Sunday, May 5, 2013

SHADOW ACROSS THE LIFFEY by Cathy Mansell

Shadow Across the Liffey is a story that pulls at the heart strings but also a story of the different kinds of love.  Torn by tragedy - Healed by love.

Oona, and Connie flopped down on the sofa in Oona’s lounge, dropping the bags of shopping at their feet. It was a beautiful room, light and airy, comfortably furnished with the latest G-plan furniture. Connie glanced at the walls decorated with photos of Oona’s lost loved ones. The glass cabinet displayed toys belonging to Jacqueline along with her favourite doll. ‘It must be lonely, with all the memories? I couldn’t stand it if … you know,’ Connie said.
‘Well, yes … it is.’ Oona sighed. ‘I … I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve never been aware of the clock ticking before and now, sometimes, I feel like throwing it in the river, but then the silence would be unbearable.’
Connie leaned across and hugged her. ‘You don’t have to be on your own, you know.’
‘I have to get used to it, Connie. Come on let’s look again at what you’ve bought.’ She picked up one of the bags lifting out a white skirt. ‘I don’t know, our Connie, you must have more money than sense.’ Oona stood up and held it against her.
‘You keep it,’ Connie said. ‘You’ll have to exchange it for a smaller size, or get Mam to put a few tucks in it.’
‘No, I can’t do that. You’re wearing it tonight!’ Folding it, she placed it back inside the bag.
‘It’s yours,’ Connie insisted, pushing the bag towards her. ‘I can always wear something else.’
‘It is lovely, thanks, Connie. It’ll go with my sapphire blouse. I hope Sean likes his new shirt. He’s growing so fast I can’t keep him in trousers never mind shirts.’
‘I know you missed Sean these last few days, Oona, and having him to stay has made me broody. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever conceive.’
‘You mustn’t say that, Connie. It will happen when you’re least expecting it to. Look at Mrs Kelly. She’s expecting again. And she waited years for her first.’
‘I know. Life’s so unfair.’ Connie bit her lip. ‘Oh, God! I’m sorry. Look at me, feeling sorry for myself.’
‘Oh, don’t be silly. It’s natural that you should want a baby. You’ll make a wonderful mother.’ She got up and went towards the kitchen. ‘I’ll put the kettle on.’
‘Not for me.’ Connie gathered up her bags. ‘Dessie won’t think of taking the washing in once he’s watching the football. Besides Sean will be home soon, and you need time alone with him.’
‘Thanks, Connie – you know, for everything.’ She watched her sister waddle down the garden path, balancing her shopping on both arms, and smiling, she closed the door.
Oona was busy in the kitchen, when Sean ran in. Hi! I’m back.’
‘Hello Sean,’ she wiped her hands on the tea towel. ‘Oh, it’s good to have you home. Did you have a nice time?’
‘Yes. I like being with Tommy. He’s not like the kids at school.’
‘Oh, how’s that?’
‘He’s fourteen. He knows everything.’
‘Does he now?’
Oona, unable to bear the distance between them any longer pulled him to her like a monkey clinging to its young. ‘Are you glad to be home?’
‘Yes. Give over, Mam.’ He pulled away. ‘Can I go upstairs?’
‘Don’t you want something to eat? It’ll be ready in a minute.’
‘I’m not hungry. We had chips.’
‘Oh, okay. I thought we could talk.’ She pulled out a chair.
‘What have I done now?’ he scowled.
‘Nothing … just ... we need to clear the air, Sean.’
He lowered his eyes. ‘I’ll try not to get into any more trouble. Promise.’
‘Well, that’s good. But we need to talk … you know, like we used to.’
‘Erm …What about?’
‘Well, sometimes there are things that need to be said no matter how painful.’ She swallowed. ‘Do you know what I’m saying, Sean?’
He pondered a moment then glanced up. ‘You mean, like I talked to Father Michael?’
‘Well, yes, but—’
‘It won’t bring me dad back,’ he snapped.
‘I know that, love, but it helps to talk about it. And if you have something on your mind,’ she moved closer, ‘like, what you said to me at Granddad’s.’
He traced his finger along the edge of the table then eased himself from the chair. She touched his arm forcing him to sit back down. ‘I understand … I know how confused you must be.’
‘Don’t want to talk about it. Can I go now?’
Every nerve in her body tightened, until she felt like shaking him. ‘No, you can’t. Now sit down. You’ve got to stop this nonsense, Sean, and talk to me. Life’s hard enough, without you shutting me out. Whatever it is you think I’ve done, talk to me, and we can sort it out.’
His jaw moved from side to side, and he sucked in his cheeks. ‘It’s nothin’!’
‘Why is it my fault? How in God’s name am I to blame for what happened?’
‘You sent me dad and Jacqueline for the stupid birthday cake,’ he yelled. You promised you’d pick it up. And if … if you had, me dad would have been at the football club with me,’ he jumped up. ‘So it’s your fault he’s dead!’ he cried. Oona pulled him into her arms. She could taste the salt from his tears.
‘It was an accident, Sean.’ A sob caught in her throat. ‘I’ve blamed myself for weeks over not being able to collect the cake. I’m so sorry love. My heart’s broken, just like yours is.’ She sighed. His blaming her was quite understandable to her now. He was only a child: who else could he blame?
‘I could have gone with them,’ he sniffed. ‘Dad asked me to.’
‘Thank God, you didn’t, I’d have lost you too!’
So? I wish I were dead,’ he snapped.
No, love. You don’t mean that. In time you’ll see there was nothing either of us could have done.’ And for the few moments he stayed in her arms she calmly reassured him. ‘I love you. We have each other and a good family to be grateful for. I’ll never let you down again, I promise.’
Later, as they sat together watching television she managed to get him to smile. When she handed him his new shirt his eyes brightened and he rushed upstairs to try it on.
That night, when Sean kissed her goodnight, she felt the gap gradually closing between them.



2 comments:

Debby said...

Thanks so much for the excerpt. Does the name OOna mean anything special?
debby236 at gmail dot com

Cathy Mansell said...

Hi Debby,
You are welcome. Oona is just a
real old Irish name. Another way of spelling it is, Una, but I like
Oona best, and it suited the character.

Cathy