Strong woman.

The appeal of athletic and strong women is fascinating in it’s complexity. I recall an event when I was single and much younger, that sums up that complexity. I had a large poster in my bedroom featuring a very sexy female bodybuilder called Tonya Knight. She was by no means as big as some, but was very athletic, and in my eyes, very feminine.  A girl I started dating saw it and said, “You must be gay to like her!”  I had already demonstrated my fully heterosexual appetites to her on several occasions, so I found this comment puzzling.

Since then I have heard similar comments from men and women. I can see why they might arise in the case of female bodybuilders that push too far and take testosterone and other drugs. They do often look, at best androgynous, and at worst masculine.  My character Rachel is not of that type, she is athletic and genetically suited to building muscle. She is fully feminine and beautiful. In these stories she struggles with societies perceptions of what it is to be female. She is often described as an amazon warrior. I use these tales to explore sexual roles and to push against stereotypes imposed by those who are threatened by strong women, strong of character and body.

The latest work featuring my amazon warrior Rachel.

Peeling the Onion.

I strive to give my work layers of meaning so that reader could take what they want from the novels. They can be simple escapist thrillers or very much more. Marcia Quinn-Noren has read each of the West Cork Trilogy novels and has unpeeled the literary onion so beautifully, I felt compelled to share her reviews here. In her work illuminating the spiritual layers of ‘the maid’ in: Joan of Arc, The Mystic Legacy, she demonstrated her skill as a peeler of layers and someone sensitive to nuance and depth of meaning. I was therefore especially gratified when she brought that sensitivity to bear on reviewing my work. She has illuminated the trilogy as beautifully as she did her Joan. I’m thankful and delighted by the results. I know Marcia Quinn-Noren to be a stickler for honesty and she is a courageous battler against – bull,  so I will say: yes Marcia is a friend. I also know if she found fault with my work I’d hear about it, and how!  I say this so there can be no suspicion that these reviews are authors patting each other’s backs, a practice we both abhor.

Here are her reviews:

Review of Surviving Beauty, by Marcia Quinn-Noren.

New Surviving Beauty
New Surviving Beauty

The Dangers that Walk With Beauty,

A simple question framed on the book’s cover, above the image of a sun-kissed blonde, her perfectly wide-set eyes brimming with innocence, hints at the controversial topics probed within David Rory O’Neill’s courageous and compelling novel: “Can Regan survive the exploitation of her beauty?” The title itself suggests what many of us know full well, yet fail to consciously acknowledge. An element of danger accompanies the attribute of beauty.

This first volume of the “West Cork Trilogy” takes readers into young Regan’s world, where shadows stalk her every move throughout the precious days, months and years of her late childhood and early adolescence. Well paced chapters introduce a growing cast of finely developed characters, bringing intensity, suspense, confrontation, rescue and retribution.

The heroic force embodied by Detective Inspector Jim Burrows breaks the grip of evil that has held Regan and her friend Mary in a state of bondage. But wounded creatures suffer from their unseen scars, long after the trap has been sprung. While the coping mechanisms that served to support Regan’s survival are no longer needed, they remain fixed at the core of her being.

Jim’s strong convictions find support in the genuine, tender love he shares with his sensuous Biddy, the wife who stands beside him. Their relationship demonstrates the healing power of romantic harmony, allowing Regan to find the security, safety and serenity that had been absent from her life. Will the gifts so generously offered by Jim and Biddy provide adequate soothing balm to heal and transform Regan’s inner turmoil and confusion into calm self-containment? I look forward to finding the answer to this and much more in “Beauty’s Price” and “Blue Sky Orphan” as the trilogy continues.

Review of Beauty’s Price by Marcia Quinn-Noren.

New Beauty's Price
New Beauty’s Price

In “Beauty’s Price”, the second book of David Rory O’Neill’s “West Cork Trilogy” we are reunited with the characters introduced in “Surviving Beauty”. O’Neill’s themes combine incidents of high drama, action-packed enough to be in the “thriller” category, with soothing, authentic interaction between his extraordinarily strong characters. The lives they lead might be considered exotic, and far from conventional. Embracing their worldview requires the reader’s willingness to move away from the ordinary.

I am inspired by the bravery displayed by these characters as they move through their individual and collective emotional and physical crises, facing down whatever confronts them. What is most beautiful about their inter-relationships is that no one is alone here; they guard and protect one another, in scenes that combine acts of ferocity with moments of great tenderness. David and Regan are physically beautiful lovers whose happy ending seems certain, and yet we know that life offers anything but certainty. The evil acts and influences inflicted upon them by Eric Lang and Jo Dillon in “Surviving Beauty” left them both scarred on the inside. Those interior wounds now take their toll, years later.

As we have seen in the world of celebrity, when a woman is blessed with perfect beauty, the asset seen by the world as powerful, she will not necessarily be fortunate. She will not be treated with greater respect, but instead she will experience objectification. Looking into a mirror, she may only see her flaws.

She only knows that she is noticed, no matter where she goes, even into the supermarket. She feels the responses coming at her, and they are not all positive. Being ‘ogled’ can feel more threatening than complimentary. She may be more likely to attract the ‘wrong kind’ of man, the kind of man who wants to possess something of value. She eventually may discover that her beloved was smitten by his own idealization of her, and is terrified of facing the reality of her flaws and complexities.

Jim Burrows provides the final, heroic act of retribution that frees Regan and Mary from being forever imprisoned by the past. But David’s release is less clear. Will he survive beauty’s price? More will be revealed in “Blue Sky Orphan” as his shadow haunts the third book in the West Cork Trilogy. We must believe in his survival, as these characters continue to prove that the power of love stands victorious over adversity and evil.

Book Review: Blue Sky Orphan by Marcia Quinn Noren

BSOcoverMajor themes in the novels of David Rory O’Neill are human sensitivity, the power of open-hearted empathy, and triumph over adversity, brought by physical and emotional strength. In “Blue Sky Orphan” we are introduced to Emma, the character I grew to love most, in all the books of his West Cork Trilogy.

In the opening pages we find Emma the pilot, alone in the blue sky, bursting with the joy that comes from feeling such freedom, yet risk-taking, once again. For her, this is an all-too familiar game; cheating death, one more time. Taking risks has become more than second nature for Emma, it is part of her essence. She doesn’t know how to live any other way.

Instinct-injured women are drawn toward forms of danger that would repel those with “normal” instincts. Emma’s self-containment is unnerving for those who observe her closely. She considers herself the observer, and is almost unaware of being observed. Accustomed to attracting the attention of both genders, she remains internally preoccupied with her thoughts, duties and plans of action. Those who watch her ask themselves, “What is it that holds her together and yet apart, so very separate from the rest of us?”

All of that changes when Emma steps out of the comfort zone of her compatible partnership with the enigmatic Peter, into the world of his past, and the people and places he had kept secret from her. Becoming introduced to Lauren and Daniel, two primary characters who populated that world, would open her, change and break her, then make her whole again. Bonny, who completes the inexplicable triad is an enchantress whose spell-casting mesmerizes and captivates Emma.

The mutual attraction between these powerful women is perfectly natural, but their acceptance of one another’s power is utterly unlike what most of us have experienced. That power brings healing beyond measure to each of these individual women, and to the men who love them.

There are surprising, explosive confrontations within the pages of this book, as villainous pirates attack during a pleasure cruise, and Emma witnesses the kind of unholy violence that was part of Peter’s history with Daniel and Lauren. Ultimately, safety comes from the sanctity of the bond that holds these characters together.

What held true for me as I read “Blue Sky Orphan” is the ebb and flow that takes place in each human heart, that constant movement taking us in and out of connection to the hearts of others.

Taking liberties with the facts.

It’s often called artistic licence, some might say it’s not justified, others it’s a valid tool of the creator of the fiction that is the novel.

In my first published novel, Conflict, I use a location for some of the crucial scenes, which I knew to be historically inaccurate. The prime location for much of the action is a driving school located in Smithfield Square, Belfast. The old covered market that once stood there is the setting for several pivotal scenes. The novel is set in the late 1970s several years after the old market was burned down in a firebomb attack. It was eventually re-built in the form it now has. When I set these scenes, I knew I was playing fast and loose with the facts of the location.

So far, no reader has pulled me up on that, so for the record here is a little of the nostalgia that led me to use this location – even after it had been consigned to the history files I raided for these images. (They are taken from public access internet sources, if any are considered copyright protected let me know and I’ll take the offending image down.)

The bookshop

I set one scene in the second-hand book shop seen in this image.  This place was responsible for my youthful literary (and sexual) education. Harry Hall, book seller, sold and traded mostly cheap paperbacks but also mens interest magazines! A boy who looked older than his thirteen years might, if he was bold, buy such a magazine there. Perhaps to stash it under his bed for secret pleasures and revelations about the mystery of the much desired but unknown land that was the woman.

I began my collection of John Steinbeck’s novels in Harry Hall’s shop. I still have several first edition paperbacks bought there when I was perhaps twelve. The more common and long forgotten pot boilers were traded for the shillings, I earned on my paper rounds. I spent money earned in this way, feeding my mind rather than on the more usual: sweets and soda and the then new – cheese and onion potato crisps.

The market square.

Fiction and non fiction, anything and everything could be found in this literary underworld of cheap and often pulp fiction. So when I embarked, late in life, on a literary adventure, this my literary touch stone, had to feature in that work, even if the historical facts didn’t support that. I took liberties with an area infamous in Belfast’s cultural history, for the taking of liberties.


This history taken from:

An old map of Smithfield.

Smithfield Market became the focus of popular culture throughout the nineteenth century with, at one time, 27 public houses being resident on the square. Smithfield’s reputation for bawdy life was embodied by the location of Marshalsea Prison, a hospital, dispensary and a house of industry, on the square. The market itself was mostly open to the elements until the Belfast Corporation created a square roofed building sometime during the late nineteenth century. The market housed clothes dealers, auctioneer’s, theatres and a handball alley. One contemporary noted: ‘We penetrated into Smithfield court, which is not unworthy of the patronymic. This is, as we learned on the spot, the battle ground of the whole neighborhood; and wrathful pugilists resort thither, even from the most distant parts of the town, to settle their disputes after their own fashion, undisturbed by impertinent policemen.’

The Rev WM O’Hanlon expressed stronger views in 1853: ‘The very worst grade of our population will be found heaped together, corrupting and being corrupted, in this quarter. It is a sort of tumour … in the heart of our city.’ The square was at its most lively at the end of August during the Lammas fair. As SM Elliott testified: ‘Thousands of country people, especially sweethearts, gathered in Smithfield.’ The ghost of Biddy Farelly is said to walk the market at Lammas time, seeking out Luke White, her childhood sweetheart who deserted her to earn his fortune in Dublin.

With the advent of the covered square, Smithfield became, in the words of Robert Johnstone, ‘like the souk in an Hibernian Casablanca’, an underground paradise of bric-a-brac.

Prominent families included the Dawsons, the Kavanaghs and the Havelins, who still run premises on Berry Street. The last inhabitant of Smithfield, Joe Kavanagh, did not close his ‘I buy anything’ shop until 2000, which for many was the valedictory event in Smithfield’s history. The market continued to exist under the noses of the great industrial citizens, always regarded as a low place with dubious morals. For most of the twentieth century, the Belfast Corporation, as the council was then called, attempted to close Smithfield down.

An inside lane.

In 1974, the Corporation was planning to demolish the old bus station site, but they were saved the trouble by the efforts of firebombers in May. Amid the uproar of those years, nostalgia was a rare resource, but many were aware that a complex and colourful past had been razed.The market was rebuilt with prefabs in 1976, and a new brick building was opened in 1986. But to many in the city, the soul of the market was gone. With the advent of Castle Court, a smelly, dirty and disorganised market had little place in the city.To those who remember the old Smithfield or have listened to its tales, a certain part of the rough and ready exoticism of Belfast has been lost. As Herbert Moore Pim states in Unknown Immortals:’In Smithfield, breathing as it does the majestic maxim, “Man know thyself” we have a storehouse of splendours, for the loss of which nothing could compensate this city of success.’

Abandon Genre?

Let me declare an interest first: The limitations, (self-imposed or inflicted by big publishers,) that writing within a genre inflicts on my creative process, was one of the principal reasons I went Indie.

Genre is a thing most writers grapple with either during the creative process, or more usually after – when they are trying to wedge their work into one of the strictly enforced genre groups dictated first by agents, then publishers and finally by retailers.

My writing has always been defiant of an easy fit within in one or even three genres. I choose to avoid thinking about genre at all during the creative process. I follow the plot and the characters in a process of imaginative living and visualising that takes many twists and turns and does not conform to any genre specific rules.  That results in, thriller like scenes, physiological drama, free-flow internal dialogue, poetic literary description of places and people, sexual and sensual frankness and challenging perspectives on politics, history and society. There may be themes in each novel and subtexts that explore a given idea, but usually when I begin a new novel – I’ve no idea where it will go and certainly no idea what genre slot it might be crammed uncomfortably into.

Please don’t get the idea I’m complaining here. I think the advent of Indie publishing and the freedom afforded to writers by the explosion of eBooks and the possibilities offered by Createspace and other on-demand publishers, is the greatest liberation ever offered to those of us compelled to follow the uniquely human impulse to tell stories. However; even here in the brave new publishing world, we must face the task of ticking the menu-buttons to indicate what genre our efforts must be labelled with. I tried the catch all: Literary fiction. I tried: Thriller and it’s sub headings.  I tried: Family Saga. I tried: Historical Fiction. I even included: Lesbian romance. All this after the novel was completed, never during the writing.

Here I come to the argument of this essay: How much should we as writers allow concerns about genre to dictate how we write and what we write? There are obvious exceptions. Those who describe what they write as: Science Fiction, or perhaps: Erotica, or: Crime –  might think those genres present no impediment to them as writers. I would argue that even within these fairly clear genres, too, much concern about staying within prescribed boundaries limits the creative process and results in work that is less satisfying for reader and writer than it could be – if genre were not considered during the writing.

I am therefore suggesting, that we as writers, need to be braver about stepping outside the traditional boundaries of genre, at least during the creative process. I’d love to see these genre categories destroyed completely but I can see how that revolution might have downsides too.

Perhaps a compromise might be a whole new genre: Outside Genre or No Genre. Come on Amazon, let’s have that on your listings.

First page puzzle.

The first few pages of any novel is so critical, whole books have been devoted to how to write them. I’ve read a few and honestly can’t say I learned anything useful I didn’t already know. One does read first pages that have obviously followed the creating writing class formula to the tee. It’s obvious and makes me wince. I’ve done twelve novels now so I know when I’ve got it right. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s a bloody struggle. Just occasionally it’s so right it makes me smile and feel guilty for feeling so satisfied. I wish I could pass on the formula. I really wish I could because then I could get right every time myself.

The most difficult starts I have is on one of my series novels. I am mindful of wanting each to stand alone and be enjoyable without having to read any others in the series. That presents a great challenge. How much back story can I put in without annoying those who’ve read the pervious novels in the series? How much character introduction do I need to achieve the same thing? How to intrigue and draw the reader in without being too obvious?

I have two examples here which I believe do the job well enough to give me that grin. The first is from number 2 in the Daniel Series: Challenge. The task here was to set the plot historically; the opening of the Falklands War in 1982 and describe the role of the principal characters. I also needed to introduce the two main protagonists: Lauren and Bonny and ease the reader into an understanding of  their unusual relationship. I think it worked.

What do you think?


Chapter 1. April 1982. Bad News.

To: Mrs B.A. Dawes. From:CINCFLEET Operational Headquarters, Northwood, Middlesex. It is my sad duty to inform you that your husband, Lieutenant Commander Daniel Dawes DSC/Bar FAA 826NAS R.N. has been reported missing (presumed dead) while on active service in the South Atlantic on or about the 29th April 1982. I regret I have no further information at this time but will be in touch immediately if any further information becomes available. Captain F.L.W. Jones RN.

“That’s it word for word, Lauren,” said Bonny. She set down the note and held the phone with both hands to try to stop the quiver.

“I’m coming now, darling. Hang on. I’ll make a few calls first and see what I can find out, but please don’t worry. I don’t believe this and neither should you. Hold on, Bonny, I’m coming.”

           Bonny went to the front door, opened it and stood gripping the frame to steady herself. The wind was chill and strong. Twenty yards away across the lawn, the waters of the Dart estuary were being whipped to a muddy brown soup. The great weeping willow at the water’s edge danced and flailed as its thin branches whistled and wind-wailed. This can’t be true. Lauren is right, this is crap. My DD isn’t dead. I’d feel it. I would know. Daniel won’t die so easy. Oh bloody hell, am I kidding myself. This is a proper war. A big gun and bomb and missile war, not like… no, no, Daniel’s not dead. Bonny shivered and stepped back inside. She slammed the door hard, threw her head back and howled and cursed as loud as she could. When she felt herself grow faint with the exertion and breathlessness, she sank to her knees, laid her head down on the old-oak floor boards and cried. The warm musky smell from the boards suddenly intruded on her anguish as she had a vivid recall. She was laid on the floor near the roaring fire. The big rug had not masked the warmed wood scent rising beneath her. Bonny’s senses were on fire as Daniel lay beside her, playing her body from toes to bliss-closed eyes. The smell of burning logs mingled with wine and the male musk of Daniel and her own arousal and lingering perfume, all there, but that old oak wood scent had stuck uppermost in her sense-memory and now it brought all those associated memories flooding back. Bonny sat up and touched her finger to her lips, remembering the touch of Daniel’s lips there. No, my Daniel is alive and he will be back to kiss me again.

           Bonny had only been Mrs Dawes since just before Daniel had sailed for the Falkland Islands and a possible war. He had insisted on marriage for very pragmatic reasons to do with pensions and life insurance and had pulled some strings to get the whole thing pushed through quickly. Bonny and Daniel had been living together for a little over three years. Their first six months had been spent in a lovely apartment at Cultra on the shores of Belfast Lough. When Daniel had come for flight training to Cornwall, they’d found their idyllic cottage overlooking the Dart estuary. The cottage had been advertised for sale on a postcard in a local shop and they’d bought it the same day. The owner was also navy and the cash price agreed was very reasonable. Bonny had used an inheritance from her father and Daniel had put in his savings.

Bonny-Ann Dawes was twenty-three years old but could pass for sixteen at a casual glance. She was a little less than five foot tall and had long thick black hair framing a round girlish face with prominent cheekbones and huge bright hypnotic eyes. They were palest grey blue with rings of yellow and emerald flecks. She had thick dark eyebrows and plump ripe lips and her skin was that flawless white that only Irish girls seem to have. Her small stature only became apparent when you stood close, because her figure was so well proportioned it made her look taller from a distance. She had curves, abundant curves to hips, thighs, waist and bum and, most noticeable of all, breasts. These, her most prominent feature, were near melon-sized and -shaped and sat high and firm on her chest. All these female curves were not soft and girly but taut and well muscled. Bonny had spent the past three years exercising twice a day and it showed in her hard-defined low-fat athletic physique. Much to her delight but less so Daniel’s, she had also dropped three bra cup sizes. This athletic quality to her body had been encouraged by her relationship with the woman she had phoned. Lieutenant Lauren J. Greer. She was a Physical Training Instructor at the Britannia Naval College in Dartmouth. Daniel and Lauren had worked together in their native Belfast for a highly secret military intelligence unit known as detachment 16. They had used a driving school as cover for their operations and it was as a pupil there that Bonny had first met Daniel and later Lauren. Bonny’s father had been one of the people det16 were targeting.

           Bonny was in a daze and time passed unnoticed. Again, Bonny thought about the meaning of this note and over and over she thought about why she didn’t believe. Daniel had survived four attempts on his life during his time in Belfast and had come through unscathed. Other people died, two of his team had died and Bonny’s cousin Ray and her own father and many others but not Daniel. He didn’t do dying. Daniel was the rock. She and Lauren and his det16 intelligence team all depended on his unflappable calm and razor sharp awareness of danger to keep them safe. He couldn’t possibly be dead.

The war had not even started on the 29th. How is this possible? It’s a mistake and Lauren will fix it. Wonderful organised sorted Lauren will get the truth and make this inconceivable message go away. She will bring our beloved Daniel back to us.

           Bonny heard a car on the gravel as Lauren’s little blue Renault 5 Gordini screamed up the long drive and skidded to a dusty stop. Lauren erupted out of the car and sprinted to the door. She was wearing a dark blue sweat top with navy badges, very brief running shorts and short white socks and trainers and was carrying an incongruously ornate and girly handbag. Her blond hair was tied back in a ponytail. She wore a long fringe cut straight across her eyebrow line. Her skin was tanned bronze and shining. Her remarkable sprinter’s muscles popped and bulged as she flew up the garden path, a picture of athletic perfection. Bonny ran to the door and, as she opened it, Lauren scooped her into her arms and hugging her, held her face and kissed her. Bonny’s eyes filled with fear as she fought back tears: “Tell me it’s not true, Lauren. Please tell me it’s a mistake. It can’t be true, I’d feel it if he was gone, but I feel him in me strong. He’s not dead.”

           Lauren, at five ten, was much taller than Bonny and so strong that she had lifted her off her feet so Bonny now hung with her arms around Lauren’s neck, looking into her eyes, searching for clues of what she might know. Lauren lowered her to her feet, took her hand, led her to the couch and sat close beside her: “Bonny darling, I have phoned some people who are looking into it as we speak. They have this number and will phone us here soon. I phoned Rear Admiral Ranson. He was our boss at det16, remember. I also phoned my father. He still has many friends high up at the Admiralty and a few others I know at Northwood. I think you’re right, sweetheart – Daniel is not dead. This letter is bollocks.”

           Lauren made them tea as Bonny talked in the spontaneous nervous way people in shock do. “If he hadn’t wanted to fly he would be all right. He’s a submarine hunter. Surely that’s not very high risk even down there and the news has made no mention of any accidents apart from that one Sea King that went down on a transfer flight. That crew was named. There’s something screwy here. Someone knows and isn’t telling. It’s spy stuff for sure. I’ll bet they’ve dragged him back into sneaky stuff again. Do you think that could be it, Lauren. Spy stuff again? Could he be in Argentina?”

The next is from number 5 Judgement. I really like this one. The task here was complicated by the need to introduce four children and three adults. Plus set the back story.


Chapter 1. Mimosa Again.

Dee Josephine Dawes stood at the foot of the bed and looked at her father as he lay snoring. She was well used to the sound and found it comforting if she awoke at night. If she didn’t hear his distinctive night call she would feel ill at ease and have difficulty getting back to sleep as she worried where he was. Sometimes, like tonight, she would get up and come to her parents’ bedroom to listen at the door or peek in to reassure herself that all was well. Tonight she hadn’t heard the sound and had come for her reassurance. As she opened the door and peered in, she heard Mammy Bonny making her usual puffing sound. Bonny lay on her back one arm over her head with the huge white globes of her breasts silver in the moonlight. Beside her in the same bed was Dee’s mother, Lauren, silent and still with the sheet cast off as usual. Her long golden hair looked like pure silver in the moonlight streaming in through the huge windows that made up one wall of the bedroom.

                  Papa was not in the same bed and Dee was alarmed for a second until she stepped into the room and saw him in the small double bed by the wall. He was curled up on his side and when she came to the foot of his bed he rolled onto his back, grunted and began to snore. She could see the big plaster just below his neck that covered the wound. Dee shivered when she saw that and had a vivid flashback to the moment when Papa had been shot and she had thought he was gone. She made herself stop thinking about it and instead remembered the night she had spent in the hospital bed with him when she had woken frightened from her dreams. He had talked to her about her fears of death. That had been so nice and she wished she could get into his bed now and cuddle to make herself feel better and to hold him so he wouldn’t go away or die.

                  Suddenly there was silence and Dee saw his eyes shining bright and open. He lifted the side of his sheet in invitation and she came and snuggled up by his side. She laid her head on his chest and felt the soothing beat of his heart and the heat of his body. His arm came down her back and he patted her bum gently as he whispered: “Bad dreams, sweetheart?”

“No, Papa. I just woke up and couldn’t hear you and wanted to make sure you were alright.”

                  He lifted her long strawberry blond hair from her face and kissed her softly on the forehead, and that was all she needed to relax and drift away to the familiar lullaby of his heartbeat.

                  Across the room Lauren had opened her eyes and saw her daughter standing at the foot of Daniel’s bed, looking at him. Her first instinct was to call her but she waited and saw Daniel beckon Dee to the comfort of his cuddle. Tears came to Lauren then and she had to suppress the sigh she felt rise in her. Daniel had been right when he had warned that Dee would take the trauma of the past weeks harder than the others. Little Dee was so serious and such a thinker, even at just six. “No, six and a half, Mama.” She could be startlingly perceptive and would say and do things that made her seem much older. Ever since her father’s latest brush with death, she had been ill at ease when he was away from her. During the time when he had remained in hospital and the family had returned to the sanctuary of Bonny-Mimosa,Dee had been unhappy and fretful and insisted on speaking to him every day on the phone. Everyone, including the other children, tried to reassure her without success. They had been in the pool this afternoon when Daniel and Dave arrived. Daniel had shouted from the road above in the valley. Lauren had watched Dee’s reaction as she leapt from the pool with the others. Kathy, Christine and David had stood by Bonny’s side and bounced and yelled. Dee had come to Lauren, taken her hand and said very softly over and over, “It’s OK now. Papa’s here now, it’s OK.”

                  When they emerged from the car five minutes later, Daniel had been nearly bowled over in the stampede to hug him, a charge led by Bonny. He had staggered in with Kathy, David and even the usually reserved Christine clinging to him, and Bonny bouncing by his side. Lauren had put on her swimsuit but Bonny was as usual, completely unaware of her nakedness, and the presence of Dave made no difference. Dave tried hard to avert his eyes but Bonny’s so female abundance was impossible for any heterosexual male to ignore. He busied himself getting their stuff from the hire car as the naked squealing scrum came into the house. Daniel collapsed on the sofa buried in children and Bonny. Dee stood holding Lauren’s hand, grinning and waiting. Daniel managed to shuck the excited huggers off and opened his arms to Dee, who let go her restraint and threw herself into his embrace, crying tears of relief and happiness.

                  Lauren heard the bedroom door again and Kathy’s round pale face appeared like a little moon. There was a whisper, then Christine appeared and they came to the side of Daniel’s bed. They stood holding hands obviously unsure about disturbing their father and sister. Kathy was only a week younger than Dee, and Christine fifteen months, but Dee was the big sister and thought she was the boss. Kathy challenged that assumption frequently, but still they were reluctant to risk annoying her now because they were well aware how upset Dee had been. Without opening his eyes, Daniel lifted his sheet and they got in beside him. Kathy couldn’t contain her excitement and let out a little squeak that woke Dee. As they all settled, enveloped in their father’s arms, Dee looked at Kathy across his chest and whispered: “Bugger.”

                  Kathy stuck out her tongue but didn’t rise to the challenge as she usually would. A few moments later the door opened again and David appeared. He looked at his sisters cuddled up beside Daniel and he too let go what was becoming the family’s familiar curse: “Bugger.”

                  Lauren waved him to her, and when he was close she lifted him and set him between Bonny and herself. Bonny whispered: “Never mind, darling, it’s much nicer for you here between the soft Mammies.” She hugged him and got a muffled. “Ummph, Mammy I can’t breathe in here.”

                  She released him from the pillows of her breasts and he curled up on his mother’s shoulder and was soon asleep. Lauren turned towards Bonny and in the silver rays could see her big round luminous eyes open and moist with emotion. Lauren reached across and put her hand on Bonny’s cheek and felt the damp of her tears, as she too was moved, shedding happy sad tears of relief and loving empathy.

 Like I said, I know when it works but I can’t say how it works. 

It’s about the words.

The words…

 Daniel walked through the garden to the shoreline. The tide was out and he was able to slip out of his shoes and walk along the water’s edge. It was fine silt-mud this far up the estuary, but he enjoyed the feel of it squelching through his toes as he slowly made his way down towards the sea. The sun was gone behind the hills in the west but it was still a fine light evening with a lovely red glow to the sky behind the cottage. He stopped to look but found he was sinking and had to keep moving. Kris’s manipulation had eased his body and he felt more mobile with less pain when walking. His mind felt fuzzy and unfocused and kept flitting about from memories and images to speculations and questions about the future. Since he’d left hospital, he’d had no time to be reflective and hadn’t given thought to anything beyond the immediate and urgent concerns of their safety. Now he tried to think once again of what he would do next. His mind wouldn’t fix on it and kept flitting back to the recent past. He was aware of feeling something like irritation, as if being bitten by a small insect. A tiny pinprick but constant and growing more annoying every minute. He stopped again and tried to concentrate on what it was that was bugging him. He felt his feet begin to disappear in the soft mud but didn’t move. He closed his eyes and looked intensely inward trying to clear away the mud that was in his mind as well as round his ankles.

Then, like a light being switched on in a dark room, he saw it. It grew and enveloped him so he threw back his head and roared as loud as he could, again and again. The sound echoed around the estuary as a flock of shore birds rose chittering and squealing in alarm from the reeds beside him. He opened his eyes and saw them tile the sky around him. He was filled with a great rage and pure clear anger. He had gone back to Ireland to do a good thing – tell Lauren’s parents the news of her pregnancy. The bastards had dragged him back into their sordid vile tribal violence again. He felt contaminated and defiled by it and that filled him with outrage. He had felt no such thing when he had aimed his weapon at Jimmy and ended his life. Then he had felt nothing at all, an effective emotional numbness. Now, the thing that had been nibbling at him bit hard and made him scream in indignation. m so he threw back his head and roared as loud as he could, again and again. The sound echoed around the estuary as a flock of shore birds rose chittering and squealing in alarm from the reeds beside him. He opened his eyes and saw them tile the sky around him. He was filled with a great rage and pure clear anger. He had gone back to Ireland to do a good thing – tell Lauren’s parents the news of her pregnancy. The bastards had dragged him back into their sordid vile tribal violence again. He felt contaminated and defiled by it and that filled him with outrage. He had felt no such thing when he had aimed his weapon at Jimmy and ended his life. Then he had felt nothing at all, an effective emotional numbness. Now, the thing that had been nibbling at him bit hard and made him scream in indignation.

From: Passion.

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