Contemporary Fiction

It was nighttime and I was climbing the stairs to my room. I had been living for a while at my aunt’s house. Mom and I were fighting again and I thought that maybe a break would help the situation. Actually it wasn’t exactly my decision to leave. Mom threw me out after one of those stupid arguments that we always have, about utter nonsense. 

My mom still believes that I’m ten years old. Actually, I’m twenty five. I lived with Mom out of necessity. I wanted to finish school with a minimal amount of expense and had every intention of moving out when I found a job. But now that doesn’t matter, the decision was taken out of my hands. My mom blew up and she said she never wanted to see me again. Oh well, that’s par for the course in our relationship. So here I am, at my aunt’s house.

Aunt Helen is my mother’s older sister. She’s a good natured soul who has never been married. I didn’t really get to know her until I was in my late teens. My father had talked to me about her, a lot. I was always curious as to why we never visited her. At one point, I had decided that we should meet. When I was eighteen, I borrowed my dad’s car and drove to her house. I was so glad I did. Aunt Helen was very warm a loving to me, and after Dad died, I needed that. I was convinced my mother hated me.

My aunt and my mother had been extremely close. But then something happened and the relationship ended abruptly. It was sad really, but knowing my mom, I’m not surprised.

I called my Aunt Helen, and asked if she would mind if I stayed with her for a little while. She has a large old house that she inherited from an elderly relative who had died years ago. Anyway, she was so pleased to have me, and she gave me the entire upstairs for myself. I don’t require much space but this was nice. She told me to stay as long as I liked; that she would enjoy the company. 

My room is large with a queen sized canopy bed that is covered in a lovely floral comforter and throw pillows in contrasting colors. 

The room is a blend of soft greens and lavenders, which I love. The walls are covered in old fashioned wallpaper with similar colors. There are beautiful throw rugs on a wooden floor with a large oak dresser and desk. The closet is small, but with my limited wardrobe, it’s perfectly fine. The best part of the room, is that it overlooks the backyard which is filled with trees and flowers. In the morning I could hear the birds chirping. I enjoy going for a run here because it’s peaceful and very different from the city, which is where I was living with my mother. What always struck me as odd, was that my aunt decorated the room as though she was waiting for me to move in. How fortuitous that I’m here now.

Aunt Helen had given me complete run of the house. I love to bake and she had no problem with me using her kitchen anytime I wanted. There was a baby grand piano in the living room. The piano was old and could have used a refinishing, but it was tuned on a regular basis. It’s funny, because out of all the family, I was the only one that played. I took full advantage of my access to the piano and many times at night, when I felt stressed, I would go downstairs and play. Aunt Helen never minded. She said she enjoyed it. She was partially deaf so I am not sure she heard much of the music anyway.

When I moved in, Aunt Helen welcomed me with open arms. She was always warm like that. We sat down for a cup of coffee and some muffins she had bought for the occasion. We were outside in the back on the patio where the sun was shining.

“I’m sorry that things are not working out with your mom. She was always a tough one,” Aunt Helen said sadly as she looked at me with her warm brown eyes.

“Me too,” I said. “I really tried, but to no avail. And then she threw me out!”

“She’ll call you, sweetheart. You’ll see. But then you will have to make a decision. You know you are welcome to stay here as long as you like.”

“Yeah, well Mom can hold a grudge for the longest time! I don’t think she’s calling me back anytime soon.”

Aunt Helen just shrugged her shoulders, and mumbled under her breath, “her loss”.

“I would like to discuss more pleasant things. I wanted you to know that you have free run of the house. I’m giving you the entire second floor. There are several bedrooms upstairs. Use whichever one you want. Each has a different view and they are all beautiful!” Helen’s smile could really warm your heart!

“Thank you so much. I’m good with whatever. Eventually though, I want to get my own place. I do appreciate you taking me in though! I love you!”

“I love you too, sweetie!” my aunt smiled.

“Oh, and just one more thing. Please don’t go into the attic. There’s so much junk there and it’s so dusty.”

“Sure,” I responded. But now my curiosity was piqued. I was just given run of the house, but denied access to the attic. Why?


A few weeks after my arrival at Aunt Helen’s I found a job. I graduated college with a degree in graphic design and I had interviewed for a small start up company looking for a designer. The job was not clearly defined as the company had just set itself up. My new boss was not clear on what he wanted me to do. But, he liked my resume and he said he would figure it out by the time I was supposed to start. Anyway, he was willing to pay me handsomely! I liked that this was a new company and I was hoping to grow along with the business. Ultimately, I wanted to get enough experience to go out on my own. I had worked at internships during breaks in school and had also had a part time job in this field. I loved the creative side of my career. I knew I would be fine.

Living with my aunt was a joy. She was kind, warm and thoughtful. Who could ask for more?

One evening I came home from work late. Exhausted, I decided to skip dinner. Aunt Helen had texted me earlier that she left something in the refrigerator for me, if I was hungry. I wasn’t, I just wanted my pillow. As it happened, Aunt Helen wasn’t feeling too well today and decided to retire early.

The house was quiet and dark. I dragged myself up the stairs and reached the second floor. I found myself staring at the door at the end of the hallway. My aunt told me not to go up to the attic because of the dust. Dust didn’t really bother me and I was curious to see what was there. 

Aunt Helen was sleeping and I would be quiet. She probably wouldn’t hear me anyway as her room was two floors below. Suddenly, I was no longer sleepy. I walked past my room and headed to the door and up to the attic!


Helen wasn’t kidding when she said the attic was dusty. I had climbed the stairs and opened the door. I turned on the light; a single bulb. It wasn’t bright, but I could see the dust swirling in the air. 

There were boxes all over. Some closed, and some open. There was a table with lots of books and albums. There was so much dust on everything. I looked for a chair to sit on. One was folded against the wall. I opened it up and put it next to the table. As soon as I sat on the cushion, there was a puff of dust. It flew into my throat and nose. I spent a few seconds coughing and hoping that Helen wouldn’t hear me.

I pulled myself close to the table and picked up an old photo album and opened it up. There they were, my aunt and mother as children running along a beach. I started turning pages, and recognized a lot of relatives. Some still with us, and others who had passed years ago.

I put the album down and reached for a very small box that was sitting atop another album. As I picked it up I heard something sliding around inside. I opened the box and found a roll of film. It said Kodak on the outside and looked like it must have been here for years. I wondered why no one had bothered to develop it. I decided I would and put the film in my pocket, hoping to deal with it tomorrow.

The next album was more of the same. My mother and her sister playing in the snow during some long forgotten winter storm. My mom looked so happy. As long as I have known her, she rarely ever smiled. Not even when my father was alive. She had always been difficult, especially with me.

I was now feeling exhausted and decided it was time to go to bed. Maybe it was the dim light in the attic or all this dust, but I was really getting drowsy. I got up from my seat and took a quick look around the attic once again and wondered why my aunt did not want me up here.

I had the roll of film in my pocket. I had no qualms about taking it as it had been stored up here with mountains of books and clothes and pictures. I didn’t think my aunt would notice a missing roll of film. She probably wouldn’t remember that she had it. I shut the light and left the attic, quietly closing the door behind me. I tiptoed downstairs and went to my room, and lay down on the bed without taking my clothes off. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


For the next few weeks, I was so busy at work that I had completely forgotten about the roll of film.

One morning, as I pulled out a pair of jeans from my dresser drawer, I heard something drop to the floor. I looked down, and saw the film that I had found in the attic. I forgot that I tucked it in that drawer for safe keeping, several weeks back. I decided to find a place to develop it. I was very curious to look at the pictures. Maybe there was something on that roll that Aunt Helen didn’t want anyone to see.

It was a quiet morning. Aunt Helen had gone shopping and I was home alone. Things had quieted down at work, so I decided to take the day off. If anyone needed me I could always be reached by text or email.

I signed on to the internet and looked up a few places that developed film, and found one that would send back the pictures within a few days. I put the roll in an envelope and took it to the post office. I couldn’t wait to see what developed. 

As soon as I arrived home, I got a call from work telling me to come in. They needed me desperately. So much for my day off!


About a week later, I took another day off. I was sitting in the back enjoying the view.

Aunt Helen came out back with a handful of mail.

“There’s something here for you,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked. 

“I don’t know, honey. The envelope doesn’t have a return address. That’s odd!”

I took the envelope from my aunt and put it in my pocket.

“Aren’t you going to see what it is?”

“Not now. I’ll look at it when I go in. Thanks!”

Aunt Helen just shrugged her shoulders and went back inside to look at her own mail.


I was busy during the day with errands and even though I had taken a personal day, I still had work to do and spent most of the afternoon at my computer.

After dinner I went up to my room, sat on my bed and tore open the envelope. I slowly pulled the pictures out. There weren’t too many, just twelve. I looked at the first picture....


I couldn’t believe what I saw. Based on the date, these photos were taken about twenty five years ago. I was looking at the spitting image of myself, pregnant! It was definitely my aunt. I had never really noticed how closely we resembled each other. Aunt Helen was standing in her kitchen. Helen looked like she was about to give birth! I didn’t understand. My aunt never had any kids. She obviously wasn’t alone. I wondered who had taken the picture. 

In the next photo, it appeared that Helen had already given birth. She was in her hospital bed, holding a newborn baby. Where is that child now? Not a child anymore, but a twenty five year old adult.

I looked closely at the picture. The baby looked very familiar, but I wasn’t sure. There were several more pictures that were similar. And then, there was a picture that I knew very well. It had been in a frame on the coffee table in our living room. It was a picture of my mom standing with my dad and holding me. But when I looked again at the photo of Aunt Helen and her baby I realized that was me too! This made no sense at all. Unless....


 I had to know the truth. I ran downstairs to my aunt’s room. She wasn’t there. I went to the kitchen. Sometimes, she liked to make a cup of tea. She said it helped her sleep. Sure enough, that‘s where I found her, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea in her hand, about to take a sip.

“I have to know the truth. Are you my mother?”

Helen turned pale. I had never seen her look so sick.

“What kind of a question is that? Of course I am not your mother!”

“You’re lying to me!” I yelled. Not a good move with Aunt Helen. If you yell, she shuts down.

“I’m sorry for yelling. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just need to know.”

“Why would you even ask?”

She looked at my face, and then she knew.

“You went up to the attic, where I explicitly told you not to go. Why?”

“The truth is, I was curious. You gave me the run of the house, even including your room, which should be personal and private. But, for some reason you didn’t want me in the attic. I had to know why.”

“You're very much like me, from your looks to your personality. It’s scary!” Aunt Helen remarked.

“So you are my mother,” I said breathlessly. “But I don’t understand. Why didn’t you raise me?”


“I had an affair. With your father. We tried to keep it a secret, but then I got pregnant with you. We decided to tell your mother the truth. She cut me off completely. We never spoke again. She was furious with your father too, but, she didn’t want to divorce him. She did make his life a living hell. 

"Your father was a kind man and my sister, as you know was very difficult. Your father wanted you desperately, and I couldn’t raise you at that time. A single woman with a baby was an outcast, not to mention, that I didn’t have the money to take care of you. Your father did. So I made the hardest decision I ever had to make. I gave you to them. Your mother was happy to take you, if for nothing else, but to hurt me. I had to promise never to see you. Your father secretly promised me that he would tell you about your “aunt” and he would try to bring you to me on occasion. The occasions were few and far between. I was so thrilled when you called me and asked to stay here. You made a long time dream come true. All I can say, is that I am sorry.”

When Aunt Helen finished she had tears in her eyes. And so did I. We held each other tight as if we would never let go. I finally understood why my mother had always treated me so horribly. She hated me. I was a reminder of her sister and the affair.


A few weeks later....

I had debated whether or not to confront my mother with what I had learned. But, what would be the point? She hated me and always would. Letting her know what I knew, would never change that.  

I had always loved my Aunt Helen and had always felt our special bond. Thanks to a roll of film, I now know why.

May 06, 2022 03:20

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Kathleen Fine
18:11 May 12, 2022

I didn’t expect this twist at the end! Nice job!


16:39 May 13, 2022

I am so glad you enjoyed the story. I try to be unpredictable when ending a story. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. Thank you for reading!


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