at this and think…’OOoOooO fun!’”
“Exactly.” Rain smiled. She wondered who this person could be, maybe she knew her, and got her cell phone from her purse.
“This is wild.” Mia said as they parked outside of a random house a couple hours north of the city. It wasn’t completely random though. Rain had convinced her to take the ad and they drove in her own beat up Subaru outback for the road trip. On the way they talked more about their upbringings, how hard it was for Mia to be a kid while helping raise her siblings. How Rain suffered through many awkward and disappointing relationships with men before she started dating women, and how she hasn’t come out to her parents yet.
“First date and already made it home with me.” Rain said this as she shut off the engine. She grew up in a cluster of small towns, each resembling each other in their daily functions, differing in the particular people that lived there. But if one town didn’t have a specific store, the one down the road did. They were all rivals in high school sports, rooting against each other in their county conference, and for each other in state competitions. Rain tended to clump them together and told people she was from the biggest town, since no one knew where she was talking about anyway.
Mia glowed after hearing her say this but still expressed her concern about showing up to a strangers house, “She was alright in the head when you talked to her? Not-” Mia rotated her index finger in a circle by her head.”
Rain laughed, “She sounded perfectly normal on the phone.”
Mia shrugged and opened her door. Despite her knowing that she was gay her whole life this was her first date with a woman. She used to fantasize about it all the time growing up, and still does. None of her fantasies ended up quite like this. She thought that was a good thing. Rain seemed comfortable with herself and the world around her and Mia liked that. Mia sought out just that as she scrolled on the dating app. A lot of the pictures of the various women seemed confident, always pretty, but not all pulled her interest the way Rain’s pictures and bio did. Her pictures always showed her in motion: on a carousel, climbing a tree, or at a poetry reading, on stage bright and center. Her bio read something like:
Looking for the girl of your dreams?? Look no further. I love adventure,
good conversation, and you’ll have to swipe right to find out the rest ;)
And when Mia swiped right she was surprised to see that they matched. Her heart didn’t feel like it went back to it’s normal pace since then.
“Just think of the good deed we’re doing.” Rain hooked arms with her date and started up the stairs.
“If we’re murdered it’s on you.”
The two women found themselves in an old Victorian house. A strange sight to see in a town that had a majority of mid-century modern homes. A woman in her eighties answered the door and welcomed them in. While her movements were slow her voice was energetic. She showed them around her home, every piece of furniture had a hand crochet quilt or large doily. The main dining room table was adorned with a off-white oval doily, the color coming from age. The walls were lined with pictures of the woman's family: christmas gatherings, easter sundays, children’s birthday parties, and weddings. They looked happy.
Mia started, “We’re the ones that called about your help wanted ad. I was wondering what kind of help you needed with the china set?”
Carol, she introduced herself when she answered the door, said “Well, you see I have a problem.”
The two younger women looked at each other and back to Carol.
“The china set isn’t mine, per say.” Carol giggled, “I happened to borrow the set years ago and forgot I had it! I needed help packing and transporting it back to their original owner. Seeing I don’t own a motor vehicle I took to the paper for some help.” Carol looked up from the china set. It wasn’t a very big set, around thirty pieces, each rimmed in gold paint, the centers had pretty pastel roses. Mia and Rain agreed to help Carol. As they got back into Rain’s car, Carol waved and shut her door.
“Hmm what was the street name again?” Rain asked.
“It says ‘140 Tailgates End’.” Mia read from the crumpled post-it note Carol gave her.
Rain took a right and said, “Voila, here we are.” The car turned off again. There happened to be a number of other cars leaving the house as they pulled up; despite this Mia and Rain got out and made their way to the front door with two small sensitive boxes of the china set.
The two made their way up the walkway and were about to knock on the door when it opened. A woman, around the same age as Carol, opened the door. She was dressed in black, there were about five people behind her dressed similarly. The woman almost didn’t register the two in front of her.
“Oh! Hello.” She said. The people behind her excused themselves and went to their cars. “We’re all leaving. You can leave the box on the table and follow the rest of us to the hill.” And the woman excused herself too, telling them to lock the door behind them.
Mia and Rain were puzzled but didn’t question it too much. “I wonder if Carol knows about the funeral? And if this person is the person who owns the china set??” Rain was talking out loud, not to anyone in particular, just aloud. They looked around the house a bit. The walls covered in similar looking family pictures like Carol’s house. They decided to pay their respects to the person and followed the last car to the hill.
Mia had just convinced Rain to leave the funeral when Rain saw someone familiar, but it couldn’t be who she thought it was...
“Dad?” Rain asked the man a couple feet away from her and tapped on the man's shoulder.
“Rain?? What on Earth are you doing here?” The man embraced her daughter.
“I could ask you the same thing. Why didn’t you tell me about the funeral? And who’s is it?” Rain forgot momentarily that she was here with a woman, on a date. The events of the day unfolded quickly in her mind and she asked herself how they ended up here as well.
“Well this is my Uncle Connor’s funeral, your great uncle. You met when you were really young. It all happened so fast, I didn’t want to tear you away from school.” Rain’s father replied.
To avoid providing her dad with an explanation of how she randomly found out about the funeral, Rain quickly said bye and grabbed Mia’s hand to get back to the car. They both decided to go back to Carol’s house to get more details.
Mia and Rain were back in Carol’s house with hot tea in front of them. Carol had just finished telling them that the actual owner of the china set was her sister-in-law, the woman who married Uncle Connor. She had forgotten when the funeral was taking place for her brother and felt bad about accidentally sending them to it.
“That means you're my great aunt?” Rain asked, confused about her sudden expansion in family members.
“It appears so,” Aunt Carol smiled, “you reminded me of my mother when I first saw you, so confident and sure.”
Aunt Carol expanded her story, explaining to Rain and Mia both how she was disowned from her family in her early twenties for being gay. She spent most of her life exploring the world with the love of her life, who passed just this year. The family pictures on the wall were that of the family Carol created, not so much her biological family. After years of travelling she found her way back to her cluster of towns for home, and managed to avoid the family that didn’t want her.
“So does my dad know about you?” Rain asked, getting more upset the more Aunt Carol spoke. She said she wasn’t sure, that her siblings may have not told their children about her disownment to avoid answering questions about her.
“Well, now you have me.” Rain reached out and touched Aunt Carol’s hand. Mia’s heart was so full from this random family reunion that all she could do was set back and admire the two together. After another hour of talking Mia and Rain decided it was time to get back into the city. Aunt Carol took this time to talk to Rain about something very important, her inheritance.
“Oh I couldn’t take anything from you! This visit was more than enough and the visits I promised I would make when I come home to visit.” Rain insisted but Aunt Carol refused.
“I spent the first twenty years of my life scared to spend it as I truly was. And when I finally decided to be myself, my family disowned me. I want to give you this inheritance as a start to live your life as you truly should, as yourself. I know this was a date for the two of you.” Carol looked at the two women, “I’m sorry if it wasn’t what you expected, but that’s just how life is sometimes isn't it?” The older women looked lovingly at the two women. Excited to see the rest of their lives fold out. She quietly played an envelope with a check in it in Rain’s hand. “Be great as you are, visit often, and live your life to the fullest.”
Mia and Rain road most of the way back into the city in silence, reflecting on the long day they just had. They agreed while their first date was intense they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The two spent time together over the next couple of months: answering more help wanted ads, thrifting, drinking coffee, going to concerts, and even planned a backpacking trip through Europe. Both women came out to their families, less afraid of what their responses would be because they had each other and Aunt Carol. Rain even helped heal a painful family history by introducing her great aunt back into the family. Not everything was solved at first, but it was steps for her family becoming more open about their past.
And as time is a funny concept, Mia and Rain spent their one year anniversary up on the hill, celebrating the life that was Great Aunt Carol. A life spent exploring, loving those around her, and loving herself.