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Short Story: Paradise Pink

A poignant short story.

Published in the Circle and Square anthology, December, 2015
(available for sale at Easons in The Square, Tallaght.)

It includes work from a number of writers, including Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips, Kevin Power, Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseyDoreen Duffy, Gavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish Nugent, Tony Shields and Michael J Whelan.

 

‘Lipstick?’ asks Mary, squinting at the label. ‘Paradise pink.’

I purse my mouth and close my eyes, enjoying the familiar sensation of the lipstick as it glides over my dry lips.

‘There you go, LMIRRO002ily, all done,’ says Mary.

That woman is a Godsend. She holds the oval hand-mirror in front of my face. I pull it towards me and bend in closer, pressing my lips together. I still find it hard to believe the white-haired woman looking back is me and I most certainly don’t feel my eighty years. It’s merely a number – an indicator to tell the world how many wars and recessions I’ve lived through.

It’s amazing how a splash of colour across my lips always lifts my spirits, but this has been a particular favourite which I’ve worn for the last fifteen years. A visit to the local shopping centre, for my retirement party, had me returning home with a new look courtesy of the make-up counter in Boots. Maybe it’s time for another visit and an overhaul. Nothing too drastic, mind you, I’m not going back to the smoky eyes and red lips of Lauren Bacall at my age. Besides, I’ve always been more of an Audrey Hepburn – wide-eyed and innocent. Or so I’ve been told.

‘Thanks, Mary, you’ve done a great job, as usual.’

Mary moves behind me, fussing and teasing my hair. Her finger hovers over the hairspray tin. ‘Close your eyes.’

I know the drill. Hiding a smile, I cover my face with my hands, only peeking through when the hissing of the spray finally stops. There’s no fear of Mary leaving anything to chance with these tresses. She knows I love to waltz, but I fear she thinks I love to tango and has visions of me with a rose between my teeth as I strut up and down the room with my dance partner. She will ensure that my hair remains unyielding; like spun sugar sitting atop one of those exquisite deserts in the swanky New York restaurants we frequented all those years ago.

Rat-a-tat-tat. Mary checks her watch, raising her eyebrows, before crossing the room to open the door. ‘That’ll be John, I suppose,’ she murmurs.

There are whispered voices and moments later, a tall, grey-haired man appears in the doorway behind her. I watch as he removes his overcoat, shaking specks of rain onto the linoleum. He is dressed in dark trousers with shiny shoes. A crisp white shirt and paisley tie peep through the neck of his navy jumper.

‘They didn’t forecast that downpour, Lily,’ he says, his brown eyes meeting mine. He crosses the room and kisses me gently on the mouth. My heart hammers in my chest. I gasp and turn away, but not before I see a look of dismay cross his face. What does he expect? Just because he’s a handsome man, it doesn’t mean he can take such liberties; we’ve only just met!

‘Lily, it’s me, love. It’s John,’ he says, as if by telling me his name he thinks he can excuse his shocking behaviour.

He sits in the armchair opposite me and tries to lift my hand, but I pull it away. The sound of his melodic voice soothes me as I practice the two-step in my head, my toes tapping. Suddenly he stops talking and looks deep into my eyes.

‘You look well today, Lily,’ he says, ‘I’ve always loved that colour on you.’

I look down at my dress and smile. ‘It’s my favourite colour,’ I tell him. ‘Periwinkle blue; it matches my eyes, I’ve been told.’ I laugh and pat my hair. ‘I had to make an effort to look extra nice today for my visitors. Did I tell you my son, his wife and their young daughter will visit later. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting my granddaughter. Her name is Mia; my very first grandchild. They’re flying in from . . .’ I look towards Mary, ‘flying from . . .’ I can feel myself getting agitated. I click my fingers, hoping that the words will magically appear. They don’t. ‘You know the place I’m talking about, it sounds like Koala bears.’

Mary hesitates. Usually as sharp as a new pin, it appears she has forgotten too. She looks towards the man beside me. They think I don’t notice his barely imperceptible nod before she answers. As if he is giving her permission to speak.

‘Do you mean Kuala Lumpur?’

‘That’s it,’ I say. “When Sean left America he toured the world before settling there.’ I shift in my chair and turn to look at the man beside me. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but you should probably leave soon.’ I give him my sweetest smile to take the sting from my words, ‘I’m sure you understand.’

I’m surprised to see his eyes are moist. And strange how I hadn’t noticed earlier what a beautiful shade of hazelnut brown they are; the same shade as Sean’s.

Mary turns off the radio and I glare at her. ‘What are you doing?’ I snap. ‘I always listen to the midday news.’ I didn’t mean to snap. My voice becomes softer, ‘it’s good to know what’s going on in the world.’

‘I just thought that as John was here—‘

‘I’m sure John will understand,’ I say, glaring at him instead. ‘Besides, my visitors will be here soon and I need to get to Mannings Bakery before it closes to pick up a few cream cakes. I must remember to get Sean’s favourite. He loves those gingerbread men. Maybe I should get one for Mia too.’

‘Good idea,’ he says, ‘but I’d like to wait a while. Sit with you. Just for a little longer.’

I suppose he must be lonely. And he’s doing no harm. We were always brought up to be charitable to those in need. I nod. ‘But you’ll have to stop talking while I listen to the headlines. I always listen to—

 

There is still no news for the relatives of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 missing since Saturday. The plane, along with the 239 people on board, vanished off radar screens while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The search continues . . .

 

I can’t breathe. My heart is thundering in my chest, but I can’t breathe. I bend forward, my arms folded across my chest; rocking, rocking, rocking. There is a loud keening noise, like a banshee. It’s blocking out the voice of the newsreader and getting louder.

‘Lily.’

The banshee …

‘Lily!’

I realise…

‘Lily, please. You’ve got to stop!’

…is me.

‘Lily, it’s okay. It’ll be okay,’ the man says, as he kneels before me.

My eyes fall upon my handbag, sitting beside my chair leg. I pick it up and rummage through it, emerging victorious with my lace handkerchief and mobile phone. I dab my eyes, then begin to press the buttons on the phone but my hands are trembling. Soon my entire body begins to shake and I am powerless to stop it; I feel as if I’m losing control.

‘Let me, love,’ he says, presumptuous as ever, it seems. But I allow him to take the phone.

It springs to life. I know he has dialled Sean because the ring tone is longer than normal. I hold my breath. It rings once, twice, three times and then I hear Sean’s voice. I allow my breath to escape. Only it isn’t Sean. Not Sean in the here and now. It’s the Sean in the phone. The Sean that wants me to leave a message and he’ll get right back to me.

I prise the phone from his shaking hands.

‘Sean, it’s me. I just wanted to check that you were alright. I’m looking forward to your visit.’ The tears have started to run down my face and I choke back a sob. ‘I love you, son.’

The phone slips to the floor.

I bend my head and examine the wizened hands sitting in my lap, where they twist a handkerchief round and round.

I am aware of a man and woman. The man has his back to me, his forehead pressed to the window, while his shoulders move up and down. The woman turns the dials on the radio, finally landing on Frank Sinatra. Fly Me to the Moon, bursts into the room.

The man turns from the window and looks straight at me. His forehead furrows and his red-rimmed eyes glaze over as if deep in thought. Suddenly, it is as if his well-worn face deflates like a popped balloon. I look away. I cannot bear to see such sorrow and it would be insensitive of me to ask what has caused it.

‘Would you like me to fix your hair?’

I turns towards the owner of the soft, country lilt and nod. The pretty, young woman smiles and I relax as the soft bristles of the silver handled brush, glide through my hair. Picking up the matching hand-mirror, I watch the soft white tendrils lift and fall around the face of the old woman in its oval frame. I notice she’s wearing my favourite lipstick, Paradise Pink. I must remember to pick up another tube.

Heavy rain begins to fall, drumming against the window pane. The sky is slate grey but the lush green grass glistens outside. The benches, scattered among the myriad of rose bushes, sit empty and desolate.

It will be nice to have a visitor.

The ghost of a smile reflected on the woman’s lips tells me she agrees.

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Launch: Circle & Square

As promised – details of the official launch of Circle & Square!Circle and Square Invitation

CIRCLE & SQUARE
An anthology of prose, poetry and fiction, inspired by ‘shopping centre’ as a place brim full with dramatic possibility. It includes work from a number of guest writers, including (in alphabetical order):

Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips and Kevin Power.

As well as a number of Platform One writers, many of who have won or been shortlisted for writing awards including: the Hennessy Literary Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, the Jonathan Swift Short Story Award, the James Plunkett Short Story Award, the RTE/Penguin Short Story Competition, the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and many more …

Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseySusan CondonDoreen DuffyGavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish NugentTony Shields and Michael J Whelan. 

 

“To open Circle and Square is like entering the sort of fascinating cafe which every shopping centre should ideally possess: a cornucopia of engaging voices and fascinating stories that any reader would happily eavesdrop on. Eileen Casey has deftly knitted together a compelling ensemble of poets and prCircle and Squareose writers whose stories complement each other, as they ripple outwards in increasingly imaginative circles to explore the multitudinous facets of everyday living. This is an anthology where a shopping expedition or a Luas journey can also bring you on a succession of intriguing and inventive voyages into the past and future. Prepare to be entertained.”
– Dermot Bolger

 

Looking forward to catching up with you for what promises to be a wonderful launch which will include poetry and prose readings from a number of writers included in the Circle & Square anthology!

So please spread the word …

Anthology: Circle & Square

CIRCLE & SQUARE is an anthology of prose, poetry and fiction, inspired by ‘shopping centre’ as a place brim full with dramatic possibility.Circle and Square

It includes work from a number of guest writers, including (in alphabetical order):

Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips and Kevin Power.

As well as a number of Platform One writers, many of who have won or been shortlisted for writing awards including:
the Hennessy Literary Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, the Jonathan Swift Short Story Award, the James Plunkett Short Story Award, the RTE/Penguin Short Story Competition, the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and many more …

Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseySusan CondonDoreen DuffyGavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish NugentTony Shields and Michael J Whelan. 

“To open Circle and Square is like entering the sort of fascinating cafe which every shopping centre should ideally possess: a cornucopia of engaging voices and fascinating stories that any reader would happily eavesdrop on. Eileen Casey has deftly knitted together a compelling ensemble of poets and prose writers whose stories complement each other, as they ripple outwards in increasingly imaginative circles to explore the multiudinous facets of everday living. This is an anthology where a shopping expedition or a Luas journey can also bring you on a succession of intriguing and inventive voyages into the past and future. Prepare to be entertained.”
– Dermot Bolger

There will be a sneak preview of Circle & Square at the RED LINE FESTIVAL
on Tuesday the 13th October, 2015
at RUA RED Arts Centre
from 7.00 pm – 8.30 pm.

Guest writers Joan Power and Kevin Power (Bad Day in Blackrock) along with Eileen Casey will be in company with representatives from local trader organisations. The evening will feature the lyrics of WB Yeats put to music by Tony Bardon together with brief readings from Circle & Square (Fiery Arrow Press).

Admission is FREE, but booking is required via (01) 451 5860 or by email, boxoffice@ruared.ie.

The official launch of Circle & Square is due to take place in November – details to follow soon!

Guest Blog: Louise Phillips

THE  DOLL’S  HOUSE  BLOG  TOUR

I am delighted to welcome friend and crime fiction author, Louise Phillips, as a guest as she continues on The Doll’s House Blog Tour.

Let me introduce you to the trailer:

When it went live, The Doll’s House book trailer, caused quite a stir.
You can be view it here, but be warned – it’s not for the faint-hearted!

Survived that? Check out the latest reviews:

THE DOLL’S HOUSE has been described by crime writer, Niamh O’ Connor, as ‘chilling, mesmerising. Gets under your skin and stays with you,’ and by Myles Mc Weeney of the Irish Independent, as, ‘A gripping, suspenseful story, peopled with well-drawn characters…’

And now, at last, the book itself:

The Doll’s House

The Dolls House

“Middle-aged male, multiple stab wounds, found drowned in the canal. You have my number. Call me.”

This is the message criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson receives one cold Saturday morning from Detective Inspector O’Connor, spoken in his usual curt manner. The middle-aged male in question is Keith Jenkins, the host of a popular TV programme, and as Kate and O’Connor begin their investigation, they find themselves faced with more questions than answers.

The past . . .

Following her mother’s recent death, Clodagh has begun to explore her past – her memories of her father, who died in a mysterious accident, and the dark tragedy that seeped through the cracks of her childhood home. When she begins to visit a hypnotherapist, scenes from her childhood begin to take shape, with interjections from a sometimes sinister cast of dolls.

. . . is waiting . . .

As Kate continues to investigate the disturbing details of the vicious murder, she is drawn closer to Clodagh’s unsettling family history. What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder?

Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate. And the killer has already chosen his next victim…

 

Now over to Louise for some questions:

 

What do you feel makes for a great character – one that the reader will remember a long time after the final page?

Creating characters can be a bit like life, sometimes they can surprise you! And by that I mean that on occasions they can arrive practically fully developed on the page, and at other times, you have to dig quite deep. I think for the most part I know I have a strong character when their voice is constantly in my ear, so that when I go to write, it’s almost like you’re not the one doing the writing. We all have our favourite memorable characters from novels, but by and large the ones that stay with you are the ones that strike a strong emotional cord. I like a character that runs through your bloodstream the deeper into the novel you get. If at the end of a book, a part of you is already missing that character, then it is undoubtedly a memorable one.

There was quite an amount of research involved in The Doll’s House and part of it involved hypnosis and regression. Knowing what your character, Clodagh, uncovered, how did you feel while you were awaiting the countdown for your hypnosis session?

I think researching hypnotic regression for The Doll’s House reminded me how complicated our minds are. I was fully committed to the idea, and really believed it would happen. I had no idea that my conscious mind would block me from being regressed. Perhaps with the research I had learnt too much. The whole area fascinated me, which is why I chose to write about it in the first place. We all think we remember things as they happened, but we don’t. We constantly compromise our memory, as each time we recall an event, instead of going back to the original memory, we shortcut back to our last recall. So, getting back to your question, I was both nervous and excited. I hope to make further efforts to regress, and when I do, I’ll let you know how I got on.

It looks like The Doll’s House was a sell-out at its recent launch in the Gutter Bookshop.  Were you surprised to find an even bigger turnout than at your debut novel, Red Ribbons?

Surprised and delighted. I was thrilled to see so many people there, and I think in part it was a testament to RED RIBBONS that so many people were keen to pick up a copy of THE DOLL’S HOUSE. I was amazed that whilst signing copies, on a number of occasions I looked up and saw that people were starting to read the novel on the queue! So far it’s got some fantastic reviews, so fingers crossed. The story seems to have really struck a nerve with people, and as a writer, you can’t ask for more than that.

About The Author:

louise-phillips

Born in Dublin, Louise Phillips returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. That year, she was selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent.
Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won
the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition.

Her bestselling debut novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Irish Book Awards. The Doll’s House is her second novel and has recently hit the book shelves with a vengeance!

I can promise, an enjoyable read awaits you . . .

The Doll’s House and Red Ribbons are available from Louise’s site here.

Available directly from Amazon: The Doll’s House and Red Ribbons.

www.louise-phillips.com

Louise on Twitter

Louise on Facebook

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