It must be perfect. Every stitch, each line, the trace of mascara--must be perfect. Flawless. Brilliant.
Mother would expect no less.
Let her be memorialized in all her glory. Freshly polished shoes, painted nails, glossy lips. Let the girls be envious over cards. I could see their pinched faces, unpleasant tone, as they nodded in obvious dismay over Mother's finery. They would smirk and coo, "Did she think she was the Queen of England? Who needs a casket like that, honestly, what was Evelyn thinking?"
I pinned great-grandma's gold unicorn pin to her blouse. I smoothed the hair from her brow.
Impeccably dressed--she was ready.
I kissed her cool, feather soft cheek. The warm glow from the Christmas tree cast shadows over her face.
"Merry Christmas Mother."
Holly decked the room like a rich velvety dream. Norman would be proud at the traditional trimmings. I'd worked through the night setting the stage. A fine actress deserves the best farewell imaginable. And there was no finer actress than Mother. Confusion and anger began to wrestle in my brain and I struggled to clear my aching head. "You're incredibly stupid, you useless, useless boy!"
No. No. No.
I closed my eyes to silence her voice. Mother loved me. Affection was just difficult for her.
Ha! The bitch loved you in front of her friends. Dance trained monkey, dance for Mother!
My legs wavered under my weight and I clung to the bannister. No. It was perfect. Mother would love it. She'd be so proud of her son. She'd laugh with delight over her friends' jealousy. She'd soak up the attention like a peacock shaking it's glorious feathers. I'd gotten it right this time.
I walked back to her coffin with confidence.
"My apologies for selecting your gift in error, Mother. But I suppose this will have to do as a substitute."
I slammed the heavy lid over her serenely frozen face. The dustpan made short work of the broken vase and blood red roses she'd flung against the wall. I paused. The knife was still sticky with residue. All I needed now was...more bleach.