They sat by the phone together, he and she, brother and sister. Waiting. They did not look at the phone with their eyes, but their bodies tried to turn towards it. She pulled at her handkerchief, he bit his lip. The branches of the bare tree outside scratched at the window glass.
When the phone did finally ring its sound filled the room and silenced the tree. The siblings held their breath, locked in a silent argument with one another. ‘You answer it.’ ‘No, you.’ ‘I did it last time.’ ‘You did not.’ ‘Did too.’ ‘Did not.’
He answered it.
“Yes. Thank you. No thank you. No. They didn’t want us to. Yes. The crematorium. Thank you. Goodbye.”
The phone clunked as he put it down. Silence, for a moment.
“So,” she said, and dabbed at her eyes, which were not wet.
“Yes,” he replied. “We should organise the funeral.”
“We’ve already done that. They’ve already done that.”
The tree was scratching again at the window.
“What should we do then?” he said.
She pulled at her handkerchief.
“Let’s eat out.” She was up, quickly, striding towards the door that led to the next room. “They would want us to celebrate, finally. I’ll wear that red lipstick with that green dress; you can wear that tie Mum always loved.”
He raised his eyebrows at his sister; he’d owned the tie more than ten years ago.
“Oh. Well, not that one then.” She removed her hand from the door knob. “What then, Stuart?”
He stood up. “Sit down Stella. We need to absorb this.”
“You’re not sitting down.”
“No. I’m not.”
The tree scratched louder. The siblings blinked at each other from opposite sides of the room. She felt she should cry, but could not. She had been sure she would be able to. He could not believe his sister was not crying; she always did. She had cried when their parents had first told them what they were going to do. (“Weak eyes,” their father had said kindly. “Just like your mother.” Their mother glowered at him briefly, through eyes filled with tears.)
Stuart had wanted to be strong for Stella, to support her while she cried, but she appeared perfectly able to support herself for now, and he felt himself close to tears instead.
“I could wear a different tie.”
“Oh Stuart.” She took a step towards him.
“Don’t. I’m hungry. Let’s go to dinner.”
There’s more to this story, but I’m still working on it, and hope to have it published at some point, so I’m sort of keeping it to myself at the moment. I might share a little more of it later on. Any feedback on this part would be greatly appreciated though.
I’m posting this as my response to this month’s Monday Project theme. We’ll have the next one up soon, so play along if you’re interested.