Five days have passed since I've landed here with the ladies. After blogging every day in June, it's been nice to take little breaks.
Since my last Festival of Funerals entry, I've received some great ideas from folks who are following this travelogue, and I've used a few of those suggestions today. Thanks to those of you who are following along as this story unfolds.
I never know what direction things will go with these characters until I get a chance to sit down and write. When I do, time melts away like miles under the balding tires of Stella and Maisie's Dodge Dart.
I started this bit of summer fiction on July 5, so if you'd like to see what you've missed, you can scroll down the right side of this site and start at the beginning!
Stella navigated her way out of the Open Arms sanctuary with as much grace as she could gather.
She was visibly shaken after she'd felt his unexpected, familiar touch, heard his deafening whisper.
Stella wondered as she left the sanctuary how this could have happened, seeing him again after decades, far from where they'd left each other 42 years ago.
Or, more accurately, where she'd left Arthur, at the altar of a more formal house of worship, under a completely different set of circumstances.
Present-day Stella projected the air of an aloof, irascible old lady. But the crusty shell she'd worked so hard to develop crumbled into a messy pile of memories and regret as she walked into the kitchen.
Not unlike what remained of Bob Engelbright, everything in the kitchen and the dining hall was neatly laid out for display.
Despite her fragile, bird-like frame, Stella was a stress eater. So the timing couldn't have been better, at least when it came to the availability of food. Not so much when it came to bumping into Arthur.
She composed herself and headed straight for the fried chicken.
She'd had a wing and a thigh with a side of potato salad, all of which she ate with a voracious decorum by the time Arthur Cambridge and the rest of the funeral party found their way to the dining hall.
Arthur made his way straight to Stella. She noticed how the decades had been kind to him. Regardless of the passage of time, he looked like a sleep-deprived, somewhat smaller version of the man she'd tucked away in her heart.
Stella wasn't sure if she was overcome with emotion at seeing Arthur or indigestion from having eaten too fast, but as he came closer, the knot in her stomach grew increasingly larger.
"Why are you here? Why did you come, Stella?" Arthur's questions were tinged with shades of both happiness and despair.
"I'm here with Maisie." Stella had addressed neither of his questions.
"I had no idea you knew Bob," Arthur said. He was obviously grief-stricken, on several levels. Meeting at a ceremony, just like they had the last time he saw her, brought back memories.
"I missed you that day. And every day since, Stella," Arthur took her hand. They walked together to the buffet line, because it seemed like the thing to do.
She wished Maisie would get to the kitchen. Because, uncharacteristically, Stella didn't know what to do next.
She thought they were coming to Bozeman to pay a few respects, have a nice lunch, then head out of town. After today, they'd be one step closer to the coast.
Instead of acknowledging Arthur's admission, Stella put a large spoonful of taco salad and a dill pickle spear on her plate as she tried to think of something to talk about with Arthur that would bring the past back into the present.
"How did you know Bob?" Stella asked.
"He was my brother-in-law."
For some reason, Stella was surprised that Arthur had continued his life without her.
"And you?" Arthur asked Stella. "How did you know Bob?"
Thankfully, just as he finished asking the question, Maisie made a colorful, enthusiastic entrance into the dining hall.
It seemed that Maisie had met someone at Bob's service as well.
And if she and her companion didn't know each other before, they looked very familiar with each other as they stood in line for the buffet.