tagFirst TimeMy Mother's Older Sister

My Mother's Older Sister


When I heard that we were being treated to a rare visit from my mother's sister, I wasn't exactly overjoyed. In fact I positively dreaded the prospect, even though Aunt Doreen was just passing through, on her way to stay with a friend in Canada, and we would only have to put up with her for some twelve hours or so. She was catching an early-morning flight, and we lived quite close to the airport. It wasn't my mother's suggestion that Aunt Doreen come down on the train the day before and stay over; characteristically, she had invited herself, phoning up to inform my mother of her imminent arrival. That was Aunt Doreen for you.

Undeniably, for ordinary people like us back in the early 1970s, in many respects more innocent and less clued-up than today, Aunt Doreen's life did seem glamorous. Childless, husbandless, she was the closest thing we knew to the sort of people you saw on glossy TV shows, seemingly never doing an honest day's work but still, from somewhere, finding the money to buy expensive coats, jet off abroad, eat elaborate foreign food and sip fine wines in fancy restaurants. But this aura of high living served only to exacerbate my parents' disdain for Aunt Doreen. Every mention of her name brought forth dark murmurings, censorious looks, primly pursed lips.

My mother more than once referred to Aunt Doreen as a "man-eater", a term which, to my eighteen-year-old mind, had certain sinister connotations. Particularly since Aunt Doreen had a disconcerting way of looking at you as though she could see right into your mind and read off all your deepest secrets. She seemed to possess some kind of scary, unsavoury power. Yet I couldn't for the life of me see how she had earned this reputation for snaring helpless males at every turn, and concluded that her man-eating days were well and truly behind her. A good decade older than my mother, and taller even than my father, with a thin-lipped slash of a mouth, suspiciously white and even teeth that, I felt sure, were dentures, hard little eyes forever crinkling up in private amusement, half a ton of inexpertly-applied makeup and brutally short-cropped jet-black hair, grey at the roots, Aunt Doreen wasn't exactly your Lamb's Navy Rum calendar girl. She drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney and her laugh wasn't merely unladylike, it was downright obscene. She would invariably inquire whether I had a girlfriend and then relish my embarrassment, laughing as she stared right into my soul. A previous visit, at Christmas several years ago, had left me with the unpleasant memory of the worst so far of her habitual goodbye kisses, which had left me in a queasy haze of alcohol and dirt-cheap scent. No, Aunt Doreen didn't figure at all in my fantasy life. I was a timid, virginal kid, small and scrawny - "sensitive", according to my mother - always buried in a book, or ensconced in the bathroom with the door securely bolted, masturbating to invented scenarios involving the most physically spectacular of the sixth-form's female contingent, or my modestly sexy Latin teacher, Miss Dunham. I was drawn to older women as I felt they would be more forgiving of my multitudinous inadequacies. But I firmly drew the line at my formidable aunt.

So it was with considerable foreboding that I came home from school that Monday afternoon, knowing Aunt Doreen would be there. I'd worked out a strategy of avoidance, aimed at reducing contact with this unwelcome relative to an absolute minimum. I would take my evening meal up to my room, pleading a homework backlog. With luck, I would even find a way of ducking out of the dreaded goodbye kiss.

Approaching the open kitchen window I heard voices, and immediately recognised my mother's soft tones, along with the hoarse, inelegant rasp that was Aunt Doreen's vocal trademark. Instinctively, I halted. I have never been able to resist an opportunity to eavesdrop.

"Say what else you like about me, but you can't deny I've got a decent pair of tits." Aunt Doreen's words rooted me to the spot. Had I heard her correctly?

I peeked through the bamboo blind. They were sitting at the table, nursing cups of tea. My mother sat with her back to me. Aunt Doreen sat opposite, cigarette in mouth. Her blouse was partially unbuttoned, displaying breasts which more than lived up to their owner's boast. Her white bra could barely contain them. Amazingly, I had never before noticed how blessed she was in that department. How could I have missed them? But then, I hadn't seen Aunt Abigail since I was ten or eleven, and at that time, the contents of women's bras hadn't featured anything like so prominently among my interests.

My mother was nodding her head. Being supportive, as usual. Her antipathy toward Aunt Doreen, as with most of her dislikes, was reluctant, erratic and continually subject to revision. In an ideal world, my mother would be good, solid friends with just about everyone.

My heart was thumping. Aunt Doreen was looking straight at me. A cold shiver ran down my spine. For it was as though, with that preternatural vision of hers, she had spotted me there at the window. She didn't appear startled, or shocked, or offended. I even thought I saw her eyes crinkle with amusement. Taking the cigarette from her mouth, she yawned and stretched, raising her arms, and as she did so one large, rosy nipple popped into view. Aunt Doreen's eyes continued to bore into me, and it took an effort to free myself and step back out of sight.

Going into the kitchen as though nothing had happened was out of the question. One look from Aunt Doreen and I would be blushing furiously. As it was, my cheeks already felt hot. I stood outside the house, wondering what to do. Should I go to a friend's for the night? I thought of waiting till it was likely that Aunt Doreen had gone to bed, phoning my mother in the meantime so she wouldn't get worried, shinning up the drainpipe and climbing in through my bedroom window, or even sleeping out in the garden shed if necessary. Anything to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation of coming face to face with my aunt.

I started violently as the phone on the kitchen wall began to ring. What should I do? I stood there, in a quandary. Had Aunt Doreen intended to shame me? If so, she had succeeded. I felt terrible. Yet also wildly excited.

I almost jumped out of my skin when the back door swung open and my mother emerged from the house. I made as though I had just this moment entered the gateway and was walking up the path. My mother was in a rush. A midwife, she was responding to an emergency call. Hurriedly, she explained that my father had had to extend his business trip and wouldn't be back until Friday. For dinner there was the remainder of yesterday's shepherd's pie, which should easily be sufficient for myself and Aunt Doreen. I was also warned not to stay up too late - school tomorrow, remember. My mother then made some kind of joke about trusting me to entertain my aunt. She waved a hurried goodbye and good luck to Aunt Doreen through the kitchen window, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, then ran across the gravel to her car.

Horror of horrors, I had been left alone with Aunt Doreen for the entire evening. And I had no choice now but to go in and face her. Feeling in grave danger of fainting, I stepped into the hallway, and told myself to take the evening hour by hour, minute by minute, to postpone the inevitable confrontation with my aunt for as long as was humanly possible. I would just have to play it by ear and hope for the best, pray for some miracle to deliver me from death by embarrassment.

To the best of my knowledge, she was still in the kitchen. I hadn't looked in through the window while walking past for fear of finding her staring back at me. I tiptoed past the closed kitchen door and was halfway up the stairs when Aunt Doreen's nicotine-ravaged voice stopped me dead in my tracks.

"Well ain't you going to say hello to your favourite old aunty?" It was always startling to hear her speak so fondly, with such softness, a lioness mewing like a kitten.

I came back down the stairs and mumbled a greeting. My cheeks were burning. I didn't dare meet her eyes. She stood in the living-room doorway, puffing on her cigarette. All those acres of cleavage were still on display. She wore a black skirt, inadvisably short. Her big long chunky legs were bluish-white. Her feet were bare, her toenails painted vivid red. Something else my mother had mentioned more than once about Aunt Doreen: she liked to go around barefoot. My mother had made it sound almost like leaving off your knickers.

"Come here." Aunt Doreen stepped up to me, stooped down - she was several inches taller than me, even without shoes - and planted a kiss on the tip of my nose. "Happy birthday, my love. Not till tomorrow, I know, but don't know if I'll see you. Got to be leaving really early, before five. Now would you like a cup of tea? Let me make you a nice cup of tea. Had a good day at school?"

So she'd decided to spare my blushes. For the time being, at least. But I knew I couldn't keep the guilt and fear out of my face. I considered taking the bull by the horns and mentioning the incident myself, alluding to it in a casual, jokey fashion, then delivering a sober apology. Struggling to summon the courage, I followed Aunt Doreen into the kitchen. She filled the kettle, then turned and leant against the draining-board.

"So you're what? Eighteen? Can't believe how time flies." She flicked her cigarette butt into the sink. "Only seems like a couple of years ago I was bumping you up and down on me knee and helping your mum with you, giving you a bath, washing your little bits and pieces."

I gritted my teeth. So much for sparing blushes. This was going to be every bit the ordeal I had anticipated. It had always tickled Aunt Doreen no end, seeing me blush. She was toying with me, and enjoying herself immensely.

"Tell you what, why don't we forget about the cup of tea and just have our dinner. I'm starved. How about you?" She bent down, the black skirt taut across her broad behind, and opened the oven, slid out the shepherd's pie, scooped up a bit with her finger, tasted it, nodded approvingly, shoved it back inside, slammed the door and switched on the gas. "You could always rely on your mum in the kitchen." Her tone was faintly disparaging, as though, in her book, domestic prowess was scarcely the measure of a woman. "As for me, well, I did try to whip up an omelette once. Ended up having to chuck it away."

Another thing I knew about Aunt Doreen: she hated to cook. She also hated cleaning, washing clothes and ironing, if my mother were to be believed. And I could well believe her. I think that was the really scary thing about Aunt Doreen: it was all too easy to tell precisely where her enthusiasm did lie, to guess her favourite activity. Perhaps, if my mother had had more time to think about it, she would have balked at leaving me alone with this sister of hers.

Aunt Doreen picked up a bottle from the worktop. Red wine. She must have brought it with her. My parents never had alcohol in the house, even at Christmas. I'd never even tasted the stuff and, to be honest, found it a little scary.

"Special occasion." Aunt Doreen smiled, showing me her implausibly flawless teeth. Her sharp little eyes dissected me like scalpels. "Don't tell me - you never had it before?"

Sheepishly, I shook my head.

"Well I'm in charge tonight and I'll take full responsibility if you end up drunk and disorderly, all right? After all, my love, it's your birthday tomorrow. Special occasion like this calls for a tipple."

Maybe it was just me, but there was something about the way she enunciated that last word, emphasising it and deliberately catching my eye as she did so. I almost expected her to ask: "Can you think of a word that rhymes with that? Begins with N."

I felt unsteady on my feet. Much more of this and I would be either fleeing or fainting.

We ate at the kitchen table. I had very little appetite. Not because the shepherd's pie was poor - my mother's cooking is invariably excellent - but on account of my increasing trepidation. My stomach felt horribly queasy. I decided that the best thing to do would be to retreat to my room as soon as possible, pleading homework as my alibi.

Aunt Doreen ate hungrily, pausing every now and then to sip at her wine. For the moment, at least, she had lapsed into merciful silence.

And then finally it came, out of the blue. The inevitable question: "So have you got yourself a girlfriend yet?"

I resorted to my prepared answer. "Don't get the time." It was weak, but it was all I could come up with. I knew that it I tried to say something more elaborate or clever I would probably start stammering, or my voice would cut out on me.

I drank more of the wine. I wasn't sure if I liked it, or whether it was good wine or bad. It was certainly a taste that took some getting used to. But I liked the way it warmed me, going down.

"All that schoolwork, you mean?" Aunt Doreen chose, as always, to humour me, and to make me squirm by making it so obvious. "But there must be times when you see a nice-looking girl and start wishing..." She pulled a face. "Shit! 'Scuse my language, but I've only just this minute realised: Here I am, turning up on the night before your birthday with no present, not even so much as a card. I'd give you some money, but all I've got spare's about six bob - what'd that be in decimal? Be an insult nowadays, offering that to a fella your age. All the rest I've had changed into Canadian." She heaved a sigh, downed the remainder of her wine, got up, dropped the empty bottle into the bin, took another from the rack and grabbed the corkscrew. "No, no, we can't have this, me going off without giving you a present. Now drink up. And then, if you're a good boy, your old aunty might just let you have some more." She pulled out the cork, refilled her glass and put the bottle down on the table. "Where's your loo, my love? Never manage to remember."

I gave her directions to the bathroom and, while she was gone, dumped a substantial portion of my dinner in the bin. I took a big sip of wine, and then another, hoping it would steady my nerves.

Aunt Doreen returned. She eyed my half-cleared plate with approval. "That's good. Fella needs his food at your age."

I was sure she knew full well what I'd done.

Picking up her wineglass, she glanced at the kitchen clock. "Mind if I watch the news? Heard something about a baggage-handlers' strike. Be just my kind of luck for it to happen now."

We went into the living-room. Aunt Doreen sank down onto the sofa and switched on the TV.

"I've ... got a lot of homework," I told her. "I'll ... be up in my room."

"OK, my love." She looked up at me. "But just seems a bit of a shame if it's going to take you all evening, though. Don't get to see you that often, do I?" She smiled. "And I got no kids of me own to spoil."

I assured her that it wouldn't take me all evening, and left her sitting there in front of the news, cradling her wine, her bare feet up on the coffee table, her hefty, unhealthily white thighs shamelessly exposed.

I topped up my wineglass, took it with me to my room and tried to focus my attenption on an essay comparing and contrasting Adolf Hitler with Napoleon. But it was impossible to concentrate, and an hour's effort resulted in one short, poorly constructed paragraph. A ludicrous idea had taken root in my mind, and, try as I might, I could not prevent it from smothering every other thought with a ruthlessness that Fuhrers and Emperors would have envied.

I suspected Aunt Doreen of intending to seduce me.

And yet I couldn't believe that a woman of Aunt Doreen's vintage would go chasing after he eighteen-year-old nephew. That was pure adolescent fantasy. Aunt Doreen was merely having some fun at my expense. If I'd been brave enough to call her bluff, she would have backed off long ago. Only I let it continue, because I was shy. And because a part of me wanted to see just how far she would go.

I kept thinking of that nipple, big and red and rude. Those great vulgar thighs. Her well-rounded behind. That spectacular cleavage, and those tough, tarty eyes, and the surprising tenderness with which she would address me.

All of a sudden heard footsteps on the stairs, followed by a soft knock at my bedroom door. Heart thumping, I went across and opened up. She stood there, holding her wineglass in one hand and the bottle in the other. "How you getting on, my love?"

"OK... thanks."

"Need any help? Not that I could really be of much help, to be honest. Not if it's anything hard." Her eyes caught mine. "I've always been better with practice than theory." She smiled, her eyes crinkling up. "No, a brainy boy like you ain't going to need any help with his book learning, is he?" She held up the wine bottle. "Just wondered if you wanted a refill?"

She was looking past me, at my desk, at the empty wineglass. Without realising it, I'd finished my wine.

I went to get my glass. Aunt Doreen followed me into the room.

"Nice cosy little den. Need a lock on the door, though, if you're going to be bringing girls up here." She filled my glass, topped up her own and sat down on my bed. "Or magazines."

The next thing I knew, I was lying on the bed, and my forehead was hurting like hell. Someone was leaning over me. For just a moment, I thought it was my mother. But it was Aunt Doreen. I could smell her cheap perfume. And tobacco smoke and alcohol and sour sweat.

"OK, my love?" She peered down into my face. "Nothing to get yourself worried about. Just fainted, that's all. Bumped your head on the floor. If you want my opinion, pet, you've been studying too hard. You know what they say about all work and no play. now you just lay there and have yourself a little rest. I'll be back in a minute."

She got up.

I felt deeply humiliated. What must she think of me, fainting from embarrassment?

I lifted my head. It felt full of concrete.

Aunt Doreen returned with a glass of water, a tablet and a bathroom sponge. "Here. Something for your headache."

I raised my head again, and she put an arm beneath my shoulders and supported me. I swallowed the offered tablet and washed it down, wondering if this was anything like the correct way to deal with a fainting fit.

Aunt Doreen dabbed my face with the sponge. "Feeling better?"

"Y... yes .... thanks."

"Just a little tiny bruise, not much of one. You'll be all right. Poor love, come here..." Her thin lips puckering, she bent and kissed the bruise. "Poor love." She hesitated, her face inches from mine. "Never did give my favourite nephew a proper birthday kiss, did I? Special occasion deserves more than a peck on the cheek." The tip of her nose brushed against mine, and then she was kissing me full on the lips, at first very gently, and then with more force. I can't say I enjoyed it particularly. After a moment she pulled away, hovering over me. "Want to know what the trick is? You just got to relax."

I nodded faintly, which was about all I could manage in the way of communication.

She descended on me again, and this time I really did try my best to follow her advice, even parting my lips for her when I felt the tip of her tongue questing between them. I'd never done any serious kissing before, and hoped I wouldn't seem foolishly inept. I kept my eyes shut, and when I opened one, just for half a second, I found Aunt Doreen's eyeball, startlingly close, staring back at me. Her tongue teased mine, and then began a more aggressive invasion, pushing mine back and, to my great embarrassment, causing my penis to stir and twitch and stiffen.

Aunt Doreen pulled away again and straightened up, arching her back and taking a theatrically deep breath to compose herself, I felt forced to conclude, with sober resignation, that I had now received my birthday present, my special treat, in its entirety, and all the rest would remain firmly in the realm of fantasy.

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