"THE SCENT OF LILAC" - Patsy Collins
“Mum, what was Grandma’s full name?”
As Primrose spoke, a heavy perfume filled the room.
“Agatha Myrtle Galbraith, why love?”
“If we’re going to apologise we should get things right.”
"Primrose, are you sure you want to do this?”
“What can you smell?”
“What can you hear?”
“Your sisters, crying.”
“Then what choice do I have?”
“You’re sure Grandma is really haunting the twins? Perhaps they’re just frightened because they saw her die.”
“She’s been dead for almost a year and they’re getting worse, not better. And the scent hasn’t faded, it gets stronger each time she’s mentioned, I’m sure that’s why we’ve all got sore throats.”
Rose helped her daughter find a brooch and shawl of Agatha’s. As they handled the shawl, the scent increased. Primrose and her sisters walked to the hall.
“Will Grandma really be there?”
“Yes, Chloe. Then you and Louise can apologise for frightening her. I’ll say sorry too, because I think she’s angry with all of us.”
“Then she’ll leave us alone?”
"I hope so.”
Inside the hall, Primrose marked out a five pointed star. She placed a candle in every segment, then ushered her sisters into place. Her Grandmother’s shawl and brooch were placed in the empty places. Primrose lit each candle.
“Now we must all think about her.”
“It won’t really work will it?”
“Just saying sorry won’t, but I’m going to call her back from the dead. We’ll make her go away.”
“That’s not what you told Mum.”
“She wouldn’t let us do this if I’d told the whole truth.”
“What if it doesn’t work? Will Grandma never leave us alone?” asked Louise.
“Are you going to do this? It won’t work if we don’t all do it.”
“We will Primrose,” chorused the twins.
“As I was saying, when she comes we’ll tell her we’re sorry.”
They each thought of the dead woman. Primrose remembered how her Grandma spread nasty rumours about her father, suggesting an unhealthy attachment to his daughters. She remembered too, everything she'd heard of her mother’s awful childhood. The twins remembered their grandmother calling them close and then giving painful pinches. She said nasty things about their mother and tried turning them against their sister. They remembered too that afternoon, exactly a year ago. They had listened to their teacher talking about bullies.
“Bullies are really cowards,” Miss said. “You should always report them, and if you can, stand up to them, it sometimes frightens them off.”
They told their sister, who agreed Grandma was a bully.
The twins decided to frighten her away. They hid in this hall and waited for her to come for piano practise. They appeared under a sheet, wailing. She hadn’t died of fright because she realised who they were. She became angry. She’d screamed and chased them, walking stick raised. She fell down the steps, broken her neck and died.
The family thought they’d lost the bully until the funeral. The sweet sickly scent was so strong the guests quickly left and her angry presence was felt. A year later, the sisters still smelt the lilac fragrance.
“Agatha Myrtle Galbraith we call you to us. Agatha Myrtle Galbraith we call you to us,” Primrose whispered. Her voice became louder each time she repeated the incantation. Her sisters joined in the chant.
Slowly the shawl and brooch stirred and rose. The shawl draped as if supported by a body. The brooch hung as if pinned onto it. The candles flickered and dimmed.
The light regained its strength to reveal a figure wrapped in the shawl. It was faint, barely the shadow of a reflection. They recognised Agatha.
“Sorry we frightened you Grandma,” said Louise. “We didn’t want you to die, just to see what it’s like to be scared.”
“They are sorry Grandma, and I’m sorry too. I should have known what they were planning and stopped them,” Primrose said.
The girls repeated their apologies and each in turn begged Agatha to leave them in peace. As they spoke the lilac scent increased. Through their streaming eyes, they saw the figure growing taller and stronger.
Agatha was now more substantial than she’d been in life. She looked bright and strong. They screamed.
“Well I’m not sorry,” shouted Rose from the doorway. “You were cruel to me and you were cruel to the children.” Rose hugged the girls. “When Ralph died you said you wanted us to come home. I thought you’d changed. I was wrong. You just wanted to share your misery.”
As Rose shouted, the figure began to spin, sending sparks and clouds of perfume at every turn. She became paler, smaller.
“Agatha Myrtle Galbraith we called you to us, now we send you back. Agatha Myrtle Galbraith we send you back,” said Primrose.
All four of them repeated the phrase. Agatha spun faster and faster. Then with a hiss, she cast off the shawl and flew about the hall wailing and thrashing. Lilac scent choked them and the unearthly sounds throbbed through their bodies.
Then silence. Agatha was gone.
They never smell Lilac now, except in the spring when the flowers bloom.
BIO: Patsy Collins writes short stories for magazines including, Woman's Weekly, Fiction Feast, Candis, Ireland's Own, My Weekly and That's Life. To read more about her and her writing, please visit: