"....But the Irish are not only quarrelers, and rioters, and fighters, and
drinkers and despisers of [negroes]-- they are a passionate, impulsive,
warm-hearted, generous people, much given to powerful indignations, which
break out suddenly when not compelled to smouder sullenly-- pestilent
sympathisers too...." Fanny Kemble, actress, early 19th century.
It takes a week for Marie and I to muster the papers and information we need
to get out of New York. Seems it's a bit of a harder task than I dreamt of,
but nevertheless, I'm determined. According to a few blokes I talked to in
the marketplace that have made a similar journey, it's bumpy, but doable,
even for a pair of lasses with a few quint to rub together and spunk to fill
the rest of the purse.
Spreading open my satchel on my bed and trying to figure out how much I can
carry, I bite my lip and rub my neck. Walking over to look over my shoulder
and cast a glance at the task, Jean nods a little. "Aye, that won't hold
much more than travelin' needs."
"Have ye a better idea?"
And then my sister-- my dear, sweet sister which I claim to love-- looks at
me like it's obvious. "Ye need a trunk, Kitty. Like the one Ma stores the
"And ye have one just laying about that I could use?"
"I would," she starts, "if I wasnae skulking off to live with an Anglican,
in case ye've forgot."
"Aye, 'oh.' Does Marie have one? If ye use that bag and a larger trunk for
the pair of ye's belongings, it could work well."
In theory. "What about ye and Scott?"
Jean whirls around, sits on her bed with a flourish of her red skirt
fluttering back under black overskirt and smiles like a well-fed mouser.
"We're to Colorado by the end of month. I'm trying to get him to ask Ma for
"And if she says nae like we both know she will?"
I all but drop the pile of clothes in my arms. "Ye're bloody insane!"
"Aye, but I'll be happy."
This is one of those moments where I feel like life is playing a jake on me.
My brother is too coward to up and ask my best friend to wed him before she
runs off with me to the South. My sister is leaving for the West with a man
she loves, getting her ostracised from the family in a single breath of
non-Catholic vows. And me? I'm picking up and going to a place I've only
heard tales about, hopin' that the landowners that slur their vowels will
take kindly to me.
Lord help us all to succeed in our dreams.
Turning around from the pile of laundry, handing me one of my shifts, she
looks at me curiously. "Aye?"
"Do ye hate Ma?"
"Why do ye always ask me that?"
"Cause you vex her at every pace, Jean. Tis nae fair to her. She's raised
us right, ye should have the courtesy of--"
She raises a hand, stopping me. "I love her. I always will, Kitty. But
I'm nae sacrificing meself for her happiness." Her voice lowers for a
moment. "Don't be makin' the same mistake."
I nod. "That's why I'm goin' too."
"I know." Jean pauses and goes back to folding the laundry, choosing to
remain quiet for the next few minutes. Laying a blue panel of lace we
brought from the homeland on top of one of her Sunday dresses, she sighs,
sits down and crosses her arms.
Last time she did this I got a berating for leaving the stew to go off.
Turning to face my punishment, I face her and swallow. "What's wrong?"
"Just remeberin' your face."
I scoff at her. "Why?"
"Cause we dinnae have much more time together and I thought t'would be a
good idea to force a few things to memory. Lord knows when ye can come and
visit me after ye leave, and I fear the same will be for me. I love ye,
Kitty, I dinnae want to abandon ye."
I take her hands and squeeze them. "The same for ye."
"Promise to visit? Ye'll always have a place in my home."
I kneel down and avoid tangling ankles in all the skirts I have on. Ugh.
Sometimes they truly are a burden. "Aye, I'll visit, I promise."
"Good, I'm glad. Now get to packin' that satchel and we'll see if there's a
trunk to be had for the rest of ye's belongings."
I reach out and hug her, then hop up to go back to figuring out how to pack
my belongings up. It'll be a hard enough task as is, but considering we
catch the coach in six days, it has to be a bit of a rush job too.
And have I told of the fact that I've nae mentioned this to Ma yet?
The last Sunday meal I spend with my family is a normal one to all
appearances. Despite the fact that I've been shifting my possessions to a
steamer trunk that Marie's Ma gave me, and Jean's taken to slowly moving her
belongings to the Sumner boy's home, Ma's nae the wiser of us, outside of
our apparent weariness. We've taken to bed earlier in the night than ever
before, and whereas a more suspicious mother might wonder, ours is grateful
that her younger is finally showing regard for her body and the elder has
stopped sneaking out in the dark to see anyone.
If only she knew.
Logan eyes the both of us off and on through the meal, a frown turning his
mouth down when he catches me mentioning Marie.
"What about her, Mary?"
I wince at my given name. Ma thinks it fits me, and I would have agreed
about ten years ago, but now... "She and I are planning things."
Jean plunges her spoon deeper into her stew and tries to look unaware of
what I'm saying. I cannae say I blame her.
"And what is that? I know your brother here has feelings for the lass; have
ye considered young Johnny's suit any further?"
I nearly choke on a bit of cabbage. "Nae, I hav'nae seen Johnny in a
"Marie's nae quite ready for marriage, Ma, ye know that," Logan begins,
taking a sip from his cup. "But she knows that I'm here."
"Ach. Ask her Logan and be done with it. No sense to dance around the
The remaining three of Katherine Ann's children each do their own bits of
squirming. I cough and shrug, stepping up into the noose. "Well, if she
and I do what we were thinkin', she couldnae marry Logan right away
I swallow and continue. Her eyes veiled through red bangs, Jean is giving
me the most sympathetic look I've ever seen from her. "We have passage to
Georgia to seek positions on a plantation. We go Tuesday, weather
Ma's knife clatters to the plate, her eyes locked solely on me. Both Logan
and Jean stop eating and look from her to me and sit utterly silent, waiting
for what we all know is coming.
"Are ye bloody daft, girl? Georgia?! Are ye trying to get yerself killed
before ye can see yer wedding night?! Are ye trying to kill yer Ma?!"
She took it better than I thought she would, but I still cower down in my
seat like a good Catholic daughter.
"Ma, be fair, she's only--"
Jean's defense of my cause is cut off by a single look from Ma. It's like a
rabid animal is sittin' in front of ye and all ye can do is stare in terror
'cause it might do more than just threaten to hurt ye. "Stay out of this,
Jean opens her mouth to say something again, riled past the point of caring
with the use of her proper name, but the widening of her eyes is a sure sign
that Logan, using the tip of his boot, stepped on her foot to stop her from
doing more damage.
I'm nae sure which gesture I appreciate more.
"Ma, I'm goin'. There's no way for ye to stop me outside of a miracle."
Standing up at the end of the supper table, Ma looms above the rest of us
like a volcano, on the edge of exploding and makin' sure we feel the
fallout. "Sweet Jesus, why, Mary?"
My voice rises; I have the same reaction to my own given name, surprises of
surprises. "Because I want to, Ma, and it's an opportunity I'm nae gonna
"Tis insane. Who put ye up to this? Seamus? One of the boys down at the
pub?" Her eyes wander to Logan, who's watching the entire conversation with
a distant eye, doing his damnedest to stay out of it.
"Nae, Ma. I have me own thoughts now and then."
"Aye," she crosses her arms at me. Uh-oh. "And what about Johnny?"
I pause. This is where the real damage can come in, and I dinnae want to
cause any permanent rifts in my family if I can help it. "I'll nae be
marryin' him, Ma. I'd rather be courted by an English cobbler than be stuck
with that blonde fool."
I'm nae sure whose head snapped up first, but Jean's stare is the hardest
from my elder siblings. Heh. You'd think I'd remember that my future
brother-in-law is from Oxfordshire.
"Dinnae be ridiculous, Mary!"
With a glare aimed my way, Jean stands up, takes her plate and mug, and
walks out of the room before she gives Ma an earful, Logan watching
disapprovingly as she goes.
Ma gets a disgusted look. "And now ye've upset yer sister. What am I to do
with ye, Kitty?"
I lick my lips and consider the same retreat Jean just took. "Ach, Ma. Are
ye really that blind?"
"Nae as ye, little girl."
Enter the point in my life where I lose the ability to care about the fate
of others. It's a sad place to be, but there are triggers, like my Ma, that
make ye go that way.
Rather like a runaway locomotive and faulty brakes. "Ye've obviously no
idea of what transpires in the very house ye lord over, Ma. While I plan my
run to Georgia, ye've got Logan slavin' at the pub ev'ry hour of the blessed
day, fallin' into his bed at ungodly hours to steal a nip of sleep to do it
all over 'gain. Ye've nae paid a fair lick of attention to Jean since Sean
and Megan went on 'cept to harp on her, so I cannae blame her for wantin' to
run off with Scott."
There's a crash of crockery in the kitchen. Huh. You'd think if I were to
tell her little secret, I'd do it with a bit more tact.
"Who's Scott?" Ma asks when I take a breath.
"In fact, if Marie were stayin' here instead of joinin' me, I'd be askin' to
go with them... um, a local lad."
"What kind o' lad, Mary?"
I swallow hard: Logan is glaring at me. I have no idea what's on his mind,
but he's either miffed at me for spillin' what my sister so rightly deserves
to catch Hell for, or because I'm yelling at Ma.
Either way I'm nae inclined to ask his thoughts.
Jean's voice drifts out of the kitchen before I can see her. By the tone of
her voice the anger that she had a few moments ago has only risen. "No one
I need approval for from the likes of ye, Ma."
Ma's eyes narrow and turn to the redhead in the room. "Are ye afraid to
show him yer own Ma?"
"What's yer shame then, Margaret? Ye've nae--"
Jean's face is flushed red as she clenches a dishtowel in one of her hands.
"Ye want the truth, Ma?"
"T'would be a good start, daughter."
"Ah, and t'would cure the ails of the world in a dram of forgiveness, aye.
Tis simple. I'm marryin' a Protestant, and there's nae a thing ye can do to
stop me. We've been seein' each other for months. We love each other and
dinnae give a damn about this whole bloody mess of green and orange. Where
we're to, it's nae gonna matter."
Ma opens her mouth, acts as if she's about to make a sound, then closes her
mouth. With a startled stare to Logan, who's taken the wiser path and kept
silent in this entire conniption, her back loses the ramrod tension of a few
moments before, her hands fisting absently, and shakes her head. Nae
bothering to look to either Jean or myself, she turns, stalks out of the
room and somewhere down the hall, slams a door with resounding disapproval
over the entire meal.
My sister, seemingly expecting Ma to return with a flaming sword, flops down
in her chair and buries her head in her hands. Following suit, I sit down,
lick my lips and attempt a proper response. "Well, at least we're nae lying
to her anymore."
Logan eyes me for a moment and returns to eating.
Jean's scream of frustration is muffled by her palms.
[cont'd in part 5]
"To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel" --"Mysterious Ways," U2