No vacant pews remain in the front half of the church and so, Rose chooses one near the back, content that at least she will be one of the first to see the arrival of the bride. A few stragglers come in afterwards and hurry to take their seats. Fred’s place at her side remains empty; a couple do consider joining her, then the woman shivers and, with a comment on the chill, they move forward.
The prospect of watching her cherished granddaughter walk down the aisle with the man of her choice had kept Rose going during the recent dark days. The expression ‘drowning in grief’ has meaning now and she wishes that she could apologise to her late mother for her impatient words.
Is Mother’s spirit is here today?
Known for her gift of ‘the sight’ and what Fred called, ‘her uncanny ability to look into the future’, Rose scans alcoves and window ledges; there is not a wisp of ghostly presence.
The vicar shakes the young groom’s hand and glides towards the back of the church. His smile widens when he notices the regulars; otherwise, he maintains a regal, and somewhat aloof, expression. Rose has met his kind before, sniffy about non-believers. She could tell him a thing or two about the afterlife.
‘Hello old girl.’
‘Fred. You made it. Just in time as well. Listen.’ Rose reaches for his hand and they smile at each other as the organist plays the same music that had accompanied her procession down the aisle all of those years ago. ‘There she is. Oh Fred, look at what Jenny’s wearing. It’s my veil.’ Her hand covers her heart, expanding in her chest, and she gasps at the memory of the pain.
‘Don’t cry my sweet. You’ll spoil your pretty face.’ He tries to gather her to him but lacks the strength so they make do with an air-kiss. An order of service flutters to the ground as she pretends to smack his hand. It rests beneath their feet and they watch the lace-clad young woman march with her father past the end of their row. Rose’s hand extends to stroke the lace but the fabric floats like a cloud of mist through her fingers.
‘Sam looks smart in his penguin suit.’
A woman in the next row turns to stare. When her neighbour asks what’s wrong, she pauses for a second, a quizzical expression in her eyes, then shrugs and mumbles something about whispering.
‘Shush Fred. If you get caught, they’ll make us leave and we’ll miss the ceremony.’
From that moment, they are as quiet as church mice as her mother used to say, listening carefully to their son as he gives away the hand of his daughter and later, to the young couple as they exchange their vows. Rose holds back her sobs, all the while trying to ignore the pressure in her chest. The sermon is about family love and a number of handkerchiefs come out when the vicar mentions the names of those who can not be with them.
‘At least I got a mention.’
‘How could she forget you my love? Every year, those special weeks at the seaside, and not every girl gets a car for her 18th.’
‘Aye, we did what we could for them.’
The organist pounds his keys and the radiant couple float down the aisle. Rose and Jack stay behind until the last guest has passed them and then, they smile sadly at each other and rise.
‘It’s time. I will love you through eternity,’ she said but he had already faded into the cool atmosphere and her words went unanswered. Drifting outside of the church, Rose has time to see a glimpse of white at the side of a newly dug grave and she leaves with the words of her granddaughter comforting her as she ventures into the unknown.
‘You and Gramps showed me how to love. I know he’ll look after you wherever you are.’