She Always Wore Blue

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Set your entire story in a car.... view prompt

15 comments

Fiction Friendship Sad

The elegant black hearse pulled slowly away from 53 Bellamy Street, leading the cortege comprised of just it and one other car. Hetty’s ecofriendly, bamboo coffin, covered with garlands of cornflowers, irises and buddleia in beautiful hues ranging from sky to midnight, could be seen from the back of the second vehicle.


“Do you think we’re doing this right?” Stella gently placed one hand on the shoulder of her daughter’s smart, black suit and the other on the cream leather of the seat.


“I don’t know Mum, but it’s the best we could manage,” said Claire. “We don’t know much about Hetty. Not much that’s true anyway. Apart from her wonderful clothes.”


“I know it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, but she did tell some tales!” Stella stifled a giggle. “You’re right about her dress sense though, those periwinkle stilettoes were something, and the suede cobalt slip-ons. She had a silk scarf to match every outfit as well.”


“Tales is the word! Remember when she said she’d been in the service of the Dutch Royal Family? The Royal House of the Netherlands, she used to say.”


“Ironic that they had a Princess of Orange when Hetty always wore blue.” Stella played down her grin by gazing out of the car window and focussing on the houses they were passing. "I'll never forget that peacock jacket of hers, iridescent like real feathers, absolutely stunning."


“I still don’t understand why she chose us to oversee all of this.” Claire fiddled with the St. Christopher that sat just above the open top button of her grey blouse. “But then I suppose she didn’t have anyone else.”


“No, she didn’t even talk to anyone on the street, apart from us. I did knock on all the doors you know, to give them the details, but I don’t think anyone'll be there.” Stella ran a finger along the square neckline of her black shift dress and straightened her pearls. “I suspect most of them just didn't take to her tall tales.”


“Mum, do you remember when Hetty said she once won a wildlife photography competition at the Grand Canyon? She said she hid in a bush waiting for porcupines, but skunks came instead and she only managed to snap a picture of them spraying directly at her!” Claire sniggered.


“Oh yes! She said she stank for days and spent the prize money on scented soap and new clothes!” Stella pinched her nose with two fingers and raised her eyebrows before letting out a loud guffaw.


“Mum!” Claire shot a glance towards the back of the driver’s head, his neatly cut hair mostly hidden under a black top hat. “A little decorum!” But she was giggling, too. “Must be hard to disguise yourself in the desert when you’re clothed from head to foot in sapphire and navy. Sorry. Not sorry.”


The two women covered their mouths with their hands, and each stared out of their own window until they had regained some composure. They were reaching the edge of town, and things were looking a little more rural.


“Anyway,” said Stella, “one of us is going to have to give a eulogy and we still don’t have any idea where to start. What can we honestly say about the old dear?”


“Well, we can say that she always wore blue,” said Claire. “We know that much is true. And that she was very generous. She’s left us practically everything she owned, I still can’t quite get over that. Who leaves almost their entire estate to people they've only known six months?”


“She was very kind; I’ll give her that.” Stella checked her reflection in the rear-view mirror. I'm sure her clothes and shoes won't fit us, she was tiny! The charity shops will have a field day! But those gorgeous scarves we will have to keep."


There were a few moments of silence. Stella wiped a tear from her eye.


“I don’t suppose it'll matter too much what we say." Stella sighed. "I doubt there'll be anyone there but us. It’s a shame. No one replied to my message in the local paper and I didn’t get a single response to the cards I sent out to those people in her address book.”


“We tried, Mum. It was all we could do. Maybe if Hetty had told us anything about her real life, we might have stood more of a chance.”


“Her real life. I wonder what happened to the identical quadruplet boys she said she had out of wedlock with the 1960’s film star she refused to name.”


“Well, the 60’s was all about free love. Maybe we can give her the benefit of the doubt on that one. Didn't she say they all joined the army?"


“Quadruplets?! I don’t think so, Claire. As much as I want to believe she had a loving family at some point, I didn’t see one visitor go to her house since she moved in opposite us. Let alone four.” Stella fiddled with her hat. “How about that time she came over to borrow a casserole dish to put a baby parrot in that she said she’d found abandoned in the park?”


“That was so weird. Didn’t you give her some hay from our rabbits, too, to make it comfy? You did indulge her when I think about it. Like with the trifle.” Claire smirked.


“Oh my, the trifle! I'd almost forgotten that she woke me up at 2am demanding red fruit to put in a trifle for the vicar’s wife. She swore blind she made a trifle every week, but had just forgotten that day. I’m not sure she even went to church you know. Nonsense.”


“Yeah, but you still gave her a punnet of strawberries and a bag of cherries.”


“Well, that was all I had!”


“Not really the point I’m making, Mum.”


“So what about this eulogy?” asked Stella. “We have to do better than ‘she always wore blue.’”


“I’m not really sure we can do any better than that. If we told any of these silly stories it'd be like making fun of her. And as much as they have amused us over the last six months, that just feels wrong as part of a church service in her memory.”


“I suppose you’re right. It’s so sad we never got to know who she really was. And now we're the only people around to say goodbye.”


The hearse rounded a corner off the hedge-trimmed lane and briefly disappeared out of sight.


“I think we’re here,” said Claire. “I’ll do the talking if you like. I can say some fairly generic, kind words that we can feel ok about.”


“That would be good of you, if you don’t mind.”


The funeral car followed the hearse round the bend and pulled into the almost full carpark opposite St. Leonard’s church, as the hearse stopped directly in front of the gothic building. Claire and Stella sat in the back of their car, wide eyed and speechless.


Four identical men in full military dress were waiting as the hearse pulled up. They greeted the funeral director and exchanged a few words with him. He pointed to the car that Claire and Stella sat in, and the four men nodded and started to walk towards them.


“I don’t believe it! Look at all these cars. Are we at the wrong place?” Stella wound down her window and stared at all the people milling about in the carpark and hanging around the entrance to the church.


“I, I don’t think so Mum,” said Claire. “Look, that guy has a parrot and there's a very posh woman over there with a bodyguard!”


“And there’s Reverend Gordon and his wife! I’ll be damned if she isn’t holding a trifle! Has that guy got cowboy boots on? And a camera?”


At that moment both back doors of the funeral car opened, and Stella and Claire were each greeted by a tall man in spotless military uniform.


“Claire and Stella Green?” said a deep, silky voice. “Our mother told us so much about you. It really is an honour.” 

July 31, 2023 20:35

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15 comments

Chris Miller
11:57 Aug 10, 2023

A car in a funeral procession was a great idea for this prompt. One of those stories that makes me think "Wish I thought of that!" Thanks for sharing, Katherine.

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15:35 Aug 10, 2023

Thank you!

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SJ Shoemaker
17:19 Aug 07, 2023

I love this idea. So much of what we know of others are tiny snapshots of their lives. There's always a greater story to be found.

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19:01 Aug 07, 2023

Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts - I'm glad you liked it.

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Lily Rama
14:13 Aug 06, 2023

Great story! I love how you took something dark, like a funeral, and made it lighthearted and funny. I think we, as an audience, deserve a story in Hetty's perspective! Amazing job, keep writing! P.S. if you wouldn't mind checking out my newest story, I would be over the moon. (It's so hard to get exposure when it's just on your profile.)

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Jon Casper
09:12 Aug 03, 2023

We've all known a Hetty, haven't we? Mine was a co-worker, Marge. She used to tell the tallest tales, and we'd all bite our tongues and snicker. She passed less than a year after retirement, and we all spent an afternoon in the conference room reminiscing over all her wild stories. Alas, they didn't end up being true, in Marge's case. The dialogue is engaging and I love the descriptions. I felt like I was in the limo with them, catching their little quirks (Claire fiddled with the St. Christopher that sat just above the open top button of h...

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18:45 Aug 03, 2023

Thank you Jon - yeah - Andy asked me how people would know I even wrote this! LOL. Thank you ever so much for the notes - all added in now.

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Kevin Logue
16:54 Aug 02, 2023

Great tale Katharine, the skunk wildlife photos and the casserole dish for a parrot made me giggle, and what's better than an inappropriate giggle at a funeral. Great wholesome story with so much untold backstory, perhaps Hetty will get a story of her own some day?

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18:47 Aug 03, 2023

Thank you Kevin, thats very kind. I dont tend to revisit characters that I set up on Reedsy - I think short stories are better as stand alone pieces for the most part - but Hetty is interesting - shame she was dead before I even started the story!

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17:15 Aug 01, 2023

Such a nice story. Hetty was quite the character and kept it all on the downlow humble as anything. Brilliant!

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18:47 Aug 03, 2023

I'm really glad you liked it Derrick - thank you.

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Anna W
01:02 Aug 01, 2023

Katharine, what a great story! I think the stories that people tell us can teach us so much about them. You created Hetty just with the character's dialogue, and told us so much about her, just from the stories she told. I loved it!

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18:48 Aug 03, 2023

Thats very kind, thank you very much Anna.

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Mary Bendickson
22:08 Jul 31, 2023

This is so special 😍.👗👑🥿👬👬who knew it could all be true?

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18:48 Aug 03, 2023

Thanks Mary - I'm really glad you liked it.

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