Her name was Araminta Oliphant, and she was my great aunt on my father's side; the unmarried sister of my late grandmother. She'd had a minor stroke at the age of eighty six, and the hospital had refused to discharge her to live alone in her little flat. The choices were either a residential home, or coming to live with us.
She didn't need nursing, or much help at all, just to be kept an eye on, and we all liked the old girl, who had a ready smile, a quicker wit, and a kind word for everyone, so we picked her up from the hospital, two days after my eleventh birthday, and she moved into my brother Alfie's old room. Alfie had been at University for the past eighteen months, and was planning on moving in with a few mates when he finished. He only used his old room at Christmas and for a couple of weeks in the summer, so he had no real objection to surrendering it to Auntie Minty. She decided to keep her flat on, rather than sell it,
''You and Alfie can look after it for me, Charlotte.'' she suggested. ''I'll be leaving it to you anyway. Might as well keep it till then, as it'll be a good investment for you.''
That was in the days when property was a sound investment. And Minty was right. Leaving the flat to us was the best thing she could have done. Well, for me, anyway. In the end, it didn't affect Alfie.
Auntie Minty died ten years later, at the age of ninety-six, when I had just turned twenty-one, and was in my final year at Art College. I spent a lot of time in Minty's flat, as I had been stripping it out and redecorating it. Although it was half Alfie's, he was happy for me to do my own thing there.
We all missed Auntie Minty when she went. She was a dear old lady, and a nice person to have around. She'd been a hit with my school friends, as well. When I'd brought them home for tea, we all used to sit around and listen to her stories. She'd done a lot of travelling in her younger days, and seen the world. She told us that was the reason she'd never married. She was Auntie Minty to all of us, even the ones who were not related to her, and when I invited a dozen of my old school friends to her funeral, not a single one of them refused.
It turned out that Minty was a much weathier woman than any of us had realised. As well as the flat, she had hundreds of thousands of pounds divided between two savings accounts, Premium Bonds, and a few shares. She hadn't quite been a millionaire, but not far off. She had left the money to be divided equally between my parents, Alfie and me. The first thing I did, was to buy Alfie's half of the flat, after we'd had it valued. He was more than happy to sell it to me, and bought himself a nice little property on the outskirts of town.
When I finished College, a few months later, I started my own interior design business, and Mum and Dad suggested that I move into Minty's old flat properly. I'd made such a good job of renovating it, that they thought it would serve as a showcase for my talent. It wasn't as if I'd be far away, after all. And so it was that I packed all my things, and Minty's flat became mine.
The first night I slept there, I discovered something which was to change my life forever.