Handkerchief

By Sarah McPherson

Nanny Susan says lying’s a sin, and people who sin go to hell. Julie knows she means when they die, but she still thinks sometimes about a big red devil, like in the cartoons, coming up out of the ground to carry people off.

Even the sky looks angry today. Rain streaks the window like tears. Julie wonders if it’s because she burned the handkerchief. She didn’t mean to; she forgot it wasn’t a paper tissue until it was already smouldering on the coals, and she tried to snatch it back but she was too scared of burning her fingers. It was one of the pretty ones, with Mummy’s initials on the corner. She didn’t tell Daddy.

Nanny Susan says Daddy should take Julie to church. She says he’s raising a godless child, says there’s still too much of That Woman’s influence. Daddy frowns a lot and shushes her. Julie imagines a laughing devil reaching down out of the angry sky and snatching Mummy away because she didn’t take Julie to church.

Sometimes, after bedtime, when Daddy and Nanny Susan are downstairs with the TV on loud, Julie creeps into Daddy’s room and looks through all the things that used to belong to Mummy, and pretends she can remember.

She wonders if not telling Daddy about the handkerchief is the same as lying.

Sarah McPherson is a writer of short fiction and poetry from Sheffield in the UK. She is fascinated by our relationship with mythology, history, and the natural landscape, and what they do to our relationships with each other. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Still Point Arts Quarterly, Burning House Press, 101 Fiction and Paragraph Planet. She can be found on Twitter as @summer_moth and blogs sporadically at theleadedwindow.blogspot.com.
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