The magic was all in the finishing touches. That’s what Aunt Jessica was good at. Your bedroom would be light, airy, newly plumped pillows, fresh flowers on the windowsill and fragrant fluffy towels at the foot of the bed. We loved going there for our holidays, we loved the cottage, the sea views, the sandy beach… and we loved Aunt Jessica.
Only one of us loved her too much.
We’d just arrived there for our annual holiday, summer of ‘89. I’d rushed off to the beach to check for crabs and mussels amongst the rocks as soon as we arrived, and stayed out all afternoon. When I got back to the cottage at suppertime there was a taxi waiting outside, our suitcases were on the porch, and my mother was standing hand on hips, scanning the road to see whether I was coming. She grabbed hold of me, bustled me into the taxi, and once the taxi driver had loaded the cases, off we went. There was no sign of Aunt Jessica, and no sign of Dad either.
My mother cried all the way back home, and our lives changed forever that day. It was a long time before I found out what had happened. Oh, I cried for my father, wanted to know when he would be returning to us, when we could go back to see Aunt Jessica, but Mum remained tight-lipped and said my Dad and Aunt Jessica were lost to us forever. I didn’t see how they could have got lost, Aunt Jessica had lived there for years and Dad could navigate his way out of a Brazilian rain forest. Or so he’d always said.
Later, when I was older, my mother told me how she’d found out that Dad and Aunt Jessica had been having an affair for years, how she’d found them together a few hours after our arrival that summer day, all those years ago.
My mother never really got over what had happened. She’d lost two people that day, she said, the two most important people in her life, people she trusted and whom she’d imagined were dependable. When she became ill she didn’t bother to fight it. Even for me, she didn’t bother to fight.
A few months after my mother died, my father contacted me. I think he thought that after 20 years everything could be resolved and we could be like a family, the three of us. I went to stay with them for a week, just so I could be sure about my feelings. I listened to their story…about how the flame of their love had burned brightly ever since they’d first met. They said they felt that they were meant to be together. Always.
There’s not much left of the cottage now, just a few bricks and a lot of ashes, blowing around in the stiff sea breeze. The trouble with these old cottages is that you have to see about getting them re-wired, you can’t just assume because things have always worked that they’re safe, and dependable.
I went to put a bunch of flowers on the ruins today, primroses, winter pansies, a few snowdrops. The white, yellow and purple looks really nice against the charred remains.
The magic’s all in the finishing touches; isn’t that what they say?
This week’s challenge for the speakeasy at yeahwrite was for fiction or poetry (up to 1000 words) beginning with the phrase ‘the magic was all in the finishing touches’. There was also a photo which had to be worked into the story somewhere.