Authors: Caroline Finnerty
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #Literary Fiction, #British & Irish, #Classics, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Sagas, #New Adult & College, #QuarkXPress, #ebook, #epub
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names,
characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the
author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
by Poolbeg Press Ltd
123 Grange Hill, Baldoyle
Dublin 13, Ireland
E-mail: [email protected]
© Caroline Finnerty 2013
Copyright for typesetting, layout, design, ebook
© Poolbeg Press Ltd
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Author cover photo Peter Evers of Penry Photography
About the Author
Caroline Finnerty lives in the County Kildare countryside with her husband Simon and children Lila, Tom and Bea and their dog Sam. Her debut novel,
In a Moment
, was also published by Poolbeg. You can find out more about her on her website www.carolinefinnerty.ie or say hi on Twitter where she is @cfinnertywriter and is glad of an excuse to procrastinate.
Firstly, a big thank-you to the team in Poolbeg who really do an amazing job in such difficult times. You are all so good at what you do. I am honoured to call you my publishers. Paula Campbell, you are a one-woman wonder. And the brilliant Sarah and Ailbhe – it is a pleasure to work with you. Thanks also to Gaye Shortland whose skill was really tested on this book – thank you for helping me to see the wood from the trees, and your enthusiasm and encouragement are always so helpful.
Writing this book definitely has not been a solo effort. There are some people who deserve huge thanks for making it happen:
My husband Simon for his support and for keeping the ship afloat so that I can do this. For all that you do for us every day, I am very grateful. My love, always.
My beautiful daughter Lila who amazes me every day, making me so proud to be her mother, and of course for all the ‘zzzzzxcgggggggggxxxjjjjjjjjj’ that she added to this manuscript along the way.
My twins Tom and Bea who were so small when I started writing this story. Thank you both for being such good babies and for taking turns to keep my knees warm while I write.
Mam and Dad for all that you did for me growing up and still do for me now, especially since I’ve had my own children. Thank you for your unwavering belief in me, Mam. I know I told you I’d dedicate a book to you one day but I never really believed that it would happen. You were the one who kept me going when the self-doubt was creeping in, so this is for you.
My family, Niall and Nita and Dee-Dee who gave me a place to stay for ‘research’ purposes. And to Tom Finnerty for answering my questions about primary school – love you all.
My other family – Mary and Neil, Abbie, Enda, Lucy, Eoin, Sophie and Andrew – thank you for your support, especially Mary and Neil who really go above and beyond the usual grand-parenting duties.
Dr Gráinne Flannelly and Joan Cuthbertson of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, who helped me with my research for this story even though they are under huge time pressure. I do appreciate how busy you are, so thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Any errors or inaccuracies in the story are wholly mine.
The very talented Laoise Casey for enthusiastically sharing her love of London and for first telling me about Postman’s Park. She also makes me salivate on a daily basis with her blog www.cuisinegenie.ie. She has a sticky-toffee-pudding recipe to die for – you should have a look but don’t blame me when you eat the whole thing in one sitting.
Rebecca, for always being there.
Margaret Scott for understanding what it’s like and keeping me sane with coffee and cake.
And lastly, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t thank my lucky stars for the privilege of being able to do this. I really appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to thank people in print. So a big thank-you to the booksellers, librarians, book-bloggers and most especially the readers who pick up this book.
Thank you all so much. With much love, Caroline xx
For Mam, who still holds my hand in hers.
A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.
I had always thought that she was selfish for doing what she did. I knew that was harsh but I felt if she had done things differently, then everything could have been very different. I often wondered, if she had known the outcome, the way that it would all play out, would she still have made the same decision? It was on my mind a lot at the time, the questions spinning around and around inside my head, especially when I was left alone with my idle thoughts. I suppose with everything going on, it was only natural. There was just no escaping it, though, no matter how much I tried.
The Tube jerked to a stop and the doors slid apart. No one was getting off, yet more people managed to squash on. It never ceased to amaze me how, just when you thought it was impossibly packed, there was always room for one more person. The crowd moved back to make way for the new people, causing the crotch of the man standing in front of me to move even closer towards my face. The rhythmic motion of the carriages snaking along through the tunnels made me feel sleepy. I closed my eyes and listened to the voice broadcast the stops as I did every morning. Finally it was Green Park and I stood up, feeling light-headed as I did. The man sitting beside me had his paperback folded back on itself and was smiling to himself as he read. A grubby bookmark with a furry monkey’s head rested on his knees. It was at odds with his pinstripe suit and leather briefcase – like he had robbed it from his child in a hurry. I grabbed onto the pole to steady myself. Disgustingly, it was still sticky with sweat from the last person. I squeezed through the small gaps between bodies until I got to the doors. Some people hopped off to let me out before getting back on again.
I stepped onto the platform and made my way to the escalator. A wall of warm air hit me full force in the face as I walked and I thought I might be sick. Beads of sweat broke out all across my forehead and I could feel my mouth beginning to water.
No way, not here.
I ascended on the escalator from deep down in the bowels of the city, gliding past posters advertising films, books and shampoos that claimed to reduce split ends by 52%.
When I finally emerged into the fresh morning air, I breathed it deep into my lungs and felt better instantly as my body started to cool down again. The low sunlight was glinting off the shop windows on the street and burning a golden trail on the footpath in front of me. The gallery was only a five-minute walk from the Tube station. The London traffic inched forward on the road beside me, the roofs of the black cabs sticking out amongst the mêlée of cars like hard-shelled beetles. I knew some people hated this city – they hated its relentless pace, how it sucked you in and then when it was finished with you, after you’d given it your all, when you were broken, when you were spent, it just chewed you up and spat you back out again – but I loved everything about it. I felt alive here – the endless possibilities of things to do, the centuries of history fronting every pavement. The streets were always full – you never felt alone here.
Soon I was at the gallery. I pushed the door open. Nat was already in.
“Hi, darling,” she replied.
I walked over and lifted the strap of my yellow satchel over my head before putting it onto the white contemporary Formica desk. Our reception desk was the only piece of furniture in the gallery, which was all stark white walls, with black-and-white photos inside black frames, and honey-oak floors.
“Want a coffee – I’ve just boiled the kettle?” Nat asked.
“Nah – better not.”
I turned on the computer and waited for it to boot itself up while she went into the kitchen and came back out a minute later with a mug of instant coffee clasped between her hands. I had brought the mug back for her from Majorca a few years back. It was one of those tacky ones with the caption
Someone I Know Went to Majorca and All They Brought Me Back Was This Mug
Nat and I practically ran the Jensen Photography Gallery ourselves. We displayed the work of several high-profile photographers – they paid us a small rent for the space and a commission for any work we sold. The owner, a lady called Tabitha Jensen, spent most of her time living
la dolce vita
in her villa in Tuscany. She only came to check up on us a handful of times a year. We emailed her a weekly report with sales figures and a summary of what was happening in the gallery and she was happy with that.
“What’s wrong?” Nat said as she combed her fingers through her thick auburn hair before tying it up loosely with a bobbin so that the front of it stuck up bumpily like waves on a choppy sea.
“C’mon, I know you too well.”
“It’s Ben,” I sighed. “He’s like a dog with a bone.”
“Is he still harping on at you about going back to Ireland?”
She said ‘Ireland’ in the way that all English people said it. I have always liked the way their accent made it sound – like it was a place that you might
want to go to.
She perched herself on the end of the desk with her two hands wrapped around her chipped mug.
“Uh-huh. He just won’t let it go.” It had been eight years since I was home last – I hadn’t been back since my younger brother Patrick’s wedding. And I wouldn’t have even gone to that except that I might as well have severed whatever thin ties with my family that were left if I hadn’t. I had got a flight to Dublin that morning and flew straight back home to London first thing the following morning, less than twenty-four hours later.
“He’s never even met them, has he?”
“Well, maybe now would be a good time – you can’t stay away forever.”
“You sound just like Ben . . .”
“Well, he just wants to meet them – find out more about where you come from –”
“I’ve told him all he needs to know – why does he need to meet them?”
“Come on, Kate – stop being unreasonable.”
“He knows what happened – I’m not keeping anything a secret from him.”
“He’s not asking for that much – he just wants to meet your family!”
“He reckons I have ‘unresolved issues’.” I sighed wearily at the phrase Ben was so fond of quoting at me.
“Well, you do!” She laughed, showing her teeth. She had good teeth, straight for the main part and just slightly overlapping on the bottom. Most people would probably get them straightened but I thought they suited her better like that.
I started to laugh then too.
Nat had known me a long time, even longer than Ben had. We’d met when I first moved to London at seventeen years of age. I had finished my Leaving Cert and then the very next day I packed my rucksack and took the boat to Holyhead. I would have gone sooner but Dad wouldn’t let me leave school without having my Leaving Cert. As soon as the ferry had pulled out from Dun Laoghaire Harbour, I’d felt nothing but relief. Not even a twinge of sadness or regret. From Holyhead I took a very long and slow bus down to London because I couldn’t afford the train fare. We travelled through Welsh tunnels carved out of rock, chocolate-box villages and acres and acres of tumbledown country estates.