Short Story Preview: A Bright Day for a Funeral – Gabriela Harding
The news travelled like wildfire.
Everyone agrees, Tanti Lucia’s death had been predictable. Hadn’t she lived her final years glued to the chaise-longue in the shadow of the old linden tree? More shrivelled up and quiet each day, as if she was already melting in the shadows.
The courtyard is still spectacular, a hundred years on from the death of its aristocratic owners. From the back orchard, the breeze carries the breath of ripe, bitter cherries. Their dark juice stains your fingers. A partly renovated manor with an ancient gold knocker gives everything the air of a ghost town populated by humans.
In the kitchen with vast windows overlooking the linden tree and Tanti Lucia’s empty seat, Helga smokes a cigarette listening to the maddening drip of the broken tap.
Helga can’t prepare wheat porridge pie. It’s meant to be a secret, one of the many things she keeps from her husband. For years, her sister did all the heavy cooking – the Easter marble cakes that took two hours to knead and a whole day to rise, the baked sweet rolls, the leaves fresh from her tree filled with spiced rice, no thinner than a finger. The marvellous parties she threw were all catered by her sister, and almost always culminated in copious rows.
But for once Retta is unavailable. Gone to visit her grandchildren in England, and could barely make it back in time for the funeral – let alone cook for it.