A Shocking Ensemble
In the spring of the year 1995, Faye stood at the side of the open grave. A cruel grin of satisfaction stretched across her mouth. On the opposite side, June, the youngest surviving sister, stood watching the line of mourners file past. Each person dropped a handful of earth onto Emma’s coffin.
June had kept Faye’s secret for years. It was a silly little thing, and June thought back to how the whole thing had started.
‘Just look at her, the hussy!’
June and Vera snickered at Faye’s hoity-toity voice as they peered through the curtain to the street.
‘That woman has no shame. Look at what she is wearing,’ Faye exclaimed with snooty outrage; ‘what will the neighbours think if they’re watching?’
The newly married couple had just arrived outside the house. The bride’s chintzy palazzo pantsuit accentuated the visible baby bump. From that day onward, Faye would carry a grudge against the woman who had snared her favourite brother, John, into wedlock. It was to be the genesis of never-ending put-downs.
But all things do end, and its herald spoke softly into June’s ear.
‘Aunty June, I want to speak to you?’ Jason said as he stepped up next to her.
‘I think I know what you are going to ask,’ June whispered to avoid Faye overhearing; ‘we’ll talk at the reception after the funeral when we get a quiet moment.’
Once the hubbub of the reception had died down and Faye had left, the pair went out to the back porch of June’s house. In her hand, she carried a photo album.
‘Aunty June, why was there so much animosity between Aunty Faye and Aunt Emma?’ Jason asked; ‘I could never understand why things got so heated when they came over to play cards at mum’s place.’
June smiled at Jason, the third son of her middle sister Vera. Both his parents had already passed away.
‘It all began with Emma’s marriage to John back in 1936. Before that, Faye, your mother Vera, and Emma were part of a group of close friends. They were young working women at the Aspro factory in South Melbourne. In the neighbourhood, they were called the Aspro girls. Faye had a particularly close friendship with some of the young ladies, if you get my drift,’
June’s last statement was said in a discrete old-fashioned way to avoid saying “Lesbian” straight out. In return, Jason nodded that he understood what his aunt had implied.
‘Faye was quite modern for the times and drove a car. She would take her girlfriends out for picnics and would often put on pretentious airs.’
Jason nodded again and let his mum’s younger sister continue. June handed Jason three photographs to view. The first was of Faye behind the wheel of her 1930s Ford. The second was of Faye and her friends, arm in arm swishing down Bourke Street in their calf-length winter coats, with fox stoles around their necks. The third showed the same group minus Emma, strolling in their summer dresses now cut above the knee during the war.
‘But what happened? I always liked Uncle John and Aunt Emma.’ Jason asked.
‘Well, John and Emma became an item. Then Emma fell pregnant. Things were still tough from the Great Depression.’
Jason handed the pictures back to June.
‘The couple were skint, so there was no big church wedding. Instead, they got married at the Registry Office without any guests. That alone was enough to rile Faye, who, despite her flamboyant behaviour, still held many conservative values.’
‘I can’t believe Aunt Faye would hold a grudge for so long,’ Jason said; ‘there has to be more to the whole saga.’
‘Things blew up shortly after the wedding when some of Emma’s items went missing. She accused Faye of stealing. That episode only added fuel to the fire of Faye’s animosity.’
A puzzled look settled on Jason’s face that began to make June feel uncomfortable. There was no way of avoiding the unsavoury truth.
‘Your Aunt Faye would never forgive Emma for snatching away her favourite brother. Emma was now the outsider, the one who had betrayed Faye’s inner circle of close friends.’
Jason sat forward on his chair, eager to hear all. The bitter moment had come, and June’s mouth began to turn dry.
‘Jason, did you attend the viewing at the funeral home?’ June asked.
‘Yes. It was a bit strange, though!’
‘Emma had no surviving children or next-of-kin, and John had passed away long ago. So it fell to Faye to make the arrangements.’
June fell silent, but Jason, in a flash of realisation, completed her thoughts.
‘Ah, Faye had her final revenge! The face hideously tarted up with rouge and Emma’s corpse dressed in that chintzy palazzo suit.’
© Tropical Writers Inc 2024