I turn around and look back down the aisle at the casket. It seems so quiet in the church now, so silent around the coffin. I put a hand up on a pew and make my journey back toward the front of the church. The place is so full of flowers. I put Althea in charge of the flowers and she lost her mind while ordering posies. The smell of lilacs is overwhelming. And I wonder if the church cleared out so fast, for lack of air. As I step toward the casket, a breath of chill whisks over my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Ella's chin is raised; her neck arched back, her skin pulled taut and youthful. I stare into her face, her eyes closed, gently, as though she is asleep. They curled her hair at the mortuary, though she always wore it straight. It's almost like it was that day she came to see me 23 years ago when I married Hinton. I begged her to stay for the party afterward, but she said she had to go. She claimed it was because she didn't want to be there and have to compete with the bride. "Ella, you should have stayed. Had cake. Danced with me some more." It had been the last time that I was to ever see her again. I lift my purse up onto the edge of the casket, open it and remove the only item I have inside. The red hanky is folded so tightly, folded into a small firm triangle. I don't bother to unwrap it. I slip the hanky under her left shoulder, then pat the spot gingerly. "Good night, Ella. See you soon, girl." I turn around and begin to walk toward Addie who is quietly waiting, acting like she heard nothing, when I know she strained her ears to hear everything, anything. (I know, because she is nosy like me. Seems to be the only thing I did pass down to her.) As I lower myself into the passenger side of Addie's car, I get that burning sensation you get when you know someone is staring. I adjust my balance and turn to look down the block past the church. In the distance, stands a man. He stares right back at me, wide eyed and, for some reason, surprised. I smile, to let him know that I remember him, hoping it helps him relax. As if I gave him permission, he smiles. He lifts his palms up to his lips, as if to pray, and from this distance, I can see the glistening of tears slide down over his mahogany colored cheeks. "Momma?" Addie says. "Who's that man?" "That there is the man who would have been your uncle, if Ella hadn't been so damned bull headed." "Why is he so late?" "No, Addie, he right on time," Addie frowns at me from across the hood of the car. "Sometimes death is the only way people can say goodbye for good, baby. Give me a moment with him, ok?" Addie nods once. Grady holds out his arms and enwraps me with his affection as soon as I am in reach. "Rosie, Rosie… Lord, how long it been?" Grady says still crushing me to him. "Forever," he says before I can take in breath to respond. "That your girl over there?" "Yes, the oldest one." "Lord, she look like Hinton. Like he just spit her out himself!"
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