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My Complex Niece

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‘Aunt, where are you?’ Anne calls from the sitting room.

I’m in the kitchen. I have just made a cuppa. Would you like one?’

‘Yes please.’ she says as she enters the room. We sit and chat. She seems to have a spring in her step since Miss Walker came to visit us with her cousin, Mr Priestley and his wife. She doesn’t stay very long in one place. She’s always off traveling whether abroad or somewhere in the kingdom but she has been home for many weeks now. I think Miss Walker is the main attraction for her. .

She seems more content too. What has Miss Walker done to make her stick around for so long. I ponder on this question then I hear her say.

‘Aunt, what would you think if Miss Walker was to move into Shibden as my companion?’

‘That would be fine. It would warm my heart to see you settled and happy. But what about Mariana?’

‘What about Mariana? She went off and married Charles. That put an end to us being together.’ She seems a little hostile when I mention her lover who seems to be ex lover. I had been hoping she would get over her and move on.

When Mariana married Charles Anne was devastated. She wouldn’t do anything or go anywhere. She stayed holed up in her bedroom. All she did was eat, read, write in her journal and sleep. I could hear her scratch her anger in the pages of her journal. It’s a wonder that her nib still works.

‘Anne, is this what you desire?’ I say searching her eyes to find an answer I doubt she will give me. Then she says, ‘yes, Aunt. It was just something to do in the beginning because I was lonely but then I realised I had grown more fond of her than what I thought I would. Now, she is an ever present source of comfort and joy for me.’

‘How does she feel about you?’ I ask her gingerly.

‘She loves me more than I ever imagined anyone would. She accepts me as I am without the need for me to become someone I am not. I find she has lifted a burden off my shoulders in a way I never imagined anyone would.’

‘What about her tribe?’ I ask.

‘They seem to be doing their best to push her to marry a man. She told me that there is a Revered Ainsworth trying to win her over. She says he only wants to marry her for her money.’ Anne says.

‘Is she wealthy?’ I look at her quizzically.

‘Yes, she has at least two thousand pounds at her disposal. But I am not with her for her money. I think I love her more than I ever imagined I would. After what Mariana did I never thought I would have the courage to love again. Yet, here I am in love with the most eligible woman in the county.’

‘You do realise her tribe with do everything in their power to stop her from living with you.’

‘I know but they can’t stop her from moving her. It’s her life and she can live it the way she wishes.’

‘Yes, I know that. I just hope they don’t harass her to move out by send her nasty letters and visiting her when you’re not her to give her courage to be strong.’ I say.

‘Aunt, we plan to stick together as often as we can. We intent to travel to the continent soon. I want to show her where I have been and to get her away from her tribe so they won’t harass her.’ Anne says, ‘I know they will do that. I don’t know what will happen when we return.’

‘When is she moving in?’

‘As soon as we can organise a day when the men can help us. They are busy right now building the moss hut.’

‘Why did you get that built?’

‘Ann, Miss Walker loves to paint and sketch. So, I want to give her somewhere she can go when she wants to paint and sketch and wants privacy.’

‘Okay!’ I says looking a bit surprised. I always thought that a moss hut was where you went to…you know..make out. She didn’t seem to notice. Then she is gone again after kissing me goodbye. I think this will be a good match. I like Miss Walker what I have seen of her. She seems quiet but very considerate of others. I know we will all be happy to have her here with us. She will be a bright spot in what will often be a rather dull day.

I ponder on when I will see Miss Walker then her and Anne walking in.

‘Aunt, I have someone I would like you to meet. Oh sorry, you have met before after the accident above the Hall.’ Anne says, ‘Do come and get reacquainted please?’

‘Miss Walker, how are you?’ I say.

‘Miss Lister, I am doing fine. Please call me Ann. I would prefer that. Miss Walker sounds too formal for one as young as me.’

‘Well, you must call me Aunt because I hear from a well known source.’ I smile at Anne. ‘that you are moving in to Shibden soon. I am pleased to know that you will be a part of our family’ How she puts up with our Anne has me puzzled but she does and Anne is smiling so much I think the wind must have changed and her face has remained in that state.

‘Would you like a cuppa?’ I ask Mis…Ann.

‘Yes, please.’ She says. I instruct Anne to go to the kitchen and put on the kettle. While she is away I get a chance to chat with Ann. I ask her how she feels about moving into Shibden and what her tribe will say.

She says,’they have controlled my life for so long that I expect they will try to tell me I am making the wrong choice. I don’t see it that way. From now on everything about me is my decision and mine alone and with Anne to help me I am sure we can keep them at bay.’

‘I hope so. I have heard they can be demanding and expect you to do what they think is best for you.’

‘Yes, that’s the way they have been since my parents died when I was 18. That was when I first met Anne. She visited us and we walked in the garden. She made my day a little bit brighter then.’

‘And you have loved Anne since then.’ Goodness I think. The poor girl has got it bad. I hope she knows what she is getting into. Then Anne appears with a tray, three cups and some biscuits she said Cordingley had hidden in the cupboard but she sniffed them out

We sit and chat. They tell me they’re going to York for Easter. They didn’t say why but it seems as if it is something important. So I don’t push the subject of Anne spending Easter Sunday with us.

We drink our tea in companionable silence and for a beat I think they might stay but then they get up. They are leaving. Anne gives me a kiss on the cheek and Ann stretches her arms out. She wants a hug. So I reach in and we hug. She feels so fragile in my arms. I kiss her cheek and they leave. I have no idea when I will see them again. I hope it is soon. I am sure Ann will make a great companion for Anne. She seems to have Anne settled already. I hope it is a permanent arrangement because they seem to get along handsomely which I think is great. Anne was never one to seemed to stay in one place for very long. Now, I feel that she will settle here at Shibden for life. I do hope so but she seems to get itchy feet after a few months and desires to travel again. I wonder if that will happen soon even now that Miss Walker is part of her life.