I have started a short story writing class at City Lit and its so much fun. It’s a complete mixture of people and the tutor is a doll. Most of the class like me, have written professionally for years but have never been confident enough to write creatively for more than fun. Our group also includes a couple of writers with agents and books and everything and helpfully a GP who wants to write creatively and not for medical journals. Of the wannabe writers tribe most of us have work stuff in drawers and saved on memory sticks. Us wannabe writers totally bonded over not sharing our work coz it’s uncomfortable and terrifying but I’m not here for that, so here goes, here is my homework. We had to write a 500 word flash fiction based on the prompt ‘an unexpected relative’.
The girl who smelt like cheese
She was stood in the living room when I got home from school. Her hair greased into pigtails which curved over her ears like bananas, red and white polka dot ribbons held the ends of her hair together.
I looked at Mummy and I looked at the girl who was much bigger than me, she was almost a teenager, much too big for the Magic Roundabout which on any other Tuesday afternoon Mummy would watch with me while the house was quiet because the boys were at football and Daddy worked late at the train station. The girl looked familiar but I’d never seen her before. She had the same nose as my mother and the curve of her body underneath her blue coat with red buttons, which was identical to mine, was the shape of all my aunts.
Who was this girl stood in my living room smelling like cheddar cheese, taking up space, my space in my house? I hoped she wasn’t staying past tea time. She looked more like Aunt Grace than like Aunt Eunice, maybe she was a cousin? I don’t remember if all of Aunt Grace’s children lived in England or if they lived in Canada with their father. Aunt Grace had so many children I’m not sure if even she knew how many she had or where they lived.
I looked again at Mummy who was busy looking through her purse, her Sunday purse the one with a gold clasp, the one she kept for best, maybe she was looking for this strange girl’s identity? I noticed a-side the settee was a small suitcase, blue again, with an air luggage tag tied to the black handle, ‘Air Jamaica’ it read, with our address, 22 Richmond House, Carmen Estate, Catford, England, neatly marked out in pencil under the typeface that said ADDRESS. This funny looking girl with her bad hair and copycat coat was from Jamaica. She made me nervous this girl, my stomach tightened not in a good way like when you won a goldfish at the fun fair, but scared, like when a teacher asked you to stay behind after class – who was she, why had no-one ever said anything about her and why was Mummy not bothering to introduce her?
Finally, Mummy saw me stood in the doorway, my tiny frame hid behind the wall.
“Ahhh Jaqueline” she said, beckoning me to come into the room, “this is your sister Marlene, she’s come from Jamaica to live with us, come na, come say hello to your sister and then you can show up to your room.”
My so called sister smiled at me, the gap between her teeth looked funny, like her teeth were too big for her mouth. As soon Mummy wasn’t looking Marlene sharply snapped off her smile and squished her lips firm. Looking down that family nose of hers she turned her whole face into a scowl and sneered at me. This sister situation was not going to end well, without yet saying a word Marlene had made it clear that she was not here to make friends, she was here to take over.