Aunt Jemima

Meg Cooper

Year 7, Belmont High School

I glanced behind me. Was Aunt Jemima watching? I took a chance and ran down to the garden. I relaxed when I reached safety, away from Aunt Jemima’s watchful eyes. She didn’t miss much. An image of my mother was replaced by Aunt Jemima, as I let my mind wander back to that dreadful day, that day my friend and I found my mother’s body lying on the powder room floor. Elizabeth was the first one of many friends I lost in the following two years. Everybody was so awkward around me after that day; it was like they just couldn’t help it.

I felt the soft leaves of the plants brush against my legs, as a quiet rustling brought me back to reality. I realised I was standing in front of the sacred Willow tree. All of a sudden I could hear the sound of something, or someone, casting circles around where I stood, frozen in place. Fear started to rise within me; it urged me to call out to a passing maid, but I stopped myself.

A patch of grass, a couple of feet from me, darkened. It was almost as if a shadow had appeared out of nowhere, but that couldn’t be possible. Could it? I crept a bit closer to the shadow. If somebody was there, they were hidden by the Willow tree. As I rounded the corner a scream stuck to my throat.

There, behind the tree, was a soft human shaped glow, though no soul occupied the space. There was only that odd, mysterious glow, in the darkening night. I was shocked when an eerie, high pitched voice started talking. I wasn’t willing to listen, I wasn’t thinking clearly at all, as this voice called my name. I squeezed my eyes shut, urging the glow, the shadow, to disappear, but the voice would not leave.

‘Jemimaaaa, Killed me…’ the voice moaned. The voice sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it. I stared in horror, still frozen, as the glow reached out to me. I flinched away. The gesture reminded me of mother. Realisation dawned on me. I turned on my heels and started to run. Welcome home mother.

***

‘Watch it, Katherine! I still need to be able to breathe!’ I yelped as my maid laced up my corset. I continued to mumble grumpily to myself as Katherine continued to shove the baby blue hoop skirt at me.

Aunt Jemima arrived gracefully at the gold plated door. She smiled tightly, ‘Your father is waiting. Remember to enter the room with elegance and poise. Hold your head high and be polite.’ Her face turned sour. ‘At least I’m teaching you how to be a proper young lady. That’s more than that dreadful woman ever did.’ She mumbled this half to herself. I knew she meant mother. Her fake, happy face returned as she disappeared down the grand hallway.

I wasn’t paying attention at school. I was too busy thinking, lost in my own thoughts, stuck on that night. My palms grew sweaty as I relived the creepy voice, calling my name. The hairs on the back of my neck stood upright as I suddenly felt I was being watched. I spun around, but I could still feel eyes upon me. Somebody was watching, but unless they had eyes on the back of their head it was impossible. I hurried to my next class, my breath ragged and uneven.

Day after day I felt watched. The feeling wouldn’t go away, I was always uneasy, whether I was at school or home. My father was so oblivious to anything but work that he didn’t notice a thing, and Katherine never offered to talk. I went through the days in a trance: eat, sleep, school. I was a zombie.

‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY CASS-AN-DRAAAA!’ I woke to the voices of the maids and butlers singing my name; not a pretty wakeup call! A giant plate of muffins and pancakes was placed on my lap as a mound of colourful presents appeared at my bed head. Too soon I was alone once again. I ate in silence, the same as every year since mother died. My thoughtful silence was interrupted by a soft tinkling of music. My mother’s favourite tune.

I followed the sound to a place very familiar. My old play room surrounded me, the finest toys in England standing in order on the shelves. I felt a sense of déjà vow as I cautiously stepped up to the hiding spot. I opened the door to the fairy kingdom. I gasped. For there, in my mother’s present hiding spot, was a carefully wrapped present. My instincts kicked in. Somebody was with me. I left the door open and the present untouched as I ran into the hall. I reached my room and stuck my head in my pillow. A shiver ran down my back as I began to weep.

The air was crisp and fresh, and sparrows sang cheerfully as I took a deep breath. I’d been tossing up for days whether or not to do this. I clenched my sweaty palms as I took a few steps deeper into the garden. I could see the lake glistening at the bottom and I knew the Willow stood near it. I soon realised there was no longer a sound. The birds were silent and there was no breeze. I was alone.

I approached the Willow tree with caution. I was only a few feet away, its lowest branches resting in my hair. I crept around the thick trunk, not knowing what to expect. I stared, frozen and muted, at what lay at my feet.

A woman in elegant clothing and immaculate hair lay lifeless in front of me. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was open, as if trying to get a last gasp into her body. I saw what confirmed it. Red marks covered her neck in the shape of hands. I covered my mouth. A note lay on the lady’s chest:

I tried to tell you. I’m sorry you had to learn of it this way. I’m sorry. I love you.

Your Mother

My eyes wide, I gazed at the lady’s face. Aunt Jemima.

***

Meg Cooper is in Year 7 at Belmont High School. She enjoys writing, reading and sport. Her favourite genres to write about are mystery and drama, and while she wrote ‘Betrayal’ this year, she completed ‘Aunt Jemima’ in 2010, whilst still in primary school.