Previous: Leona is a teenage girl living on her family’s farm on the outskirts of Kinvara, a small fishing village in County Galway. In the wake of her mother’s death, Leona is forced to step up as the woman of the house. This newfound responsibility, along with naive adolescent urges, become entangled in her father’s grief, leading to a shocking sequence of events with devastating consequences.
TRIGGER WARNING: This excerpt contains strong themes involving sexual abuse, and may distress some readers.
Leona looked up from her journal to see Frank at the entrance to the sitting room.
“Frank, what are you doing home so early? Where are Daddy and Liam?”
Frank stepped into the room and approached the armchair where Leona was sitting. He slapped her across the face.
“Frank! What are you…”
“You think you can just parade around here, pretending to be Mam, pretending it’s all normal?” He started slapping her around the arms. “What are you going to do, huh? You’ve got nothing! Come on! Get up!”
His voice was vicious and it scared Leona. He grabbed her by the arms and pulled her to her feet.
“Come on, get up!”
“Frank, stop! Frank, please!”
Leona fought against him, but he was too strong, and he quickly wrestled her to the floor. He stood up and kicked her in the side, and she curled up, crying out in agony.
“Stop, Frank, stop!”
“Come on! If you’re going to fuck your family, where’s my piece?”
He crouched over her and pinned her down. As the violence took a sinister turn, Leona’s panic was swallowed by defeat, and she quietly surrendered.
Finally it stopped. Leona felt his weight lift off her, and she could breathe again. She slowly peeled herself from the floor, pulling her legs underneath her, resting her weight into her arms, breathing shakily.
“Clean yourself up,” Frank murmured. “Da and Liam will be back soon.”
He spat on her and left the room.
Colm stirred, nestling into his pillow a little further. He opened his eyes, reaching for the alarm clock on his bedside table. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, stood up and wandered sleepily out of the room, blinking his sleepy eyes into adjustment. He approached Frank and Liam’s bedroom, finding the door half open. Liam was still under the covers, sluggishly easing into wakefulness. Frank’s bed was empty.
The front door was open slightly. Stepping out onto the steps, Colm scanned the garden. He followed the path to the road, looking both ways up and down. A bitterly cold wind accompanied the morning, and there were no cars driving by to and from town.
Jogging along the road in both directions, Colm scanned the fields searchingly. He crossed the road and wandered along, but still he found nothing. It was no use, he thought. He could never find him on his own. He felt helpless.
Back in the sitting room, Colm surrendered to prayer. What if Frank was hurt, he thought. What if he ran into foul play? How far had he gotten?
Liam watched on as her father paced the sitting room.
“Dad, I think we should go to the garde…”
“No, I’m not going to the garde!”
“Well, we can’t just stand here! We can’t just leave him out there!”
“No, I’m not going through all that again?”
“Everyone knowing all of our business! We’re just getting settled again!”
“Come on, Dad!”
Liam and Colm got into the car and drove in to town. The rain was moving in thick and fast over the bay as they trawled the streets, peering out the windows, examining every villager that walked by.
“This is ridiculous,” Colm exclaimed. “He wouldn’t be stupid enough to be out in this!”
The rain made landfall, so heavy it was almost impossible to see through the windshield. Colm stopped the car. Through the rain, children continued to play in the street, undeterred by the rain.
Leona was reading a book in the sitting room when Colm and Liam arrived home.
“What happened?” she asked curiously.
Cathal passed them, walking down the hall to the bedroom and closing the door. Liam looked back at his sister.
That evening, Leona placed plates of the casserole in front of her brother and father at the table.
Colm breathed in deeply, fathoming for the strength to give thanks.
“Dear God,” he began, his voice quivering. “We thank you for your goodness, and your kindness, and for this food we thank you, Amen.”
Colm picked up his cutlery in his hands, shoveling sausages and vegetables onto his fork. He slipped the food into his mouth and chewed slowly, forcing it down, almost choking on every mouthful.
Two Months Later
From the doorway Leona watched Liam pack his suitcase, her arms crossed as she leant against the wall.
“Has Daddy spoked to you yet?” Leona enquired.
“Not since I told him,” Liam replied. “He’d much rather see me stay here and work the farm.”
“He has no-one left to help him now. He’ll have to hire workers.”
“He has you.”
“My place is in the house.” Leona paused. “Who will inherit the farm to now?”
“But I’m not his son.”
“But you’ll be the only kin left here. I’d give it to you even if he gave it to me. I don’t want it.”
“So, where are you going to live in England?”
“I’ll board,” Liam replied. “At least until I can find a place of my own.”
“Are you nervous?” Leona enquired. “You’ve never been to the city.”
“I’ll be fine.” Liam smiled at his sister. “I’ll miss you, Leona.”
Leona stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her brother. Her eyes blurred, and warm tears dripped down her cheeks.
“I love you, Liam,” she whispered. “I always will. I will never, ever forget you.”
“Perhaps I’ll pay for you to come out to England.”
Leona smiled sadly.
“Someone has to stay here to look after Dad. But wherever you, I will always have a part of you in my heart.”