More Than Life

Entry by: EmmaCLP

29th May 2015
Outside the church, Ella was faring better than she’d expected. Groups of mourners had congregated in small huddles, grim-faced and tearful, but some of them had readily agreed to talk to her. She’d got some great quotes from a trio of eccentrically dressed artists who’d once shared a studio with the deceased painter and were keen to talk about their friendship.
‘I adored darling Alexandra,’ one of them said. ‘She was the only person I know who could paint a masterpiece, look glamorous and make everyone feel special – all at the same time. Such a tragic loss. She was much too young to leave the party. Much, much too young.’
Ella had amassed an impressive list of famous names who had turned up to pay their respects. The vicar of St Mary’s had given her details of the hymns and music and had even handed her a copy of his own tribute.
‘Alexandra Barker was a very special person,’ he added. ‘A talented painter yes, a wonderful friend, yes, but more importantly, she had a very generous heart. I don’t think many people know this but she helped at the soup kitchen we run for the homeless sometimes. We all loved her.’
At two minutes to twelve, with the church full to bursting, the funeral cortège pulled up outside the church. Four pallbearers solemnly hoisted the lily-strewn coffin on to their broad shoulders and with slow, dignified steps carried it up the church path and into the nave. Alexandra’s daughters, clad head to toe in black and close to tears, followed close behind. After them came a distinguished-looking man, flanked by two teenage boys. The younger boy had a gold stud in his ear and the older one looked as if he was on the verge of breaking down.
‘Who are they?’ whispered Ella.
The photographers were too busy snapping the family to answer but after a few seconds one of them whispered back.
‘Alexandra Barker’s daughters. The bloke is her son-in-law. He doesn’t half fancy himself. I had to do some studio shots of him once and he was a right prima donna. Quite a ladies’ man too, or so I’ve heard.’
‘I thought she had three daughters,’ murmured Ella, glancing at the newspaper cuttings she’d printed out about the artist’s life and times.
‘There are. I don’t know where the other one is. You’d have thought she’d turn up to her own mother’s funeral. She’s the middle one – if I say so myself, a bit of a looker. We can’t have missed her. I’m sure I would have clocked her a mile off.’
As the clock struck twelve, each chime long and laborious, the church doors closed theatrically behind the family.
Ella quickly took her laptop out of her bag and using an ancient gravestone as an impromptu seat started writing her story for the afternoon edition.
‘Famous names from the art world were out in force today to mourn the death of celebrated painter Alexandra Barker,’ she typed at breakneck speed.
As Ella typed, a commotion erupted outside the churchyard. A glamorous blonde in a scarlet dress, matching heels and a slick of bright red lipstick had jumped out of a cab and was elbowing pedestrians out of the way in her haste to get to the church. It didn’t help that the tiny figure was carrying two huge bags, one on each shoulder. The bags whacked a couple of people in the chest as she hurried past but she didn’t stop.
The blonde woman swept through the church gate and, spotting Ella, dumped the massive bags at her feet.
‘Look after this lot for me, will you darling?’ she said quickly, then hurried into the church.