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Authors: Marita Conlon-McKenna

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BOOK: Three Women
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She read the letter again


With love from your daughter

Erin

She must have sat in the kitchen for hours.

‘You okay, Mum?’ asked her sixteen-year-old daughter Aisling, coming in from school.

‘I’m fine – just feeling a bit tired, love.’ Kate quickly put the letters back in the envelope.

‘I’ve got so much homework it’s unbelievable!’ complained Aisling as she grabbed a drink and a banana. ‘We have a whole page of algebra to do and I haven’t a clue.’

‘Maybe Kevin can help you a bit when he comes in later?’

‘Yeah – he’s the maths genius!’ she grinned.

‘Listen, I think I’ll go up and have a rest for an hour,’ Kate said. ‘I’ll get the dinner later.’

Upstairs in her bedroom she hid the envelope.

Kate had never expected to hear about what happened to her first daughter. It was something that she had accepted would probably secretly gnaw at her and upset her all her life – and now this letter. She didn’t know what to think. She couldn’t think. What happened if somehow Paddy or the kids found out about this girl – found out that she had a daughter called Erin who wanted to meet her?

‘Kate? Kate, are you okay?’ Paddy was standing at the side of the bed.

‘I’ve a bit of a headache,’ she said stirring under the duvet. ‘I thought I’d try to sleep it off. What time is it?’

‘Seven p.m.’

‘Why didn’t someone wake me?’

‘You looked exhausted and you were having a great sleep. It will do you no harm.’

Kate sat herself up in the bed. She felt terrible, like she had been in a car accident. She felt physically and emotionally drained.

‘What about dinner? I’ll get up and get it.’

‘You will not!’ warned Paddy. ‘Kevin and Aisling are just cooking something downstairs. Leave them at it.’

Paddy went off downstairs and Kate lay back down, her eyes closed, disbelieving … What the hell was she going to do?

Chapter Thirteen

‘THIS IS ALL
your fault, sally!’ screamed kate accusingly as she paced up and down on the tiled floor of the sun room of her sister’s house in Rathfarnham. ‘Why did you have to go and interfere and give them my address? Why couldn’t you say you had no idea where I live or what I’m doing?’

‘I’m your sister,’ Sally reminded her. ‘They obviously still have kept a record of all the details from when you were pregnant and in hospital. Remember you put me down as your next of kin? You gave them my address, my phone number and told them where I worked. The hospital and the adoption agency both knew you were staying with me.’

‘Shit, you’re right!’ admitted Kate, collapsing down on to the blue armchair.

‘The adoption agency phoned me at work,’ continued Sally. ‘What was I meant to do – change my job and give up working in St James’ Hospital because of you? I love my job and I’m good at it. Anyone phoning the hospital switch would be told the ward and floor I work on. I have nothing to hide,’ she said angrily, her blue eyes flashing. ‘You need to calm down
about
this, Kate. Marian Kelly, the social worker, told me that everything they do is in total confidence. She promised me that they will not give your address or phone number to anyone and I believe her. She posted on the letter to you. Your daughter Erin has no idea where you are. No one has.’

‘I’m sorry, Sally. I guess I’m paranoid about it,’ Kate apologized. She had been a nervous wreck for the past week, ever since she had got the letter. Sally and Mike had been away in France for a few days and she had totally panicked about what to do. She couldn’t tell anyone and she hadn’t wanted to ruin her sister’s holiday by phoning her.

‘You
are
being paranoid!’ said Sally, seriously. ‘Nothing bad is going to happen and if you keep acting as if your world is falling in, Paddy is bound to notice.’

‘I know, but I keep thinking about it. I can’t sleep. I wake up at two or three in the morning in a sweat, thinking of what I did. It’s so awful, Sally—’

‘I know,’ said Sally, slipping her arms around her. ‘But surely, you must have thought sometimes that your daughter might when she was older try to find you?’

‘No, I didn’t. She was gone from me for ever – and I had got used to the idea. It was as if she was dead – as if I had lost my baby when she was born … You don’t understand, Sally, but I had to think like that or otherwise I would have gone mad.’

Kate found even saying it out loud to her sister was releasing some of the immense stress and guilt that she’d been feeling since she’d got that letter.

‘Kate, can’t you be happy that Erin is well and has grown up into such a nice young woman – you can tell by her letter. She’s not a drug addict or an alcoholic or some kind of dysfunctional needy person. She has a job and a boyfriend and a lovely family,
who
have raised her really well and who she is very close to. She’s not looking for anything from you, so why are you so afraid?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘She has written to you. Why won’t you write back to her? She deserves to know something about herself, Kate, it’s only fair.’

‘What if Paddy finds out? What do you think that would do to our marriage?’

‘I don’t know,’ Sally sighed, ‘but Paddy is a very decent, fair man. I don’t think his reaction would be half as bad as you think.’

‘You don’t know that. Can you imagine the kids’ reaction? Imagine Aisling suddenly finding out she has an older half-sister! She’d be heartbroken.’

‘You keep worrying yourself about what other people will feel,’ said Sally. ‘But this is about what you and Erin feel.’

Kate could feel herself calming down as she sat in her sister’s sun room. Sally had always been able to make her feel better about things. Maybe that was why she was such a good nurse, because she could clearly put things in perspective.

‘I think that you should write back to her,’ Sally said firmly. ‘She is your daughter, and Erin deserves to have you write a letter to her, to have a few words on the page from her mother. It would probably mean a huge amount to her. It is the least you can do, Kate.’

‘I know,’ said Kate, trying to control herself. ‘I have to write back to her.’

‘And I think you should give some consideration to meeting her too,’ insisted her sister. ‘She is your daughter and all she
wants
is an hour of your time. I don’t think that is a lot for Erin to ask for.’

‘No – I’m not meeting her!’ cried Kate, flying off the handle again. ‘I’ll write back, but I don’t want to see her, or for her to see me, and that’s all there is to it!’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, I’m sure. I’ll do the letter, I promise, but I’m not taking things any further,’ she insisted. ‘You’re right, it is good to know that she is okay and happy. I always only wanted the best for her – that was why I agreed to have her adopted. But now she is grown up I’m not a part of her life and I don’t need to be. Erin has great parents by the sound of it, and I have my own family. My priority is to protect them.’

‘If that is the way you see it, Kate, then just do the letter,’ Sally urged quietly. ‘Write to her this week.’

‘I will,’ she promised.

Driving home, Kate felt drained, her energy sapped from her. She had barely been able to think for the past few days, and had had a massive row with Kevin over something stupid, and had berated Aisling about the state of her school uniform, and had implied to Paddy she had some sort of virus so he wouldn’t get too close to her … Her poor husband hadn’t a clue what was going on. She had to sort this out.

She’d think about it and try to write to Erin, but she would make it very clear to her daughter that there would be absolutely no more contact except for that letter.

Chapter Fourteen

ERIN KEPT HERSELF
busy as the weeks dragged on and there seemed to be no response from her birth mother. She was deeply disappointed. She had written a good letter to her and was getting nothing back. What kind of person was this Kate woman to treat her like this?

Her mum and dad had asked a few times about it, and who could blame them? It was very obvious that once again this woman had let her down. Nikki and Claire said nothing, and even Luke was discreet and didn’t ask her.

She wanted to shrug it off and say it didn’t matter, but inside it did. It hurt, really hurt. She talked to Marian Kelly on the phone and Marian suggested she see Sheila Lennon, the agency’s counsellor.

‘We recommend anyone who is going through the process here has at least one meeting with Sheila. She’s very good. I’d really advise it, Erin. Whether you get to meet or make contact with your birth mother or not, it is very important to talk through some of the issues with a good counsellor like Sheila.’

So Erin found herself meeting this Sheila woman. She
wasn’t
expecting much and was totally surprised at how well she got on with the large, blonde woman, whose warmth and sincerity immediately made her relax.

‘I’m here to help, Erin – that’s my job.’

Erin told her about the lack of response to her letter.

‘Erin, put yourself in Kate’s shoes. She’s spent twenty-six years trying to forget about a child she gave up, put the guilt and the shame and the tragedy of it behind her and create a new life for herself. Can you imagine the turmoil such a letter creates? First the relief to discover that you are well and healthy and happy and have had the good life she wanted for you, and then the dismay and worry – especially if she has not told her husband and family – that the life she has created will be destroyed, and that she will be a disappointment to you and not what you expected.’

‘I see.’ Erin hadn’t considered the implications for Kate of her initiating contact and the panic it would cause. ‘Maybe I should never have written to her.’

‘No, Erin, the letter you sent is important. Kate will realize that and get comfort from it, but it may take time for her to be able to respond to you. So try to be a bit more patient.’

Erin smiled. Her dad was always saying that she was in a rush about everything and needed to slow down a bit!

She found herself telling Sheila things she had never told anyone before. Erin had first learned when she was about five that she was adopted. She hadn’t really understood about it until her mum and dad had sat her down and explained it more when she was nearly eight. There never had been any problems at home talking about it openly with her mum and dad and brother and the rest of the family. But so much of what she had felt about being adopted she had buried deep inside
her
, not wanting to hurt or upset them. The immense sense of rejection, of fear, of absolute terror that something would happen to her mum and dad; then the crazy belief when she was small that her real mother must secretly be a film star, an actress, a writer or somebody famous or special who had a very valid reason for not being able to keep her. Then when she became a teenager she had swung to the opposite end of the pendulum, suspecting every drunk, drug addict, tart or homeless woman she saw of being her mother. She searched their faces as she passed them on the street to see if there was any recognition. She had felt secretly worthless and ashamed, though she had done nothing; but gradually it had passed and she had developed her own sense of worth and strength and begun to feel really good about herself, which was unexpected. She was lucky to have wonderful parents, friends and family whom she loved, but she had finally learned to love herself too.

‘Are you happy?’

‘Yes,’ she laughed, realizing that she was. She had an immense capacity for happiness, wherever it had come from.

‘That’s very good to hear,’ smiled Sheila. ‘The ability to be happy is a gift. Try to remember that, and whether you hear back from Kate or not you know that you have done your best at this stage to make contact with your birth mother. Be happy for the life you have!’

‘I am,’ said Erin, realizing how much she really meant it.

‘You may never get a response from Kate,’ cautioned Sheila, ‘but I’m afraid you will have to respect her decision.’

‘I will,’ promised Erin, trying to accept the fact that there was every likelihood that her birth mother still wanted to forget she existed.

Chapter Fifteen

KATE TURNED AROUND
in front of the mirror. The new red dress she had bought in Zara looked great. She’d added a black wrap cardigan and black heels and was really pleased with the results.

‘You look really well,’ said Paddy approvingly, pulling her into his arms. ‘I’m glad that you are over that old virus thing you caught.’

‘So am I,’ she smiled. ‘I’m feeling much better and looking forward to dinner tonight.’

For the past few years Paddy and Kate had had a routine of going out on their own for a midweek dinner to one of the nearby restaurants. Running an off-licence business meant that Paddy often worked late at the weekends, with only every second Saturday off. So they had got accustomed to having a dinner together on a Wednesday night, away from kids and work and worries. The kids were older now, but they had kept up the routine and both enjoyed it.

‘I booked us a table at The Kish,’ said Paddy.

Kate loved the fish restaurant, which was literally perched
on
the pier in Howth and served the fish of the day that had just come in off the boats. They had a table at the window overlooking the busy fishing harbour.

‘What are you going to have?’ Paddy asked as he buried himself in the wine list.

‘Well, I’ll go for what’s up on the board for tonight,’ she replied. ‘The hake sounds good and they have that yummy chilli prawn thing to start.’

‘I’ll have the seafood pâté and the mussels. They have that new Sancerre I was telling you about – will we give it a try?’

Kate laughed every time they went to a restaurant. Paddy always went through the wine list and if he found something new and good, he might stock it in the shop. God knows how many wines she’d tested over all the years of their marriage … She watched as he chatted to the wine waiter, Hans, who had become a friend by this stage, the two of them discussing the merits of one new Bordeaux compared to another.

BOOK: Three Women
5.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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