Good morning! I’m not going to say much only here it is, a taster of my novel as it stands at the moment. If you enjoy it please leave me a comment. I’ve been having heart attacks all morning so I think I’ll go now…over to you…
A First Novel by Jane Barry
Bio Edit: Former entrepreneur, pr and model now living in Leitrim, Ireland with young family, blogging, painting and writing.
Details: Chapter 1 Excerpt
Status: Novel Complete (90,000 words in 9 months) Early Draft Stage/Unpublished/Unrepresented
Genre: Contemporary Mythic Fantasy drawing on Irish Mythology. Other possible genres include, magic realism, dark fiction, romance, family saga, Irish interest.
A Note on Characters: There are three generations of women referred to as follows. The ‘old aunts’ are Jaen (deceased), Ellen and Mae. The adult aunts are Caer (deceased), Honor and Erin, the young sisters are Devin, Liadan, Rory.
The greatness of being human is that we all have the power to heal and to destroy
Summer was passing us by, growing heavier. On that day the sun scorched us through glittering rain and then came the lightning and thunder. I was in the garden with Erin, too many butterflies, way too much gravity and a cool glass of wine when the black dog came shuffling up the lane with the sky on his back. ‘The girls are returning,’ I said to her. She looked up from her scent clotted rose bed. ‘Soon’ I said, weeks, a few months at most. I followed her gaze to the mountain, green, impervious, she looked back to me and we smiled. This time we were ready. She turned back to her deadheading, me to my wine, but everything was different.
The family comings and goings are marked always with one form or other of storm and on the day the girls came back dark clouds rumbled low in a gunmetal sky from the dawn. An omen of dark things to come thought Erin with interest as she gathered some interest herself among the throngs of people. The girl’s aunt was standing outside the airport, hands on hips, head thrown back, green eyes wide at the maelstrom above. She was waiting for them there in Dublin.
Ten years before, she, her sister Honor and the old aunts Ellen and Mae had sent the girls away. It was after Bilberry Sunday when the people had turned on them. It was something that happened from time to time and wasn’t the girl’s fault. They couldn’t help who they were and the town’s people couldn’t help but take their chance for rage when it came along. A combination of fear and need is a difficult one.
It wouldn’t have lasted of course. They’d never drive them out not that the women could go. They were tied to that place as the mountain itself. They knew with the wisdom of ages that when modern medicine failed them, and it would, when they couldn’t find comfort or cure, it was back to the McCleary women they would come, eager for the charms, the healing herbs, the water and the hands. Theirs was a last chance saloon for many and no one would forget it soon but Aunt Mae had been right. There was no reason for the young girls to suffer it. Their time here would come soon enough and the mountain would have its way, but not yet, and so their father was sent for.
The day he’d come to take the girls we had one of those storms people talk of for years, the ferocity, the damage done, the lack of warning. They called it ‘the worst storm in a hundred years,’ and round here that was saying something. We’d known and we watched it roll over our heads from the mountain that morning. We worked fast to batten the hatches, nothing new in this place. We were much more; you might call it, attuned, to the elements than the townsfolk. We knew what to do but this storm was tricky, menacing, already loosing lightning rods and stinging rain to slow our mission. Living here I imagined like living at sea though none of us had ever seen the sea. As we ran back finally to the shelter of the house out of breath and wet to the skin I thought of the difference, a ship is free.
We waited for Marus, braced ourselves for the parting, my aunts Ellen, and Mae, my twin Honor, our nieces and me. The girls sat quiet, pale, anxious. What were they thinking? Every now and then Mae or I hugged one, patted the other or smiled reassuringly. The clock struck one. ‘It’s time,’ said Ellen.
The wind howled as Honor led Rory and I led Liadan down, shielding them best we could. We turned for Devin, tight lipped and pale but steady and coming alone. Looking up to the house, the mountain above, the sky on top it felt as if any minute the whole lot might come crashing down. No words were exchanged with Marus; I guess words were superfluous by then. The handover was swift, silent. We stepped back to the wall then back up the stone steps, like sentries who know the drill well and are weary of it. When we got to the top we stopped, turned around and we watched them.
Liadan and Rory looked back at us standing there. It had comforted them to see our calm exteriors illuminated in the doorway and they stared for as long as the forest would let them. We didn’t move or speak or bow our heads. We were used to the storm, to that life in the shadow of the mountain. I supposed that Devin heard the sound as we did, that she steeled herself against it much as we were doing. She was strong for her age and not once did she turn around, I admired her grit. Someday she was going to need it, we all would.
We watched the car as it slowly snaked the road, sometimes visible, sometimes only the lights through the forest. We barely drew breath until we knew not only that they’d made it down but that they’d crossed the bridge at town and were away from us. For how long we wondered? Not forever we knew, but our hearts were still broken. It was a strange thing to wish them away when we needed them with us so badly.
After they were gone it was a hard time for us and for Honor especially but life soon went on as before. We were strong enough, two sets of two sisters, my twin Honor and I our aunts, Ellen and Mae, but it was a terrible thing to lose the girls and especially painful to lose Devin, for you must understand, this was not the first time we had watched her go.
When she was barely one year old, we had stood as we were standing now watching her and her mother, our sister Caer leave. We’d failed them then and now, by choice, we were sending her and her sisters away. In the great quest it seemed we were losing again.
Making my way to the gate I thought how quickly the years had come in. In many ways it seemed only yesterday Honor, Caer and I had been the young sisters. Sometimes I’d forget that Caer had been gone from the mountain for 26 years, had been dead 18 years and that Honor and I were ‘the aunts’ now, not the old aunts but at this rate it wouldn’t be long, while Caer, the mother of these girls would be forever young, the beautiful and powerful one among us.
Twenty six years since Caer had left with baby Devin. The first Mc Cleary woman in living memory to leave for good, maybe the last. We knew we’d never see our sister again, but we understood that after all she had to go. We, Honor and I stayed at our mountain home, minding the farm and the people, as the women of our family have done through all of history.
We are the healers, Bean Feasa (wise women), or witches, depending on who you’re talking to. People travel from across the country, sometimes from out in the world for our help. Charms, cures, curses, though we don’t deal in curses any more, that’s in the past.
Caer had left with a man who’d come from Cadiz out of interest for a book he was writing on healing traditions of Europe. His name was Marus. He had the openness and sensitivity of an artist, was one of those rare people you don’t meet very often, secure in himself, awakened. He was balm to her brokenness. He had seen in her eyes the destruction and pain, found that he loved her and wasn’t afraid. From the first moment he saw her he knew he’d never love again.
At the time Honor had said, ‘Caer has all the luck’. We were working in the garden, there’d been an overflow of crops that year and it took a lot of saving, our backs were sore, our baskets heaving.
‘You can’t be serious,’ I replied. I’d been horrified at the thought.
‘I’m only serious about the fact she gets two great loves then gets away from here.’
‘Three great loves, said I, ‘You forget Devin, only Devin makes it worthwhile, for all of us.’
‘I agree of course but I can’t help it, look at him, he’s beautiful, he’s crazy about her. I envy her escape, said Honor.
‘How can she do it though, how can she leave us?’ I’d hissed this at my sister.
‘It’s because she’s been through the fires, because she’s strong, still strong she said, noting my doubtful expression. ‘Stronger than we are, stronger even than our mother was, that’s how she can leave.’
‘Ok then, but what of the quest? What will become of us now?’
‘Everything will go on as before but her time on the quest is done, a Bean Feasa can’t practice with pain in her heart.’
‘And the child? Devin will come back one day?’ Honor nodded, ‘One day.’
’So there’s nothing we can do now only wait?’ My temper was rising, her coolness fanning the flames.
‘Oh I wouldn’t say nothing,’ said Honor, she had a flair for mystery, even when revealing things, but I wasn’t satisfied yet.
‘After everything we’ve done, you’re not forgetting are you?’
‘Forget…I wish I could forget,’ she said.
‘Maybe she can make it?’ I’d been half afraid to ask the question. Honor paused, considered our sister, out there with Marus and Devin.
‘My envy of escape and love are foolish, for strong or not there’ll be no escape for her. I’m a fool to think to ever want to trade my fate.’
‘Why? What do you see?’, ‘Nothing,’ Honor replied, turning away from me. The discussion was over.
Honor hadn’t seen a future for our sister though at the time she didn’t reveal it, and yet, for all of that, still she envied her.