Returning to the good ol’ writing prompt exercises to get the creative juices flowing! I got this one from WritingExercises.co.uk.
She’d only given in because she was lonely. Even though her elderly aunt could be arduous company at the best of times, anything had to be better than sitting in her tiny flat on her own, another Saturday night in a row.
“Lizzie, start with that box there,” Aunt Viv instructed, pointing at one of the smaller cardboard boxes amongst the many strewn in front of them.
Lizzie obediently flopped down on the floor, legs crossed, and dragged the box towards her. It was covered in dust, like the others, and she sneezed as she slid one scissor leg down the middle of the strip of tape so carefully applied many years ago.
“Thank you again for helping, dear. I can have a proper spare room once we’ve sorted this lot out…”
Lizzie glanced up at Aunt Viv, who was sat on the sofa sorting a pile of papers, with a not insincere smile, feeling glad to be helping in spite of herself. As she prised the top flaps of the box open, the smell of musty paper doused her senses with nostalgia. As a little girl, she had loved walking the older sections of her huge home town library.
“It’s books, Aunt Viv. How do you want me to sort them?” Lizzie started pulling them out one by one, registering titles as varied as War and Peace and The Odyssey.
“Oh, keep any you want to dear, and we can give the rest to charity shops…most of them belonged to Jack, God rest his soul, and he wouldn’t have minded.”
Lizzie had very few memories of her uncle, but he had, by all accounts, been loved by all who had known him. Her eyes caught a book, not quite as ancient looking as most of them, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. She had watched a screen adaptation but never read the novel. However, this was not what sparked her interest – what she had noticed was an envelope between the pages.
She looked up at her aunt, who was still engrossed in the pile of papers on her lap. For a rare, rebellious moment her curiosity considered slipping the envelope away secretly. Then her nature overtook and she asked, “Hey, Aunt Viv, what’s this?”
Her aunt looked up and at the worn envelope Lizzie was pinching by one corner, and to Lizzie’s great surprise and amusement, colour flooded Vivian Priestley’s pale pinched cheeks. She instantly looked about ten years younger.
For several minutes Aunt Viv could not speak, but it was not a sad, tragic silence. In fact, she was smiling – an embarrassed but happy smile, the smile of a young woman who has just had her affections unexpectedly returned.
“Is it love letters?” Lizzie asked, laughing, springing up and joining her aunt on the sofa. Normally visits to Aunt Viv consisted of weak tea, stale biscuits and several monotonous stories about suspicious neighbours. She mentioned Uncle Jack, too, of course but in the context of domestic life together after marriage – “Your Uncle Jack always liked his paper after breakfast, not during” and so on.
Aunt Viv took the envelope from her niece’s hands and, avoiding eye contact, said, “Something like that…”
As Aunt Viv put her papers to one side and emptied the envelope into her lap instead, Lizzie silently thanked her lonely giving-in to an evening of sorting through old boxes.
All (polite, constructive!) comments and suggestions welcome.
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