Mummy stands at the kitchen table counting out plates. She runs through us all in her head, tapping out numbers against her palm, then slides that number of plates along the counter from the stack she has taken from the shelf. She always counts the plates out like that, in that order: almost by ages, except she puts the girls before me, and herself at the end. I want her out. He always does.
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Mummy stands at the kitchen table counting out plates. She runs through us all in her head, tapping out numbers against her palm, then slides that number of plates along the counter from the stack she has taken from the shelf.
She always counts the plates out like that, in that order: almost by ages, except she puts the girls before me, and herself at the end.
I want her out. He always does. Leave her alone, you bully. Go and pick on someone your own size. I wish she would just stop, not argue back. Mummy is worn out trying to stand up for me—but usually she just makes it worse.
Who wants her? I want her! Kathy was twelve years younger than Mummy, and beautiful. She was slim and elegant, with long, soft-red curls like shiny new pennies down her back, and eyes that were almost navy blue.
I was fascinated by her: by her beauty and calmness and easy laughter, by her soft Irish accent and her gentleness with me. But I was fearful of her too, always on my guard with her, determined to keep her at a distance. Determined to let Mummy see that she was my mum, not her sister Kathy. My brothers and sisters would gather around her, choosing their favourite.
One of my earliest memories is watching, out of the corner of my eye, my brother Liam sitting in stripy pyjamas in her arms as we all watch TV in the small front room of our flat. He holds up her bare arm and sleepily goes through the charms one by one, trying to choose his favourite between a miniature of the Houses of Parliament and a cat with tiny, diamond-encrusted eyes.
I watch her small hand stroking the back of his blond head, her red curls falling down across his chest, and feel suddenly cold and stiff, too young to put words to the mixture of jealously and hate I feel as I look on. But ten days after I was born she had to go back to Ireland, and left me there for Mummy to look after. It was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement, just until the day she could come back to get me. But that day never came.
Mummy had three other sisters. She was the eldest and Kathy was the youngest, still a child at the time Mummy left Ireland to make a life for herself over in E ngland, and the only one left at home to look after their parents if ever they needed it. Mummy told me that much one night after my uncle had stormed off to bed following one of their drunken arguments. My brothers and sisters had been herded off to bed earlier in the evening, but, as he often did, my uncle made me sit there and listen.
Sometimes when we were on our own she would tell me stories about Kathy, and how she came over to England on her own on the ferry to have me in London, stories that only part of me wanted to hear. But layer by layer, argument by argument, year by year, as I, or more usually my brothers and sisters, asked more questions, I pieced together the details of my life story. Mummy always made the stories sound romantic and exciting and sad, and we all felt sorry for Kathy not being able to be with her baby or with the man she had fallen in love with.
I tried to forget that I was the baby they were talking about. My feelings towards Kathy were always complicated, but I was shocked when I found out my father was a married man.
In those days, extra-marital affairs were absolutely taboo. I looked at Kathy differently after that. As usual I wanted to show Mummy that it was her I wanted to be my mum, not her sister; that this was my family and that I never wanted to be taken away from them. But of course I always did listen. I listened hard. I pretended not to hear, but when I glanced up I saw Mummy look away and shake her head, and her eyes filled with tears again.
From the start he wanted me out. And the main purpose of my early years was to try to make myself as silent and as invisible as possible so that he would forget about me, and let me stay, to be part of the family I saw as my own. He must have agreed to me being there at the beginning, but it was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement. And his hatred of me grew as week by week, month by month it became more and more obvious that I was there to stay.
The fact that no one would tell him drove him mad and seemed to be the spark for most of their rows. He never believed her. When he finally stormed off to bed himself, Mummy would sometimes creep to the long back bedroom that the five youngest of us shared, to see if we were all right. Nervous in case anyone saw me, I sat on the stripy window seat overlooking the playground with my back to everyone, turning the fragile, India paper quietly, with my heart hammering.
And she could never have imagined just how bad it was going to get. She and her lover would never have survived the scandal if news of their affair got out in Ireland, and my uncle would have known that.
If he had been able to find out who my father was, he might well have blackmailed him, or just told his wife and family what he knew. Chapter 4 Kathy was only nineteen when she fell pregnant with me, and neither she nor her married lover knew what they were going to do.
Because their affair had to remain a secret she had no one she could talk to about it either. Everyone was still under the fist of the Catholic Church at the time, and unmarried mothers, I was always told as a child, were still being put away in sanatoriums, their babies taken from them and put up for adoption as soon as they were born. Many chose instead to catch the boat to England or America, to have their babies and start brand-new lives.
When she could no longer conceal her pregnancy, Kathy came to England to find her eldest sister. Mummy had lost touch with her family, but Kathy knew she was living somewhere in London. While she was in Ireland, Mummy was the only one who had ever found out that Kathy was having an affair with a married man. But two and a half years later, that was exactly what she did. But somehow Kathy found her.
She knew then that she would help keep her secret from their parents because, staring at baby Liam, she saw that her sister had been keeping secrets of her own.
This article is an orphan , as no other articles link to it. Please introduce links to this page from related articles ; try the Find link tool for suggestions. August Wandering Scribe is a blogger who published under the name of Anya Peters, while a homeless woman. She came to the attention of the public in April , when her blog was featured in an article in the New York Times and by the BBC in their online magazine. She said she was living in her car in some woods in central London, and taking showers in a local hospital. She further explained that her personal pride and fear prevented her from accepting any form of assistance from the authorities, and that there were no friends or family to whom she could turn. In one post, Wandering Scribe wondered whether any "blog trawling" literary agents might read her blog.