This story is by Anita Meiszies and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Friends and family join together, their voices murmur and overlap softly. The air is thick with melancholy. Garry stands in the corner watching with hooded eyes the people who have come to share in his sorrow. His shoulders hunch wishing all this was over so he and his memories were alone.
Hid amongst the furniture in the front lounge that nobody ever uses, an old stereo with big speakers plays soothing instrumentals.
This will never do. This will not be the first time gloom enters one of my parties. Oh, no, no, no. There needs to be light and laughter. Garry and I are renowned for being the best entertainers. Something had to be done. For one, the music had to change.
Grabbing my sister, Eve, we move to look through the old record collection. She flips them one way and I flip the other way. She frowns and looks about her coming across the open lounge window, a slight breeze making the sheer curtains float about. Look, Eve. I bring her focus back to see what I discovered, and she looks down.
“I remember this record.” she says.
With a laugh, Eve places the needle on the vinyl and the room resounds with nostalgia as Fleetwood Mac filters towards the people gathered, bringing a smile to both our faces in remembrance. All those times when we were younger, belting out the songs and dancing through the house.
Feet tap, heads nod, and Eve and I beam at each other.
We dance our way over to the others. Eve grabs her husband and I make my way over to mine.
Come on Garry, giving him a nudge. Come dance with me.
Garry gives a shiver and a shake of his head. He knows this song is a favourite of mine. But he stays in his corner. I roll my eyes at him and dance back to my sister.
Conversations become a little more upbeat with old memories. My parents smile at something Garry’s dad is telling them about Garry and I play fighting in the backyard when we were newly married, adding their own memories of when Garry and I first met all those years ago. I give them a wave as I dance past them.
My brother, Paul, joins Eve and me. He places his arms across our shoulders and gives us a hug. A slight tremble goes through his arms and Eve asks if he’s cold. He shakes his head with a small smile.
“Just a breeze from the open window, I think.” he says.
I keep swaying with the beat, moving over and grabbing on to Garry’s arm and grinning at my family and friends. Never let it be said a party I throw ever ends badly.
I try to drag him over to a different group, but he flinches and walks off the other way. I shake my head knowingly at him. He’ll come around.
I glide from group to group, glasses raise to quench thirsts dry from constant chatting, if not from laughter.
Uncle Fred regales my friend Glenda with stories of me and my siblings.
Stop, Uncle. You’re embarrassing me. I give his arm a squeeze. His hand rubs absently over mine.
“Are you cold, Fred?” Glenda asks.
“No, just these old bones, you know.” he says. Glenda smirks back at him.
Abby, my cousin, comes over to join Glenda, Uncle Fred and me, then I look over her shoulder. Brian, Garry’s best mate, catches my eye and I laugh in horror. Brian went to get up off the couch but his foot lands on the cat’s tail, who screeches, startling him. In his surprise, he jumps back on the leather couch, landing so hard he bounces over the top of it. His foot clips the glass of champagne Glenda holds, which ends up all over Aunt Martha’s head. Her purple hair flattens to the right side of her head, champagne drips down her forehead and into her eyes. Her black mascara runs and mingles with the foundation caked on her face, dissolving it into glimpses of her true age. Brian peers over the couch at Aunt Martha, cheeks red with embarrassment.
The room holds its breath. I hold my hand over my mouth, trying not to laugh out loud.
In the end, it was Garry who broke out with first a snicker and then a laugh. Aunt Martha was the second one to join in. The entire room then erupted and overflowed, ending with tears and aching sides.
It had been quite a while since I’d seen Garry smile, let alone laugh; it made him look young again. I give his arm a squeeze, brush a kiss upon his cheek and fade into the background. I knew everything will be fine.
He looks at where my hand had been and places a hand on his cheek. Tears glisten in his eyes and a smile ghosts across his face. He raises his glass and addresses the room.
“Thank you all for coming and celebrating the precious life that was my wife, Penny. How she loved each one of you. I’ve listened to the stories you have shared of her and I’m sure in all our memories of her, she’s been right beside us and laughing with us. She loved to dance and was always the life of a party. May she find harmony and laughter wherever she may be?”
I look back at all of them and smile.