A Gift from Great Aunt Lucy
by Millicent Chinnock, aged 9
“Here you go, Gwen, darling!” With her silly smile, Great Aunt Lucy hands me a parcel bedecked with a gigantic silver bow. I hold my breath, trying not to breathe her sickly lavender perfume.
“How thoughtful.” Mum gives me a meaningful glance. Great Aunt Lucy loves buying gifts, mostly from charity shops. Why must I always pretend to be grateful? It’s not as if the world depends on my reaction, is it? Just Great Aunt Lucy.
Dragging the corners of my mouth into a smile, I peel away the sticky layers of tape and Dora the Explorer wrapping paper. Really! How old does she think I am? Four?
I’ve had lots of peculiar gifts from Great Aunt Lucy, but this one is THE WORST YET. A doll. An old-fashioned one that looks like it belongs in a museum. “She’s made from real porcelain,” croons Great Aunt Lucy, twisting the doll’s silky chocolate curls around her fingers. “She looks just like you, dear.”
“Of course she does!” I retort.
“Gwen!” Mum exclaims. I snatch up the doll and stomp upstairs.
Sitting on my bed, I stare at the doll. Two blue unblinking eyes stare back. The heart-shaped face is freakishly pale. I fling the doll on a shelf.
Like a streak of black lightning, a crack appears across the doll’s smooth face. “Oh well,” I mutter. “I didn’t like it anyway.”
Mum enters. “Why must you be so rude? Don’t you care about Great Aunt Lucy’s feelings?” She means well. Now, I’ve got a night shift. Your Aunt’s staying over.”
I groan. Time to watch boring TV programmes and play board games.
I stay in my room for as long as I dare. When I walk downstairs, I hear wheezy snores. Good! She’s asleep in the arm-chair, her snores getting louder and her mouth hanging open like a fish.
I stare at her. “Why can’t you be a proper aunt?” I whisper. “Why can’t you buy me decent stuff? Why do I get lumped with you?” It feels good, saying what I really think.
Suddenly, too late, I realise the snoring has stopped. Great Aunt Lucy’s eyes are open. A single tear trails down her cheek. Well, I’m not apologising. Maybe she won’t bring me a stupid doll next time.
Finally, after Antiques Roadshow and two games of Scrabble, it’s bedtime. From the shelf, the doll watches me, eyes glittering.
Tomorrow, I’ll dump her.
“I’m ready, Great Aunt Lucy.” Gwen is fully dressed in her school uniform, teeth and hair brushed.
“My goodness! What a change!” Great Aunt Lucy exclaims. “Oh dear. Your dolly’s broken.”
“I’m sorry.” Gwen looks suitably ashamed. “I’m sorry for upsetting you last night too. You’re so kind. I should be grateful.”
Great Aunt Lucy smiles, glancing at the doll on the shelf. “Goodness. What lovely manners! It’s almost as if I’ve got a brand new niece. . .”
They leave the room. A single tear trickles down my cracked cheek . . .