Salvaged wrappings topple out of the linen closet – a crowd of shrewdly detached tissue-paper, foil and gloss.
I feel for the first ledge and find a secure footing on the soft flannelette to my right; my left foot slides on Mother’s satin pillowslips. Reaching for the top shelf with my fingers, I momentarily position my toes on the second ledge, before hauling myself up.
It’s a snug hideout, cushioned by the mending pile, fragrant with the mothballs that lavish the ivory christening gown, one shelf below. The wool box sits beside me, crammed with odds and ends in assorted ply, only suitable for mending or Peggy squares.
The box also contains Mother’s needles and hooks: stout, skinny, long, circular. My precious French knitting doll, with her lengthy sleeping bag, naps, carefully tucked-in beneath the scraps.
“Absolutely NOT,” my mother’s voice echoes down the hall.
I snatch up my doll and a hook and begin working carefully, winding and twisting; lifting the lower loops over the nails, over and over again. I’m building up a rhythm when suddenly something smashes.
My mother’s voice is emphatic: “Only the FIRST born – that’s the rule. This is NOT your first born though, is it?”
I crane my neck (an ‘eldest and only’) to spy in-between where door meets mount. Aunt Susan looks straight at Mother and says: “You better not ruin this for me Ava.”
I grab the top of the door with my finger-tips and pull. The salvaged wrappings crumple.
When the front gate bangs, my index-finger accidently slips on a nail head; the blood trickles down between the boards.
On the day of the christening Aunt Susan is suitably radiant; my mother is remarkably quiet; and the heirloom gown – curiously white.
This story placed first in the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction competition 2016.