“It was horrifying,” Michelle said as she unlocked the door to Connie’s apartment. “I couldn’t stop bawling and all the time Miss Purcell thought I was having an attack of grief.”
“What were you having?” Danielle said.
“An extreme case of nerves,” Michelle said. “If you hadn’t agreed to let me pick you up to do the rest of this I’d be back home trying to convince my mother she needs different furniture. Her house is a museum of mismatched furniture.”
“Why do you live there?” Danielle said.
“I haven’t had to pay for a thing or earn a single dollar since I left college six years ago,” Michelle said. “My mother lives to dote on me.”
“I don’t think that’s anything to brag about at your age,” Danielle said.
Going into Connie’s living room, the two women stopped, then slowly turned around scanning the room.
“Is it possible to overdose on color?” Michelle said.
“This is why I can’t watch The Wizard of Oz,” Danielle said. “I’m about to go into cardiac arrest.”
“I haven’t been here in over a year,” Michelle said. “Do you think her brain tumor had anything to do with this?”
“Heaven knows,” Danielle said, “but it’s beautiful in a frightening way.”
From the curtain rod between the open drapes, hundreds of prisms hanging by thread cast shimmering rainbows of color all over the room. Large red Chinese lanterns with gold fringe hung in the corners. The walls had been painted a bright white, but were covered with framed lithographs of sunny pastoral scenes. The sofa and chairs were draped with multicolored Mexican blankets. Different colored objets d’art were on the tables and shelves.
“It’s like a paint factory exploded in here,” Michelle said. “No wonder she was always grouchy.”
“That, I believe, was because of having an inoperable tumor,” Danielle said.
Michelle walked into the bedroom and let out a loud gasp. Hundreds of hats of every variety, style and color were hung on hooks on the walls. In the open closet, hat boxes were stacked on the floor beneath Connie’s clothes and on the shelves above them.
A little bell tinkled as Michelle pushed the glass door of the florist shop open. She looked above her head and seeing the bell was in the shape of some kind of bird she rolled her eyes at Danielle. Going into the shop, the thick, sickeningly sweet combined fragrances of a hundred different kinds of flowers assailed her nostrils. She removed her Versace sunglasses and gazed around the shop.
A teenager wearing a ball cap with her long brunette pony tailed pulled out through the back came from behind the counter. “Can I help you?” she said with forced cheerfulness.
“I’m Michelle Truex. I have an appointment with Mr. Pratt,” she said.
The girl frowned, and as if announcing her boyfriend had just broken up with her, said, “Mr. Pratt thought you weren’t coming so he went to run some errands.”
“Now what am I going to do?” Michelle groaned.
“I know you’re here for funeral arrangements,” the girl said. “You’re welcome to look around the shop and see if there’s anything you like.” Seeing the panicked look on the two womens’ faces, she said, “You can always start with the dear departed’s favorite flower or color.”
Michelle looked at Danielle. “Even after going through her apartment I have no idea what she liked other than hats. How is that I knew Connie since we were all sorority sisters back at Wellesley and know so little about her?”
Danielle adjusted her neon green pillbox hat with a small fake bright yellow canary attached to it and looked around the shop. “We’ll look around for a few minutes. Maybe an idea will come to you,” she said. She took Michelle by the elbow and led her down an aisle of different colored carnations.
“How is it that going to her apartment and looking around didn’t give us any idea what kind of flowers she might like to have at her funeral?” Danielle said.
“What in your apartment says what kind of flowers you want at your funeral?” Michelle said.
“I have a vase of dead roses from that jerk, Michael, if that would help,” Danielle said.
“No, that was the kind of flowers he liked,” Michelle said. “All I really knew about Connie was what she didn’t like. She never had a good word to say about anything,” Michelle said.
Stopping at a table with large clear glass vases filled with long stemmed white lilies sitting on it, Danielle said, “These are very funereal.”
Walking past the viewing room where the lid of Connie’s coffin was raised, Michelle stopped and took a drag of her cigarette. The solid white coffin was covered in notes written in different color magic markers by the forty-six women who had come to say a final goodbye to Connie. She squashed the cigarette in a water fountain and rinsed the mark off the porcelain bowl then tossed it into a waste basket. Going into the chapel adorned with large bouquets of lilies she walked down the middle aisle between rows of pews and went behind the podium.
Looking at the women, each one wearing one of Connie’s hats, she unfolded a piece of paper and began reading. “Connie loved hats,” she said. THE END
Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over ninety short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. His plays have been produced in several American states. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and writes full time. He is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012966314127 and Twitter @carrsteven960.