2nd Ed

Aunt Edna had the disconcerting habit of pursing her lips if she disapproved. Rather like a draw string purse her lips would pucker up and cling together. I first discovered the similarity when rummaging through my mothers’ collection of beaded velvet evening purses.

My aunt was tall and regal with a magnificently hooked nose.  She did lack the more decorative quality of the velvet beaded purses, never the less I was fascinated. Or maybe that was why I was fascinated. It was the way the lips immediately drew together from the corners and bunched, accentuating the soft bristly fuzz on her upper lip. She would catch me staring and I would be immediately rewarded by severe disapproval.

I wouldn’t want you to think I disliked my aunt. On the contrary she was my favourite of the stream of relatives that seemed to constantly visit, sometimes for days.

Aunt Edna loved to walk. The woods were her refuge. She would hold my hand as she strode out in early morning mist. No measure was ever given for my shorter step.

‘Ahhh Jack, can you feel the dragon breath?’

My name wasn’t Jack, I had given up correcting her. The mist of dragon breath terrified me…and anyway wouldn’t dragon breath be smelly?

‘But Ed If it’s dragon breath wouldn’t it smell of rotten lizards?’ I was allowed to call her Ed when we were in the woods, which seemed fair since my name wasn’t Jack.

‘Oh no Jack. These are magical dragons that drink from the clouds and feed on stars.’ Her lips would lift in a whimsical smile and her hawkish looks would soften. ‘Haven’t you seen the stars falling away in the sky? That’s because the dragons are chasing them.’

Of course, it made perfect sense. I had seen shooting stars and I had seen dragon shaped clouds racing across the sky on moonlit nights. My imagination raced ahead with entire hunting parties of dragons and great holes in the sky where they were gobbling up the stars.

‘The falling stars are meteorites.’ I corrected scornfully.

‘Well, some people say that because they find it hard to believe in magic.’ She would stop and consider me carefully while I caught my breath. ‘Things are not always what they seem Jack.’ Squeezing my hand gently we walked in silence for a while with the sent of damp moss in the air and just a whisper of a breeze ruffling the trees. Or was it the dragons.

‘Let’s go to the liar and see if anyone is home.’ She would quicken her pace and I would be at a trot.

Now the liar, apart from being in the terrified to the bone category with the dragon breath, was my favourite place. We’d follow the flow of a brook to a mossy hollow formed by a clutter of rocks, our steps slowed to a stalk in case dragons were sleeping. They were invariably up breakfasting on bluebells but we would occasionally be rewarded by a squirrel or a badger scampering away.

Shoes unlaced and tossed aside, the icy water of the running brook worked between our toes. My aunt had the most exquisitely long feet tipped by a fringe of arched toes.

The journey back through the woods was always at a slower pace and I would watch the pucker and purse of her lips return as we entered the house.

Many years later I was invited to have tea with my aunt at Harrods. I arrived to find her seated very comfortably in the company of a very elegant man of about her own vintage. Most striking was a pale blue cashmere shawl he wore rakishly tossed around his neck.

‘Jack, this is Jack…it has been such a long time.’ She crooned as I lightly kissed her cheek. I noted the lightness of her mood and the absence of any purse.

‘Actually, it’s Tess. It is nice to meet you.’ I said.

‘I know,’ he said, ’I know all about you Tess.” His eyes, a deep cobalt blue, sparkled with mischief. It was quite clear he believed in dragons. It became equally clear he had been my namesake all along.

I had forgotten how fond I was of my aunt and was pleased to see she had found someone who made her happy.

Aunt Edna slipped away peacefully in her eighty seventh year and the family gathered to lay her to rest on a morning shrouded in mist. It was exactly as she would have wanted it to be.

It was a simple headstone with a heraldic dragon motif symbolising courage and bore the name Edward Cuthbert Braishaw.

I felt the pressure of Eds’ hand in mine, ‘Things are not always what they seem Jack’.

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