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Authors: Marita Conlon-McKenna

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BOOK: Three Women
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Her own mother probably hadn’t wanted her either, but at least she’d had the guts to go through with the pregnancy. If her
mother
had taken the easy option, she wouldn’t be here – Erin Grace Harris wouldn’t even exist. At least her birth mother had given her the chance for life. Whoever she was, she’d chosen to go ahead with the pregnancy and then had made the decision to give Erin up to be adopted, agreeing for her to be handed into the care of another woman and her husband to raise. She was lucky! Her mum and dad had adopted her when she was only a few months old.

She couldn’t let Nikki go off to London and do something that she would regret for the rest of her life. Getting rid of a baby – how could anyone get over that? It could destroy Nikki.

Being a single mum wasn’t easy, but Nikki would have so much support and help from everyone, and besides, Conor might actually be okay about becoming a dad.

Erin tossed and turned most of the night. She found herself thinking about her own past – something she rarely did; thinking of some strange young woman who had faced a similar dilemma almost twenty-seven years ago and had made her decision.

Hearing Nikki getting sick at about six thirty, she made her a cup of tea and a slice of plain, buttered toast and brought it into the bedroom to her.

‘How are you feeling?’

‘Crap.’ Nikki looked awful.

‘Did you sleep?’

Nikki shook her head.

‘I couldn’t sleep either,’ Erin admitted. ‘Don’t get rid of the baby, Nikki. This baby is part of you – a little you. I don’t want to miss seeing him or her crawling around or learning to walk or talk. Please have your baby! So what if it’s not the right time, or things with you and Conor don’t work out? You have
us
! And the rest of your friends, and your family. We’ll all help you, I promise.’

Nikki stretched out her skinny white arms and caught Erin in a big hug.

‘I’m scared,’ she admitted. ‘But you’re right, Erin, this is my baby and I just have to get used to it. I feel awful, but I’m not going to go anywhere. I couldn’t do it …’

‘You’ll book into a hospital?’ asked Erin.

‘Yes. And I’ll tell Conor tonight, and then go and tell Mum and Dad at the weekend.’

Erin was so relieved.

‘What are you two up to?’ interrupted Claire, hungover, in the doorway in her pyjamas, brown hair standing on end.

‘Nikki’s going to have the baby!’

‘I know.’ She yawned groggily.

‘No – she’s really going to have the baby and keep it!’

‘What? Oh thank heaven!’ Claire ran and hugged the two of them.

Excited, talking and planning, they forgot the time and got dressed for work in an utter panic.

‘I look absolutely shite,’ said Claire. ‘I’m dying with a hangover.’

‘I feel like a zombie,’ admitted Nikki. ‘Do I look like one?’

‘Yeah, we all look a bit like the walking dead!’ agreed Erin as they left the apartment and made their way slowly to work.

Chapter Six

ERIN AND CLAIRE
had gone for a walk down along Sandymount Strand. It was a beautiful evening, really warm, as they strolled along the seafront overlooking Dublin Bay. Nikki had finally gone to meet Conor and tell him about the baby.

‘He’ll drop me the minute he hears about it,’ she sobbed hysterically before she left. Secretly, they both expected that she was right, but they made her calm down and re-do her eye make-up, and then wear one of her hottest dresses. Nikki was gorgeous – how could any guy resist her, even if she
was
pregnant?

‘What do you think will happen?’ Erin asked.

‘God knows!’ said Claire. ‘Conor really likes Nikki and maybe he won’t mind … Otherwise he is going to freak out and like most guys just walk away. We see it every day in the surgery.’

‘I saw some statistic that almost twenty per cent of kids in Ireland are being raised by single parents, and they somehow seem to manage.’

‘Would you do it? Have a baby on your own?’

‘Yes,’ said Erin. ‘I definitely would. My baby … would be my baby, whether the father was involved or not.’

Erin had to admit that Nikki’s pregnancy had sparked something she had never expected: it had made her think about her natural mother – the girl who had given birth to her and then had given her up to be adopted. It must have been desperate for her having to make such a choice.

They walked for about an hour. There were no phone messages from Nikki, so, turning back, they headed home.

They sat up waiting for her and were so relieved when she finally arrived in. She looked shattered, red-eyed, awful.

‘What happened?’ they asked in unison.

‘What we expected … Conor is a little shit and wants nothing to do with the baby, but I told him that I was putting his name down on the birth cert for father’s name whether he wanted me to or not!’

‘Oh Nikki – we’re so sorry!’

‘Don’t be! Imagine me wasting any more of my life going out with that creep?’

‘Were you talking to him all this time?’

‘No. We had nothing to say to each other, only shout. So I went over to Mum and Dad’s. I was in a right old state!’

‘You told them?’

‘Yes … They were a bit shocked, but they were great. Mum is all happy that she is going to be a granny – most of her friends already are – and Dad said if the baby’s father won’t step up to the mark, then the baby’s grandfather will …’

‘Oh Nikki … I knew that they’d be great about it.’

‘Dad says that I have to tell them in work on Monday.
He
says that I have to stop hiding things, for the baby’s sake.’

Erin and Claire were so relieved that Nikki was finally coming to terms with having a baby.

Chapter Seven

NINA GAZED OUT
the window as tom and bill and Jack and Erin all were busy at the bottom of the garden. Today was Boat Day – the day Tom moved his beloved old boat down from the rundown coach house that served as a boat house to Dunlaoghaire Harbour, where it would be moored for the rest of the year, until it was lifted up again next winter. It was an all-hands-on-deck event as they lifted the heavy boat up on the tow equipment and attached it to the back of the Volvo, then tried to tow the whole thing down a windy, narrow back road without taking their wall and the neighbours’ walls with them. Nina’s job was to make endless cups of tea, soup and sandwiches for the hardy workers, and then have a big warming stew for when they all returned from having the first sail of the year and ensuring that the boat was safely moored in its annual berth.

She had learned to steer well clear of all the manoeuvring involved and instead enjoyed reading the Sunday newspapers flung on the couch beside her and sipping at her coffee. She loved days like this, when the family were all together, Tom
and
the kids in their jackets and gear, with even Bailey, their Labrador, out in the garden, caught up in the middle of it all as they finally managed to hoist the boat up on its wheels and got ready to move it down to the nearby fishing harbour. The work and fresh air would give them all an appetite. She was happy to stay here, content and cosy, keeping an eye on the food and just relaxing.

She must have dozed off, because when she woke Bailey was pushing to sit down on the rug in front of the fire and Tom was throwing a log of wood on the grate.

‘It’s windy out there,’ he laughed, ‘but we got her launched and took her for a bit of a run, then we got her moored.’

Jack looked wrecked, with bloodshot eyes, his skin sweaty and pale.

‘He’s seriously hungover, Mum,’ teased Erin.

‘We were all at Danny’s farewell do. He’s heading to Perth on Monday. He thinks he’s got a job lined up there.’

‘Well, I hope it all works out,’ Nina smiled, knowing that Jack would really miss Danny, one of his oldest schoolfriends.

‘You’ll be lost without him!’ interjected Erin, flinging herself on the couch beside Nina and grabbing the magazine part of the newspaper.

‘How long till dinner?’ yawned Jack.

‘About thirty minutes,’ Nina said, knowing full well that, like the dog, her son would be asleep in a few minutes.

She set the table in the kitchen and spooned out the stew on to their plates before calling the others to eat.

‘Where’s Luke this weekend?’ she asked, as Erin helped to put the potatoes out in a bowl.

‘Mum, he’s my boyfriend,’ she laughed, ‘but that doesn’t
mean
that we are tied together … He’s just gone to Liverpool for the weekend to a match with a few guys from work.’

Nina bit her tongue. In her day couples spent all their time together, but nowadays they seemed to live their lives separately, each doing their own thing with their own friends half the time and being together when it suited them. She and Tom both liked Luke Gallagher. He was kind and charming, and fitted in well with their family. But it was up to Erin to decide his importance in her life, not them.

Finding the right partner was, to Nina’s mind, the most important thing in life. She was so lucky to have met Tom and fallen madly in love with him on almost their first date. The feeling, luckily, was mutual and after a pretty passionate romance they had got married within about eighteen months, once Tom had passed all his exams and accepted a job in Grattan’s Engineering Company. They had lived in a small house in Harold’s Cross for the first few years of their marriage, until Tom got promoted. Like all couples, they had had their fair share of ups and downs, joys and disappointments – especially the heartache of discovering that they couldn’t have children, which had been an absolute blow to both of them. But somehow they had managed to recover and decided to try to adopt a baby if they couldn’t have one of their own. First Erin came along and then their little boy, Jack, both welcomed into their lives with so much love. They became a family – a proper family. She and Tom were both still mad about each other and theirs was a good marriage. She had watched friends’ marriages fall apart over the past few years as their families grew up. Even her best friend Vonnie and her husband, Simon, had got divorced eighteen months ago and now barely spoke to each other. It was heartbreaking.

* * *

Bill had brought along a bottle of their favourite Merlot and they all sat down around the table, Jack sticking to a large glass of iced water and Erin refusing any wine, grabbing a can of Sprite from the fridge instead, as she was driving. They ate and chatted easily about work and friends and all the news.

Erin told them all about the upcoming wedding of her best friend, Jenny, who was getting married in a castle in Cork in August and had all her friends demented with talking about budgets and costs and guest lists.

‘I don’t know why she and Shane just don’t go off to some nice small place and get married with just the two families and a few friends, if they have no money. Who are they trying to impress?’

‘You lot!’ joked Nina. ‘You all expect big weddings and dresses and bands, money or no money.’

‘No we don’t. Karl and Emma are getting married in the Registry Office in ten weeks and having the reception in Mere Zou, that lovely French restaurant on Stephen’s Green, afterwards.’

‘Good for them,’ said Tom. ‘I’m glad to see someone you know having a bit of sense.’

‘Well, we all think it’s great because we don’t have to go and fork out to stay in a hotel and spend a fortune,’ she admitted.

Nina smiled and wondered what would happen when Erin and Jack eventually decided to settle down and marry. Lord knows what kind of wedding Jack would want – probably something involving surfboards and beaches, if he had his way, whereas Erin was definitely more traditional.

Tom hushed her when she talked about Erin and Luke and the future. ‘Give them a chance, Nina. They’re young yet –
don’t
be letting that big heart of yours run away with you. Erin will make her own mind up when the time is right, like she always does!’

After dinner Tom and Jack and Bill sloped back to the living room to watch the replay of some rugby match and the rugby commentary from a panel of experts. Erin and Nina stayed in the kitchen, tidying up and having another mug of coffee each.

‘Mum, I need to talk to you about something,’ said Erin slowly. ‘It’s something I really need to know about.’

Nina could feel the heat of the mug against her skin as she took in the serious expression on Erin’s face.

‘I’m twenty-six years old and I need to know about myself … about before you and Dad adopted me. I suppose seeing Nikki pregnant and going to have her baby has made me think about it more—’

‘Erin, we’ve told you everything we know already,’ Nina said honestly, trying to disguise how perturbed she suddenly felt. ‘Your dad and I have never tried to hide the fact that you and Jack are adopted. We’ve always been upfront with the two of you about it.’

‘I know, Mum, but please tell me again,’ pleaded her daughter.

‘Why?’ whispered Nina, trying to control herself.

‘I don’t know why – but I just need to know about the time when I was born and given up and about my birth mother. I’ve never really asked you and Dad too much about it before, but Mum, I really want to know. I’m entitled to know.’

‘Of course,’ said Nina, feeling the blood in her veins slow so much that it seemed almost frozen. She had always known this day would come, when Erin or Jack would demand
to
know more than what they had already told them – but not now, out of the blue after a perfect Sunday dinner! She wondered what had brought on this sudden desire to discover the past.

‘Erin, it’s only normal to be curious – totally normal to want to know more about your birth and what happened and how your dad and I adopted you.’

‘And about my mother,’ she insisted.

Nina tried not to show the pain inflicted by the dagger of her daughter’s word – mother.

She
was Erin’s mother – no one else was. She loved her more than anyone else in the world did. She was the one who had cared for her from the day that Erin was handed into her arms – nothing and no one could change that. She was the one who had fed her, changed her, winded her, helped her to learn to talk and walk and read. Suffered endless sleepless nights when Erin wouldn’t go to sleep or had nightmares or was sick. She had put up with toddler tantrums, and boldness, and teenage angst, along with the glorious hugs and cuddles and stories and the constant utter joy of having a beautiful, intelligent daughter as she went from toddler to schoolgirl to college to becoming this bright, confident young woman sitting across from her, building a life of her own.

BOOK: Three Women
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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