Aunt Minnie was a stickler for etiquette.
“Put down the knife!” She'd playfully scold over breakfast, as I plunged my buttery knife into the marmalade.
She was my father’s sister, but the only thing they had in common was being very particular about the way things are done. Her hands were comforting and her voice gentle as she stroked my hair and told me stories of long forgotten family while I dozed on her polka dot knee.
When I was 14 my father died and Minnie and her husband Reg moved in with us. I adored them.
They were an odd couple. Aunt Minnie was impeccably put together, but if I hadn’t known Uncle Reg, I’d have described him as seedy.
Slicked back bottle black hair, leather jacket and leathery skin. He had the deep furrowed features of a heavy smoker and his cracked yellowing nails were never far from an ashtray. Yet he was smooth and funny, with the wit of a hundred pubs. Aunt Minnie worshipped him.
I’d fall asleep to the sound of the three of them laughing at the kitchen table. Our home, alive with the sound of Reg’s hoarse chuckle, Minnie’s gleeful shriek, and Mum’s uproarious cackle. I felt warm and full.
For my 16th birthday Aunt Minnie took me dress shopping. I chose a cobalt sundress. I felt like a woman. The shopkeeper let me wear it home and I was overflowing with excitement to show the others.
When we burst through the front door the laughter stopped. Mum and Reg were straight ahead of us at the kitchen table. My mother; bare-legged and red-faced. Only using one chair between them.
I was a girl again, and my eyes darted to my beloved Aunt Minnie.
“Put down the knife!”