Dublin's Fair City

Here is an extract from Dublin's Fair City by Cathy Mansell.

It was over a week since the funeral, and the shop was still closed. Aileen had never thought her ma would die; she was only forty-one. The pain she felt inside was like nothing she had ever experienced before, but she tried to keep her feelings hidden for her da's sake, knowing he would be feeling as much pain as she was.

Any attempt to talk to him alone was interrupted by her Aunt Lizzy, and Aileen had just about had enough of being bossed about. Everyone else had gone home, but Aunt Lizzy appeared to have taken up residence.

Aileen knew little of her ma's younger sister, and there was certainly no resemblance to her mother whatsoever. Lizzy's thin frame, her mouth tight with scorn, and her sharp features matched her tongue. Aileen could smell the chemical solution in the other woman's permed brown hair. She remembered when her ma used the Toni home perms, how she always washed her hair several times to get rid of the smell.

Aunt Lizzy's navy dress fell below her shins and was twenty years out of fashion, and her brown, block-heeled shoes did not follow any trend Aileen could remember. She had disliked her aunt on sight.

All Aileen wanted was to be alone with her da, so she could comfort him, feel his arm around her, help each other to get over their terrible loss. She thought reopening the shop would be a step forward. It was their bread and butter, and the sooner her father realised that, the better. Now her aunt was another mouth to feed.

"You'll need a bit of help around here, Aileen, with poor Jessie in the grave," Lizzy said, twisting the silver ring on the little finger of her left hand. Aileen could not deny that with her father refusing to get involved with anything to do with the shop, everything was on her shoulders.

"You've done enough. We'll manage fine, won't we, Da?" He didn't reply.

"Course you won't," Lizzy laughed. "You're both grieving." She glanced into the mirror and patted her curls into place. Then she unhooked a string shopping bag from the back of the door. "I'm away to the butcher's to get the messages. Make Jonny another cup of tea. I won't be long."

Aileen glared after her, gritting her teeth. "Give me strength." Then she looked across the table to her da. He appeared oblivious, his head in his hands.

"What does she think she's doing, Da? Why is she still here?" He glanced up but said nothing. Aileen swept back her long, blonde hair. "We don't need her, Da." She looked directly at him. "If you'd help in the shop and order the supplies, we could manage. Have you still got the list I gave you the other day? If you don't order soon, we won't have a business."

He sighed. "The shop is a full-time job and you know how much your mother did around the place. It's kind of Lizzy to offer to help."

Now she'd got him talking, Aileen said, "But, look around you. She's taking over." She scraped back her chair and stood up. "And who told her she could move Ma's ornaments?"

"She means well."

"You know how Ma felt about her. She wouldn't give her house room, so why are you? Do you want me to ask her to leave?"

"That's enough, Aileen. This is my house, and you're becoming tiresome."

Aileen threw up her hands then placed them back down on the table and looked at her father. "Don't you think I can manage, is that it? I can, Da. It's what MA wanted." She paused, but he didn't reply. "If you could just help me, we'd be grand." Her da had gone into one of his silent moods, so she knew there was no point is pursuing the argument. He was not in his right mind, otherwise he would have thanked the woman and asked her to leave days ago. "Men are blind when it comes to the wiles of women," she'd overheard her mother say when a neighbour's husband had run off with a barmaid. Not that Aunt Lizzy or her da were like that, but her aunt had nothing to lose by outstaying her welcome. She had no family of her own, and no husband to hurry back to. Lizzy had lived alone in a maisonette on the edge of town for as long as Aileen could remember.

Realising her da had fallen asleep, Aileen went down the passage towards her mother's bedroom. It was the first time she had been able to go inside since her aunt had changed the bedding after her ma's passing. Her father had slept in the small bedroom while her mother was ill, but now he wanted to move back. Aileen had been hesitant. It would leave a spare room, upgrading her aunt from the sofa, and Aileen didn't want to give the woman any excuse to stay longer.

Once inside, she looked down at the empty bed, stripped bare. She swallowed a sob in the back of her throat. Even her mother's pillow had been taken away, leaving her nothing to cling to. Anger, hurt, and frustration welled up inside her, and she struggled to hold it all together. Her world had turned upside down, and there wasn't a thing she could do about it.

She opened the wardrobe. Ma's brown skirt and white blouse she wore in the shop, along with three light summer dresses, dangled from hangers. Scooping them into her arms, Aileen smothered her face into them, inhaling the very last essence of her ma.

She walked over to the dressing table. Her ma's comb and hairbrush was still there, along with a bottle of Tweed perfume. At least her aunt had the discretion to leave her ma's personal things alone.

Aileen ran her hand along the flat, wooden jewellery box her da had made years ago. She lifted the lid and fingered a silver cross and chain, some pearls and matching earrings, which her mother wore on special occasions. Inside, the box had another compartment where Ma kept what she termed her special things. Aileen felt like an intruder, but her need to be amongst her mother's belongings was strong. Then she saw it – a small, buff envelope lying on top of folded documents. The envelope had her name scrawled across the front.

She opened it and looked inside. A single sheet of white notepaper simply said,

Aileen love,
Find your brother, and beg him to forgive me. Please don't hate me.
I remain,
Your loving Ma.
Image: book cover

Dublin's Fair City

On her deathbed, Aileen's mother reveals a secret she has kept for eighteen years, and pleads with her daughter to fulfil a last wish. Torn by grief, Aileen leaves Dublin, the Fair City, and Dermot, the man she has grown to love.

Lonely and vulnerable, she unwittingly befriends a salesman at the seed mill where she has found work. Suddenly, her life becomes entrenched with danger.

On a visit back to Dublin, Aileen discovers a devastating truth, but her mother's last request is still shrouded in a mystery she is determined to unravel. When she finally decides to return to Dermot, and the family she loves, will the secret she too is now hiding tear her and Dermot apart?

Available from Amazon UK.

Photo: Cathy Mansell

Cathy is an experienced writer of romantic fiction. Her early work was stories and articles published in national magazines. She edited an anthology of works funded by Arts Council England and appeared on the TV show Food Glorious Food 2012.

Nowadays, she writes novels set in 60s Ireland, depicting the lifestyle and hardships of families in those days. Some of her characters become wound up in intricate criminal plots.

She lives in rural Leicestershire with her husband, where she writes daily in her 'Loft Study'.

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Author: Kevin Machin Date: December 8, 2016 11:00 am
Categories: Books Tags: tasters
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