“Lord, child, you see them flowers?” The revered Miss Betty shook her head and tsked as she reminisced about the scene. “Was a beautiful sight.”
“Amen.” Miss Fanny, about ten years younger and ten years less revered than her friend Betty, rocked in her chair. She tugged at some of the smooth ribbon in her hands to remove the wires from the sides, then handed it to Miss Betty.
Once Miss Betty had a hold of the latest ribbon, a deep red to match the carnations it had accented, she spritzed it with just a touch of water and set it under her flat iron. “He musta been loved. Why, they musta spent a hundred – no a thousand! – dollars on them flowers.”
“And Maybelle outdid herself with them delicious deviled eggs.”
“Hush yo’ mouth. Ever’ one knows mine’s better, and I don’t want poor Steve bein’ mad at me for not providin’ the best myself.” Miss Betty pulled more ribbon across the ironing board to flatten another piece. “Cain’t talk about things like that ’til we’re sure he’s not gonna come back.”
Poor Miss Fanny gulped, wondering how to navigate the conversation. Since the death of her husband, Miss Betty had been quite snitty. “When’s that gwine be? They put ‘im in the ground Tuesday. Ain’t comin’ back from that.”
“We’ll know he’s gone when I get this thing here sewed.” She took another funeral ribbon from Miss Fanny. “His mem’ry still got places to float ’til then. I gotta get this done.”
“Ain’t ne’er heard none of that superstitious business comin’ outta your mouth afore. Now I know it’s hard seein’ Steve die, but he ain’t hauntin’ this place.”
“But how do I know? How can I be sure he’s gone?” She ironed another ribbon. “My youngest is comin’ to clean his clothes out of the closets next week. I ain’t never had nothin’ that were mine and mine alone, so his stuff will linger in this house ’til I die. I gotta finish this quilt, else ain’t nowhere to put ‘im.” Her hands shook, causing the iron to crease a ribbon rather than flatten it. She spritzed it again and started over.
Miss Fanny bit her lip and looked sheepishly to her lap. “You know, Jesus can take care of-”
“Jesus got me through him,” Miss Betty snapped. “He got me through fifth grade and eleven kids. He got me through Steve’s cancer, and He’ll get me through the medical bills. But Lord help me, I’ve had a demon raggin’ on me since I was twelve, and Jesus can have him if he wants. I’m gettin’ shed of ‘im, free at last.”
Miss Fanny gasped. “Steve was a churchgoin’ man. You can’t say he’s been bad to you!”
“Fine. Then I won’t say it.” She gingerly laid the ribbon in a basket, thinking about whoever must have given that fine specimen in her husband’s memory.