“Now, I understand that your wife wished to be cremated? Is that correct?” asked the funeral director in a sombre, caring tone.
“No, no she didn’t,” Hetti replied firmly, her hand gripping Tom’s wrist.
“Tom? Did you hear him?” Maggie asked quietly trying to get his attention.
The four of them were in a large sitting room; plush curtains, redwood coffee table in the middle, pastel paintings hanging meekly on the walls, chintz armchairs. The room looked warm, but to Tom it felt distant and soundless, heartless. He’d been staring at a run in the fabric on the arm of his chair, barely to her before she asked that question.
“Yes, that’s right. She didn’t want to be buried,” he said, shaking his head slightly, bringing him out of his reverie.
“That’s not what she told me,” Hetti said sniffily.
Tom looked balefully at her, “It’s what she wanted, Hetti. It’s in her will.”
“Well I want her to be buried.”
The funeral director coughed politely, “Well Ms Maxwell, if the order for cremation is in Mrs Stoneson will, we’re legally obligated to execute it.” She sounded apologetic but firm, giving Tom a tiny wink. He smiled raised his eyebrows briefly, trying to tell her that Hetti wasn’t going to drop this.
“But I am her mother!” she said ferociously, “I want her to be buried!”
Maggie had kept quiet through most of the planning during the morning, only coming along to keep an eye on her little boy while he went through one of the hardest days of his life, and to make sure Hetti wasn’t going to fly off the handle at some point. She knew Tom would try to accommodate her wishes for Jessica’s ceremony, but if they got a chance they would probably end up throwing things at each other.
“Be reasonable Hetti, it’s in her will. You can’t change it so,” Maggie looked her in the eye, “let’s just keep going.”
Hetti took some deep breaths, “Can we at least have an open casket?” she asked the director.
She looked at Hetti hesitantly, “That’s up to Thomas.”
Tom was drifting in and out of interest in the conversation. He knew this was important to everyone else, but to him the funeral was to give everyone else a chance to say goodbye. He’d said his.
He was looking up at a picture of a fruit bowl, smiling widely to himself, remembering the morning after he, Jessica and Jeremy had sung the night away.
Tom and Jeremy were hung over and sitting at flimsy plastic chairs, eating crepes. The morning markets were the best for after a night drinking.
The three of them had walked back to Tom’s place, a two story house near the cliffs. He fumbled with the keys to his granny flat while Jeremy and Jessica were giggling at him. He let them in and they all fell onto the couch, Jessica resting her feet on Jeremy’s chest and her head in Tom’s lap.
“How come it’s taken so long for you to introduce me to Jessica?” Tom asked, his forehead resting in his upturned palm on the table.
Jeremy shrugged, a piece of pastry dangling out of his mouth, “Just one of those things. Why, do you like her?”
“Yeah she seems pretty cool,”
“She is cool,” Jeremy replied, attacking his crepe, smothered in cream and strawberries. “These are so good ... “
“So are you and her together?” Tom asked, not looking up at Jeremy, nonchalantly.
Jeremy almost choked, spraying Tom with crepe goodness, “Yuck!”
“Did you find a cockroach?”
“She’s like my sister man! Don’t be weird,”
“We grew up on the same street, our mums were friends. She even baby sat for me a couple times,”
“She baby sat you?” Tom repeated, laughing.
“You know how my mum doesn’t trust me? That’s been going on since I was born.”
Jeremy stared at Tom, “You want to hit that?”
“I do,” Tom said longingly while Jeremy smiled appreciatively.
“Yeah fair enough mate,” he nodded.
“Hands above the table boys,” came a voice from behind them, making them both jump.
Jessica had returned with a smoothie and a bowl of laksa. She kicked the chair next to Tom out from under the table and sat down. “You started without me? And you didn’t get my chair for me? Chivalry really is dead.”
“You took ages,” Jeremy said grumpily, “and come on. Crepes.”
“Good call,” she laughed, taking a sip of her drink, “What were you two talking about?”
“Jeremy was just telling me how you used to baby sit him,” Tom said through a mouthful of crepes.
The two of them had a good laugh about Jeremy as a kid, Jessica giving Tom some wonderful ammunition for later sledging. Jeremy scowled while they got along like a house on fire, but deep down her was pleased they were connecting so fast. He knew that Tom and Jessica were both fairly aloof people at the best of times, but once you got to know them they were true friends.
After they finished their breakfast they wandered around the markets for an hour, not really looking at anything, just chatting away. The sun was getting higher in the sky, and Jessica was feeling really tired. Oh you have to go? Oh well, last night was fun! Give me your number; we’ll go out some time. Cool. See you later!
Later that afternoon while Tom and Jeremy were spacing out watching a DVD, Jeremy got a text message, which he laughed at and showed to Tom.
Toms a champ, ty 4 intrdusing us! And hes cute1 tell him to call me :)
“Sure we can have it open casket Hetti.”