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FICTION: ‘Great Aunt Harriet’
Published in the 2016-2017 edition of Pandora’s Box

My Great Aunt Harriet had managed to drag me to church again.

It used to be fun when I was little. She’d take along some toys and I’d sit quietly, rolling
the tiny wheels of a car along the seat of a pew and joining in as they sang about all things that were bright and beautiful and the city of Jerusalem.

Now it was just boring, the building made cold by the November weeks. I shivered.

I think back to one summer Sunday. I must’ve been about eleven and wore a brown
patterned dress and denim jacket, long socks with white frills at the edges. I sat in this exact same spot, the place I’ve always sat, as my Great Aunt had a discussion with Mrs Gregory.

‘Whose turn was it to arrange flowers this month, Harriet?’ Mrs Gregory had an old,
wrinkly face and drew her eyebrows on in dark-brown eyeliner.

My Aunt Harriet cleared her throat. ‘Was it not you?’ Her tone wasn’t inquisitive.

‘I don’t think so.’ Mrs Gregory’s face crumpled; more wrinkles. ‘I believe it was you.’

An argument ensued and they left the church to check the noticeboard at the front gate. I wasn’t surprised when my Great Aunt returned part-way through the service.

‘I was right,’ she whispered to me with a smile. Mrs Gregory was an arse.

The flowers in the window today are larger arrangements, an array of unopened lilies
and large daisies. Mrs Gregory would’ve been impressed. She’s dead now of course, lowered into the depths of the churchyard almost two years ago. She was ninety-four.

Aged sixteen, I got a job at a restaurant up the road and couldn’t come to church
anymore. Aunt Harriet used to drag us all along at Christmas, even her dog, Sammy. But once I’d started university, I didn’t have time for church. Not even at Christmas.

It had been four years since I’d sat in this seat, recited these prayers and sung these
hymns. But she’d managed to drag me back here, one last time.

The organ began to play and we stood as Great Aunt Harriet was carried down the aisle.