Authors: Patricia Scanlan
Patricia Scanlan is the author of ten Number One best-selling novels,
City Girl, Apartment 3B, Finishing Touches, City Woman, Foreign Affairs, Mirror Mirror, Promises Promises, City Lives, Francesca's Party
Two for Joy
. She has published three adult literacy books:
Second Chance, Ripples
. She lives in Dublin.
First published by GemmaMedia in 2009.
230 Commercial Street
Boston MA 02109 USA
617 938 9833
Copyright Â© 1999, 2009 Patricia Scanlan.
This edition of
is published by arrangement with New Island Books Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Printed in the United States of America
Cover design by Artmark
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Library of Congress Preassigned Control Number (PCN) applied for
“You're a stupid cow. That's what you are!”
“And you're a mean bastard. I wish you'd get the hell out of here and never come back.”
“Maybe I will. You big mouth â ”
Ciara McHugh pressed her thumbs into her ears. They were at it again. Shouting and roaring. Ranting and raving. She hated them. Why couldn't they be like other parents? Why did they have to be fighting all the time?
Why couldn't her mother leave her
dad alone? She was always nagging him.
Nag, nag, nag.
He'd just ignore her. That would make Alison worse and she'd say something to get him going. Then they'd be yelling and shouting at each other.
Her dad's face would go dark with temper. Ciara was often afraid that he'd hit her mother. Sometimes she'd lie on her bed and her heart would pound so loudly she'd feel it was going to burst out of her chest.
Ciara heard the door slam. Hard. It seemed to shake the whole house. She heard the engine of the car start. That would be her dad. He'd drive off after a row and not come home for hours.
There was a dull silence in the house. Soon her mother would come
upstairs to Ciara's room. She'd start giving out about Barry, telling Ciara that Barry was selfish and cruel. She'd say that he'd never given her any support in their marriage. He wasn't like their best friend Mike.
Alison thought Mike was a great husband and father.
She was always saying, “See how Mike helps around the house. He cooks dinners at the weekend, instead of sitting with his nose stuck into a football match on TV.
“See how Mike helps his kids with their homework.
“See how Mike takes them out at weekends and gives them â¦
Alison always paused before she said “quality time”. She made it sound like something holy and reverent. She was always reading books about
relationships and quality time and communication.
â¦ with his kids. Your father can't
, Ciara. I've spent years,
, trying to get him to talk to me. Trying to get him to share our life, the way Mike and Kathy share theirs. It's like banging my head off a stone wall.”
Her mother always rolled her eyes dramatically at that part.
“I tell you, Ciara, if I can make a go of it with someone else, I bloody well will! I'm not wasting any more time on that thick, squinty-eyed shit. Life's not a
, Ciara. We only get one chance on the merry-go-round. Always remember that. And if you've any sense â
get married. You don't want to end up like me. Stuck with a selfish, cruel, heartless bastard.” Alison usually burst into tears at that point.
When her mother threatened to go off with someone else, it always frightened Ciara. She didn't know what would happen to her if her parents split up. Where would her daddy go? Ciara's stomach tightened. It always did when she thought about it. Butterflies danced up and down. A tear rolled down her cheek. She felt very scared.
Ciara didn't think her dad was that bad.
He didn't drink. That was good. Liz Kelly's father was always drunk. Once, he'd even puked up his dinner in front of a gang of them who were staying over for a slumber party. Poor Liz was so embarrassed. She burst into tears and ran up to her room.
Ciara's dad was good for giving lifts, even though he moaned about it. When his football team won and he was in a good humour, he sometimes even gave her a pound.
His team were doing very badly this season. Financially, it had been a bit of a disaster for her, Ciara thought glumly. She scribbled on the brown paper cover of her copy. She could do with some extra money. She'd been invited to another slumber party in a friend's house, and she'd have to bring a present.
It was going to be mixed.
Alison said it was OK to go. She told her not to say anything to Barry. Alison felt that Barry was far too strict. She wanted Ciara to be independent. To stand on her own two feet.
It was going to be a camping slumber party. They were going to buy some of that new alcoholic lemonade and get langered.
Ciara had tasted it once at Sharon Ryan's barbecue in August. It had made her feel nice and woozy. She'd smoked
three fags as well. She didn't really like smoking, but it was a cool thing to do. She wanted to be part of the gang.
She was the youngest in the gang. Twelve. The only one not in secondary school.
Ciara sighed deeply. She'd be starting secondary school next year. She'd have to do her assessment in February, and she was very worried about it.
Her maths were a disaster. She hated them.
Sara Stuart was dead lucky. Her dad was a wizard at maths. He was great for helping her. Mike Stuart was a really nice dad, even if he was a bit strict, Ciara thought enviously. Sara wasn't allowed to go to the slumber party. She was freaking out about it. Sara was her best friend.
Secretly, deep down, Ciara didn't
actually want to go to the slumber party. Declan Mooney was going to be at it. Ciara didn't like him any more. Once she'd thought she fancied him, but he'd given her a French kiss. She'd thought it was
! He'd also touched her up once, and that had made her feel dirty.
Yuck! Ciara shuddered.
She wished that she could stay at home. But her dad was going to a match and her mother had arranged to go dancing in Tomangos when she knew Ciara was going on a sleep-over. Her mother was always going to Tomangos.
Why, why, why couldn't she have normal parents like the Stuarts? Kathy Stuart wouldn't be caught dead in Tomangos. She was a
mother. She baked bread and tarts and cakes. She made proper dinners. Not burgers and
chips, Alison's idea of a dinner, Ciara thought angrily.
She heard her mother coming upstairs. She didn't want to get an ear-bashing about the row she'd overheard between her parents. Ciara jumped up. She switched off the light and dived under the duvet, still in her clothes. She heard Alison open the door and peer in cautiously.
“Are you awake, lovie?”
Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone
, Ciara screamed silently. She lay perfectly still, eyes scrunched tightly shut.
“Ciara?” Alison tried again, hopefully.
Ciara knew that her mother needed a shoulder to cry on.
She always did after a row. It wasn't fair! It was very confusing. She felt guilty. Maybe she should comfort her mother. She was just about to sit up
when Alison closed the door with a little sigh.
Ciara lay in the dark and let tears brim from her eyes into a hot, wet waterfall down her cheeks. Her stomach felt tied up in knots again. She felt sick.
She couldn't do her maths. She didn't want to go to the slumber party. Her parents were fighting. Life was horrible. She wondered again what would happen to her if her parents split up, or worse still, got a divorce. She didn't want this to happen. She just wanted them to be normal.
Brenda Johnson smiled happily as she lay back in her lover's arms. She hadn't been expecting Barry to call tonight. He'd arrived unexpectedly just after nine. She'd been watching the news. It was all about the passing of the amendment for divorce.
vote had won by a very small majority. The relief she'd felt had been enormous. Then the terrible fear when some senator and his supporters had argued the decision.
Brenda wanted to strangle him with
her bare hands. Didn't the fool realise that this was her last chance? And the last chance for many like her.
She and Barry had been having an affair for the past three years. She knew Alison suspected. But Alison wasn't bothered by it. How many times had her best friend said, âYou can have him. I'm sick of him.'
The trouble with Alison was that she didn't appreciate Barry. She'd never looked after him. Not the way Brenda did. The rows between Barry and Alison had started when Ciara was born. That's what Alison said. She said that Barry hated not being the centre of attention.
Maybe it was true, Brenda agreed.
She'd known Barry as long as Alison had. Barry
like being the centre of attention. Not in a flashy, in-your-face way. His way was much more crafty.
He'd sit, shoulders hunched up, staring out from behind his glasses with his Poor-Sad-Misunderstood-Me-With-the-Weight-of-the-World-on-My-Shoulders look.
You had to feel sorry for him. You'd ask him what was wrong. He'd say “Nothing.” And then you'd have to keep at him. Wrinkling it out bit by bit.
You'd get moans about the pressure he was under at work. Or about Alison and the state she'd left the house in. Once he'd said to her, “Look, Brenda, I'm a loner. I always have been and I always will be. Don't even try and understand me.” He'd been feeling very sorry for himself that night.
But of course she understood him. She understood him more than anyone. She loved him very much. And if he'd let her, she'd make him happy. Much happier than Alison had ever made him.
It was just that Brenda was never quite sure where she stood with him.
He swore that he loved her. He wanted to be with her, he said. His marriage to Alison was over. They were just staying together for Ciara's sake. He promised that when Ciara was finished college in another ten years he and Brenda would be together for good. He had his responsibilities as a parent. He knew she understood.
It was very decent of him to be so concerned for his daughter, Brenda thought stoutly. He was a good, sound, honest, hard-working man. She couldn't fault him for taking his responsibilities so seriously. That was a good trait surely? But ten years seemed like such a long time away.