My life began painfully. At least, I assume that my birth must have been painful for my mother. I can still hear her screaming sometimes, when the rest of the world is silent.
From this I know that my mother hated me. My mother didn't even bother to name me before she stood up, still bloody from birth, and walked out of the house. My aunts found out that she had died days later, and only then did they name me.
I was poor, sweet, orphaned little baby Arianna. They told me that I was good looking when I was a little baby. Aunt Edith used to joke that my father gave me all my good looks, since no one knew who he was. It was no secret that my aunts were all ugly in some way or another.
Aunt Edith had a large hairy mole on her nose. Aunt Trudy was had as many rolls of fat as pearls on a necklace. Aunt Rita had been a bearded lady in the circus. And they said my mother, Lois, had been the ugliest of them all. She had started to bald when she was twenty, two years before she had me. By the time I was born, she was bald as an egg.
The Aunts (for they deserved a capital letter) had never married. They had been quite young when Lois (the littlest sister) had had me. But they attributed their status as Old Maids to my presence. Of course, that was just became an excuse to give whenever some pesky old woman asked. "Oh, we can't busy ourselves with things like that, there's Arianna to raise after all."
The Aunts lived in a huge old house. The kind with a tower on the top and a huge garden. Some relic of past times. It had been their father, my grandfather's, before he had died too young. He had left the whole house to his daughters.
But, despite the house, they were far from rich. My grandfather had left all of his money to the family cat: Gloria. And no sooner had the will been executed and the sisters were living in the big old house had Gloria suddenly died. Cat food poisoning was listed on the coroner's report. The Aunts were ready to snatch up all of Gloria's money, only to find that the will specified what to do in case of her death.
So all of Grandfather's fortune was spent on a funeral for Gloria. She was buried in style. Her casket was lined with silk and several golden mice went to the grave as well. The rest of the money was, regretfully, donated to the kind lawyer, Dr. Harper, who also served as the town's animal doctor.
And thus the Aunts lived—perpetually unhappy, ugly and bored with life. And then, dear sweet Lois had to go and get herself pregnant. It was a relative scandal around town. No one knew the father of Lois's baby. Some claimed that even Lois herself didn't know.
For nine months, the Aunts endured Lois's state. Of course, they complained to anyone who would listen, but I never said that they endured quietly. They each had tales about the burdens that dear Lois's "mistake" (as they called it) had put on them.
Aunt Rita was said to have lost her chance to become a schoolteacher because of it. The children's parents didn't want their children to be taught by the sister of the mother of an illegitimate child. It was simply too scandalous.
Edith never told me what happened to her, only that it was "simply horrendous." I decided that that meant that a man had been involved.
When dear Lois (they always called each other dear) had had her daughter and then died, the Aunts were even more scandalized. They stopped talking about their sister, and when they did, it was only in hushed tones. And then, there had been the baby: me.