The wails bounced off the walls of the small chapel, its sound a wavering, gulping refrain. The sound tormented Gilly not because of its sorrowful timbre, but because she was unable to ascertain its origin and location. As the wife of the deceased, she was situated in the front pew. It would be unseemly to twist around and scan the congregation but then again if she did, it would show the sombre gathering that these sounds were not emitting from her. She was determined to maintain her air of dignified grief. However at the same time, Gilly was feeling slightly miffed that someone was upstaging her, because surely as the wife of the deceased, wailing was her prerogative. Nor were they coming from the daughter of the deceased for Hannah, the ice maiden, was sitting straight backed and dry eyed beside her. There was no mother of the deceased or sister of the deceased, so the owner of the sobbing was going to have to remain a mystery for the moment.
Gilly focused on the eulogy being delivered by the best friend of the deceased, Scott or Scotty as he introduced himself. Apparently Gerry — Gilly winced outwardly at this moniker, for he had always been Gerald to her — had been an all-round great guy. A fun, would-do-anything-for- you devoted husband and father. Weren’t they all? thought Gilly, when ensconced in a box, surrounded by their dearly beloved, sad utterances, lowered gazes and flowers.
However, Gilly agreed silently that Gerry, as described by Scotty, had been an amazing husband, breadwinner, father and companion of 40 years. Gilly’s mind slid back in time. They had met at a barbecue organised by mutual friends. He had been studying to be an accountant and she a teacher, career choices bound by the norms and expectations of the times, role reversals still not even fantasied about despite the world having just stumbled its way through the flower power era, anti-Vietnam war protests and bra burning. Gilly had been captivated by his aura of maturity as he espoused on the economy and world affairs. His causal nerdiness, floppy hair and skinny hips reminiscent awoke urges in her as yet unfurled. After the obligatory two-year courtship, they had married, as co-habiting was still only undertaken by the most daring of couples with perceived lax morals. Hannah had been born six years later and Gerald never ceased to be amazed by the human specimen that was his daughter, pandering like all devoted fathers to her passing whims. They had been happy, not all the time of course as there were periods of arguments and dissolution as they had floundered their way through their life together.
Gilly became aware that it was time for her to follow Gerald down the aisle. The doors to the chapel had mysteriously opened and the noises of the funeral home office seeped through, mixing with noises from the street. Even the music carefully chosen by Gilly for the final parade did not cover the rhythms of daily life. The wails had become simpering sobs and Gilly determined to locate the sobs discreetly, desperately scanned the congregation beneath lowered lids. Halfway down the aisle, a tall blonde woman, all angles and no breasts, face swollen, was standing, slumped forward, hands on the pew in front. Gilly hugged her own ample curves self-consciously. The woman was most likely in her early thirties, dressed in a very short skirt and figure-hugging jacket. Her platinum elfin hair cut rivalled Hannah’s in fake blondness, as did her tattooed eyebrows, and painted, pursed lips. Like a giraffe in make-up thought Gilly, ungraciously feeling dowdy in her sensible trousers and belted jacket, an attempt to hide within the day. But as wife of the deceased, this was not ever going to be possible. Outside, the ‘greet and thank you’ passed at intolerably slow speed. Hannah kept up her ice maiden stance and Gilly maintained her dignified exterior facade all the while her eyes darting, looking for the wailing giraffe. However said giraffe seemed to have vanished, her sobs, lithe body and pouty lips disappearing into the day. Even during partaking of light refreshments in a side room, there was no sign of the mystery woman. Gilly, despite her best intentions to ask the best friend of the deceased if he had any clues, was constantly waylaid by mourners, enthusing about Gerald’s life.
Instead, Gilly stood awkwardly, a plate of limp uneaten sandwiches in one hand, other hand being gripped sympathetically by a blur of sombre wellwishers. They remembered Gerald and Gilly’s first home, which had been a one-bedroom flat, part of a sprawling converted villa. Furniture had been beer crates emptied of their contents during what Gilly thought were educated parties of like-minded individuals but were just rambling drunken gatherings of innocent delusional youth. The only new furniture was a large, garish waterbed. They remembered the lovely family home bought at a low interest rate with the intention of expanding and renovating. The subsequent skyrocketing interest rates had put paid to that and Gerald and Gilly with baby Hannah had continued to live within its dated 1950s walls for some time until incomes increased. Then patterned wall paper was covered with magnolia paint, walls knocked down and the kitchen updated. They remembered how proud Gerald was of his ability to provide a fabulous family home both financially and physically for Gilly and Hannah, forgetting the fact Gilly too had contributed both financially due to her teaching career and physically, due to her ability to competently wield a hammer.
The closest of Gerald’s friends then drove to this home and within the comforting walls — with all of its paraphernalia of the lives of those who inhabited it, photos, library books, large television, stereo, pottery pots, candles, faded art prints and cat basket — reminisced some more. A career that was envied and admired. Then the circumstances of the late Gerald’s demise who had morphed into Gerry again, were hesitantly mentioned and commiserated about.
Once a sinewy youth, Gerald had become slightly soft, his stomach flowing over his belt line. This had not worried Gilly for her tight curves had also softened and flowed south. Gerald had not seemed too bothered by his changing silhouette, as he was busy with family duties and with his career and trying to impress people who he perceived as needing to be impressed. But suddenly, once Hannah had grown and flown and the house had been renovated beyond its resale and his career had peaked, it was like a switch had been turned on and the once lackadaisical Gerald had become aware of his sagging body and taken up jogging.
This was followed by a desire to step outside his comfort zone, a concept previously tossed aside as modern, touchy-feely nonsense. This step outside his comfort zone, was entry into a half marathon with Gerald crossing the finish line gasping, red faced, sweating and stumbling, Gilly supportively clapping and handing him a bottle of garishly coloured electrolytes. Gilly thought that once this aspiration had been ticked off, Gerald would return to his complacent self regarding exercise so it was a complete surprise to Gilly when Gerald announced he was going to run in a marathon two months later. However Gilly was not unduly worried as she expected the idea to die a quiet death as Gerald had never been known to be someone to push himself beyond his limits. It was his steadiness that had endured him to her in the first place.
However eight weeks later Gilly found her self making her way to the finish line of the marathon. As the estimated time for Gerald to run this marathon had been substantial, he had driven himself there before sparrow’s fart, leaving Gilly slumbering in bed, with plans to meet at the finish line later in the day. Gilly had risen at her normal time, vacuumed the house, driven to the supermarket, purchased a few necessities and delivered them home before driving to race headquarters and joining the cheering stragglers waiting for the final puffing runners. On arrival there was an air of hushed horror and excited gossip. Gilly had put this down to the normal atmosphere at such an event, as this was her first, before discovering this was not so and the reason for this atmosphere was that there had just been a calamity on course. This disaster, it transpired, was Gerald, who had suffered a fatal heart attack just before the 30km mark.
At last, Gerald’s friends left her alone after partaking of more light refreshments and promising to keep in touch. Gilly was left to reflect on a marriage that had been, she considered, good. Maybe not a passion-filled soulmate coupling but a contented fulfilling life with a loyal partner. Even after Hannah had morphed from blonde angel into ice maiden and left for a better life in a faraway city, Gerald and Gilly continued to relish each other’s company, enjoying a resurgence in the compatibility similar to their youth.
So the revelation a week later of the contents of the will and testament of Gerald Robert Lewis, which left a substantial bequest to a Melanie Jane Prendergast, came as a shock. Reflection some hours later, brought back the vision at the funeral of the wailing giraffe, who had been pushed into the back of Gilly’s mind. In the days following the funeral, she had questioned Gerald’s closest friends as to the identity of this interloper, but to no avail and had dismissed the slumped, crying woman as one of life’s mysteries.
Thus an enraged Gilly arrived at the home of the best friend of the deceased that evening, demanding answers. This women was obviously no stranger. Scott, who had been sworn to secrecy by Gerry, now saw that ‘the you-know-what had escaped the bag” and grudgingly, enlightened a furious Gilly.
It seemed that Gerry, having started his full marathon training, had been running slowly and methodically past an insignificant little own-your-own unit when out had jogged a not so insignificant Dri-Tec-clad gazelle — or was that giraffe — who wanted someone to run with on her ‘slow jog’ days. However those slow jog days had turned into, not marathon run training, but rather marathon coitus training. This explained why the marital relations of Gerald and Gilly, usually frequent and mutually satisfying, had become infrequent before the marathon. It had not been due to Gerald being exhausted due to over exuberance running, but over exuberance in the arms of Melanie Jane Prendergast. When Gerald, or was that Gerry, had actually run his marathon, his unprepared body had suddenly and spectacularly surrendered.
Gilly, although well within her rights according to well- meaning friends, decided not to contest the will. Instead she sold the hard-won and lovingly renovated family home after disposing, firstly, of all Gerald’s belongings, then everything of their shared history. Purged of her previous life, Gilly purchased a new single-woman, one- bedroom abode.
A year later, while lazing in leisure wear in her shiny mini residence, bored and in need of a new direction in life, Gilly decided, like the now-not- mentioned Gerry, she needed to refurbish her body. Her life had gotten an overhaul. Why not her curves? Unlike the half-hearted attempt of Gerald, Gilly vowed to herself, that this would be a, genuine and sustained effort.
So, daily, she squeezed into discreetly coloured sportswear and jogged off out her gate, the distances modest at first. One morning, as she passed a dilapidated student flat a block from her pristine pride and joy, a young man, or rather boy, for he was barely 20, emerged, all rippling muscles and taut stomach. He smiled beguiling at Gilly. “I see you running along here each day and wondered if you’d like company. I would enjoy someone to train with. Not every day — just on my slow jog days.”
Gilly paused for a millisecond before extending her hand in greeting.
“Why not?” she said.
About The Author:
Wendy Taylor lives on a lifestyle block with an amazing husband and a number of animals. She is a mother to two grown children. She has had a variety of jobs over the years from librarian, house cleaner, teacher’s aide and riding therapy instructor. When she was a child she filled notebooks with stories and poems and has now decided it is time to rekindle the passion. In her spare time she hangs out with her horse, husband, children and garden, not necessarily in that order, oops yes, probably in that order.