Sarah suffers a little sibling rivalry on her birthday
|It was quite the worst gift that Sarah could imagine. Who on earth would want such a ghastly thing? she mused, and tossed the round-bellied pot from palm to palm. Her train of thought was still at the platform of disgust, when she realised her face might reflect it. She slapped on a smile and fluttered her fan-like lashes at Uncle Cedric.
“Why, how thoughtful, Uncie!” It had taken Sarah years of tormenting boys to cultivate a purr like that. “How did you know I was looking for a . . . a Toby Jug?”
Uncle Cedric's eyes sparkled behind the folds and creases of his tea-stained skin. “To be honest, darling, I wasn't sure what to get you. It was your Aunt, God rest her soul, who used to send your presents over. The things that woman could find in the provinces! All of India seemed to give up her trinkets for your Aunt's amusement.” He leaned forward and pressed a shaking, liver-spotted hand on Sarah's knee. She fought the urge to gag, and kept smiling as the old man continued, “I could always change it if you preferred?”
“Don't be silly!” She lifted his hand, slapped it with a couple of firm pats and placed it, very definitely, back on his own knee. “I wouldn't swap it for all the tea in China.”
“Oh, I'm so glad I listened to your sister.” The old man seemed comforted, smiled and settled back in his wheelchair. To Sarah, he looked ready to nod off at any minute, but nap time would have to wait. Vera? What did that pig of a sister have to do with her getting this distasteful gift?
“Have you seen Vera recently?”
“Not seen, no, but we had a lovely, long chat. I was a bit stuck for your birthday gift and got the nurse to phone her. Ever-so helpful, she was. Said you wouldn't be caught dead with the hideous diamond I had cut from the old mine's collection.”
Sarah could feel her jaw tighten, her molars grinding with each held back yelp.
Uncle Cedric continued, “ -- reminded me of how well brought up you were. Said you found that kind of overt display of wealth a little common. Good girl! Should be more like you about, and then maybe there wouldn't be so many bachelors. It was her thoughtfulness really. She mentioned your liking for collecting knick-knacks from charity shops.”
Sarah's fingers gripped the face of the jolly ceramic man with such strength that her knuckles turned white. The veneer of well-mannered politeness was slipping from her face, as she teetered on the edge of tantrum. Uncle Cedric misinterpreted it, “Oh, dear child! Please don't think me too thoughtless. It wasn't all her idea -- I did suggest a Toby Jug. And I'm so very pleased you like it.”
He replaced his hand back onto her knee, and leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner, “I wanted it to be a surprise, but seeing you even a little unhappy is torture to me.” He smiled, kindly. “Sarah, I've changed my will.”
“That's . . . nice?” What has the old dolt done, now? Changed my share in the diamond mine for shares in Oxfam? Vera. God, how she's going to pay for this.
“You'll see, my precious darling.” He winked. “You won't forget your old Uncie when he's gone.” The nurse came in and unlocked the brake on his wheelchair. The meeting was over. Sarah sat looking at the Toby Jug, thinking it quite the worst birthday ever.