I had nearly forgotten the date. I had to rush out and pick up the flowers from the nearest florist in a hurry. I never wanted to miss the flowers on this day of all days.
“Promise me you will buy flowers on my birthday,” my aunt had said. Her fingers had been like claws as they clung onto me. I had stared at the dying woman, in the borrowed hospital bed in her bedroom. The nurse had stared sympathetically at me as the light faded with my aunt and the scent of disinfectant filled the air. “Promise me, every birthday, you buy flowers.” She had broken off, coughing.
I had nodded. “I promise, Aunt Carol. I’ll buy them every year.”
“I should have changed my will,” she had gasped. “I should have made you earn it.”
“Don’t make yourself poorly, auntie,” I had said. “I can get the solicitor in any time.” I had ignored the tiny shake of the nurse’s head. We both had known that my aunt had hours left, but there was no point in upsetting her.
“Flowers on my birthday, keep the house the same, no men, and no foreign food. Remember.” Aunt Carol had coughed and gasped and then fallen back on the pillows, exhausted. They were the last words she ever said.
That was three years ago. Aunt Carol had taken me in when I had lost my parents at the age of fourteen. She had terrorised me, gouged every penny of support for herself and sabotaged any chance I had to make a life away from her. I had cleaned her sparse and spartan house, ran her errands and survived. I even gave up my job to nurse her at the end. I had done my duty. All the money she had clawed from my trust fund, along with all the other money that she had hoarded, was left to me. She had never found a way of adding the clauses that she wanted, so she had just insisted, expecting me to be the good, obedient child that I had always been.
Today would have been her birthday. So I ran out and bought a huge bunch of tulips, a flower that she had loathed. I would put them among the cosy throws and knickknacks that she had hated. And later my gorgeous boyfriend would call, and he would bring a curry.