"Who buys post cards these days - let alone sends them?" Sandy took off her hat and started using it as a fan. It was approaching midday, it was August and over forty degrees. She longed to be sitting by the pool under a sunshade. Instead of which Malcolm had dragged her round the shops.
"They're old school, the aunts," said Malcolm. "They expect a postcard."
"I suppose these pictures are rather lovely." There was one of the little bay they'd found and adopted as their own. "You've taken some really nice photos yourself. Why don't you just put them up on Insta? Then they can help themselves."
Malcolm chuckled. "Aunt Ada and Aunt Brenda looking at Insta? You're joking, aren't you?"
"Your dad would show them, wouldn't he?"
"They'd never go near the computer or Dad's phone. Aunt Ada says they're instruments of the Devil. Dad's not much better himself. He gets all of a bluster trying to find things. Talking of which, we'd better get him and Mum one as well."
Sandy shook her head and tutted.
Malcolm selected three cards and went into the shop to pay. Sandy amused herself looking at some of the serious photos of the islands.
A few moments later, Malcolm came out of the shop clutching a paper bag. He was frowning.
"I'd only got enough cash for the cards and two stamps. Their card machine is broken."
Sandy shrugged. "It's no big deal, is it? We can pick up another one next time we're passing."
That afternoon they sat by the pool and Malcolm wrote his postcards. When it got a bit cooler, he walked to the nearest post box and posted the two that had stamps. Aunt Ada's would have to wait until they could get the other stamp. "Put this one in your bag," he said to Sandy, when he got back. "Hopefully we'll remember to get a stamp and post it next time we're in town."
"Wouldn't it be better to post them all at the same time?"
Malcolm shrugged. "I doubt whether they'll all arrive at the same time anyway. You know, Greek postal system and Royal Mail and all."
Only there wasn't a next time. The temperature went up to over forty-six degrees. They were advised to stay indoors. Then it became even more dangerous and a little bit scary; their little town was surrounded by wildfires. Sandy was glad when it was time to go home.
The journey home was very smooth in the end. The fires between their hotel and the airport had been brought under control. Their flight was on time. It landed on time as well and soon they were home unpacking.
It was as she went to put her passport away that she discovered the unsent postcard in her handbag. "We did post this, you know."
Malcolm hit his forehead in mock horror. "There'll be trouble."
Right on cue the telephone rang.
"I'm glad you like them."
"Well we did, but we didn't get the chance to post hers."
"We have, yes."
"That wouldn't fool her, would it?"
"For goodness sake, it's only a postcard."
"Yes, of course we will. We always do, don't we?"
"So, we'll just have to put up with that won't we?"
"Yes. Will do. Bye."
"She sounded a bit upset."
"Yes, she was cross. Because Aunt Ada's upset that Mum and Dad and Aunt Brenda got postcards and she didn't. And you know what Mum suggested? That as we have the postcard still, one of us should put it through their letter box one morning. What do you think?"
"That's a daft idea." Why couldn't he see that?
"Well for starters, their post doesn't come until the afternoon. Then there wouldn't be a stamp on it. You can't put an English one on it. Your Aunt Ada isn't daft. And we might even be seen. You know those two are early risers."
"Well, we'll have to think of something. They're expecting us as usual on Sunday afternoon."
They would be!
Couldn't they tell the truth and be done with it? "Why don't we 'fess up and just give her the card?"
Malcolm raised both eyebrows. "Really? You do know what Aunt Ada's like, don't you?"
Yes she did. And that was what made it all a bit more puzzling. "So, why didn't you hold Aunt Brenda's card back instead?" Malcolm's Aunt Brenda was much more reasonable than her sister.
Malcolm frowned. "I'm not really sure. I guess I like to live dangerously?"
"Anyway you more or less said it yourself. The postal system's unreliable. We'll just have to say it was lost in the post."
"I suppose so."
"Shall I smooth it over with your mum?"
"Yes please." He pulled her towards him and kissed the top of her head. "What would I do without you?"
"Get into even more trouble," Sandy muttered.
"Yes, I think that's for the best, Sandy love. We'll just have to tell her that you did send a card, but that it must have got lost in the post. Hopefully she'll be happy enough with that."
"I expect she'll forget all about it in time."
Tricia chuckled. "I wouldn't be so sure about that. She'll never let Malcolm hear the last of it. Anyway we'll all do our best. You're a good lass. I do hope that son of mine appreciates you."
"Thank you, Tricia. See you soon."
Malcolm looked up at her when she'd finished the call.
"Mum okay with that?"
"Yea. As okay as she can be. Brace yourself for Sunday."
Aunt Brenda opened the door to them on Sunday afternoon. She greeted them with her usual sunny smile. She was wearing jeans and a check shirt - very understated for a Sunday for Aunt Brenda - and she seemed more cheerful than normal. Had Aunt Ada been a bit kinder to her today?
"I'm afraid your Aunt Ada's a bit out of sorts," she said as she led them into the lounge. The china plates and tea things were all set out. Aunt Brenda's tempting Victoria sponge was already there but Aunt Ada's fine lemon shortbread was clearly missing.
Aunt Ada herself sat there, wrapped up in a pink woollen shawl. Her eyes were red. It looked as if she'd been crying. "Very generous of you to come and see me, I'm sure. Well I expect, you were too busy having a nice time to even write a postcard."
"Oh Ada, now tut, tut," said Aunt Brenda. "Of course they weren't too busy having a nice time. Look at the lovely card they sent me." She pointed to the mantelpiece.
Ah, so he'd sent his Aunt Brenda the one of the little cove.
"It was lovely there," said Sandy. "We went to that little beach quite a lot until we had to stay in because it was too hot and because of the fires."
"The fires? Oh that doesn't sound very nice," said Aunt Brenda. "What were these fires?"
"Wildfires," Malcolm explained. "Fires that had got out of control. They didn't know whether people had started them deliberately or whether it was just people being careless."
"There you are you see," said Aunt Brenda.
"There's how I'm supposed to see what?" snapped Aunt Ada.
"That must be what happened to your postcard."
"It must have got burnt in the fire."
"Oh you silly woman, what are you prattling on about?" Aunt Ada sniffed and took a large white hanky from up her sleeve and blew her nose noisily.
Aunt Brenda looked at Sandy and Malcolm.
Sandy bit her lip. Malcolm shrugged.
"That's what Tricia told me I must tell you."
"What? That my postcard got burnt in a fire? And that hers and yours didn't? How would that happen?"
"No. She said I was to tell you that they'd sent you a post card and that it must be lost in the post."
Aunt Ada screwed her eyes up and looked straight at Sandy and Malcolm. "Did you? Did you write me a post card and put in the post box? With the right postage on it? Because I don't want to have to pay for it if it eventually turns up."
"That's right, Aunt Ada. We wrote three postcards. They sell the stamps with the post cards. So that the tourists get it right."
But they hadn't posted three, had they? Sandy could bear it no longer. She'd still got the postcard in her bag. She opened it and fumbled inside. Yes, there it was. She started taking it out.
"What are you doing?" hissed Malcolm.
"It's about time we told the truth," Sandy whispered back.
"What are you two fighting about?" asked Aunt Ada. "What's that you've got in your hand? Is that a postcard?"
Malcolm leapt to his feet and glared at Sandy. "Yes. It's just like the one we bought you. Sandy liked it so much she bought another copy of it."
He paused dramatically just as he was about to hand over to his aunt. "Oh, you idiot Sandy. This is Aunt Ada's card. You must have posted your one."
Aunt Ada took the card from him. She studied the picture for a few seconds and then turned it over.
"Well, what does it say?" asked Aunt Brenda. "Aren't you going to read it out to us?"
Aunt Ada sighed. Then she started reading "Dear Aunt Ada, Sandy and I are enjoying the sun here. We've visited this lighthouse. It reminded me a bit of the one near that campsite we used to go to in the summer holidays. I think you'd like it. We're looking forward to telling you all about it when we get back - and of course we're looking forward to some of your famous lemon short bread. Love Malc."
"Hmm. You like lighthouses, do you?" Aunt Ada was looking right into Sandy's eyes.
"Oh yes. I love them"
She was lying again. She hated them. All those steps. And the way they spelt danger. She always thought that if you were near enough to a lighthouse to see it properly you were already in the wrong place. And she hated that one in particular. The stairs had been so narrow and when she'd got to the top and looked down she'd felt dizzy.
"Well that's good to know, anyway," said Aunt Ada. "So, when you come next week I can show you some of the photos of the lighthouse he's on about. If that other one turns up I can give it back to you. As long as you pay any excess postage, of course. And I'll make some of my lemon shortbread." She turned to Aunt Brenda. "And I hope you'll dress a bit more smartly when we have company, you scruffy mutt."
Aunt Brenda lowered her eyes and shrank.