In Her Eyes
By Sali Earls
I groaned as the alarm went off. Five more minutes. Just five more. I knew I had to get up and get on with it, but I’d been dreading the day. It was too important, and I wasn’t ready for it.
Turning the alarm off, having snoozed it for the third time, I sat on the edge of the bed and gazed at my toes. The chipped nail polish looked as horrible as I felt, but there was no time to deal with it now. It’s not like anyone was going to see my toenails today anyway. No matter the weather, today wasn’t going to be a day for sandals.
I sat for a couple of minutes, focusing on my breathing. My heart was pumping, and I wanted to be calm and quiet to face it. Or at least appear to be.
I pushed myself up off the bed and walked into the bathroom. Christ! I looked so much worse than I felt. How was that possible? My hair could be washed and styled, but my skin looked so sallow, and my eyes were bloodshot with massive bruises for bags beneath them. I lacked both the skill and make up to put that right. I threw cold water into my face, in the vain hope it would shock my skin back to normal. I looked the same, just dripping.
I hadn’t spoken to the rest of the family properly for a few months. They knew I was back, of course. Dad had been the one to email me, to tell me what had happened. But here I was, in this budget hotel, on my own. I’d never felt so alone.
People had always said I had her eyes. She’d said they were her best feature and she had been so beautiful in her youth. I looked into the mirror, squinting at myself. The lighting was pretty good in here, all things considered, and I looked into my eyes. They were so blue that in the right light they looked almost purple. That’s why they’d named me Iris.
I washed and brushed my hair, scraping it into a bun, and slipped into my black dress. I hadn’t been to a funeral since my grandfather died, and I was terrified I would be a blubbering wreck. I may not have seen her for years, but we always had an unspoken bond, a connection that was so special.
I took a taxi to the crematorium, arriving just behind the hearse and family car. It was a relief in a way. I didn’t feel up to awkward conversations with distant relatives. I stood a little distance from the hearse and watched as my brother, mother, father and uncle vacated the car. I caught my father’s eye, and he winked. My mother was too distracted with my brother to notice me.
We took our seats in the crematorium, and the pallbearers brought the coffin through the congregation to its resting place. The family flowers were a beautiful mix of irises, daffodils and roses. My mother turned to look at the mourners and noticed me. She gave a little smile and nodded.
The priest had known my grandmother well, and told a number of very funny anecdotes, some of which were new to me. She had been much loved by all who knew her, which was clear from the large crowd of mourners and well-wishers. I felt a lump in my throat when, during a moment of prayer, I watched as her coffin was transported away. I had forgotten that they did that. Iris Bowen. Rest in Peace.
We left the building to the tune of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. She had always been a huge fan of Fred and Ginger. I hugged my mother and brother, and walked to my father. “I’m so sorry Dad. I should have been here.” He told me that travelling is exactly what I should have been doing, and that grandma had wanted me to see the world, “I think she was a bit jealous actually,” he told me.
I had planned to go straight back to the hotel and figure out what to do next, but here I am in my childhood bedroom at home. They persuaded me to come back. Not that it took that much persuasion after all.
So I’m sitting here, at my old desk and dressing table reading a note that I’m guessing Dad slipped into my pocket after the funeral. It’s from her.
I spy with my little eye, something beginning with I! You always were my little I weren’t you sweetheart? I’m so proud of you, darling little Iris, of everything you’ve already achieved and all those things that are yet to happen. I want you to promise me that you will live your life to the full, and always have fun. And don’t forget, your old grandma is always with you. Just look in the mirror xx
As I look in the mirror, the light from my desk lamp catches my eyes and makes them burn purple. And she’s there. Her eyes are looking at me through my own eyes, and they’re smiling.