Genre: Romantic Suspense
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On her deathbed, Aileen’s mother reveals a secret she has kept for eighteen years, and pleads with her daughter to fulfill a last wish. Torn by grief, Aileen leaves Dublin, the Fair City, and Dermot, the man she has grown to love.
Lonely and vulnerable, she unwittingly befriends a salesman at the seed mill where she has found work. Suddenly, her life becomes entrenched with danger.
On a visit back to Dublin, Aileen discovers a devastating truth, but her mother’s last request is still shrouded in a mystery she is determined to unravel. When she finally decides to return to Dermot, and the family she loves, will the secret she too is now hiding tear her and Dermot apart?
• • •
Aileen Maguire stood up to stretch her back and looked out the bedroom window overlooking the busy Dublin street. Business went on as usual. England had won the World Cup, and men walked out of the newsagents with rolled-up copies of the morning’s newspaper stuffed into their jacket pockets. But, in the bedroom above the haberdashery on the corner of upper Dorset Street, eighteen-year-old Aileen’s mother lay dying.
With a sigh, she turned her attention back to the bedroom where her father was slumped in a chair by the side of the bed, his head in his hands. She picked up a cup of beef tea and held it out to him. ‘Come on now, Da. You’ve got to stay strong.’
He glanced up, exhaustion on his pale face. ‘Your mother’s been rambling again,’ he said. ‘For the life of me, I don’t know what she’s on about.’
‘Look, Da, you go and get your head down. I’ll sit with Ma.’
Jonny Maguire stretched his tall, lean frame and stood up. His hair, the colour of gunmetal, hung limply below his ears and across his forehead. Aileen had given up nagging him to have it cut. Since Ma had taken ill three weeks ago, he had dug in his heels. He cupped his hands around the mug as if he was cold. ‘You’ll call me if…’
‘I will, Da. Now, go on! I’ll nip down and check the shop later.’
Her ma’s eyes were closed but she appeared agitated, as if she was having a bad dream. Aileen pulled a chair closer to the bed and held her hand.
‘Jonny. Is that you, Jonny?’ Jessie Maguire’s voice was but a whisper.
‘It’s me, Ma. Da’s having a kip.’
Jessie turned her head towards her daughter. ‘Aileen! My perfect little girl!’
‘Not little any more, Ma, and not perfect either.’
As her mother gripped Aileen’s hand, the doorbell jingled in the shop below. Her mother tightened her grip and struggled to sit up ‘Is…someone looking after the shop?’
‘Everything is fine, Ma. No need for you to fret.’ Her mother appeared to have forgotten she had recently employed a woman part-time.
‘You’ll look after things. Your da won’t…cope well without me. And watch out for Lizzy. I don’t have long, so…listen to me.’ Her mother’s voice rasped as she struggled to breathe. Aileen stood up, dipped a cloth in a bowl of cool water, wrung it out, and gently bathed her ma’s brow.
‘Don’t try and talk,’ Aileen said, concealing her distress. ‘Da will be fine, Ma, and so will you. So, please, no more of that talk.’
Her mother’s face looked grey against the white cotton pillowcase. Aileen gently lifted her ma’s head and helped her to suck through a straw the nourishing drink recommended by the doctor.
‘I need to confess. Ask…the priest…to call in.’
Aileen placed the glass back on the side table. ‘But it’s only a week since he was here, Ma. What do you need forgiveness for?’ Aileen kissed the side of her mother’s face.
• • •
Cathy Mansell writes romantic fiction. Her recently written family sagas are set in her home country of Ireland. One of these sagas closely explores her affinities with Dublin and Leicester. Her children's stories are frequently broadcast on local radio and she also writes newspaper and magazine articles. Cathy has lived in Leicester for fifty years. She belongs to Leicester Writers' Club and edited an Arts Council-funded anthology of work by Lutterworth Writers, of which she is president.
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