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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Aunt Isla
By nicole wian


Natalie’s mother and Natalie’s Aunt Isla, though sisters, were as different as could be. While Natalie’s mother, Joy was true to her name, always smiling, always kind, with a communicable friendliness, Aunt Isla was somber, her almost non-existent lips worn in a tense line across her face most of the time. She was ten years older than Joy, and from what Natalie had gathered, Aunt Isla had practically raised her mother. The effects of that dynamic still lingered into their adult lives, and it seemed to Natalie that her aunt was always criticizing, scolding or nagging her mother.

Aunt Isla visited often, and it was not something Natalie looked forward to. She would swoop into their home and swiftly put the children to work cleaning up their rooms, as if, by her entrance, she had replaced their mother and was now in charge. She would look around the house and then at her sister, and with a simple, “Tsk, tsk,” say everything she needed to say.

She was no nonsense and didn’t know how to relate to children, having none of her own. Nor did she have any real understanding of her younger sister’s relationship with Natalie’s father, as she had never been married herself. If Aunt Isla was there when Natalie’s dad would come into the kitchen to playfully kiss and bite the back of her mother’s neck, sending Joy into a fit of giggles, Aunt Isla would stiffen and scowl, saying, “You sound like two teenagers.” This just made Joy laugh more, and Natalie’s aunt would leave the room in a huff.

But Natalie knew without a doubt that her mother dearly loved Aunt Isla, she just didn’t really understand why. Even when her sister was at her nagging worst, Joy would smile unwearyingly, almost humoring her, but not in an offensive way. There was never a disparaging word spoken of Aunt Isla and when the children complained, though their mother was not unsympathetic, she would gently remind them to be careful what they said.

So when at the unstable age of thirteen, Natalie’s parents were killed in a car accident, while she was not surprised that Aunt Isla would be their guardian, she was extremely disappointed, knowing there were no other options.

At the funeral, Natalie, holding tight her brother’s hand, saw her aunt in the back of the church, weeping silently but deeply. “She has no right to cry,” thought Natalie indignantly, missing her sweet, happy mother, the hole made larger knowing she would be living with a woman who exemplified everything Joy was not.

Months of grieving and change went by, Aunt Isla with structure but not fondness, caring for her sister’s children, her already premature graying hair turning more so by the day. Natalie and her brother clung for dear life to each other, talking late into the night about their parents, to keep their memory alive. They had each other and they knew they had God but now with no tangible parental affection, Natalie drew deeper and deeper from her well of sadness.

One day, Natalie’s aunt found her alone in the backyard of the little country house they lived in, sitting on the ground, just picking at blades of grass. Natalie jumped when she realized her aunt stood above her and rose to go but Aunt Isla blurted out, “Wait, Natalie. I have to say something.”

Natalie heard more emotion in her aunt’s voice than she ever had, and so she stopped. She faced Aunt Isla and saw tears forming in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Natalie.” There was a long pause, and then she continued. “I know I didn’t show it well, but I loved your mother. I was fascinated with her from the minute she was born. And I miss her. I miss her so much. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on her. I wish I’d told her what an amazing person she was. But I was jealous. Of what she had. And now she’s gone. My baby sister’s gone. But Natalie, you lost your mother, I don’t want you to lose you joy. I’m sorry for withholding myself and I want to be here for you, if you’ll give me a second chance.” Earnestly, Aunt Isla waited and finally, Natalie nodded. “You remind me of her so much.” Aunt Isla whispered.

And so slowly they began to heal, with each other’s unlikely help, and though they missed their mother and sister, their joy was bit by bit restored.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 04/25/08
Your comparison of the two sisters is very good. I especially like the "non-existent lips worn in a tense line" :) I could almost see her. The ending is beautiful. This story is very heart-warming and poignant. I was wishing for more after it ended.