Orphaned at seventeen, Anna arrives in Dublin to live with her
estranged grandparents and alcoholic uncle. She receives a
mixed reception and the tension in her new home is unrelenting.
Just why does Grandpa despise her so much?
While Anna struggles with finding her way in the big city,
uncovering family secrets, and discovering love along the way,
she also watches helplessly as her best friend's life spirals out of
control with disastrous consequences.
Set in the 1950s, Anna is a coming-of-age tale about a young
girl's journey into womanhood as she discovers herself amid the
atmospheric streets of Dublin City.
I continued to walk without any idea of where I was or where I was going. I
wandered around stores to get in out of the cold more than to actually view the
goods on sale. An eager sales clerk practically accosted me in a furniture store. I
was looking at a settee and could not resist the temptation to sit down. The
extravagant comfort was pure luxury as I sank deep into the soft cushions. He tried
everything possible to talk me into purchasing it. In an effort to rid myself of him, I
said the colour was not ideal and would clash with other furnishings. Poppycock, of
course—the make-believe furnishings only existed in my make-believe house.
“No problem, miss,” he said. “We can have the settee covered in any colour fabric
that suits you.”
Having failed with the colour clash idea, I tried another approach. “It might be too
large for our sitting room,” I said in my best la-de-da accent.
“You’re in luck, miss. We also do have the same settee in a two-seater version,” he
He was pushing enthusiasm over that fine line that divides eagerness and
annoying persistence, but I still did not have the heart to tell him I wasn’t
interested. After all, if I couldn’t afford a cup of tea, I could hardly afford an Italian
“I do like it,” I said. “But I’ll have to bring my father in to see it first.”
Eureka, it worked, although I was left feeling as if I had burst a child’s balloon. His
face lost all friendliness as he backed away. I guess he had heard the line or
similar words to the same effect many times before.
* * *
It was early evening when I retraced my steps back down Dorset Street. Most of
the small shops that lined both sides of the road had closed. I passed darkened
windows and graffiti-covered shutters as late autumn leaves fluttered past, blown
by a sharp, cold breeze.
Seventy-six Ignatius Road stood nestled between two similar terraced houses, and
as I approached the door, I lacked the warm feeling of relief normally experienced
when returning home on a cold, dark evening. I knocked on the door.
“Anna,” Grandma said, welcoming me with a warm smile. “Come in, child, I’ve been
waiting for you to come home.”
She was alone in the house and brought me into the kitchen where the heat of the
stove warmed the whole room. A white linen tablecloth covered the kitchen table,
its edges finely decorated with an intricate lace pattern. A place was set and
Grandma fussed over me as if I were a guest of honour.
“Is Peter not home?” I asked.
“No, he’s gone out.”
“And Grandpa?” I said.
“He’s at the Workers’ Club. He goes most nights.”
“What’s a Workers’ Club?” I asked.
Her eyes turned upward. “Just another name for a public house. He thinks
because it’s a club restricted to members only, it can’t be classed as boozing. He
condemns Peter for going to the pub too often, yet he goes to his workers’ club all
the time. There’s hypocrisy for you, don’t you think?”
I smiled but remained silent. I wanted to agree and back up her condemnations of
Grandpa with comments such as the pot calling the kettle black. I mean, she
practically invited me to say something negative. But I said nothing, letting my smile
answer the question.
I went to bed, as I had an early start in the morning. Twice I was awakened from my
sleep. The first time was when Grandpa came home. I heard the front door being
pulled shut and the noise of his heavy footsteps on the wooden stairs. The second
time was when Peter came home. Even before I glanced at the clock, I knew it was
an ungodly hour. His footsteps on the stairs were confused. It was as if his feet
dragged and he took two steps back for every one forward. The silence of the
night seemed to exaggerate every noise he made. I could hear him stumbling
around his room for quite a while before he decided to go to bed. His bedsprings
creaked in protest when he fell onto the mattress. Then there was a sudden
silence and the quietness of the early hour once more asserted itself.
I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep. But it was not a contented sleep, for I
dreamt sad dreams peppered with visions of my mother. She was calling to me,
warning me of what I did not know, for her words were distant and indefinable.
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