Gertie and Bridget go to a funeral
It was a lovely winter day. Snow slush had been pushed to line the sides of the sidewalks as more flakes fell on eyelashes and noses alike. Leafless trees were tickled by the wind, streetlamps glowed warmly, and fogs formed from breathy laughter. Gertie watched passersby with interest, at least until the funeral planner closed the curtains. Gertie sighed. Count on her Great Grandma Gertrude (her namesake) to pass from old age on Midwinter’s Eve to guarantee the entire family would be together for the holidays.
The room was close to frigid. Gertie eyed the fireplace, sitting under a coat of arms with trumpets, wondering why it wasn’t lit. There were tables of food and drink in the back of the large room and Gertie swallowed as her mouth watered. Why hadn’t she eaten lunch?
Gertie’s gaze continued to scan the room, over her extended family, all shifting about awkwardly while listening to eulogies, same as her. An air of gloom had set over her normally boisterous, magical family, and it was difficult to see them this way. Great Grandma Gertrude wouldn’t have wanted this. Gertie finally settled on staring wistfully at an organ, shoved in a corner in the back with dust choking it, used for little more than decoration. If only she knew how to play.
Her father, Theodore Mallon, nudged her with his elbow. “I know it’s miserable,” he said. “But we’ll get through it.”
Gertie turned back to the proceedings and nodded. She felt for the paper folded in her pocket, checking it hadn’t slipped out. It was a letter from her mother, that she was supposed to read at the podium, apologizing for her absence and recalling fond memories of her grandmother. Gertie and her sister wished their mother could be there as well, but work was work, airfare was expensive during the holidays, and with deadlines fast approaching and emergency after emergency popping up, there was nothing her mom could do.
Bridget slumped farther in her seat, trying to brush her hair to cover her magic eye. It did no good. While people spoke at the podium, all the poor girl could focus on was the ghost of great grandma Gertrude, scowling over the whole affair.
The spirit looked exactly as she had the last time Bridget had seen her great grandmother (before the funeral, of course). Her gray hair was a fiery mane flickering about her head, her body small and thin, her features soft and wrinkled despite her expression of derision at the display before her.
Bridget was used to seeing ghosts, in the years since the loss of her eye. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, but most spirits ignored her and she did the same. This was different. She had never experienced seeing the ghost of someone she had known in life. Except for Ziggy of course.
But Ziggy was different. He was a dog, not a blood relative.
Grandma Leona was sniffling, lamenting the loss of her mother in her grand dramatic fashion at the podium.
“She was taken from us far too soon.” Grandma Leona stopped for a sob.
“Posh,” Great Grandma Gertrude muttered, audible to Bridget. “After a hundred and eighteen years I’m ready for peace.”
Ziggy, hovering over the seat next to Bridget, barked in agreement.
“Hush,” Bridget whispered to the dog’s ghost.
He panted a smile up at her and bounded up to lick her from chin to nose. A bone-deep chill ran through Bridget’s jaw and she sneezed.
Gertie looked over, raising her eyebrows. Bridget just shook her head. Her older sister didn’t need to know the ruckus that happened when ghosts saw their own funerals. They were never pleased.
“Bridget, darling,” Great Grandma Gertrude called from across the hall, where she perched on a grandfather clock. “Would you tell your grandmother that this is a time for celebration? That my life was wonderful, and she should honor the spirit of it?”
Bridget covered her face in her hands. Of course her great grandmother would know she could see and hear her. She had helped Bridget explore the secrets of her mansion when Bridget was just a girl, and learn the capabilities of her ruined eye.
“Is Ziggy being that bad?” Gertie whispered. Having to dress formally, Gertie was forbidden (forbidden!) from wearing her baseball cap, which was spelled to let her see their beloved dog.
“Not him,” Bridget muttered back.
“Great Grandma Gertrude.”
“Oh.” Gertie frowned. “Does she not like the service?”
“Stop crying!” Gertrude had moved to hover in front of her son, Great Uncle Maury. “I specifically asked for dancing! Where’s my music? Surely they knew I’d be here!”
“She wants this to be a party,” Bridget muttered. “She’s upset that they didn’t listen.”
“I remember,” Grandma Leona said, still giving her heartfelt eulogy, “when I was a girl, and afraid to go swimming in our pool because someone,” she gave a fond look to her brother, “told me that pixie fish lived in the bottom. And mother - she didn’t say the reasonable thing, which would have been that pixie fish live in saltwater - she said, ‘You can be afraid at what lies at the bottom, or you can jump in and see if you can make friends with it.’” Grandma Leona sniffed. “I think that’s advice we can all take to heart.”
Great Grandma Gertrude smiled at that.
“I guess, all that’s left to say, is goodbye, mother.” Grandma Leona looked back to large picture of the Mallons’ matriarch, placed next to her casket.
Gertrude sighed, and floated over to the empty seat next to Bridget, who stiffened.
“They didn’t even choose a flattering picture,” the ghost said.
Bridget finally looked over and made eye contact with her great grandma. “They expected you to move on,” she whispered. “What unfinished business could you have? You lived over a century! Whatever you needed to do you had the time to finish.”
Great Grandma Gertrude grinned. “That’s my girl.” She brushed Bridget’s hair back from her eye. The cold pierced through Bridget again and she sneezed.
“Blow your nose,” her father said.
Bridget sniffed. “I’m fine.”
There was silence as Great Uncle Maury shuffled up to talk. He cleared his throat. “I’m not as good at speaking as my sister.” Instead, he pulled a large mirror out of his expandable bag. “I thought I’d just...show some of my favorite memories of my mother.”
What flickered across the mirror at a wave of his hand was a montage of his mother’s laugh, of her baking in the kitchen for him, of toys and magic and jokes. Of parties in Gertrude’s mansion, surrounded by friends and family.
“That’s what I’m looking for,” Gertrude said, floating towards the ceiling and pointing at the memories. “One last time.”
Bridget looked away from the ghost and saw her sister raising her eyebrows in concern. “She just wants everyone to have fun,” Bridget said.
Gertie’s mouth thinned as the congregation politely applauded Great Uncle Maury’s heartfelt display. Sweeping her choice of formal hat onto her head - a black, wide-brimmed number with a fluffy purple feather that great grandma Gertrude herself had given her - Gertie cut off her aunt and took to the podium. “Friends, family. I too am going to miss Great Grandma Gertrude. I share her name, and for years, you all have said that I share her spirit. And in that spirit,” Gertie said with a twinkle in her eye, “I think we should celebrate the wonderful life that the Mallon matriarch had.”
Gertie waved her hand, and with the powers granted to her by her hat, the decorative trumpets above the fireplace began to sing. Bridget sighed under a wave of relief. Her great grandmother’s ghost was grinning.
“Great Grandma Gertrude loved music,” Gertie continued. The wooden tables - those for setting drinks down, not bearing food - began to thump rhythmically in time with the horns. “She loved dancing.” The decorative organ coughed, and blared in key. “And more than anything, she loved to see her family happy.”
Instruments burst in from other rooms, playing along to the upbeat melody that Gertie had cast.
“So let’s dance!” Gertie shouted, pulling up family members left and right. Attendees threw the windows open, letting in the light and breeze, and other witches cast their magical spells to add to the music, create colorful lights, and keep out the chill.
Gertie found her way through the crowd, bumping into Bridget halfway.
“Does she like it?” Gertie asked.
Bridget looked to the ghost floating between them, a beaming smile and tears in her eyes. “She loves it.”