by SF

Sweet rose perfume each suceeding summer morning would fill me Still feel it after 10 odd years Aunt Alexia to my horror was my permanent escort Could not put this horror to words I was only 8 then I only knew there was something wrong something to be feared My mother?s sister she was I spent with her some of my summer holidays The garden at the back was not much to talk about Lawn surrounded by flower beds and high walls and three gravel paths At the end of one of those paths a small brick building for tools and stuff now housed my aunts paint studio Ah yes and lots and lots of roses perfumed the morning breeze

I could only visit this studio accompanying her A forbidden territory at her absence This little house was the focus of my feelings of fear and revulsion of aunt Alexia She would artistically talk to me as if I was sophisticated audience and not a 8 year old girl She would quote certain famous poets and I somehow felt grateful she never wanted to paint my portrait My ugly features were if so to say ugly to preserve immortality Pity she would say looking at me I drew away my skin prickling with goose-pimples Thrilled with joy I was not to pose Now that I know a few things I think she was a good painter

Then I noticed this unfinished portrait Was painted larger than usual Oh just a boy no-one special Only a personification of beauty she sighed My aunt was a spinster The maid shouted for tea and I burst with relief into the fresh air and tored up the path as if pursued by demons We drank in the warm summer scent of the roses

At the end of those brief summer holidays aunt saw me across my town as usual We had sometime to spare and we went to the Motor Museum It is there that I saw the boy of my aunt?s canvas I tugged her arm and pointed him out She pretended not to see him He turned away when he saw me I saw this flicker of recognition in his dark eyes as they rested on my aunt

Time passed Three years I think actually I met aunt?s maid down-town She invited me for lunch at the house The garden The familiar rose perfume Peaceful and remote My aunt was to be away for a couple of days I entered the studio Cobwebs and a funny smell Musty and rank All beautiful pictures were in their place Many new ones equally interesting I saw them all except the one of the boy I went for the shelves and began searching the neat piles of paper and canvas At the very bottom of the shelf bent in half so that the beautiful face was distorted Was the portrait of the boy Someone had put an enormous red brushstroke through it and printed a four letter word I would not dare pronounce I quickly put everything back as I had found it I rose and saw the storage door half-open Curiosity aroused Threw open the door to its full extend The boy lay on his back on the floor Crawling mass of buzzing flies covered his neck and eyes

Later Aunt was put in a mental home She died soon after I cannot live in a house with roses in the garden


*idea taken from July Chard 1967Â