The Wedding Quilt – Episode 19

“Is that so? What would those be?”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth she wished she could call them back, for Frank was looking at her with what she could only describe as a soppy expression on his face.

“I’ve passed my exams,” he explained. “I’m a fully fledged conductor now. Time I was looking for a wife and settling down.”

Luckily for Beasie a grouse flew up from the ditch at that moment, startling the horse, which began to dance all over the road.

Fortunately Frank was able to bring the animal under control after a brief struggle and they continued on, much relieved.

“Well done, Frank,” Beasie said. “I thought we were done for.”

“So did I for a moment. Losing a wheel would be no joke, not to mention the odd broken bone! With everyone up at the wake there would be no-one around to help us. Now, what was I saying?”

“I wonder what they plan to do about the funeral?” Beasie blurted out, desperate to keep Frank from making an unwelcome declaration.

Deceased neighbours were always waked at home, with the funeral service held at the church on the following day. After the committal in the graveyard, the mourners gathered for luncheon before returning to their homes.

“Frank is going to fill in for Dad so he can attend Paddy’s memorial service since he won’t be at the wake today,” Drusilla said. “Why don’t you come to the house that day and have lunch with us, Beasie?”

“I don’t know,” Beasie said. “Dad might expect me to mind the store while he and Mum are away at the service. I doubt he’ll want it to stay closed for any longer.”

She picked at the stitching on her gloves. Things were moving a little too fast for her liking.

Of course she hoped to be married some day. In the meantime she would love to have a beau; someone to go out walking with; somebody to escort her to social events in Ararat.

Drusilla had decided that she wanted her best friend as a sister-in-law.

Surely a slow courtship was best, so a couple could get to know each other before committing themselves for life?

What if Beasie couldn’t meet Frank’s expectations and she had to turn him down in the end? The last thing she wanted was to hurt the man.

“Here we are!” Frank announced, as they passed through an open gate. “I’ll let you off at the door while I tether the horse.”

The girls went in by the front door, which was never used except for weddings and funerals.

Visitors always used the back door, expecting to be entertained in the main room of the house which doubled as kitchen and living quarters.

Once inside they found the Ryans standing in a line: Paddy’s parents and their surviving children, Bridie, Tom, Martin and Terence. Friends and neighbours moved down the row, shaking hands and murmuring, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Although there was no coffin in the room, someone had placed a table, covered with a lace cloth, at the end of the line. On it stood a photograph of Paddy, resplendent in his uniform.

Similar images could be found in homes throughout the district; studio portraits taken before their subjects went off to war.

Beasie reached the end of the line, having done her duty. She longed to get out of this sorrow-filled room, but Frank was deep in conversation and there was no hope of getting away until he was ready to leave.

Then an inner door was flung open and a tall man appeared – a young man with black curls and laughing blue eyes.

“What’s going on?” he cried. “Nobody told me there was a party! Have I missed anything?”

Faces turned in shock and a woman screamed. Nellie Ryan broke away from the mourners, tears gushing down her cheeks.

“Paddy! Oh, Paddy, my darling boy!”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.