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Authors: Marita Conlon-McKenna

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BOOK: Three Women
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As the evening went on, couples got up to dance and Erin slipped into Luke’s arms as the rhythms of soul and jazz took over.

‘I love this place,’ she sighed as they smooched.

‘We could become regulars.’

‘What?’

‘That’s what I want to talk to you about,’ he said, taking her hand and leading her back to their table.

‘Visiting?’

‘No, based here.’

‘What are you talking about, Luke?’

He topped up her glass. ‘There’s a chance – a good chance – that I will be moved to the office here. I’m back and forward the whole time for the past six months, so I suppose it makes sense.’

‘But things are okay in Hibernian in Dublin. You told me the company’s doing fine.’

‘It is. Fine is okay, but over here things are booming and I guess that’s where you want to be career-wise, Erin – you must understand that.’

‘Of course,’ she said, trying not to show her sense of panic at the prospect of Luke moving to London.

‘Obviously, if I do move over here, I’d want you to move too, Erin – come over here, move in together, whatever it takes. I don’t want us to be apart or doing that deadly Dublin-to-London weekend thing like so many couples.’

Erin was filled with the excitement of Luke actually asking her to move in with him, waking up to each other every morning and going to bed together every night. It was all so romantic, and a big stepping stone towards their relationship becoming far more permanent.

‘Do you mean it?’

‘Of course!’ he said loudly. ‘I want you to come and live with me.’

‘Couldn’t we live together in Dublin?’

‘Look, this move to here would be great – not just for me, but probably also career-wise for you. You can see how well Lisa’s doing and she seems very settled here.’

‘I know. She was telling me there is plenty of design work around and lots of places are taking on staff.’

‘There you go, Erin! Better for you and better for me.’

‘I don’t know. What about work and the apartment and the girls?’

He put on a mock offended look.

‘Haven’t I been listening to you go on and on about work, and how worried you are about Monika and Declan’s business collapsing or you being let go?’

‘I know, I know,’ she said, squeezing his hand.

‘And you can’t live with your best friends for ever! You do know that.’

‘I know,’ she giggled. ‘Nikki and I keep thinking that Claire and Donal are going to move in together.’

‘Well there you go!’ he laughed, reaching over and kissing her, killing any more protests she might have. ‘Listen, later next week I’ll be home and I’ll talk to Gordon Leonard, the senior partner, and then arrange to meet with Tim Bennett over here and see what kind of package they will offer me.’

‘Great.’

Luke was ambitious. She’d always known that. He was the kind of guy that would probably always expect his girlfriend or wife to pack up her tent and follow him, wherever he went in the world, to be his back-up and support. She loved Luke, wanted to be with him, probably even spend the rest of her life with him, but it meant giving up so much and putting all her trust in him. Was she ready for that … to make such a decision? She wasn’t sure.

‘Let’s have another drink to celebrate us!’ he said, calling the waiter over.

Erin sipped at a glass of Le Cave’s sparkling wine as Luke excitedly talked about his potential move to London. She was just being stupid and pathetic. The most gorgeous, perfect guy
she
had ever met had just asked her to move in with him, for the two of them to become a pair, live together, build their careers together and become a proper couple, take that big step on the path towards marriage and a lifetime together.

‘Erin, you are listening to what I was saying about you registering with some of the big recruitment agencies and coming over and setting up job interviews, and we can try and find an apartment to rent?’

‘Of course. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting it and my mind is racing all over the place.’

‘Everything will be fine,’ he promised, kissing her. ‘Being together – that’s the important thing.’

Back at the hotel, as she curled up in his arms, she convinced herself that this was where she really wanted to be – here with Luke, planning their future, making a life together.

Chapter Eleven

ERIN WOKE TO
the sound of the power-shower going in the bathroom. Luke had beaten her to it. They had woken earlier, made love and must both have fallen back asleep. She was just stretching and getting out of bed when a waiter came to the door with breakfast and the
Sunday Times
. She was meeting Lisa in less than an hour, but a big glass of orange juice, a bit of toast and some fresh coffee from the pot was badly needed to help wake her up. Last night had been wonderful, but there had been far too much drink, she thought, as she sat on the bed and helped herself. They’d even hit the champagne in the mini-bar!

‘Hey, leave some breakfast for me!’ teased Luke, appearing wrapped in a towel.

‘I’m just having a bite,’ she laughed, nicking another piece of toast. ‘I’ll be eating with Lisa.’

She watched as he tucked into sausages, bacon and scrambled egg.

‘What are you going to do?’ she quizzed.

‘Damien and I and some of the lads are meeting in Molloy’s
Bar
later to watch some football, if you want to join us.’

‘I’d prefer to go shopping with Lisa, if that’s okay.’

‘Sure. What about I meet you back here, then, around half five? We can grab something quick to eat together downstairs before you head for the airport.’

‘That sounds great,’ she said, kissing him before taking over the bathroom.

Lisa was sitting in the midday sunshine at an outside table at Bonne Bouche, waiting for her. The place was packed.

‘I booked a table,’ laughed Lisa, as if reading her mind. ‘You have to on Saturdays and Sundays over here.’

Erin hugged her. She missed Lisa and, if she did move over here, having Lisa around would be fantastic.

‘Well, how’s the romantic weekend going?’

‘Great – really great,’ Erin said, embarrassed. ‘In fact, so great that Luke wants me to move in with him.’

‘Yippee!’ yelled Lisa, making heads turn in their direction. ‘I can just see the two of you getting a really fancy place in Dublin.’

‘Over here in London,’ revealed Erin.

‘What?’

‘Luke wants to transfer to work in Hibernian’s office in Canary Wharf and has asked me to move over here too.’

‘Oh Erin, that’s wonderful! The two of us being over here and being able to see each other and meet up, and Gavin and Luke get on great. You’d already have friends here.’

‘I know.’ Erin hugged her.

‘I’ll keep my ears open for jobs for you.’

‘Will you?’

‘I promise.’

Erin had been so busy chatting that she had barely studied the menu, but she ordered a tempting Croque Monsieur, which the people on the table beside them were devouring. A jug of chilled juice and a big pot of French coffee – she couldn’t imagine a nicer way to enjoy Sunday.

Lisa was more excited about the prospect of her move to London than she was, but her enthusiasm was infectious as she reeled off possible places to apply for work, good places to live, and even the name of the gym that she had joined; and she told her all about the all-Irish girly book club that she had joined.

‘It’ll be such fun having you over here, Erin, I can’t wait!’

‘Well, there are a few major things to sort out first, like me getting a job … getting a job … and, of course, getting a job.’

‘Okay, okay – we need to get you a job … But Luke’s right. You do need to get in touch with some of the big recruitment agencies here – set things up. I’ll email you a list and some names of people I used.’

Afterwards Lisa brought her shopping to a little area full of new young designers with just the kind of clothes Erin liked.

‘The high street is great, but this little black dress is just wow. I can’t wait to wear it.’ She also hadn’t been able to resist a jacket and skirt in Anastasia’s. Then, realizing the time, Erin and Lisa said their goodbyes as she raced back to meet Luke.

Luke had had a few pints with the lads and was hungry. The hotel’s plush restaurant wasn’t too busy and the waitress promised to serve them quickly.

‘Do you want me to come to the airport with you?’ he offered.

‘No, I’ll be fine. I’ll just get the Express.’

‘Then I’ll see you later this week. Hopefully I’ll be home on Thursday or Friday.’

Erin realized as they said their goodbyes that she hated leaving him.

Sitting on the flight, she sighed as the plane took off. It was only when they were in mid-air that she realized that Luke, when he’d asked her to move in with him, had never once said the words ‘I love you’.

Chapter Twelve

KATE CASSIDY AND HER
best friend trish had jogged their regular circuit all the way up through their estate, through the local park and then taken the coast road on their way back home.

‘Come in and have a coffee?’ Kate urged as they both stood, sweaty and panting, outside her front door.

‘No coffee – it’ll only make me crave a biscuit or two,’ Trish said determinedly. ‘But a big pint of cold water would be great.’

Kate went into the kitchen and got two glasses of water but still put the kettle on to boil.

The two of them had taken up a keep-fit regime a few weeks ago with very definite goals. Trish was aiming to be at least a stone and a half down by the time her son Aongus got married in Croatia at the end of July, while Kate hadn’t much weight to lose but wanted to get fit and firm up her flabby tummy and arms in time for her Silver Wedding anniversary in September.

Sitting down and relaxing as they got their breaths back, Trish filled her in on the on-off relationships of her twenty-four-year-old daughter Niamh.

‘That girl has so many boyfriends that Alan and I can’t keep up! God knows who she will bring to Aongus’s wedding! We are all booking our flights to Dubrovnik and our accommodation and we haven’t a clue what to do about her. Is she sharing a room with young Roisin or not?’

‘Trish, I’m sure if she is bringing a boyfriend that he’ll organize his own flight and they’ll get their own place to stay,’ Kate said soothingly as she put two mugs of coffee on the table in front of them.

‘Black – well, almost black – for me,’ insisted Trish, who usually loved her coffee creamy and sweet. Kate tried not to smile when she saw her grimace as she sipped it. She just pushed the milk jug towards her.

‘What about you and the party?’ asked Trish.

‘Paddy is doing up a list.’ Kate sighed. ‘It’s getting bigger and bigger! He won’t listen to me about keeping it small.’

‘I hope I’m on this list!’ laughed Trish.

‘Of course you and Alan are on it!’ Kate took the pad of paper from the worktop and passed it to Trish.

‘Holey Moley, where are you going to fit all these people?’

‘I’ve no idea, but you know Paddy – he is so determined.’

‘Maybe you should count yourself lucky that after twenty-five years Paddy still loves you so much that he wants to celebrate it in style!’

‘I know,’ said Kate. ‘I do.’

‘Hey Mum, hey Trish,’ said Kevin, coming into the kitchen. ‘The post has just come.’ He dropped two letters for Kate on to the table.

‘No bills, hopefully!’ teased Trish as Kate began to open them.

Kate stopped the minute she had opened the large white
envelope
. The address on the top of the letter inside it was immediately familiar to her. And it seemed to contain another letter.

‘It’s just a charity thing looking for another donation!’ she pretended, as she closed the envelope and put it away on the counter, trying to disguise her total dismay as Kevin busied himself making a sandwich for college.

Her younger son was so like Paddy, easygoing and trusting and great fun. He was very popular and he loved the course on computers and business that he was doing in college. He lived in a uniform of jeans, T-shirt and hoodie, and with his unruly fair hair, blue eyes and broad face he was the spit of his dad.

‘Hey, I’d better get going!’ He leaned down and kissed her quickly as he grabbed his backpack. ‘I’ll be late home tonight, but will you keep me dinner, please, Mum?’

‘Hey, I’d better get going too,’ announced Trish, standing up. ‘I’ve to collect something from the dry-cleaner’s and go to the chemist. But I’ll see you tomorrow, Kate.’

Kate waited till they were both gone, the house quiet and empty, before she picked up the envelope and opened it. It was a letter from the adoption agency to tell her that her daughter had been in contact with them and that she had a copy of her original birth certificate and had written a letter to Kate, which they enclosed. Her daughter wished to establish some kind of contact with her birth mother and was interested in meeting her. The letter had been sent by a social worker called Marian Kelly, and she had enclosed her daughter’s letter to her.

Kate couldn’t believe it. She felt a chill going through her as she looked at the words on the page. How had they managed
to
find her? How did they discover her current address? She opened the second letter. It had been handwritten on expensive white paper.

She read it over … and over again … It was almost like a voice talking to her.


I am twenty-six years old, happy and healthy … living in Dublin … with my family
…’ Kate had to stop. She couldn’t breathe. This was too much.


I often think about you. I wonder what you are like and wonder if the two of us are any way alike?

Kate read on.


I would really like to talk to you, to see you, to meet you, even if it is only once in my life so that I know who you are and … I suppose, who I am
.’

Kate read the letter over and over again. Touching the words, she traced them with her fingers. Her daughter had written them only a day or two ago … Suddenly there was a link between them.

She read both letters again. The agency shouldn’t have contacted her. She had told them, years ago, that she didn’t want any future contact with her child. Didn’t they understand that? This is what all these reforming social workers and justice people were doing by saying people had rights to information. What about her rights to protect herself and her family?

BOOK: Three Women
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