Jean Patterson is a name I cannot erase from my memory. It still evokes a feeling of guilt. The brooch she was wearing caught my interest. It was just a plain, gold brooch – in retrospect cheap gold-coloured metal – in the shape of a Scottie dog. I fell in love with it. Then at playtime, scuffing in the grass at the edge of the playground, I saw it gleaming up at me. I picked it up and pinned it to my dress, at once guilty and yet guileless. So engrossed was I in savouring the joy of wearing the coveted brooch that I was blissfully unaware that it was blatantly obvious to everyone what I had done.
My joy was short-lived! Almost before we had taken our seats Jean Patterson spotted the brooch. “Miss, Miss, she’s got my brooch!”
“Stand up Lily Goree. Is that your brooch you are wearing?”
“Where did you get it?”
“My mum bought it for me in Woolworths on Saturday.”
The lie came so glibly to my lips that I did not recognise it for what it was. I believed it even as I said it.
“Right… Thomas, go to Miss Rackstraw’s class and fetch Mollie Goree, please.”
About a hundred years passed while I stood, the class whispering furtively. By now I so believed the lie that I was confident my sister would back me up, thus proving my innocence and enabling me to keep the brooch I prized so much. Alas no! She was obviously quite bewildered as to why I should lay claim to something that I knew perfectly well did not belong to me. “No, I have never seen it before,” Mollie stated flatly.
Oh, the disgrace I felt! Yet even the public shame of surrendering the brooch, and the punishment of spending the remainder of the morning standing in the corner, was overshadowed by the disappointment of having to return it to its rightful owner. That is why ‘Jean Patterson’ and ‘guilt’ are indelibly printed on my heart forever!