Sarah Kelleher

Image of a white rose centered on black background. The bloom is fully open with stamens visible in the center and the petals folding back and beginning to wrinkle. A green stem with small thorns extends from the flower to the bottom of the photo. On one side of the stem is a single leaf, on the other, an offshoot with a smaller, unopened rose that is partially hidden behind the open rose. Light falls on the rose from the right. The background is completely in shadow.

Photo Credit: Veit Irtenkauf/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

It’s a bad rose. It sails fat-headed from my hand, skims glossy wood, vanishes without sound. The other roses lie on the coffin where they landed. Casual and elegant and yellow, they criss-cross the sun’s reflection, tight-lipped and pretty like little onions.

My rose’s stem was as long as my arm, too heavy. Why was I so childish? I waited until the end of the service so nobody saw me draw it from the colourful burst at the altar. I held my eyes on my three sisters—if I couldn’t see what I was doing, then neither could they—and they chatted and shoulder-touched like hostesses, incorporated in black, until I dragged the knobbled stem free, flicking cold drops on my blouse. It turned out I had grabbed a white one. It was dry-fluffy, open wide. Mum liked yellow. But stealing a flower at a funeral is a new low, especially when you were not invited, and I did not risk a second try.

Now everyone stands muted in the sun: sunglasses and flat mouths. A priest sing-speaks a verse about ashes and dust. It’s a movie. It’s the end of times. I hold a sticky tissue to my nose, lungs jolting pain into my throat, nerves burning with all these years of avoidance, of pride. I thought there would be more time. I thought she would live forever. No shoulders turn, no sunglasses glint in my direction. I sense pleasure. I bolster their goodness, their dedication.

Why was I brave? Why did I come?


Sarah Kelleher lives in Auckland, New Zealand. To pay the bills she’s dabbled in freelance journalism and copywriting, but her real love is fiction, often getting up early to work at her laptop before her family wakes. She spends the rest of her time flying planes and caring for her son. Email: sarahkelleherwriter[at]