My wife always thought that something utterly supernatural happened after her mother’s funeral. She always tried to convince us, telling her story with every chance; over and over. Until we couldn’t listen; we hadn’t seen anything. Salem and I hadn't at least. I am not sure about her sister. In any case, Violeta never got her sister to admit that she saw something strange or different.
Once she got close to getting her admit it. It was a summer’s evening. We used to spend summers in her country. Especially after her parents passed away, we’d spend a lot of time with her cousin - Salem on the terrace of their family home, eating melons and listening to music. Her sister- Arya, would spend holidays with us every now and then. She used to show up to our doorstep every time she broke up or was unemployed - so on those occasions she used to spend holidays with us. She was a curious woman, sometimes a little difficult to get to, sometimes quite pleasant to have around.
That day I almost believed Violeta’s story too. She began the story with her usual
‘That day I felt something weird would happen’
and we looked at each other with anguish; she could feel it in the air but it didn’t put her down.
- The guy at the airport control asked me to remove my sunglasses, he thought them suspicious. When he looked at the three of us, dressed in black and with eyes bruised from crying he could surely tell why it was that I wanted to keep my sunglasses on. River asked him if he could leave me alone as those were difficult enough hours for our family but he replied, unremoved, that safety was more important. I wasn’t even listening so I asked River and Arya what it was he wanted me to do and Arya said “ Your glasses, Violeta, Remove them.” She was upset, you see she didn’t really want to go.
- Why on earth would you even bring this stupid story up again now? Just tell me that. Of course I wanted to go, I just was upset as you were. What’s more, this happened when I had a thousand projects to finish. It wasn’t easy leaving everything to get there. Eat your fruit and shut up. No one cares.
- Well, I ‘ll finish my story, if no one cares they can just leave; but I will finish the story even if I have to tell it to myself.
Salem and I were half-listening and half-watching TV. Arya was getting upset every time ‘the story’ came up. We used to call it ‘the story’ between us because it would come up so frequently. Violeta put great efforts to look undisturbed, calm and composed as she continued.
- You, Arya, know what we saw! If we both try to remember we might think of an explanation after all.
- I didn’t see or hear anything, just your annoying whispering and sobbing for three days straight.
- Oh, did you not now? Anyway, you ‘ll have to endure listening to my annoying voice today as well, I am afraid. So; Arya was a little upset during the trip.
- For god’s sake, don’t mention my name again. You always exaggerate so much that you end up telling big fat lies. ‘Arya didn’t want to go’ , ‘ Arya was upset’ , just tell your story without mentioning my name.
So she did, ignoring the intervention completely.
- At the airport, we met Salem. You, cousin, drove us to our family home where the wake was already taking place. We paid Salem to make the arrangements for the funeral because we couldn’t, or wouldn’t spare more than three days here.
At this point Salem spoke for the first time.
- You know how much I loved your mother.
- Our poor father passed away years earlier so he couldn’t make arrangements for the funeral either. We can’t thank you enough..
But then Arya couldn’t refrain from interrupting even now that her name wasn’t mentioned at all.
- We got a taxi at the airport because Salem was taking care of the wake and he was at home.
- I don’t think I can remember picking you up from the airport either.
- What do you say, River?
I, of course, didn’t remember and didn’t want to be involved in the sisters’ quarrel so I pretended I hadn't heard anything. Violeta got back to talking immediately anyway so the awkward silence wasn’t prolonged.
- But, don’t you remember seeing him at the airport waving at us?
- Yes, I do remember him waving at us but at the entrance of our home.
- Maybe you are right. So, when we met at our family house all our relatives were already there and mother's coffin was placed in the middle of the living room.
- And you, Violeta, went straight to your bed leaving me with all the hard work...
- I couldn’t keep myself awake, maybe we should have travelled a day earlier to avoid that? As I said. You didn't want to go. So, that's right. I slept deeply and peacefully.
- And then you woke up only to have waking dreams...
- While the wake was taking place, hundreds of people were giving their condolences to Arya. We weren’t so involved in our mother's life during her last years, you see. We didn’t know who any of those people were. Some were relatives, some colleagues, some were her students, some were admirers. Yes, at that age she still had those!
- Sometimes I wonder if you just deliberately lie. How could you even remember anything. You were sleeping !! There were some people, yes. Quite a lot of people, sure. We didn't know all of them, yes of course. But it was just because this is a small town. People just show up to their neighbour’s funeral..Admirers my ass.
- Yes, whatever, you know mum was very attractive to men. I can’t even mention your name but you can just say whatever; and without regrets. So didn’t any of you get a weird feeling at the cemetery? Something dreary was going on already. Did you not pick up on anything?
Salem and I knew we had to respond as if it was the first time this story was being told, as if it were the first time that question was directed to us. At the same time, we didn’t want to encourage her nor excite her imagination.
- No, not really. Everything was just as dreary as it is during burials.
- Yes, during the burial maybe not. But what about right after it? I didn’t faint nor did I swoon, but Arya did. Arya felt the smoke, Arya choked. You both saw it.
Arya didn’t say anything but she seemed a little lost. It was the first time that happened. At this point, she ’d usually walk to her room and not talk to any of us for a couple of days. This time she seemed paralysed; As if she were about to faint, just like the day of the funeral.
- You saw it and you smelled it just like you do now. And then we walked; and on the way back home you whispered to my ear that you knew she wasn’t dead. You knew she was still there with us. I didn't answer, I just walked beside you. River turned the key to the door, I was holding you, you were so light, as if your existence was thinning and wearing out. River opened the door and we got in.
- Then you started shouting and terrorizing us like the exaggerating person you always are. Your screams frightened me, so I passed out. That is what happened.
That was what I could remember ...
- That’s what you all saw. That’s what Salem and River saw rather. But you saw her. You saw mum behind her desk. It was her voice screaming. It was her voice that frightened you. It was her voice turning shrill and frightful. Not mine. It was her voice we kept hearing for three days. For as long as we stayed. It is her voice and ghost that comes back every night we spend here since.
Arya was sobbing now. She couldn’t get to deny it and we had to take her away and let her sleep and rest before she was back to her normal grumpy self the day after. That was the last time we ever saw her. Arya didn’t talk to Violeta again after that day. I learned they both passed away on the same day. That was the closest she got to convincing us.