“Aunt Margaret? Are you there?” Paul pushed the back door of the cottage open. The creaking sound of rotten wood reminded him of his promise last spring to repair the hinges and paint the planks, but the months had gone by and he had forgotten how bedraggled the cottage looked.
His job at SHADO had been exhausting, after the alien attacks had decreased and he had spent a lot of his weekends in the control room of headquarters or on Moonbase. And the rest of his spare time he had been with his new girlfriend Sarah. No time left for his auntie and her old house. He looked around and sighed. It needed a repair, badly.
Lowering his head he entered the corridor. The ticking of the floor clock drowned the twittering of the birds outside, and a faint smell of fresh soup reached his nostrils.
“Aunt Margaret? It’s me, Paul. Where are you?”
He opened the door to the small kitchen and peered inside. The room looked sparkling clean and tidy. An iron cooking pot with a glass lid stood on the stove, and Paul could see how the liquid was welled up by rising greasy bubbles that burst at the surface with low splutters. Aunt Margaret’s famous chicken soup! Paul could not resist walking to the stove and lifting the lid. A wonderful smell of chicken, carrots, celery and onion escaped and made his mouth water.
“You’d best not do that, will you?” An elderly woman, the silver-sprinkled hair bound to a stern topknot, dressed in a neat coloured shirtdress, entered the room. With a grin on her face she opened her arms and hugged her nephew.
“Paul. What a nice surprise.” She let him go and furrowed her brows. “I wasn’t expecting you. Haven’t seen you for a while. What brings you here?”
Paul looked down at her, abashed by the underlying reproachful tone in her words. “I … just wanted to see you. I must apologize for being so late. Should have visited you much earlier.”
The older sister of his deceased mother eyed him with severity. “The repaint.”
“Yeah. The repaint. And anyway.”
His aunt nodded, losing the stern look on her face that was replaced now by a warm smile. “You never change, my dear chap. Always been a bit unreliable. And forgetful. Like your mother.” She took him by his arm and guided him to the kitchen table. “I remember her sitting here with me so many times, after your dad had died. Drinking mint tea, while you played outside or fed the chickens.”
“Oh my. Aunt Margaret, can I ask,” he paused, then carried on in a determined voice. “Why did you never marry?”
“Och… men are for other women. I’m happy with my life on my own. How long will you stay?”
“Until Sunday, if you want me to.” He squeezed her arm. “And tomorrow, I’ll buy paint and brushes and start with your door.”
NOTE: Written to one of DRAGON's series of prompts ("Paul visits his maiden aunt"), restriction: not more than 500 words. Can also be found on The Shado Archive under www.shadoarchive.com.
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