Anahera Gildea

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Aunty Jane’s house was the most recognisable in town. On the roof was a large metal ring. It was two metres in diameter and could be seen for miles, looming larger and larger as you approached. Peeta’s consolation was that the ring had been there so long no one asked about it any more. 

Going into Aunty Jane's house was like entering the aftermath of the trade fair, lights out, well after all the punters and stall holders had left. Along the walls and on the couch, piled to toppling, were containers of buttons, cotton reels sorted by colour, fragments of cloth and offcuts of old lampshade fringes. High on the arms of the couch were pieces of felt in bright stacks. Legs of yellow and hot pink stockings hung out the side of a large pile of fabric in odd formations In the centre of the chaos was an ancient Bernina on a clean Formica table.

Aunty Jane was wedged on her couch in the small space between back issues of the local newspaper and Tip Top containers with their Hokey Pokey labels half washed off. 

Peeta stood, as instructed, on a clear patch of carpet while Aunty Jane shuffled around. Papery hands measured from Peeta’s armpit to her knees, around her bust, her waist, her hips and finally from the floor up to an imaginary hem.

Aunty disappeared behind one of her piles, came out with a bolt of royal blue cloth. She laid out the pattern and cut a jagged edge around the thin paper. The pattern was from the ‘80s, screwed up from the many times it had been used. On the cover it looked like an old cocktail dress with ruffles going around and around in flounces until they reached the knee. It looked unwearable. But Peeta would be back in a week to collect it.

Peeta tried to help Aunty Jane stand, but an unsteady hand flapped at the air between them and waved Peeta to the table. She watched Aunty Jane take every step on a tightrope, each placed foot a relief.

When Aunty Jane spoke she chewed every word with gums and lips before sound ever came out. Her mousy eyes seemed both innocent and stunned. She reminded Peeta of a possum.

'I had a lover once,' she said.

Aunty was standing with some difficulty, wobbling like a plane on a windy tarmac.

'His skin smelled like spices from a foreign kitchen and I remember wanting to lick that skin. To see if it tasted like it smelled.' 

Peeta looked away.

'We weren’t lovers yet but he had been staying in this house. I was young. I got up one night and put on some music. He didn’t wake up.' She began to whisper. 'I went into his room – the back one where the cat sleeps now – and I licked his arm, slowly.'

Aunty Jane stopped talking and tilted out of the room.

Peeta could hear her in the kitchen. The water running and the clatter of cups.

'He left after that. Not right away. About a year later. Said he would be back with a ring.'

She returned with the tea, swaying her way back into the room.

Aunty’s mouth strangled the words out.

'I got that ring on the roof so he would see it and remember where I was.' 



The first thing Peeta saw when she returned was the dress, haunting the front window on its skinny hanger.

It was past dinner time, the porch light was on but the house was in darkness. Aunty was not sitting in her usual place. It took a few minutes of squinting for Peeta to register that the room was empty. There were no boxes, no papers and no colours – only the sewing machine was there, ghostly on the bare table. The moonlight entered through the window, into corners and across the carpet, patches now visible where all the piles had been.

Peeta wandered through the house looking for Aunty Jane. She stopped at the kitchen window, facing the night. The moon was battling with the clouds, mesmerising. She almost didn’t see the figure seated on a wooden chair outside the back door.

Aunty Jane was not moving and it was freezing outside. Peeta looked at her aunty’s chest to see if it was rising and falling. It was. From this angle she had a good view of Aunty’s face and she could see it smiling and aimed up toward the moon. When the clouds parted, the moonlight shone down and Peeta saw Aunty shiver and open her mouth as if drinking.

The moon disappeared again and Aunty’s head dropped back to look at the lawn.

Together they waited. Once more the moon came out, and as the silver tongue licked the grass, unrolling like a magic carpet, the shadow of a perfect circle unfurled at Aunty’s feet.





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