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“Looks can be deceiving”, she muttered under her breath.

All around her the atmosphere was gloomy and depressing, as the service slowly wound its way to the end. She could hardly sit still in the suffocating atmosphere of the church, as the heat and perspiration made her fidget uncontrollably. Dan, sitting next to her, glared at her as she tried to remove the black gloves that were making her skin crawl with an unbearable itch. Catching his eye, she glowered at him and sat back in the pew, pushing her hat as far back as she could, to let the stillness of the air touch her curly, rich locks.

‘Did you say something?’ Dan asked her in a furious whisper. She merely looked at her fingers on her lap and ignored him.

“He was a good man, who worked tirelessly for the community,” said the priest, glancing over briefly at the body in the coffin.
“He was a kind man, one who never said ‘No’ to a plea for help. Losing him is an irreparable void for this community.”

‘Good riddance, you mean’, she murmured, with her eyes clamped shut.

“Would you like to leave?’ Dan hissed at her, with the implication that ‘Yes’ was not an acceptable answer.
Half-turning in her seat, she wriggled desperately to get comfortable, while drawing the disapproving looks of the other mourners. Losing every shred of interest in the proceedings, she wistfully looked at the stained glass window next to her pew and saw the Red Tree, bending under the weight of age. Its barren branches and their twisted pride always appealed to her.
The end of the service jolted her out of her reverie and she sat bolt upright. At Dan’s signal, she rose and stood, but refused to budge. With a frustrated sigh, he gripped her hand and nudged her forward towards the coffin. She eyed his prostrate form with distaste, as he lay there, attired impeccably in a black suit, with a red cloth peeping out of his coat pocket.
“Well, at least they’ll give him a rousing welcome,dressed like that. I just hope the pitchforks can get through all that puffed-up pride, ” she said in a voice, loud enough to draw shocked looks from the mourners behind her.
Dan threw an apologetic glance at them and whisked her away from there as swiftly as he could.
“Honestly, do you have no restraint?” he uttered with repressed anger. “The community loved him. He was an angel to so many. And there you are, saying all those things out loud! What has he ever done to you?”
Her wrinkled eyes looked up at her son, who had never known the truth. His wonderful dad, the caring neighbour and the loving community worker, lay inside the church, waiting to be buried. No, Dan didn’t know the truth.
Only she knew it. She and one other. The young, pregnant corpse of her husband’s paramour. 
She lay buried under the Red Tree, right next to the church. She never stood a chance as his strong fingers deliberately squeezed the life out of her, while his wife watched helplessly from the confessional booth within.
Word count: 530

Written for the Speakeasy Challenge # 153

This week we had to use this as the first line:
“Looks can be deceiving.”

In addition, we had to make a reference to the media prompt given above:

A painting titled Avond (Evening): The Red Tree 
By the artist Piet Mondrian

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Categories: Fiction

Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.


Aparna · March 16, 2014 at 8:11 am

Interesting ending Shailaja.. as ever in awe of folks who can draw fiction out of their hat :). · March 16, 2014 at 8:22 am

Nice work with the fiction Shailaja. Impressive indeed 🙂

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 8:29 am

Many thanks Aparna 🙂 I am sure you can do it. Come on!

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 8:29 am

Thanks Sid 🙂 Happy to please!

Nabanita · March 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

Another interesting piece from you Shailaja 🙂

Uma · March 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

Nice twist to the story, Shailaja. Loved how you intertwined the image to the story!

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 10:03 am

Thanks Naba 🙂

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 10:04 am

Thanks Uma. Actually rewrote that bit thrice till I was satisfied 🙂

sulekkha · March 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Deep and dark story, Shailaja. Loved the imagery, saw the story unfold in your words.

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Thank you so much, Sulekha 🙂

Vidya Sury · March 16, 2014 at 5:41 pm

The twist in the end was perfect, I was wondering how you would connect the tree, apart from being the picture she looked at. Nice dark humor, too “I just hope the pitchforks can get through all that puffed-up pride”

Loved it, Shailaja!

Shailaja V · March 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Thank you Vidya! 😀 Yes, I kind of felt a teeny bit wicked when I wrote the 'pitchfork' line 😉

Roshan Radhakrishnan · March 17, 2014 at 6:36 am

like the others, I too enjoyed the twist at the end… nice.

Sreeja Praveen · March 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

A dark twist ! And a captivating narration. Lovely ! A story well woven, an image well used and a twist, well executed !! 🙂

Shailaja V · March 17, 2014 at 7:59 am

Thank you Roshan 🙂

Shailaja V · March 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

Sreeja, you are so generous with your compliments. Not that I am complaining. Please continue to grace my site with your warm comments 🙂 Thank you!

Psych Babbler · March 17, 2014 at 9:59 am

Ooh…I loved this…I'm a sucker for dark stories {blame my line of work, I suppose}. It's so true though — so many people we hold in high regard can do the most horrific deeds…
Nicely penned Shailaja…had me captivated from start to finish…

Richa Singh · March 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

excuse me this was a stunner Shailaja… I loved it a lot. Really the way you have written the last two paras opening the whole pandoras box along with it.. amazingly good!


Shailaja V · March 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Psych, flattery will get you all my love 😀 Thank you! And yes, looks can be very deceptive.

Shailaja V · March 17, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Richa, your words make me smile 🙂 Thank you for the comment and the share 🙂

Kathy Combs · March 17, 2014 at 8:36 pm

WOW…amazing story. Wasn't expecting that end, but that is what made it so exceptional. Well done!

Shailaja V · March 18, 2014 at 4:56 am

Glad you liked it, Kathy 🙂 Thank you!

JannaTWrites · March 18, 2014 at 5:46 am

I couldn't figure out why the main character was so bitter, yet attending the funeral. I was a bit surprised to find out it was her husband (which explained why she had to be there.) Nice twist of the pregnant paramour and his 'taking care of her'. I can see why she would be bitter!

Pratibha · March 18, 2014 at 6:59 am

Loved the story and the ending too. So many stories remain untold in people's lives!

Rajlakshmi · March 18, 2014 at 8:04 am

woaa the ending took me by surprise. Brilliant writing Shailaja 🙂

tulika singh · March 18, 2014 at 8:05 am

Wow… you wove that so well together. Loved the way you included that tree. Fiction is your forte.

vishalbheeroo · March 18, 2014 at 9:13 am

Beautifully written:)

cshowers · March 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

Great story. I kept thinking Dan must be her embarrassed spouse, until you revealed that he was her son. Good twist – we parents do have a way of embarrassing our children… How sad that Dan was unaware of his father's treachery. The plot twist at the end was very well crafted. It made me want to see the whole story – what happened leading up to the crime, and what happened during the crime, as well as what happened after the funeral. I look forward to reading more of your work.


Sheethal Susan Jacob · March 18, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Perfect twist! Enjoyed 🙂

Melissa Barker-Simpson · March 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Excellent build up to a surprising finish. You had be gripped to the end. It was a good use of the prompts.

psychochef · March 18, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Wow, Shailaja! I knew something dark would be revealed, but the details were a surprise. I enjoyed this. Karen

Shilpa Garg · March 19, 2014 at 6:36 am

Dark and chilling!! But a fab story well narrated!! Thumbs up 🙂

Beloo Mehra · March 19, 2014 at 11:26 am

A very well narrated story. Interesting twist at the end!

Renada Styles · March 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Oh my! I love how you tied the tree in. And the confessional booth at the end as well. Quite a secret twist.
I enjoyed reading this as well. It is well written and draws the reader in to understand this woman's agitation.

Ranu 802 · March 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Shailaja, what a powerful story, I loved it.

Jen Brunett · March 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm

This was really good and visual. I liked the twist, especially. 🙂

Michael A. Walker · March 20, 2014 at 2:52 am

Nicely done! Your writing skills are top notch, and I enjoy your style.

trudgingthroughfog · March 20, 2014 at 5:24 am

Wow, fabulous story! I could feel the tension building, and you dropped hints at just the right places. Really great job.

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:01 am

Exactly! How could she feel any love/respect for the man after she saw what he'd done? Thanks Janna!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:01 am

They probably do, Pratibha. How much can we really say from outward appearances?

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

*Blush* Thanks Raj!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

And here I was, thinking I was the queen of introspective pieces 😉 Thanks for the compliment, Tulika!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

Thanks Vishal!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

Oh wow! Talk about pressure 😉 Now I have to think up the entire back story 😉 Thanks for your detailed comment! Much appreciated.

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

Thanks Sheethal 🙂

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

Thanks for that Melissa 🙂

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

So happy you could stop by, Karen! Much love <3

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

Thank you Shilpa 🙂

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:09 am

Thanks Beloo!!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:09 am

Really happy you liked the tie-in. Wondered how it would come out 🙂

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:09 am

Thanks Ranu!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

Jen, you made my day. Thanks!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

Michael, that makes me very happy indeed!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

Didn't give too much away before the end,I hope? Thank you!

Atreyee · March 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Enjoyed the smooth flow to this story Shailaja and as I love dark and twisted endings,this simply made me grin-well done! 🙂

estheria · March 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Oh jeez! The last few sentences of this story are amazing!! No, you didn't give away too much before the end 🙂

Suzanne · March 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Nicely executed! I love the breadcrumb hints that lead us to that shocking twist of an ending! 🙂

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Thanks Atreyee. SO glad you liked it!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Whew! That's a relief. Thank you!

Shailaja V · March 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Thank you Suzanne:)

EagleAye · March 20, 2014 at 10:23 pm

How difficult it must have been to sit there while knowing the truth. You portrayed her so well with her actions and fidgeting and her words. Wonderfully written!

writingsoftmt · March 21, 2014 at 4:38 am

shocking ending!
– Midnight Thief

habibadanyal · March 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

My kind of story. I loved it!

Scattered Mama · March 23, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Oh! Loved reading well written…Iu must write more fiction n also publish it!

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