Frances Faith Chastity Grace Hedspeth was buried on a Thursday morning in June. My older sister, Faith, had calculated that it was the 79th day of Momma’s 79th year when we laid her to rest. My younger sister, Grace, said Momma’s funeral hadn’t come a day too soon. We three, burdened with Momma’s middle names since our births ten years apart, sat cross legged and fidgeting as friends, family, and neighbors stopped to pray over Momma in her casket and toss a ceremonial spade of dirt in the hole. We three were dressed from head to toe in black—for that’s what Momma taught us about proper etiquette at a funeral—except for the turquoise ribbon Grace used to tie back her hair. That girl was always a bit of a rebel.
As soon as the minister turned his palms upward, lifting his eyes to the clear blue sky while offering final words of advice to God about keeping Momma in heaven, Faith, Grace and I bolted from our graveside chairs, waving away our guests as we each took to our own appropriately somber and practical vehicles. I had no idea why my sisters were in such a hurry, but I had a post-funeral appointment with my hair stylist and I didn’t want to be late.
“Are you sure you want this purple?” the stylist asked.
“Sure as my momma is dead and buried,” I replied. “That’s a yes,” I confirmed when the stylist just furrowed her brow in response.
“Now honey,” she said, “this ain’t no rich, black hair dye that only looks purple when the light hits just right. It’s not burgundy. It’s not deep red. This here hair dye is flying-purple-people-eater vi-o-let.”
“Perfect,” I answered, smiling extra big to show her just how sure I was. Then I smiled a little less in case she thought I just looked crazy.
The stylist finally sighed and shrugged and set about coloring my greying-to-silver hair. Two hours later my hair was coiffed and striking as an orchid. I paid the stylist and left a much-too-generous tip—Momma would have been appalled—before heading for the nearest department store. I was running out of time, but managed to find a hot pink sequined top and some stretchy spandex pants that looked, if I may embrace vanity for a moment, pretty darned hot for a woman approaching 49. I found some strappy high heeled sandals on the clearance rack to complete my outfit.
Back at Hedspeth’s Most Holy—the church was named after the city settled by Momma’s kin—where Momma had served as unpaid, lay clergy since sometime between my sister Faith’s birth (out of wedlock) and my own (still out of wedlock) ten years later, the church ladies were preparing a feast for the masses. This meal would serve as part two of the mourning ritual. Part three for me, I thought as I stepped out of the car and into my sandals, turning back and forth just so to watch the sun’s rays catch and bounce off my adorned top. I breathed deeply and smiled to myself. Nothing against Momma, but I had never felt so light and free.
About that time a cherry red sports car with the soft-top down spun into the parking lot. I was shocked when I recognized the driver. After rolling to a stop, Faith got out and pointed a little keychain clicker at the small, feisty vehicle. It bleated as the lights flashed and a grin as wicked as the devil’s spread across my sister’s face. She tucked the key into an enormous, brand new shoulder bag and was half way to the church door before she stopped, blinked at me and gasped.
“Chastity Hedspeth, for all that is righteous and godly,” she said, her jaw failing to rise back into position. I could see her eyes trying to take in my plum colored hair and my shimmering outfit all at once. They grew wide with the overload.
“Faith has a new ride?” I responded.
My sister looked around, as if she had forgotten for a moment how she had arrived. “I’m nearly 60 years old,” she said with a shrug. “It’s about time I drove the car of my dreams, no?”
Seconds later, we both turned toward a sound that left the air around us vibrating. I immediately recognized young Drew Amador’s motorcycle, but was surprised to see the typically lone young man with tattooed biceps pulling into the church parking lot. My sisters and I had often had conversations, late into the night, about what artwork we might find beneath the few portions of Drew’s body that remained covered in our presence. He was a very handy man to have around. As women without husbands, we three Hedspeth girls had hired him frequently for odd jobs. Even Momma had been fond of his skill with a hammer and nails, though the graffiti on one of God’s temples, as she saw it, was potentially past redeeming. I was even more surprised, however, at the woman who unwrapped her arms from around Drew’s waist, gave him a peck on the cheek, and swung herself down from the bike.
“Grace Hedspeth?” Faith and I said in unison.
Our little sister smiled brightly, pulled off the turquoise helmet, and shook her long hair loose. It spilled down her back which was nearly bare except for tendrils from the brightly colored, tropical flower freshly inked upon her skin.
“He’s moving in on Saturday,” Grace said as she strode past us into the church. “I’m nearly 40, after all. It’s about time I had the man of my dreams.”
Story for Jerilynn, by Tracy … short story, or novel starter? Who can guess. This is the first of the Tiger Hunt contest results. The contest is ongoing. Feel free to enter at any time!