was Tuesday and it was raining out and it was Carla's father's funeral. Carla
sat up the back with her ankles crossed, and wished her gray dress didn't itch
quite so much, and wished that she hadn't come.
She probably wouldn't have come if
Paula hadn't pushed her. "Go," Paula had said. "Go. This can't
be something you regret." Carla was in the habit of listening to Paula,
who was usually right. Usually. And Paula had been all stern and forceful and
Carla had loved her for the adamant little crease in her brow.
The only funeral Carla had been to
before this was Aunt Janine's. Aunt Janine had regaled the mourners with the
prizes she had won for her orchids, all nineteen awards, and the details of
each, and who'd had to make do with runner up. She'd spent quite a lot of time
describing how she'd perfected the art of making scones. She told everyone how
she'd been quite the stunner in her youth with her hair up.
Carla scratched at her dress under her
arm and shifted on her seat. Apart from a few murmurs the amassed crowd were
growing silent, waiting.
Paula had said that she'd heard of one
funeral where the deceased woman had shown up with nothing to say. That she'd
sat there, and blinked for a while, then disappeared. But Carla didn't think
her father would be the sort to . . .
There. A light at the front of the
room, subdued as though it was being pulled back in on itself, but there. And
then Carla saw that the light was actually a man and that the man was her
He looked young. Or rather, he didn't
look any older than he had when she'd last seen him, which was twenty years
He was handsome too, looking not at
the crowd in front of him but up and out somewhere far away, his skin burnished
with the glowing.
"I was always a clever lad,"
began her father, his voice rich with the timbre it'd had when he'd been
living, "I knew how to find my feet no matter what life threw at me."
He told tales of his childhood, painting himself as the lovable rogue who always
won in the end. Clara could remember some of those stories.
Paula had been to more than her share
of funerals. "They're making a narrative of their life," she'd said
when Carla had asked her about it, asked why they left so much out. "They
don't want to cast themselves as the villain, no matter what they've done. This
is how they want to be remembered."
Clara's father wanted to be
remembered, apparently, for his prowess on the cricket field, for his success
in business; closing deals through the charisma of his personality alone, for
the way the ladies had pursued him.
They probably had. He had cheated on
Clara's mother after all.
Paula was wrong, thought Clara, I
shouldn't have come. Yet she couldn't take her eyes from his face. Had his
eyes always been that blue or was it the glow behind them?
Her father told the truth, Clara knew
that was one thing the dead all did. They didn't lie. But his truth was not her
In the pauses in her father's story
Clara read her own subtext.
Her father told of his sense of
adventure and discoveries; his absence.
His jokes and escapades; his harshness.
Being life of the party; his drinking.
The things her father didn't say fell
like stones, sinking down into the river of her past without a splash.
Her father was quieter now, and harder
to see. People were starting to fidget, ready to leave.
"I had a family once," said
Clara's father, his voice only a murmur in the fading light. His outline
blurred into the background, but by the tilt of his head he could have been
looking straight at Clara. The dead couldn't see you, everyone said. Not
He didn't say anything else for a long
time, and Clara wasn't sure she could still see him, although she kept her gaze
fixed on the spot where his eyes had been. The people to the side of her stood
up and made their way out.
"I wish I'd done better,"
Clara's father said.
And Clara sat alone, right at the back
as everyone else left, sitting still, very still, and thinking of her father,
and one of his truths.