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What Now?

Yesterday I posted an update on what I’ve been up to writing and publishing wise these past few months while I’ve been quiet on the blog front. With the publishing of Bedouin Boy on Halloween and Grave Bargains on Friday the 13th of November, my publishing goals for the year have wrapped up, but its full steam ahead when it comes to writing.

I’ve now switched my attention to writing the first draft of my new work-in-progress, a sequel to my first book The Wilted Rose. In October 2021 I will be celebrating ten years since publishing the first edition of The Wilted Rose, so it will be very fitting to release the sequel next year. I am aiming to do this around March, but no date has been set yet. For now I am taking the foot off the pedal, and am going to enjoy working on this story at a leisurely pace over the holiday season. I’m using NaNoWriMo this year to get a head start.

The below image captures the early stages of the prequel planning process, unfolding last Sunday afternoon on my mum’s front porch in Brisbane, Australia. Creativity fuelled by wine, cheese and crackers. I have since written an overall story outline, and a scene outline. Just yesterday I finally started on the writing process. Here goes!

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Camp NaNoWriMo Project Part 8

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Previous: In her desperate bid to be Cathal’s mother, Leona becomes increasingly distressed by his seeming unwillingness to respond to her, resulting in a shocking outburst of physical aggression which results in Cathal’s arm being broken. 
When Cathal reaches the school age, Leona’s mental health further deteriorates, and she withdraws from life, crippled with fear that Cathal’s true identity will finally be discovered through his school attendance, and also distraught that he is growing beyond her control. However, a shirt time into his schooling, Cathal’s physical deformities prevent him from continuing to attend school with the rest of the children from the village. Leona is delighted by this new development, however Cathal resents once again being confined at home with her. 

5 August, 1969

The Ulster Volunteer Force has planted their first bomb in the Republic of Ireland, damaging the RTÉ Television Centre in Donnybrook. There were no reported injuries.

19th October, 1969

Thomas McDonnell, a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, was gravely injured when a bomb he planted exploded prematurely at a power station near Ballyshannon in County Donegal.

29th October 1969
The Ulster Volunteer Force exploded a bomb at the gravestone of Wolf Tone, the founding father of Irish Republicanism, in Bodestown, Sallins, County Kildare. The Blast occurred at 5am and destroyed a headstone.

A suitcase lay open on the bed. Her arms tightly crossed, Leona watched Aidan pack from the bedroom doorway.

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

“It’s hard to say at this stage,” said Aidan. “A week, maybe. My brother says Mam is really quite sick.”

Leona sighed.

“I’m nervous, Aidan. All those stories in the news, the attacks. Do you really think you should be leaving now?”

Aidan turned to her, placing his hands on her shoulders.

“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. The Higgins are there if you need anything.”

He kissed her on the head and picked the suitcase up, slipping past her through the door.

 

On 13th November, 1969, a co-ordinated attack was carried out by the Loyalist Paramilitary Group in Kerry. The attack, a car bombing, took place outside McQuaid’s Pub. The blast killed Doctor Aidan Kelly of Kinvara, who was in town visiting relatives. Aidan was walking past the pub on the other side of the street when the blast occurred. He was struck in the head by flying shrapnel, and died in hospital shortly after.

 

People arrived from neighbouring villages and farms to the Kelly household to offer their condolences.  Leona greeted them at the door and took them into the room where Aidan’s body had been laid out. They stood for a few minutes to pay their respects and say a prayer, and then were taken into the living room where Leona offered refreshments.

Friends and neighbours brought cakes and plates of sandwiches to help with the grieving effort. The women made tea and sandwiches and washed dishes, while the men congregated outside the house.

The seemingly constant stream of visitors had eased, and Leona sat down at the kitchen table. Deidre Higgins was making a pot of tea. She set a teacup and saucer down in front of Leona and sat adjacent to her at the table. She reached over and placed her hand over Leona’s.

“Everything will be alright, love. It will, I’ll make sure of it.”

Leona deteriorated into sobs, and Deidre took her into her arms, holding her and soothing her.

On the day of the funeral, six male villagers carried Aidan’s coffin from his house. A hearse led the procession up along Main Street to the church, family and friends following behind the pallbearers. As a sign of respect to the deceased, villagers who were not part of the funeral celebration stopped in the street and allowed the procession to pass.

The funeral mass lasted for forty-five minutes. At the end, the pallbearers carried the coffin out of the church, followed once again by the villagers to the cemetery.

Standing on the edge of the uneven stone of the pier wall, Leona looked out across Kinvara Bay. Two boats were out of water, perched up on the wall. A few smaller vessels bobbed up and down in the waters several feet below. Dunguaire Castle was just off to the right of her view. Cathal sat with his legs dangling over the wall, poking a stick at a deteriorated wooden rowboat floating on its rope just below his feet. The crisp wind picked up suddenly, catching Leona’s brown curls and sweeping them off her face.

“Can we go home now?” Cathal called.

Leona looked up to the sky and took a deep breath into the wind, exhaling it slowly.

The wind swept up dust and leaves in the street as they walked toward home. Street lanterns and hanging signs swung about on their chains. As Leona and Cathal approached the house, an upstairs window shutter banged open.

“Go and play quietly in your room, Cathal,” Leona instructed as they stepped inside.

Later that evening, Leona lay curled up with Cathal on his bed, reading him a story. Her hand rested on Cathal’s back as he lay with his head in her lap. Halfway through the story she paused, looking down to see him sound asleep. She carefully lifted him off her lap and guided him down to his pillow, pulling the blanket over him. She turned down the kerosene lamp until the light was gone. She then lay down next to him, cuddling up to him and closing her eyes.

 

Thank-you for following my Camp NaNoWriMo April Project! I will be tackling my Irish novellas again for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, I look forward to sharing the end result with you then! 

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Camp NaNoWriMo Project Part 7

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Previous: Leona struggles with the care needs of a newborn baby, but is reluctant to seek help from her community out of fear of the truth about Cathal’s identity being discovered. Cathal’s arrival in the village attracts attention from the local guard, who is aware of the disappearance of the baby from Galway Regional Hospital, and becomes suspicious of Cathal’s origins.

Cathal sat still on the examination bed in Aidan’s office, as Aidan peered through his otoscope into Cathal’s ear.

“His ears look fine,” Aidan confirmed to Leona.

“It just seems like he can’t hear me,” Leona insisted. “Whenever I get him to try and say a word, he just stares at me blankly.”

“It could be the cleft palate. Children with a cleft palate can have a higher chance of hearing difficulties. Fluid can’t drain from the ear well. It collects inside and can affect hearing and cause infections.”

Aidan moved his finger side to side in front of Cathal’s face, and Cathal followed it with his eyes.

“He should be speaking by now too, shouldn’t he?” asked Leona.

“Children with a cleft palate sometimes have problems with speech because they can’t make the usual sounds with their mouths.”

Sitting across the floor from Cathal, Leona rolled a small red ball toward him. He caught it, meeting her cheers of joy with a baby-faced glare.

“Cathal, can you say ‘Mammy? Ma-mmy?”

Cathal lowered his head, not breaking his cold stare. Leona huffed.

“Mam-my? Cathal?”

“No.”

Leona sat back, stunned.

“Cathal…”

A wave of joy washed over her and filled her heart at the sound of his voice.

“That was so good, Cathal! So good! Now just say ‘Mammy’.”

“No!”

Leona’s delighted smile slipped off her face as the cold seer of disappointment pierced her heart.

“Just say Mammy!” she exclaimed.

“No!”

Leona scrambled forward and snatched the ball from Cathal’s grasp. His deadpan frown was screwed up as he cried.

“No toys until you call me Mammy!” she screamed.

She smacked him several times, and he howled in pain and distress. She took him by the arm and marched him into the nursery, throwing him against the wall and slamming the door behind him. She leaned her back against the door, sinking down to the floor with her face in her hands, wailing over Cathal’s screams.

She sat there for some time, and after a while her crying subsided, but Cathal’s did not. She stood up and opened the door. She looked into the room at Cathal, sitting on the floor, screaming and clutching his arm. Panic set in as she rushed into the room.

Leona sat silently in a chair next to Aidan’s desk as he fixed Cathal’s arm in a sling.

“It’s broken,” Aidan stated. “It will be in a sling for about six weeks.”

“He fell while I was changing him on the table,” Leona said quietly. “I had my hand on him, and my body close to the table as always, but he was wriggling around. I caught him before he hit the ground, but his head still hit the shelf.”

Aidan lent over in front of Leona and looked her in the eyes.

“It’s alright,” he insisted. “It was an accident.”

He stood up straight and put his hands in the pockets of his white coat. Leona smiled up at him.

“T’anks.”

“I’ll see you at home later.”

When they arrived at the house, Cathal ran ahead, going straight to the nursery. Leona followed him, entering the room and sitting down on the edge of the bed, where he lay curled up in a ball. She placed her hand down upon him, and Cathal flinched.

“Cathal, come here and give Mammy a cuddle.”

He didn’t budge, and was like a dead weight as she tried to lift him up.

“Listen, Cathal, what Mammy did was very wrong, and I’m so, so sorry.”

Cathal looked at his mother, frowning.

“I hate you.”

The alarm clock sprung to life on the bedside table, the trill piercing the predawn silence. Aidan lifted himself from the bed, taking his suit from the wardrobe. As he knotted his tie in the mirror, he observed Leona in the reflection: she remained in bed, lying on her side, the sheets tangled around her body.

“Leona, are you awake? Cathal needs to get up.”

She dragged herself from the bed and shuffled to the kitchen. She stirred porridge in a large cast-iron pot over the wood-fired stove, and spooned a helping into two bowls. Aidan and Cathal arrived at the kitchen and sat at the table. Leona served them their breakfast and took her own seat. They pressed their hands together and closing their eyes.

“God, we thank you for you goodness, and you kindness,” Aidan prayed, “and for this food we thank you now. Amen.”

The moment she scraped the last mouthful of porridge from her bowl, Leona stood from the table and disappeared back down the hall. Aidan looked at Cathal.

“You can play in your room until you go to school, son.”

Aidan returned to the main bedroom. The door was slightly open, and he peered through the crack.

“Leona?” he softly called.

He listened for a moment, but there was no answer. He slipped into the room and sat down next to Leona, who was lying on her side, staring into her reflection in the mirror across the way from her side of the bed.

“Leona, what’s gotten into you this morning?”

Leona said nothing.

“It’s Cathal’s first day. At least get up to see him off.”

Aidan sighed, stood up and left the room, closing the door behind him.

The school was a twenty-minute walk down the road. Cathal was joined almost immediately by Ellen and Robert Higgins from next door, and more children tagged on to their group as they walked. The neighbouring properties and farms began to shrink and condense into colourful townhouses as they reached the edge of the village. At the school gate, Ellen turned to Robert and Cathal, looking down at them.

“Now, boys, meet me right back here at the gate this afternoon, alright?”

“Okay,” Robert timidly agreed.

Ellen beamed.

“Don’t be scared, you two. You’ll be fine. Behave yourselves, you hear?”

At lunchtime Aidan walked home to check on Leona. He had done this since they had married; Cathal had usually been asleep, and he and Leona would eat lunch together.

Aidan stepped into the house; Leona wasn’t in the living room or kitchen. He followed the hallway down to the bedroom.

“Leona?” he pushed the door open a little further. “Leona!”

She lay on her side, vomit dripping from her mouth.

“Leona! Leona! Wake up!” Aidan shouted, shaking her.

She stirred, her eyes fluttering open. She turned her head, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun streaming through the curtains. She propped herself up onto her elbows.

“Leona, are you okay?” he frantically asked. “What have you taken?”

“Painkillers. And wine.”

Aidan wiped a tear away from her eye.

“I’m here now,” he insisted. “I’ll take care of you. Let’s get you cleaned up. We can’t have Cathal seeing you like this. He’ll be home in a few hours.”

Aidan helped Leona sit up on the edge of the bed, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees. She was still wearing her nightdress. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily before standing to her feet.

“Easy, easy,” Aidan insisted. “Here, step into your slippers.”

She slid her feet into her slippers and shuffled across the room to the hall.

In the bathroom, Leona plunged her face into the basin full of water, shaking her head from side to side and blowing air out through her nose and mouth. She lifted her head, pushing her wet hair away from her face. She wiped her hand across the mirror, looking bleakly at her reflection.

The bell chimed at three o’clock, and as agreed, Cathal and Robert met Ellen at the school gate.

“How was your first day?” she enquired.

“It was grand!” Robert exclaimed.

“Come on, let’s get home.”

Cathal walked down the hill from St. Joseph’s with Ellen and Robert. When they arrived at their house, they turned into their gate.

“Bye, Cathal! See you tomorrow!”

“Bye,” Cathal called, waving as he continued on to his way.

Cathal found Aidan in the kitchen.

“Hey there, son,” he greeted. “Your mam’s resting; she’s not too well this afternoon. I’ll make you a malt milk and get you a biscuit.”

The following afternoon, Leona was in the kitchen when Cathal arrived home from school. As he ate his snack, Leona kept busy around the kitchen, and she spent the afternoon cleaning the house. When Aidan arrived home from work at four o’clock, she briefly acknowledged him and kept on with her work.

“Has she been like this all afternoon?” Aidan asked Cathal.

“Yes,” Cathal replied.

After dinner, Leona served dessert and cleaned up the dishes. Aidan put Cathal to bed and then returned to the kitchen. Leona was vigorously drying the plates and placing them noisily on the shelves.

“I’m glad to see you’re so lively today,” Aidan commented. “Don’t you think it’s time to stop for the night?”

Leona didn’t stop.

“Leona, you’re making a lot of noise!” Aidan exclaimed firmly. “I’ve just put Cathal down to sleep; he has school and I have work in the morning.”

Still Leona didn’t look his way. Aidan sighed.

“Leona, what’s wrong? Are you angry because Cathal is going to school?”

Leona stopped and rested one hand on her hip. She couldn’t look up at him.

“I’m sorry,” she said gently. “I know I shouldn’t be so upset about it…but I’m just so scared for him. He can hardly speak, let alone hear.”

“He’ll be okay,” he insisted. “He’s a very brave boy.”

Aidan touched her shoulder.

”You’ve had a long day. Go and lie down. I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”

Leona and Aidan sat opposite Father Braden in his office at the church.

“The aim is for children to have good quality, understandable speech by the age of five or six, so they can start school already able to participate fully in class and communicate with their peers. Cathal has a problem speaking and listening, so it has become apparent he has a learning difficulty.”

“Father, Cathal has a cleft lip and palate,” Aidan explained. “He can’t properly close off the mouth and nose while speaking…”

“Unfortunately these problems are outside the knowledge of my teachers. I suggest you educate him at home or place him in a special school, where they will be better equipped to handle him.”

“Father, he’s not retarded. His condition doesn’t affect his mental ability.” Aidan revealed a stack of papers, placing them in front of Father Braden. “These are his drawings. He sits at the table for hours after school doing them; I can hardly keep up the supply of paper from work. He’s a very clever child, his art skills are outstanding. He’s been drawing detailed pictures since he was three years old; he’s talented beyond his years…”

“There will be no more discussion on the matter, Doctor Kelly. My teachers simply do not have the time or resources to focus on one child and let the rest fall behind.”

Aidan looked at Leona, then back at Father Braden.

“Very well.”

Aidan dragged the desk into the middle of the living room, and pushed the chair in

behind it. He stood the blackboard on its easel in front of it.

“All set,” he said. “The blackboard is broken, but still usable.”

Leona smiled.

“T’anks, Aidan.”

He stepped up to her and kissed her on the forehead.

“I know you’ll be glad to have Cathal home again.”

“Yes, I will.”

“Just kept encouraging him and telling him he’s doing just fine. He’s only in the first grade after all; there’s nothing to worry about just yet.”

Cathal sat by the living room window, gazing out at the road. The children passed by the house, laughing and chattering on their way to St. Joseph’s. Leona appeared in the doorway.

“Cathal?”

He turned to look at her, his brow furrowed and lips pouting.

“Why can’t I go with them?”

“Because you’re staying home with me now,” Leona said, stepping into the room. “It’s what’s best for you, Cathal.”

“But I want to go with them!

“You’re not doing that anymore, Cathal. Now come on and do some drawing at the table.”

Leona sat next to Cathal, watching on in fascination as he drew stick figures on the

piece of paper before him.

“Your art skills are outstanding, Cathal.” Leona leaned in closer. “They’re telling a

story, aren’t they, Cathal? Would you tell it to me?”

“No,” Cathal grunted.

Leona sat back, sighed.

“I’ll make you something to eat.”