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Mum was doing shift work and had taken the car so there was no choice. Soon they were trudging along the few streets to her auntie’s house, carrying the carefully boxed cake in her arms.

 “Hope she’s in,” remarked Rahul as they pushed through the red wooden gate and rang the doorbell. Their optimism was rewarded as they heard the approaching footsteps and the bolts being drawn back. Nisha’s aunt lived near a fairly shady part of town and everyone was very careful. 

 “Aunt Spardha,” exclaimed Rahul, giving his older sister a hug as they went in. Nisha stayed shyly in the background, until she was propelled forward by Dad to greet her aunt.

 “Come along now, child,” was the stern greeting. “You’re soaking wet and you need to get warm. Go in and sit by the fire.”

As Nisha removed her coat and boots and went into the warm sitting room, her dad and aunt chatted for a while in the kitchen. Nisha’s eyes roamed around the room, taking in the colourful pictures and fragile ornaments which adorned each wall and surface. When she grew up she wanted a house like this, she thought.

She was still standing there when the adults arrived, carrying cups of tea and slices of dad’s cake; “what a wonderful cook your dad is,” her aunt remarked as they settled down. “He used to cook as a boy with our mother, all sorts of sweet treats that she grew up with in India. But nothing beats your father’s Simnel cake!”

She watched as her father picked a ball of sweet almondy marzipan off the top and popped it in his mouth.

 “Auntie Spardha,” Nisha ventured through a mouthful of cake. 

“What is it, child?” came the reply. “Eat up now and watch those crumbs on my carpet.”

“Well,” her niece continued, “Could I look in your button box please?”

 “Come, come,” was the reply. “You don’t have to ask. There it is; where it always is, over there in the corner.”

Assuming this was a ‘yes’, Nisha moved over to the wooden box by the gas fire. Auntie Spardha had beautiful buttons. Their colours fascinated Nisha and as she sat running her hands through the shiny variety her aunt came to kneel beside her.

“Now, this one,” she said, picking up a very ornate silver specimen and holding it to the light. “This one belonged to our father...your grandfather, Neeraj. You remember him?”

She chattered on, softening as she re-visited her memories. Nisha watched as her aunt’s face shone in the firelight, and then she noticed.

“Auntie Spardha,” she interrupted, feeling a bit bolder now. “Your cross....where is it, have you lost it?”

“Don’t interrupt, Nisha,” said dad, from his chair by the window.

 “Oh, no, the girl’s right,” Auntie Spardha turned to her. “So careless of me...I think I lost it when I was gardening in the church garden yesterday.”

“That reminds me,” declared dad, putting down her teacup and rising from her chair. “Sorry, Aunt Spardha, we’re doing the Easter garden for Sunday and we have to reclaim a patch of ground in the churchyard and find some flowers for that. It won’t be easy digging, what with the rain this morning, but we’ll do our best.”