My Aunt Maggie’s house smells. Her breath does too. Her biscuits are always soggy and they’re never chocolate. That’s cos she’s poor. She’s poorer than Colm Mulvenna in my class at school who has sugar sandwiches for lunch every day.
My Aunt Maggie always has bruises. That’s cos she never does anything right. That’s what my Uncle Malachy says. But my Uncle Malachy doesn’t know anything because my Aunt Maggie is the best! She sings me songs. And dances with me too. She holds my hands and we run in a circle and shout ‘Yoo hoo!’ and we laugh and laugh till we hold our stomachs and fall onto the settee.
My Aunt Maggie is quiet and she’s always busy. Moving ornaments and straightening pictures and wiping under cups when there’s nothing there to wipe. She never sits her arse down. Getting on everybody’s fucking nerves. That’s what Uncle Malachy says.
But she doesn’t when she’s on her own with me.
You only have to look at my Aunt Maggie to know all she wants is to be happy. And for everybody to be happy together.
I know. I know. I know this is true. For definite. Not cos she’s told me. But because I see it in every wipe. And I know it, with all of the tingles on my arm, because I want that too. But there’s only us that does. Nobody else. So I hide it. And so does she.
But not when she’s on her own with me.
I’m going to tell you a secret. I’ve never told anyone this before. When we’re on our own, my Aunt Maggie holds me in her arms. And she hugs me. Tight to her. And doesn’t let go. And I never want her too. I want to stay there until I die. We die. Together.
And today, right, today, she says to me, she says, ‘Stephen son,’ she says, ‘Stephen son—I—love—you.’
And I’m not making it up. I didn’t see it on the TV or anything. My Aunt Maggie loves ME. Me. Me. She does. She does. She does. And I know. I know. I know. Because when she said those words to me my heart hurt and my eyes stung. And I felt so sick, my stomach tried to leave me and go to her and stay with her forever cos I can’t.
I wish Aunt Maggie was my Mummy. I wish I’d grown inside her tummy. And that I could remember being held by her all day long. I wish she’d leave Uncle Malachy and take me with her. We could run away together. When I grow up I can marry her and it doesn’t matter that she will be older than me because she’s older than me now and it doesn’t.
I’ll keep her safe. I’ll never hurt her. And she’ll give me hugs every day. And we’ll be happy forever and ever.