Shadows in Heaven by Nadine Dorries
| Synopsis |
In post-war Tarabeg, two women are waiting for ambitious Michael Malone to return home. Rosie is the local schoolteacher and most people think she is promised to him. Just a few have guessed that he has secretly begun to woo Sarah, whose brutal fisherman father would kill her if he knew.
Both Rosie and Sarah love Michael, both hope to become his wife and their lives will interweave in a tale of tangled secrets, old promises and new feuds. Michael Malone’s choice will have fateful consequences for everyone – especially, in due course, for his young daughter.
This is the first in a new sequence of novels with a brilliant cast of characters and a story that will lead to Liverpool in Mary Kate and back to Ireland in The Seven Acres.
| Author |
I am very lucky to still be in contact with the nurses I began training with all those years ago. Those who enjoyed The Four Streets trilogy should equally enjoy the Lovely Lane series.
Lovely Lane is a real place in Warrington. The books combine and knit together my memories of Warrington Hospital, Lovely Lane. Bewsey Road Nurses Home, where I lived and laughed and most importantly, survived and the hospitals across Liverpool where I worked.
Five years later: 1945
Rosie O’Hara’s shoes, still wet from the walk to school that morning, squelched as she finished damping down the fire and made her way across the scrubbed wooden floor to the classroom windows. She reached across to fold the bottle-green shutters. Peering down the street, she caught sight of young Theady O’Donnell heading home, dragging his feet as he went. He was walking alone, so he must have been the only child in detention in the boys’ room. Rosie pulled the ribbon that held her long, shiny auburn hair tighter and tucked the strands that had escaped during the day behind her ears. It was late June and the freckles that dappled her nose and cheeks looked almost painted on against her pale skin. Her grey eyes reflected the grey sky and as her insides churned with hunger, she sighed.
She had remained late to wipe clean the slates and polish the girls’ desks; she’d worked quietly as she went, to avoid attracting the attention of Mr O’Dowd, the school principal. A loud and cheerful man with a thick thatch of badly cut dark hair, he was also the teacher in the boys’ room. He was wont to pop into her classroom at the slightest excuse, to see what she was doing, and had a habit of talking to her about things she knew nothing of – football and fishing. If he paid less attention to both, she thought, he might have found the time to marry. He spent most of the day sitting in the chair behind his desk, smoking his pipe, and when school was finished, he headed straight over the road to Paddy Devlin’s bar.
Mr O’Dowd also ran the local football team, which played out on the flattest field in the village every Saturday morning. Rosie, often cold and suffering from painful chilblains in her toes, could never understand the attraction. She shivered in sympathy for the poor muddy boys, made to wash in the freezing Taramore river before they returned home.
It was rare for Rosie to keep any of her girls in detention and she often felt sorry for the boys Mr O’Dowd kept behind, especially those who had to walk back home to the hill farms. ‘’Tis different altogether with the boys,’ Mr O’Dowd would say to her. ‘Someone has to stay on detention at least once a week, whether they need it or not. ’Tis a warning to the others. Best form of discipline, in my book. I hardly ever need the stick, and don’t I have the best-behaved class in all of Ireland to show for it.’
Rosie never answered Mr O’Dowd back. Shy by nature, she felt diminished by his overly gregarious nature. He was liked and respected by every single parent, and for timid, withdrawn Rosie, being in his presence highlighted everything she was not. She strove for respect but mostly what she earned was pity.
Theady was the child who lived closest to the school. He was also one of the few who possessed a pair of sturdy shoes, being the only O’Donnell child left at home who had not emigrated to America. Rosie had noticed a difference in him of late. Once the most pleasant boy in Tarabeg, he had in a matter of months become one of the most sullen. She had commented to her only real friend in the village, Teresa Gallagher, that a great change had come over him.
‘His mother, Philomena, is the scold of the village, with a tongue sharper than any knife,’ Teresa had said. ‘He’s been the same since the last brother ran from her house on the day he had the fare saved to take him to Cobh for the boat to New York. It must be awful for him, being the only child left with that woman, and him being too young to escape. His da spends most of his day anywhere but in the house. She missed Mass twice last week, can you imagine?’ As Father Jerry’s housekeeper at the presbytery, Teresa seemed to find this far more significant than Theady’s unhappiness.
‘He is a sensitive boy, his heart must be breaking for his brothers,’ said Rosie, almost to herself. She knew Theady loved to please. It was easy enough with her, but seemingly a near impossibility at home with his mother. He was always the first to arrive at the school in the morning, long before Mr O’Dowd appeared, and he would always ask Rosie, ‘Shall I take the basket to fetch the kindling, Miss O’Hara, to get the fire going for you?’
‘You do that, Theady,’ she would say, and straightaway he would head off up the hill to collect bits of wood and anything else that would catch for long enough to sustain a flame and start the fire in the schoolroom. He was never quite so keen to leave Rosie once they had got the fire going and it was time to line up in the cinder yard when she rang the bell.
The school comprised just two classrooms, one for girls, the other for boys. Mr O’Dowd, originally from Dublin, had taught there for many years. He did not divide up the grant that they were paid from fairly or in the manner that he was supposed to, but kept the lion’s share for himself, which meant that Rosie, who had arrived six years ago from Connemara, received a pittance. Without the kindness of Teresa Gallagher she would have struggled to survive.
Mr O’Dowd was also profligate with the kindling Theady brought back, and Rosie struggled to keep enough back to ensure they never had a truly cold day in the girls’ room. He used more of the turf that the families were required to provide for the benefit of the school, too, leaving her with less for the girls.
For all that, Rosie knew that he was such a great man of the community, such a well-regarded figure and a friend of all, that no one would believe her, a girl from Connemara, if she complained about him, an educated man from Dublin. And she was doubtful if they would see anything wrong in a spinster teacher being paid such a pitiful salary. Shamed, she would be sent away from Tarabeg. And for reasons that were very close to her heart, that was the last thing Rosie wanted to happen. For now that the war was over, she was sure that Michael Malone must be coming home, and Rosie wanted to be there and waiting when that day arrived. She was older now, more of a woman than a girl. This time, she would not allow her shyness to repel him. Even if it killed her, she would win his affection back.
Rosie wriggled her toes, cold and still damp in her cheaply made shoes. Her heart sank as she took in the heavy mist on the hills and the rain bouncing off the cinder playground. She would be wet for the second time today when she left for home. The rain had been relentless. ‘Even in summer,’ she whispered.
Her breath had misted up the pane of glass and she rubbed it with her sleeve as from the corner of her eye she caught sight of Teresa Gallagher. She was pulling up the reins of her horse with force.
‘Whoa! Whoa!’ Teresa shouted. With the agility of a woman half her age, she got down from the trap before the wheels had fully stopped, turned in through the gate and hurried up the path towards Rosie. She had news to tell, that much was obvious.
Teresa was a purveyor of news. As housekeeper at the presbytery, she got to hear everything – it all came to her door. This news, however, was so important that all pleasantries were dispensed with as she marched into the empty classroom. Her silver hair was always fixed in a small tight bun at the nape of her neck and she wore the same style of dress as she had for the past forty years: long and black, with a change of collar, always made by Ellen Carey. Narrow, wire-framed spectacles perched on the end of her nose and she never set foot outdoors unless she was wearing a hat. Today was no exception and her oilskin bonnet was tied tightly under her chin.
‘Well, you will never believe it, Michael Malone is on his way home,’ she said as she shook out her oilskin cape. It cracked as she did so and the raindrops covered Rosie’s feet in a light shower. But Rosie hadn’t noticed; her heart had stopped beating right there and then. ‘He’s sent a telegram and Mrs Doyle has to take it from the post office to Seamus as soon as they all stop drinking the tea. Keeva is in a right flap, she thought it was another death in the village, she was all for running up to tell Father Jerry if I hadn’t been there and heard it all myself. Mrs Doyle was put out indeed. “Your job is as my assistant, miss. You don’t run the post office,” she said to Keeva. Anyway, I thought I would stop to tell you before I’m off to see my sister, thought you might like to know the news.’
Rosie felt her heart restart. It beat in her chest with the force of a trapped bird. Her mouth dried, the palms of her hands moistened and she struggled to reply. An awkward silence filled the space between them as Teresa, a stranger to self-doubt, wondered if she had made the right call. Rosie had never discussed Michael Malone, or taken the bait that Teresa had thrown down for her a million times, so it was all guesswork on Teresa’s part. However, she was sure that Rosie was sweet on Michael and had been since almost the day she’d arrived in Tarabeg. ‘Even a blind man can see that,’ she had once said to Father Jerry. ‘Sure, wasn’t he once sweet on her too? I cannot get a word out of her, no matter how hard I try. I’m never wrong though.’ Now, in the confines of the schoolroom, she studied Rosie’s face for any indication of her affection for Michael. She was disappointed.
As calmly as if she were discussing the weather, Rosie replied in a voice she barely recognised. ‘That’s good news. His family, they will be relieved that he wasn’t one of the soldiers who never came back then.’
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