I search the map, spread over Auntie’s voluptuous rug. I hear clattering in the kitchen, fuzzing my thoughts.
‘Custard cream, lovie?’ The top half of Auntie Beryl, hair in rollers.
I hate custard creams.
‘Um – you don’t by any chance have a few cream crackers, do you Auntie?’
I look out the smeared window, light failing. I scan the room, spotting a book on a shelf, over the door.
‘Got any step ladders, Auntie?’
A whole Auntie appears, feet clad in fluffy slippers.
‘You do know we leave in two hours, don’t you, Auntie?’
I try to sound gentle, but hear an edge.
‘What you want steps for, lovie?’
‘Just – that book up there. I wonder if it’s any use?’
‘Oh, that old thing? About Spanish flu?’
‘Yup. That one. Might have something in it. You never know.’
You’re clutching at straws, I tell myself.
‘I want to know if we’ll be OK, not wearing masks. I want someone to tell me I have a chance. We have a chance.’
And that’s it. The tears won’t stop coming.
‘Oh, come here, pet. Come to Auntie.’
She is there, framing my cheeks, Auntie eyes meeting mine.
‘Now you listen here. We’re not going out this house until you put on some lipstick.’
She hands me a mirror.
‘You put your face on, girl. We’ll get away. I know it. Dry your eyes, and blow your nose.’
I see us in a refugee caravan of thousands, wearing our only mask. Red lipstick.