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Torfaen Tales

The Butterfly Box

Connie stood firm in front of her aunt, fixing her with a determined stare.

“I’m sure Gran wanted Mum to have the butterfly box.”

“I don’t think so, dear. I’m giving it to Abigail,” said Auntie Delia. Abigail was her eldest daughter.

Auntie Delia turned her attention back to the box of bric-a-brac she was sorting through. The subject was clearly closed. Connie wondered why her aunt had to be so stubborn. Abigail had so much already, had done all her life. Auntie Delia, the youngest of her Nan’s three children, had married a wealthy estate agent and lived a life of luxury. Connie remembered occasional childhood visits to her relatives in the city. The spacious house with massive gardens containing three ornamental fish ponds. The three girl cousins, Abigail, Miranda and Georgina, in their pretty, lacy dresses with their blonde hair in curls. And herself in a shabby dress that her mother had bought in a charity shop, with shoes that had holes in the soles. Her father was a farmer, and he always looked sad and tired. Farming was a hard life, a thankless task when you couldn’t sell your cattle for a profit, and the weather ruined your crops.

Her mother, Dora, had spent her married life mending and making do. And she had done this with good grace, making it seem like fun to wait for an older child’s clothing to be handed down. Making leftovers more exotic by calling the dish srevotfel (leftovers spelled backwards). Connie and her sister and their two brothers had enjoyed their childhood on the farm. Connie felt they’d had a good start in life, having been raised to appreciate what they had and not yearn for what they didn’t. They all loved animals as a result of their childhood on the farm. Connie’s younger sister Nicky was a vet, and brother Mark had gone into farming just like Mum and Dad. And Connie and the other brother Michael both had more than the average number of household pets.

If pressed, Connie would have been forced to admit that she didn’t really like Auntie Delia. That she found her childish despite her advanced years, spoiled and selfish. Nor was she fond of her three cousins. They were all cut from the same cloth as their mother. Expensive cloth.

Ah, families. They could be so complicated at times. Connie had never been able to understand why Nan appeared to have always favoured Delia over her first-born, Connie’s mother Dora. Granted, Dora had always been stubborn and opinionated, perhaps a bit too much like Nan for their own comfort. From their childhood photos Connie could tell that her mother had been plain, whereas Delia had been a pretty, girly little thing with her hair tied with ribbons.

Now Nan was dead. Connie was sad to some extent, but in truth her Nan’s time had come. Her heart had been a bit dicky for a couple of years and had eventually given out. She’d had a good innings. Now those that were left behind had to sort out her possessions. That was the tricky bit. Connie wished her Nan had written a list rather than leaving it to Auntie Delia to divvy up the spoils. Either Delia was telling porkies, or else Nan had been a bit two-faced when telling her nearest and dearest who could have what after she was gone. Hence the set-to with her aunt over the butterfly box.

It was nothing special, in all honesty. Just a small white china box hand painted with multi-coloured exotic butterflies. The sort of thing that wasn’t really that useful. Or valuable. But her mother had always adored it, and Connie remembered as a child hearing her Nan saying that Dora could have it when she had passed on. It had seemed a very grand and important bequest at the time, and Connie was determined to do what she felt was in her mother’s best interests.

While Auntie Delia’s attention was taken up with the folding of a couple of table cloths, Connie snatched the butterfly box off the bed and made for the door.

Delia moved quickly for a plump woman. She dropped the table cloth she was folding and whipped round like a dervish, grabbing at the china box in her niece’s hands.

Both women watched in horror as the butterfly box flew up in the air. The lid separated from the bottom, and the two pieces seemed momentarily suspended in a beam of sunlight.

Then the butterfly box fell with a crash to the wooden floor and broke into a hundred shards.

Connie had somehow felt even before she grabbed hold of the butterfly box that defeat was inevitable.

By Karenne Griffin

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