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In this hugely enjoyable anthology, established bestselling Irish writers have joined forces with up-and-coming new stars to raise money for a very good cause. Poignant, provocative, hilarious and heartwarming in turn, this varied and memorable collection includes never-before-published stories from Patricia Scanlan, Julie Parsons, Deirdre Purcell, Sarah Webb, Cecilia Ahern, Morag Prunty, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Martina Devlin, Gemma O'Connor, Joan O'Neill, Annie Sparrow, Una Brankin, Aine Greaney, Suzanne Higgins, Tina Reilly, Catherine Foley, Claire Dowling and Rosaleen Linehan. GBP1 from every copy sold will be divided between Barnardo's children's charity and the St Vincent de Paul Society in Ireland.
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Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. All of her books have been Number One bestsellers, most recently With All My Love, A Time for Friends and Orange Blossom Days. Patricia is the series editor and a contributing author to the Open Door series. Find out more by visiting Patricia’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/PatriciaScanlanAuthor.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"You're coming home for Christmas. Fantastic! We'll have to get together. You'll have to come over for a meal." Kathy Reynolds injected a note of false gaiety into her voice as she spoke to Mari Clancy, an old schoolfriend who was ringing from Dubai. "Is Brett coming with you?"
"Er...no, not this year. Can't get time off. Things are a bit crazy with the Iraqi situation." Mari sounded glum.
"Oh...poor Brett," Kathy sympathized, privately relieved that the wealthy consultant wouldn't be around to patronize herself and Bill with his boastful tales of life in the Emirates.
"So look, how about the day after Stephen's Day? You know the way the diary fills up, and Mam will have me doing the rounds like nobody's business," Mari said briskly.
"I'll be looking forward to it," Kathy lied, thinking that a visit from Mari was the last thing she needed.
They talked for another while, swapping gossip and news and Kathy was glad it was Mari who had called. It must be costing a fortune but Mari was loaded and money wasn't an issue for her, unlike herself.
Later, in the kitchen, she found herself humming "My heart is low, my heart is so low, as only a woman's heart can be..." To her way of thinking it was one of the greatest songs ever written for and about women. The woman who had written that song knew exactly what Kathy was feeling at that moment. Low, disheartened, dispirited, depressed and extremely agitated.
She wiped along the top of her worktops vigorously. When Kathy was agitated she cleaned her worktops over and over again, lifting the bread bin and matching set of coffee, tea and sugar containers, annihilating any unfortunate crumb lurking in the vicinity. Today the worktops were getting a rigorous going-over, as were the fridge-freezer doors and the top of the cooker.
It was funny, how she headed for the kitchen when she was under pressure. Her sister always attacked the bathroom in her moments of stress. Kathy's best friend, Laura, would invariably cut the grass.
She sighed deeply, feeling totally stressed out. Her husband Bill had been out of a job for the last fourteen months and there was no sign of anything on the horizon. Christmas was just ten days away and her three children were up to ninety with excitement at the thoughts of Santa's impending arrival.
The Christmas shopping had to be done. She and Bill had just had a row about it. Now, to crown it all, she'd had the call from Mari to say she would be back in town for Christmas. More expense. Kathy gave a sigh that came from the depths of her being. Normally she loved having visitors and it would have been a pleasure to see her old schoolfriend, but these days, she didn't want to see anyone. She just wanted to shrivel up inside her shell and stay there.
In the last few months all her hope that Bill would have no problems in finding another job had become harder and harder to sustain. As money got tighter their savings dwindled and their standard of living noticeably diminished. Kathy increasingly felt like burying her head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.
She didn't want Mari Clancy coming to her house when she had no oil for the central heating. Kathy didn't want her to know that she'd sold her Fiesta and Bill's Volvo was in the garage because they hadn't got the money to tax and insure it. Mari would have to put up with cheap wine and a simple meal. Kathy just didn't have the money for steaks and champagne. It was months since she'd been able to afford luxuries like that.
Kathy rubbed viciously at a particularly stubborn piece of grit that was embedded between the curved edge of her drainer and the muted grey worktop. To think she couldn't even afford to go to an off-licence any more. Who would have ever thought it? Who would have ever thought that their family's affluent, comfortable lifestyle would have been so severely shaken, and disrupted that gut-wrenching evening when Bill had come home from work, grey-faced and shaken, to tell her that the multinational computer company that he worked for was closing its Irish operation in favour of their American outfit, with a loss of five hundred jobs.
"I'm finished, Kathy, I'll never get another job at my age." Bill sat with his head buried in his hands while Kathy tried to take in what her husband had just told her.
"Don't be daft, Bill!" she said firmly. "You're only forty-three. That's young and people are always going to need human resource managers. Experienced human resource managers."
"Kathy, you don't know what it's like out there, I'm telling you, it's cut-throat. They can get fellas half my age with better degrees who'll work for half my salary because they're so desperate to get a job. The Celtic Tiger's well and truly vanished." Bill had tears in his eyes and Kathy, horrified at the state her usually cheerful and easy-going husband was in, flung her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"Stop worrying, Bill, we'll manage fine, you'll get a job, I know you will. You're the best there is, you'll be snapped up in no time," she comforted, absolutely believing every word she spoke. Bill was bloody good at his job. He'd get another job...and soon.
Week after week, month after month she'd said the same thing over and over, trying to keep her spirits up as much as his. Unemployment didn't happen to people like her and Bill with their pretty, four-bedroom, semi-detached dormer bungalow in a lovely wooded cul-de-sac in Sandymount.
They had always been able to afford a fortnight abroad every year, trips to London where Kathy's sister lived, music and swimming lessons for the kids. It had all been available and Kathy had never envisaged that it would ever be otherwise.
When she'd thought about unemployment she had a mental image of people whose lifestyles were a million miles from her own. Kathy wasn't a snob or anything like it, she was lucky and she knew it. She'd never thought that unemployment could happen to her family. Bill was a trained professional, for God's sake, with years of work experience. Being a human resource manager for a staff of five hundred employees was an important job. People like him didn't end up on a dole queue. Or so she'd thought.
"Get real, Kathy!" her younger sister, Ella, remonstrated one day several months after Bill had been made redundant, when she had been moaning about their situation. Ella was a community welfare officer and knew a lot about unemployment. "Don't kid yourself that it's all people from so-called deprived areas that are on the dole, it isn't. There's a hell of a lot of people like Bill, in middle management, who are out there suffering behind their lace curtains and going to the St. Vincent de Paul for help with their mortgage repayments. People who enjoyed a lifestyle just like yours."
"St. Vincent de Paul, but that's for poor people!" Kathy exclaimed in horror.
"These people are heading for poor," Ella said gently. "They're living in lovely houses, with no heating and no phones and not enough money to pay the mortgage, in danger of their homes being repossessed. They need help too." Seeing her sister's stricken face she said softly, "Look, I'm not suggesting you're ever going to need to go to the St. Vincent de Paul, but what I'm saying is, start economizing. Use some of Bill's redundancy money to whack a bit off your mortgage. Get rid of one of the cars. I'm not saying that Bill won't ever get a job again, hopefully he will, but just don't think that he's going to waltz into a new position just like that. It doesn't happen that way any more, unfortunately. There's a recession starting out there and it's not going away."
Kathy came away from her chat with her sister more scared than she had ever been in her life. For the first time since it happened, she had lifted her head out of the sand and taken a long, hard look at their situation. Ella's words might have been harsh but they had stiffened Kathy's resolve. It was time to sit down and take stock and face the hard facts. Bill was unemployed and likely to stay that way. The future had to be faced.
That night when the children were in bed, she sat down with her husband and calmly announced that it was time for them to discuss their financial situation so that they could make long-term plans. Bill slumped down at the kitchen table and lit a cigarette. She could see his fingers shaking. "I don't know how we're going to manage," he muttered.
I'd like to kill the bastards that did this to him, Kathy thought viciously as she saw her husband's hopes and dreams fade to ashes. He flicked on his calculator and they began to work on the figures he had in front of him.
Bill said they had to reduce their mortgage by two-thirds, that was vital and at least they'd have the comfort of knowing that their home was safe enough. They'd use his lump sum for that. They'd sell her Fiesta and with the money they'd make from that they'd continue the insurance policies, the most important of which was the policy they had taken out for their children's education. They'd pay the VHI for another year. If Bill didn't get a job after that there'd be no more private health insurance.
They went to bed subdued.
Kathy began to take her calculator to the supermarket. Before, she had never considered the cost of food that much. Whatever she felt like had gone willy-nilly into the trolley. But those days were gone. Now it was coming up to the second Christmas of Bill's unemployment and her money was cut to the bone. Any saving, no matter how small, was welcome. Thank God for big impersonal supermarkets, she thought one day as she stood at the cash desk with her trolley full of Yellow Pack and Thrift. It would be a tad mortifying if the neighbours saw her or the girl at the check-out knew her. That was always a little worry. Silly, she knew, but she couldn't help it.
It wasn't that Kathy normally gave a hoot what people thought of her, it was just these days she seemed to be a bit more vulnerable. Only the other day her seven-year-old son, Matthew, had come in, his little face scarlet with emotion.
"Mammy! Jason Pierce says ...
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Book Description Pocket Books/TownHouse, 2004. Paperback. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1903650631