Edward watches the crows circling the fine black lines of leafless trees etched against the pewter sky. He hears the first thud of earth on wood and stares down at the coffin. The brass nameplate is already tarnished by the wet soil. He shivers, wishing he hadn’t come.
On the journey over he’d asked his mother how they were related to the dead woman. The train was pulling away from Huddersfield station. He’d waited for an answer, watching the station clock grow smaller and smaller. ‘She was a distant relative. Far too complicated to explain,’ was the only reply. He’d forgotten how his mother coveted secrets. He tried again, ‘So her name was Claudette Mason?’
He received a slight nod of the head, and noted that she was wearing her pewter pearls, the diamante clasp resting on the prominent vertebrae at the back of her neck as she turned to look out of the window. He persisted, ‘You ask me to take a day off work and come to a funeral with you, but I’m not to be furnished with any of the particulars?’
She turned then, she must have heard the pique in his voice, ‘I appreciate you coming, thank you.’ She spoke with a measured politeness, ‘I didn’t want to come on my own.’
He tries to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, ‘Unusual for you, Mother.’
‘I didn’t know her that well. We wrote mostly. She was an interesting woman.’
‘And we were related?’
‘Yes, but I don’t remember how. It’s not important anyway.’ She leans back in her seat, closing her eyes against the sun.
Edward smiles to himself. Surely at forty-nine he should have learnt how to handle his mother.
Edward digs his stick firmly into the mud and studies the faces of the other mourners. Across the grave is a girl in her early twenties. Her hair is dyed a garish purple and is scraped into a short ponytail at