At last a face I recognise, he thought.
This woman did not wear a fancy hat with fruit or flowers on her head. In fact, she did not wear a hat at all. Her clothes were as plain and serious as the hair that was tied severely back behind her ears like wire wool. She had no man to put a comforting arm around her, even if she had wanted one. She stood alone in the chilly April breeze. Some children about Henry's age rollicked around her, full of giggles, chasing after one another with confetti. A few stray flakes of paper settled for a moment on her hair. Then blew away. There was nothing for them to get a grip on.
But the woman took no notice of the children's games. And stood apart from everyone, as if she found the whole event rather distasteful. As if she didn't even want to be there. And her sombre grey expression didn't change when Henry's father spoke to her
'Hullo, Phoebe. D'you need a lift to the reception?'
'Digby, my dear. You always did like to play the gallant knight in shining armour come to rescue the damsel in distress,' the woman said. And then, turning to
Henry's mother, she added, 'Even if the damsel was only his sister.'
Henry's mother smiled. It was a brave smile. But thin. Like the April sun that battled so hard against the wind to give a little warmth to the afternoon. He knew the two women rarely saw eye to eye. In fact, Mrs Witherspoon often referred to her sister-in-law as a witch.
'You wouldn't believe the things that woman is capable of,' she always used to say, her voice full of mystery. 'She has some spine-chilling talents.' And his father would reply in a teasingly solemn tone:
'Oh yes, these people who bend spoons have got nothing on your Aunt Phoebe, Henry.'
It was a routine that Henry had got used to over the years, until his father added one day, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye:
'It has been said, Henry, that you're just like your aunt.'