Moville author Sharon Thompson's historical crime story takes a seemingly sweet turn.
We’re back in 1940s Ireland this week with our Sunday fiction series. Fourteen year old Minnie, a mute, had a horrible accident in part one, but it looks like the event will set things in motion for a change in her life.
Enjoy part two of the series today, and you can visit Sharon’s author page here for more short stories and series.
The Tilby Twins, Part 2
My birthmark Matilda is cross me with. If the Barren Widow, wasn’t in the vegetable patch she’d probably be angry with me as well.
But Mammy’s worried, ‘how’s your head?’ she asks.
I shrug and give her my best smile.
‘Thugs that’s what them Tilbys are. Although that Ed isn’t the worst.’
I start on the dinner, because that’s my chore in the house.
I think on how Ma Tilby kept her twins housed. Even when others lingered outside the church to pass the gossip to and fro, she’d march them up the tight climb to ‘Fern Hollow’ farm. It’s nestled in a small valley at the top of Dromore hill.
Talk was their Ma left the farm to Edward the eldest and now there’s bad blood between the twins.
‘All for the luck of a few minutes,’ McGovern said when Mammy gave in and he came calling to rent our farm.
We couldn’t keep up with the seasons even when The Barren Widow, Dottie joined us. Now there’s just a few acres around the house to give us privacy and drills for the vegetables.
‘Are you sure you’re alright?’ Mammy asks me and she seems more concerned than usual after I have ‘an episode’ of the fainting.
There’s no need for me to reply, for as usual Mammy thinks what she wants. I touch the bandage and nod.
‘That Ernest’s a scary animal. Did he talk to you at all before you passed out?’
I wonder when she’ll hear about me being in the public house. Taking out one of my little note-books I write – Knocked into me outside McGovern’s. He took me inside. I didn’t want to go. Fainted. Home.
‘The Doc was probably in there?’
‘I’ll forgive him so,’ she smiles and goes to check on the oven. ‘Some day you’ll talk to me again won’t you Minnie?’
She’s like Matilda. Making me feel guilty that I won’t speak up. I want to scream at her but instead write, If I could I would.
‘You can and you should. Skinny little Minnie like you needs to use your head.’
She means no man will marry me. That stings almost as much as my forehead.
I’m flicking through Mammy’s recipe book by the kitchen sink when there’s a tap on the window. Looking up, I see Ernest’s dark eyes.
‘You’re still livin’ then?’ he says loudly. He’s smiling and I can see all of his face together as I’m not stealing a glance at the side of his nose, or peering at him in the distance fields.
My lips curl at the ends. He winks. I pull away from gazing at him and go to the door.
‘You’re still livin’ then?’ He says again and strides in and looks around. ‘Alone?’ he asks and I nod. Mammy and the Barren Widow, are in the vegetable field.
I take a long look at Ernest. He’s shaved and washed. Looks cleaner, more respectable and very handsome with his hair greased back roughly and his sideburns trimmed.
He says, ‘you look better anyhow. Except the mark of course.’
My lips fall downwards and I point to the wobbly stool by the table.
‘Did your Ma say to you about the work? Fine woman she is. Edward wanted me to come see if you’d thought about it. We need someone and you’re no gossip.’
His hair glistens in the morning sunlight and I stare at the bow in his lips, it’s large and round like a girl’s. There’s something very pretty about his chin and I can’t pull away from the darkest eyes I’ve ever seen.
‘Will I speak to your Ma? Or do you want to just say yes and come tomorrow?’
I nod. Being near to him gives me a jitter in my tummy and there’s a longing in me to make the stray curl near his ear sit down.
‘Course you’ll have to pass the field you found your father in. That’ll be fine now after all this time?’
My eyes fill with tears.
‘I’m rough with everything,’ he says getting to his feet but the stool wobbles as I pass him and he grabs at my arm to steady himself.
I love the feel of him.
There’s a dreadful silence as he sits again and somehow a pot of tea gets made and I tremble placing the tea-cosy in place. He’s watching me. I set out some cake and feel the sweat rise in my arm-pits and the flutter in my innards comes again. It’s then his dog starts chasing the hens in our yard. The din should’ve made him do something. But no. The crumbs get pushed into his lovely mouth and then those lips slurp around the cup. He winks, ‘fine cake.’
Like lightning, a grin spreads across me until I see Mammy striding past the window and hear the squeal of a kicked dog. The latch on the kitchen door gets lifted and there she is, standing clattered in clay and looking like a warrior princess from the story, Dottie’s reading to us in the evenings.
‘That dog?’ she starts and sees Ernest. She spies the cake and the tea-cosy. Holding my breath, my cheeks pound. I feel guilty about something, I’m not sure what.
‘I called to see Minnie,’ Ernest says.
‘She’s fine. Better than our hens,’ Mammy points to the yard. ‘I kicked your bitch off home.’
I wince at Mammy’s cursing. She never uses those words unless there’s a man about.
‘Minnie’s willing to come to work,’ he says. ‘She’s coming tomorrow.’
I like the way he speaks. Mammy doesn’t reply and his confidence doesn’t give her a choice. There’s a flutterin’ in me again as she goes to wash her hands in the sink. I sense Ernest’s looking at me and I become brazen from somewhere and wink at him. It’s a quick, knowing connection between us. A naughty secret – behind Mammy’s back.
Those dark eyes twinkle at me, he slurps from the mug and stuffs in the last of the cake and smiles. Why is it that I never want him to stop looking at me that way?
Sharon Thompson is the author of Amazon #1 crime novel The Abandoned. She has signed with leading crime publishing house Bloodhound Books UK for two more books. She is the co-founder of #WritersWise a trending, writers’ tweet-chat (www.writerswise1.wordpress.com).
Check back next Sunday for another short story from Sharon. If you are a local writer of stories or poetry, email email@example.com to inquire about featuring.