When I was much younger than present, I was always fascinated by a ring worn by my grandmother.
My grandmother has passed years ago before I was born and I only knew her by the well-kept set of pictures from her maiden days till her death. In every of her pictures, I spotted a ring. I could easily tell it wasn’t her wedding ring since it was worn on her left thumb rather than her ring finger. And a special ring indeed it was, for it was shaped like a phoenix with its wings spreading wide and a drop of ruby at the center of its chest for the heart.
The phoenix was my family’s sigil.
I wondered if it was merely a piece of jewelry or it had any symbolic meanings. If it fell to the former case and had been buried with my grandmother than it’d be a real shame; I always wanted to try it on my own thumb even just once.
So, on a sunny afternoon I brought the question to my mother.
“I see it in all grandma’s pictures. Where’s it now?”
Gently mother stroke my head and said the ring had been passed down in our family for generations. It was the family’s tradition for the mother to pass the ring to her firstborn daughter when she came of age as a symbol of maturation and power.
Oh, did I forget to tell you that my family had been matriarchal for centuries? The firstborn girl ruled other members in the family like a queen bee.
My mother currently was and soon I would be.
Still, why had I never seen her with the ring?
I asked if the ring had been lost, to which my mother answered with a grieved expression: the ring had been stolen by her only sibling, my aunt.
Though mother usually avoided the topics concerning my aunt, I had heard a lot about her from the old wet nurse. From her I learned that my mother and my aunt were identical twins. A minute was what it needed to decide the ‘heiress’ to the family’s monarch. By the time my aunt came out, she had already lost to my mother.
That was the reason why she, since young age, had always been envious of her older sister, said the wet nurse regretfully. She tried to claim everything that belonged to her sister, be it toys, clothes or birthdays presents. And when she couldn’t take, she resorted to thievery or even destruction. She often said if she couldn’t possess something, neither could her sister since they were the same in every aspect. She even went so far as to say even if they were to switch places, none would notice. Due to her unpleasant attitude, she didn’t earn a lot of affection from my grandmother, resulting in the building tension which climaxed at my aunt being disowned and casted out of the family. Since then, none had ever seen her again.
But she came back and stole mother’s ring, right?
To my query the nurse nodded. In a stormy night when I was born, my aunt suddenly appeared at the mansion. She sneaked to her sister’s chamber, took the ring and disappeared, leaving behind a note that taunted her sister’s supremacy as illegitimate without the ultimate symbol.
That was nonsense. Even without the ring, mother’s position was never insecure. After all, my aunt’s attempt was nothing more than a terrible joke.
The old nurse shook her head sadly. Though my mother scarcely talked about my aunt, it was clear that deep in her heart, she never blamed her twin sister for stealing her inheritance; she tolerated it just like she had done so for years because she was always tormented with a guilt complex.
Why is that, I didn’t understand.
Because, as twins, the two fetuses had to struggle with each other for the small space inside the mother’s womb. The older twin won and she was born perfectly healthy. The younger twin lost and she was born with a deformed pelvis. Though it didn’t affect her physical appearance, my aunt was still damned to be forever denied of pregnancy.
I had to admit I felt a tinge of sympathy for my aunt. Nevertheless, her misfortunate couldn’t justify her mean deeds toward my mother. My mother who was the nicest person in the whole world.
Years later, mother passed away and I inherited her place.
My little daughter asked me the same question about the ring and like mother, I told her about the dark sheep of our family.
A part of me still regretted not being able to wear that ring and then pass it to my daughter. For years, I’d been trying to find at least a clue about my aunt’s whereabouts. All in vain.
It was long after I’d given up that I found her.
One day, my little daughter accidentally discovered a hidden passage in a guest chamber while playing hide and seek with the maids. I was almost speechless when she came to me, for mother had never spoken a word about such passage’s existence in out mansion. Could it be that the passage led to some secrets to which mother had been oblivious just as I was?
A secret was unearthed, a secret I would prefer buried for eternity.
I found my aunt there, or rather, her skeleton.
No wonder none of us could find her. My aunt had never left the house; she was always right beneath our soles.
With the family ring tucked in her ribcage.
As I examined her remains, revelation struck my body like a bolt of electricity.
My ‘aunt’ had a perfect pelvis.