This story was written in response to the following word prompts.
Word of the Day: Woebegone
Shery’s One Daily Prompt: Scorn
Today’s things are: great-aunt, ant, plant
It had been a while since I’d been to the family homestead. It was a rambling clapperboard house that at one time housed two extended families. Now only Mother lived there all alone. Walking up the pathway I passed plant after plant that was withering and dying in that long hot summer. It had been months since we’d had any rain.
The door creaked just like it always did as I pulled it open and walked into the relative coolness of the dark hallway. It smelt of wood and beeswax. All the wooden furniture was polished to a high shine. I felt a bite on my ankle. Looking down I saw a solitary ant climbing my bare leg, which I promptly squashed beneath my fingertips. The long hot dry summer had brought out a lot of ants lately. God, how I’ve prayed for rain.
“Mama, where are you? It’s me Laura” I called out, my voice echoing around the practically empty dwelling.
“Laura, is that you? I’m upstairs dear, In Aunty’s room.”
There were a lot of bedrooms upstairs that were practically untouched, except for dusting, since the previous occupants had departed. Her Great-Aunt Sally had lived in the bedroom at the very end of the landing and for the last few years of her life had rarely left it. It was still full of all her knickknacks and memorabilia.
I walked in to find my Mother sitting on the bed crying. I sat next to her and put my arm around her.
“There, there Mama. Great Aunt Sally’s been dead twenty years, why are you carrying on so?”
“No, it’s not that. There was a storm last night and it blew over that old tree, the one that your Grandfather planted not long after he bought this place.”
I still couldn’t understand why she sounded so woebegone. All this fuss about a tree. I couldn’t help feeling some scorn. It was a lovely tree, but It was only seventy years or so old, not really that old as trees went. I gave Mama another hug, but she pushed me away.
“You don’t understand. There was a body buried there, under that tree. The storm brought it to the surface. It was wrapped in a tarpaulin, but it was unrecognisable. There was a locket with it and in it was this key.”
I looked down at the small, ornate brass key in my Mothers frail old hand.
“What was the key for? It’s too small to be for a door.”
“It was the key to this box. No one could open it when she died but we didn’t think there was anything important in it. Not enough to force it open.”
I remembered the beautiful small box, inlaid with scented sandalwood, that now lay on the floor, open.
Also, on the floor, lying as if it had just fallen from my Mothers hand, was a small leather-bound book. The kind used for keeping a diary or perhaps notes and recipes in.
I reached down and picked up the book. I recognised the highly ornate handwriting from birthday cards I had received as a young child. It was Great Aunt Sally’s writing.
She had written. ‘Why I killed my Sister today.’
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 15/July/2018