Up to now, for a few days, we’ve followed the story of Kathleen – from birth to settling on her grandad’s farm in Wexford, and to dumping Albert as a lost cause. She starts to see a life without him. We saw how Veronica went with Kathleen and her family to Wexford to have her baby away from England and the awful father, Terry. She then, however, abandoned baby Jonah, leaving him for Kathleen to bring up. That’s the last we saw of her – except, perhaps, it was her whom Teresa, Kathleen’s cousin, took pity on in Dublin some years later.
Today we hear from Veronica, telling her story in the first person. She’s realised that she can neither continue to expect Kathleen’s family to support her and the baby, nor can she return home with the baby. She doesn’t have the same maternal instinct that Kathleen has, and feels that it would be better for baby Jonah if she left him with Kathleen. When circumstances allow her to leave, in ‘creep away mode’, she disappears from the farm, travelling to Dublin, leaving Jonah and a letter for Kathleen.
In Dublin, after trailing around, she rents a room for a week, paying in advance. After a poor night’s sleep she goes looking for work in a shop. Feeling tired after lots of unsuccessful attempts, she notices a café and goes in for a drink. The owner stops to talk to her and offers her a job in the café, where she’s provided with a room above the shop as part of her wage.
She works hard in the shop, showing initiative and she impresses the owner and customers. By the end of the first week she’s become established enough to collect her things from the room she’d rented on arrival. She gets on well with the café owner, Mary and her mother, Violet. After two years she’s become so much a part of the shop that she spends Christmas day with them.
All this is very well, but her conscience is constantly troubled by her past. She misses Kathleen and hopes that Albert would be now married to her and be a good surrogate father to Jonah. After the Christmas meal, she bursts into tears, missing her family and friends. She misses having someone like Kathleen to put their arms around her to comfort her. She decides to go for a walk along the banks of the River Liffey.
As she stands, looking down at the river, someone speaks to her, checking that she’s alright. It’s a man, who’s worried that she’s thinking about jumping to her death. She assures him that she’s alright and was just in a reverie. He introduces himself as Arthur Western, and they walk together along the river bank. She learns that he’s much older than her, single and was once to have been married but his fiancée had died of consumption at the age of twenty-three. He works at the University. Veronica tells him as much of her story as she’s prepared to divulge. As they part, she thanks him for his company. He tells her that he’d be at the same place the following Sunday if she should wish another walk.
During the following week she resolves to write to her mother and buys some writing materials and some painting equipment. While she’s out, she calls into Bewleys for a coffee and buys a newspaper to read while she drinks it. As she reads, she senses that someone is looking at her. It’s Arthur. They sit together and talk. They introduce each other properly and are now on first name terms. By the time they leave, they’ve arranged to meet again the following Sunday. That becomes a regular fixture. He continues to be open with her but is sure that she is concealing something that she’s worrying about. He feels that she’s very young to be carrying such a burden.
She does some paintings which she frames and hangs in the café, but she still hasn’t written to her mother. In the March, she remembers that it will be Jonah’s third birthday and spends some time wondering how he is. She images him playing.
Later that month, walking through the town one evening to buy some aspirin for a headache she feels faint, collapses and someone props her up outside a pub. While a passer-by is trying to get her to drink some water and someone else is offering her whisky to revive her, she becomes vaguely aware that someone else again is pressing money into her hand. She remembers murmuring a ‘Thank you’. The next day, the shop owner, Mary, comes to see her when she doesn’t show up for work and calls a doctor, who diagnoses a bad case of flu. He orders Veronica to have three weeks proper rest.
It’s almost a week after that period, when putting her hand in her coat pocket, she discovers more than three pounds in loose change. She thought that she’d dreamed it, but wonders why she was given it.
It seems to me to be a strong coincidence. I bet that the donor was Teresa, don’t you?
Today’s featured image is set, once again, on one of the colourful streets of Eyeries, Beara Peninsula, County Cork, Eire. I took it with my Pentax K3-ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at f/16 and 16 mm. The shutter speed was 1/15 and the ISO 400.