Lady Of Light

I only ever visited her once, on a sunny springtime day. But I remember everything.

There were no shadows in her house, not even in the corners. Everything was golden and bright, her very skin seemed to glow. She had a collection of teacups on the windowsill and wore crystal earrings that painted rainbows on the walls. She had bare feet (she told me she hated wearing shoes) and short pink fingernails. She fed us teacakes from the grocery store with cranberry juice served in cordial glasses.

I sat on her lap and my mother smiled, happy and sad at the same time.

“You’re my aunt?” I asked.

She squeezed me tight and answered into my hair, “I am.”

“Aren’t aunts supposed to come to Christmas and Thanksgiving?”

She glanced at my mother. “Most do.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“Oh sweet girl, I wish that I could.”

“My friend’s aunt taught her how to paint her fingernails.” I almost wanted to cry.

“Come on.” I hopped off her lap when she stood. “Let’s sit at the table.”

She cleared away the dozens of doilies covering the wood and pulled a small pink bottle from her apron pocket.

We sat and I held out my hand, fingers splayed.

“Oh no, miss,” she said, “it’s my job to teach you to do it yourself.”

And so she did while she and my mother talked.

“Does he know you’re here?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Mother said. “And this one can keep a secret.”

“I hope so.”

“I’m good at secrets, aunt.” I held up my hand to the golden light of the room. There were tiny sparkles suspended in the pink paint.

She kissed my head. “I bet you are.”

Since I received the news of her death last week, I figured it was okay to talk about her now. Mother is gone, too, ten years in June. And I barely remember my father. So, I have no one to ask about the lady of light, my secret aunt. But I have had pink fingernails since that special springtime day.

botanical illustration of California goldfields

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