Mothers and Daughters- Sian O’Gorman (Digital Sample)

Read on for an exclusive extract from ‘Mothers and Daughters’ by Sian O’Gorman.

Mothers and Daughters

Sian O’Gorman

The Forty Foot

For centuries people have been swimming in the Forty Foot, stepping into the cool waters of the Irish Sea from a tiny tip of rock at the southern end of Dublin Bay. In the shadow of a Martello tower, the swimmers gather, even on the coldest winter’s day. Some arrive in dressing gowns over their togs, others with towels under their arms, ready to wobble and wriggle into their swimsuits before gingerly picking their way down the steps and into the cold (always so cold!) sea, only ever deterred by large swells or big waves churned up by storms. The last time I swum there was the morning of my grandmother’s funeral, when I was twenty-five; years ago now. And these days, when I drive past and see the hardy swimmers making their way down, all I feel is relief that it’s not me submerged in those unknown depths.

Rosaleen, my grandmother, was one of those daily swimmers at the Forty Foot. She had no time for ‘namby-pambies’ her word for people who didn’t swim in the sea in all weathers, in other words the rest of the world.

‘I go in with a head full of problems,’ she used to say, pulling on her flower-strewn swimming cap and red swimsuit, ‘and come out with the clarity of John the Baptist himself.’ She wasn’t remotely religious, and had brought up her daughter without the encumbrance of a man or even marriage, but often she would invoke the name of a holy person or holy event to make a point. The Irish emphasis. ‘Mother of the divine Jesus was as exciting her swearing ever got, and usually when she had lost her purse or burned a stew or when the sea was particularly cold. But a swim in icy water cured everything. Colds, headaches and even namby-pambyism. ‘Come on, Tabitha,’ she’d urge while I teetered on the edge. ‘Sure, you’ll be grand once you’re in.’

And I always was. With her anyway. She was the nicest person I knew, always laughing and chatting with people, and I her little shadow. She’d bring me down to the sea on a Sunday morning and in we’d plunge, laughing and screaming at the cold until we’d float out, stretching our arms towards the horizon, feet kicking madly. Away we’d go, a tiny propeller of a girl and a fine-figured woman slicing through the Irish Sea. ‘Holy water,’ Rosaleen used to say. ‘We’re swimming in the holy water. That feeling of stepping into the sea. It was like nothing else. I remember the icy water, the camaraderie of the other swimmers, the feeling of zingy invincibility when you got out, as though you’d been reborn, made anew, and we’d emerge, skin bright red, singing and stinging and tingling.

I remember being very little and sitting on one of the old stone benches while Rosaleen bent over me, drying my feet carefully and gently, and then putting on my socks and shoes. Years later, on the very last day we swam together, I returned the favour. Her breathing was bad and bending down was difficult, so I dried her feet and pulled on her stockings and slipped on her shoes. ‘Thank you, loveen,’ she’d said. ‘You’re a pet.

Sometimes my mother, Nora, would join us, if she wasn’t off somewhere working, protesting, righting wrongs; as an ‘environmentalist and political agitator’, as she likes to call herself, her life spent protesting, placard waving, and heel-digging in. These days, as she’s grown older and since she’s retired she too has become a daily sea communicant. For years and years, Nora worked for various environmental groups as a press officer, spending her life calling journalists and trying to make them care about the planet. Oil spills, Sellafield, tree cutting, forest fires, rezoning were all in a day’s work. Just last year she was on the front page of the Irish Times protesting about a car park which was being built beside a tuft of gentian orchids. Hair flying in the wind, Barbour flapping, she looked like the pirate queen I remembered from when I was growing up. Nora, my accidental mother, always engaged, forever concerned and outraged, saving slugs, fungi and flowers from the farmer’s spade, always standing up for her beliefs.

‘You should come down,’ she goes on, even though she knows why I don’t. But she never gives up. Ever. ‘It’ll do you good,’ she keeps saying. ‘Your grandmother said it was a cure-all, and like in most things, she was right.’

‘But I don’t need to cure anything.’

Nora gives me a look as if to say, she knows better. I could still see the appeal. The icy water, the camaraderie of the other swimmers, the zingy invincibility when you remerged, as though you’d been reborn. But the reason I never swim there is not a fear of cold water or sharks or jellyfish. It’s something else. You see, for me, the water isn’t holy and magical anymore but dark, disapproving… there’s an ominous power to that water, as though I can’t quite shake off all those droplets that cling to my skin.

Chapter One

A summer morning, early May, the sky blue, the air still. Ireland at its most beautiful. Driving back from the supermarket, I took the coast road, through Sandycove, past the Forty Foot, worrying about my daughter. Rosie was all I really thought about now, anyway. For the last two years, she had done nothing but revise. The Leaving Cert are the set of tough, gruelling exams at the end of your school days that you fervently believe will dictate the rest of your life. They wreak such havoc on the psyche of every Irish citizen, instilling such fear and horror, no one ever quite recovers. Your whole life hangs in the balance of knowing particularly difficult Irish grammatical tenses, impenetrable maths equations and the exact movements of Padraig Pearse during the Easter Rising. I still remember that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the dread… and then, when they are over, you do miraculously move on with your life but like traumatised elephants, you never forget.

But we were so close to Rosie’s liberation from all this tension and pressure. She was pale and seemed to be fading fast. She just had to cling on and the old Rosie, the confident happy girl, would return. As I indicated to turn left to continue on to home, in Dalkey, I spotted my mother on the road ahead, creakily, rustily, slowly pedalling home from her swim, dressed in her usual charity-shop purchases. Her old men’s sandals and knitted socks, her legs bare under her long skirt, her trusty battered Barbour and an old cloth bag slung over her shoulder. Her long hair, damp from her dip, hanging over her shoulders to dry. Instinctively I thought of my husband Michael and what he would make of her and mentally cheered her on. She stood for everything he didn’t and Nora was the part of me which he found most difficult to accept. She didn’t fit in with his idea of an acceptable extended family. She would cheerily tackle him on any issue, good-naturedly holding him personally accountable for everything from homelessness to the closure of the Dun Laoghaire bowls club.

He believed in the individual, that anyone can make it if given the right support. She believed in welfare and community. But when I decided to marry him, it seemed, to be the most rebellious thing I could do and I don’t regret it – I wouldn’t change a thing about Rosie, after all – but it had been rash, not a love match but what I had thought was a pragmatic and sensible choice.

As I passed Nora’s bike, I slowed down and tooted my horn. ‘That’s it!’ I called through the open window. ‘Keep it up! Nice to see you getting a bit of exercise!’

‘Thank you, Tabitha,’ she said, ‘You’re very kind. But your encouragement is unnecessary.’ But she was smiling. ‘How’s Rosie? Not still at those books?’

‘You know what’s she’s like, takes after you. Never gives up!’

There was a car behind me. ‘See you later, Mum.’ I said, pressing on the accelerator and moving forwards. But her face suddenly lifted as though she’d just remembered something.

‘The trees!’ I think she shouted. In my rear-view mirror, she waved again, mouthing something. ‘The trees!’

***

The black ministerial car was parked outside the house, which meant Michael was home. Terry, his driver, reading a paper in the front seat of the Mercedes. Michael rarely made domestic appearances these days, arriving unexpectedly and disappearing just as quickly, shunting daily life out of its rhythm and he often asserted himself into the household in some way. Usually it was that the garden needed tidying at the front or he had been shocked to see a dead cheese plant in the hall.

After hopping through the ranks from local councillor to member of the Progressive Conservatives and a front-bench position, Michael had now made it to the giddy heights of Europe. He spent more time in Brussels than Dublin and all his talk, when he did come home, was about EU directives, policies and late-night votes and dining on steak and red wine and crème brûlée. He was good at the mechanics of politics, remembering every name of anyone he had ever shaken hands with, able to differentiate between constituents, who had the brother in hospital and who had the issue with the damp. And after being submerged in Bill Clinton’s autobiography, he emerged pale and drawn but excited by all the new techniques he had absorbed, such as finding a face in the crowd and waving, the double handshake and the disconcerting never breaking eye contact.

Politics was his passion; the deal making, the risk taking, the prestige, power and perks, along with a flat in Brussels and a studio in Dublin city centre. His was important work. The most important work, changing the world, one EU directive at a time.

Michael had grown up in the shadow of his father, Michael Sr, also a politician. He never watched children’s television, only the news, had never worn jeans, and saw politics as the family business.  And he wanted Rosie to continue the family dynasty and do exactly what he did. Go to Trinity to do Law, get into local politics and then… well, next stop Brussels.

I harboured secret and treasonous thoughts that Law in Trinity was too much like hard work (and far too boring) and that no one – and definitely not my daughter – should be subjected to it. But then I wasn’t a Fogarty. After giving up her dreams of acting, Rosaleen, my grandmother had been front of house manager at the Gaiety Theatre all her life. Nora gave no credence to academic qualifications but everything to the ability to chain oneself to railings in protest. The only time I can remember feeling she was really proud of me was when I won first prize for my poster in a competition against Sellafield when I was twelve.

Unministerially, Michael was eating Weetabix. ‘Morning Mammy!’ he said. ‘Cold milk on cereal! Breakfast of champions. It’s the milk, though Irish milk from Irish farmers that makes it! Am I right?’

‘Hi Michael,’ I said, not bothering to tell him for the billionth time to call me Tabitha, rather than Mammy, and that he already had his own mother and didn’t need another one. ‘Um…’ I tried to formulate an opinion on milk.

‘Caught the red-eye from Brussels and needed my farmers’ association tie for the meeting in Dundalk,’ he went on blithely. ‘You need…’ he spooned the last drops of milk from his bowl into his mouth, ‘the right tie. Bill Clinton says it’s the killer move. Get it wrong and no one will trust you. Get it right, and putty in the hand!’

‘I suppose the same could be said for the handbag,’ I said, putting away the shopping, ‘too expensive and everyone mistrusts you…’

‘It’s an art,’ he said, as though I hadn’t spoken. ‘You have to think of who you are meeting and with farmers, it can’t be too flashy. It has to be just right. I’m thinking of a Donegal tweed. Well, that’s what Lucy has decreed.’

Michael’s best perk was Lucy, his secretary. Over the last two years she’d made it her life’s work to overhaul not just his office but also his image. There is now a more contemporary look to his hair and the cut of his suit. His fringe pushed up, lapels more city slicker than fusty politico. And his teeth have undergone a bleaching more thorough than any toilet and now gleam brighter than those of Tom Cruise’s.

‘I’m sure Lucy’s right,’ I said, trying to keep a facetious tone out of my voice. ‘She always is, isn’t she? That’s what you say.’

‘She’s a marvel,’ he said, smiling broadly. ‘Yes, yes, quite the marvel.’ His eyes went misty for a moment as we both contemplated the myriad ways Lucy was a marvel.

‘Now,’ he said, breaking focus, ‘where’s herself?’ He meant Rosie.

‘Upstairs. You know, Michael, the exams,’ I said, ‘I’ve been wanting to talk to you about it. If there’s anything we could do, anything we should be doing to make it easier for her. They’re so awful. I think they might even be worse than when we did them. I mean, they seem to be even harder these days …’

‘She’ll be grand,’ he said, dismissing me. ‘Us Fogartys always are. I sailed through mine. She’s got a good brain, that’s all you need.’ Rosie, he believed, was more Fogarty than Thomas – the politics, the clear head, the methodical way of doing things. Chip off the old block. He’d been talking about Rosie going to Trinity, his alma mater, since before she was born, and as Rosie had done exceptionally well in her mock exams and had been offered a place, it was a case of just passing the finals and she’d be in.

‘Trinity College! She’s on her way.’ Michael put down the cereal bowl and actually rubbed his hands with sheer excitement. ‘I was just onto my old professor yesterday and we had a good chat about Trinity and how it’s changed. He said to bring Rosie in one of these days for a look round the place. Thought I would show her a few sights. The library. The old lecture hall, that kind of thing.’

‘She’s already been round…’

‘Ah, but not with me. An old boy, so to speak. Not that I’m old. Just older than I was.’ Michael was the same age as me, 42, but gave what he might think was a boyish grin and ruffled his own hair. Which he then quickly smoothed back in place.

‘Michael, it was more than twenty years since you were there.’

‘Technically, yes.’ He helped himself to another two Weetabix sprinkling them liberally with sugar and splashing on the milk. He took a mouthful. ‘The Fogarty name still opens doors, you know. We are not nobodies. We belong there and Rosie will be the fourth generation. Now…’ His face suddenly looked grave, like a headmaster disappointed in the child who had been caught smoking. ‘I need to talk to you…’

‘Really?’ What had I done now?

‘The hall light was on,’ he said. ‘Why? It’s a summer morning? There’s really no need.’

‘I must have flicked it by mistake…’

‘It’s not the expense,’ he said, shaking his head at my absent-mindedness. ‘But the waste. If I am seen as wasteful, then I am not setting a good example for my constituents. They expect me to have the highest of standards, Mammy. We must live up to that ideal.’

‘Yes, Michael.’ Over the years, I had learned to nod and agree.

‘I am a public figure,’ he went on, ‘and must be beyond reproach. SIPL!’

‘Sipple?’ Was this some new, utterly perplexing, mind-bending, borderline-barmy EU policy?

‘Standards in Public Life. It’s my latest directive. I’ve told you about it before…’

‘Oh yes,’ I said weakly, glancing at my unread paper and thinking of the croissant I had just bought and had been looking forward to for the last hour. ‘So…?’ I tried to stay focussed on what Michael was saying but, as usual, when he held forth on Europe, my concentration wavered. Where was my nice pot of jam? I hoped Rosie hadn’t finished it all off.

‘Now this is really exciting,’ he was saying, ‘It’s going to be very popular with voters, I just know it. All politicians, across Europe, will sign up to this agreement, declaring that they are beyond reproach. Voluntary self-regulation and a move towards a different relationship between people and politicians. Bring back respect.’ He chattered away confidently in that way he had that what he was saying was of great interest to the listener. ‘We shouldn’t behave like ordinary people, civilians, the ones doing ordinary jobs, leading ordinary lives, like going to the park, or making dinner, or watching Strictly Come Whatever. Instead, we non-civilians will be shining lights, exhibiting impeccable human behaviour, so that others, the civilians know how to behave.’

‘Is that really what you politicians think is a good way to spend taxpayers’ money?’

‘Yes! Everyone hates a sleazy politician, the one who accept backhanders or are just in it for the perks and the free lunches…’

‘It sounds like you are asking for trouble, Michael,’ I said. ‘Setting yourself up as a beacon of respectability.’

‘Well…’

‘You won’t be able to put a foot wrong,’ I said, thinking that life with Michael was just one extended episode of Politics Today. ‘You can’t forget to put something through on the self-service tills or drive in a cycle lane or park in a disabled space…’

‘I have no intention of such things,’ he said. ‘I never go self-service and I am meticulous about staying out of cycle lanes. Anyway, it’s the idea – the ideal! – which is the thing. Striving to be better, that’s it. Upholding common, decent values. Morals are too easily running down life’s plughole.’

‘It seems as though you are setting yourselves a very high bar,’ I said. ‘Beyond reproach? It doesn’t give you much room to be human.’

‘Ah, but we aren’t human. Well, we are, technically. But we are above human… I mean, superhuman…’

I looked at his face. He was entirely serious. ‘As in Superman, super-human?’ I had to make sure he was saying what I thought he was saying. ‘Actually super-human, or just super humans?’

He looked confused. ‘Super-human,’ he said. ‘More than human.’

‘Right. Michael…’ I toyed with trying to discuss this with him but, as I usually did, I gave up. ‘It sounds like a complete waste of EU money, if you ask me.’

‘Well, I don’t and nor do many – very many – of my EU colleagues.’ He sounded annoyed. ‘It’s going to be voted on in a few weeks. Before we break up for summer. It’s the directive that’s going to make my name.’

Not for the first time, I thought that Michael’s pomposity would be his undoing.

‘Hi Dad,’ Rosie came into the kitchen and again I saw how pale she was. She’d lost weight, she was just wearing leggings and a long top, her hair scrunched up onto her head.

‘What are you doing home?’ she said, surprised but not displeased to see him. He was like a forgotten-about lodger, sometimes. We never knew when we would be graced by his presence but neither of us minded either way. Michael didn’t try to parent too heavily or husband too deeply, and we never complained about his peripatetic attitude to the home, so it all worked quite well. He loved Rosie, that was clear, albeit in his own way. She knew it and had, I thought, never felt a particular lack. He just wasn’t one of those rough-and-tumble dads or even the bedtime-story dads… and that seemed okay. Good enough.

‘And how’s Daddy’s little politician?’ He ruffled her hair affectionately.

‘She’s fine,’ said Rosie, flatly. He glanced at me, as though he had heard my concerns. Rosie was normally far chattier and full of life. But this had become her usual way of late, low-enthusiasm and energy.

‘Now, I hope you’re working hard. Mammy says you are.’ He looked at her intently. ‘Is everything all right? Are you eating properly? There’s some Weetabix in the cupboard.’

‘Weetabix!’ she said. ‘Is that your answer to everything?’

‘It’s a good, healthy cereal,’ he said, looking hurt. ‘It’s a good stomach-settler.’

‘Can we just stop the inquisition? Am I working, am I eating? Yes I am and no I would rather chew my own Ugg boots than eat Weetabix. I eat granola. You should know that.’

Michael wasn’t an emotions man. He liked rationality and reason. No crying, slight hysteria or shaky voices. Rosie, being a normal teenager, would display every human emotion in just one conversation, which always had a slightly destabilising and unnerving effect on Michael.

‘I do know that, Rosie,’ he said, a politician’s smile plastered on his face. ‘I just merely forgot your breakfast preferences for one moment. And anyone is allowed to do that from time to time.’ He was desperately trying to bring the conversation back to Politics Today but things were often far more Loose Women.

‘Now, I was just saying to Mammy here that we should pop into Trinity together. I can show you around… the library, the cafeteria, that kind of thing. My old favourite lecture theatre… Trinity’s hallowed gates.’

‘So you keep saying…’ she said, the slightly terrified look in her eyes reappeared anytime Trinity was mentioned.

‘Next stop for you, Rosie,’ he pressed, ‘is politics. What do you say?’ But before Rosie could answer there was a beep of a horn outside. ‘Right, time to go,’ he said. ‘Meeting in Drogheda. Right,’ he said, clicking his heels together and giving us a salute. ‘I’m off. Had my Weetabix… your favourite, Rosie…’

‘Da-aad…’

‘I’m joking,’ he said. ‘But I might bring you back a bumper box of 72 when I’m next home. You will like them… much better than fannying around with muesli…’

Rosie was smiling, despite herself.

‘By the way, Mammy,’ he said. ‘Was that ordinary milk I just had?’

‘Supermarket’s finest,’ I said.

‘It wasn’t organic or from goats or anything strange like that.’

‘No… Why?’

‘Just had an idea,’ he said. ‘You don’t get anywhere without ideas.’ He kissed Rosie on the head, gave me a friendly tap on the arm and gathered his briefcase and rushed outside. ‘Remember, lights off!’ he shouted behind him as the door slammed. ‘Standards must be upheld!’

***

The Thomas family was rather different to the Fogarty’s political dynasty bursting with heirs all born to rule. In my family, the only destiny we seemed to follow was having one-daughter. Both my mother, my grandmother and I had just the one girl but Rosaleen, and Nora had their babies out of wedlock. My rebellion was to do it within the conventional confines of marriage.

Rosaleen was an unmarried mother at a time when it was possibly the most shocking thing anyone could do apart from eat garlic or refuse to go to Mass. When she discovered her pregnancy, she told no one anything. Not a word. Not even Nora’s father who was a boy from back home in West Cork… but already married. She left home, saying she was heading off to Dublin to work, but kept her pregnancy a secret, kept her baby and brazened it out. It takes a tremendous amount of guts to do that, to stare down the gossips and the whisperers and the elbow-nudgers. Force of personality and determination got her through.

My paternity was never up for much of a discussion. As far as I know, I was conceived at a music festival so the chances of me discovering who he was were lost in a haze of hallucinogenic substances. Not the most conventional start to my life. But that was Nora. She didn’t do normal.

I thought Nora was going to faint when I told her that I was getting married. To Michael. ‘What?’ She looked horrified and didn’t try to hide her shock. ‘You can’t. Tab, you can’t… he’s…’

‘He’s what?’

‘He’s not like us…’ was all she managed. And she was right. He wasn’t like us, at all. ‘He’s a Progressive Conservative.’ But I wanted a child and he wanted a wife.

And Nora got over it. Not enough to embrace Michael (he wouldn’t have actually embraced her, anyway, as he always said, with a slight shudder, there was the whiff of Oxfam off her), but enough not to go on about it. Anyway, we all had Rosie to think about now.

But whenever I walked on the pier in Dun Laoghaire, I’d look at the couples, the ones who looked like they’d been married for years and years, the ones brimming with love and lustre, chatting nineteen to the dozen, holding hands, and I would feel a tug of loneliness. I used to have that, once, but life had taken a different direction and Rosie was the centre of my universe. Michael and I, when he was home, didn’t share a bedroom and we had used the fact that he had the nasal capacity of a jet engine as the reason for his moving to the spare room. Michael and I weren’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. Certainly not bad enough to leave.

‘Mum…’

‘Yes sweetheart?’ I said, looking up from the fridge from where I was putting the shopping away.

‘Nothing,’ she said, turning away. ‘Forget it.’

‘No, what is it? Is everything all right?’

This school year hadn’t started well for Rosie when her boyfriend, Jake, ended things. And now, with the pressures of exams, the light had gone out of her. It was awful to see. She had even retreated from her best friends, Alice and Meg.

‘Yeah, fine.’ She turned to go.

‘Have you eaten?’ I said, in an attempt to keep her with me.

She shrugged. ‘I had some granola earlier.’

‘Would you like something else? Poached eggs? I bought some nice bread.’

‘No, it’s fine.’

‘Do you fancy doing something? A walk? Or we could go the farmers market? Or into town? Do some shopping. Get you something nice?’ The bribe fell flat.

‘No, you’re grand. I’ve got to get back upstairs.’

‘Ro…’ I eyeballed her, parent face on. ‘You don’t go out. I can’t remember the last time you left the house… what about Alice, Meg… I bet they are still going outside…’ I smiled, to let her know I was still on her side.

‘So?’ Suddenly, she was furious, on the brink of tears. ‘I’m trying to work, okay? That’s all. I’m just trying to work.’

‘I know, I know,’ I soothed, quickly. ‘But don’t you think it might be nice? Why don’t you go and see Alice? I’m sure she could do with a break too.’

She held up her hand. ‘Mum, can’t you just give me a break. Leave me to it. Okay? Everyone’s doing it,’ she told me. ‘We’re all working away. Stop fussing.’

‘Stop fussing? I’m your mother. This is what we do. We fuss. And if mothers stopped fussing, where would we be then?’

‘Happier?’

I pressed on. ‘Have you even talked to Alice? Texted her?’

‘You should be pleased I’m working so hard. Not nagging me. God, anyone would think you would want me to fail.’

‘Of course I don’t want you to fail but…’ What exactly did I want? I liked the fact that she was a hard worker. This very fact had made my parenting so much easier. She was the kind of child you didn’t have to worry about. Conscientious, successful. She made me look good. But… but… something was nagging at me, something wasn’t quite right. It was too much.  ‘You need a break,’ I said. ‘At least from time to time. You’ve shut yourself away like…’

‘Like what? A madwoman in the attic?’ She had her arms crossed, challenging me.

‘No…’ I tried to keep it neutral. These days all I seemed to do was upset her. I was losing her. ‘You’re hibernating, like a… like a…’

‘Squirrel?’ She almost laughed.

‘Like a hermit.’

‘Mum, hermits don’t hibernate. Maybe you should have studied harder.’

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘obviously, I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say but I don’t want you to stop being you. Having fun. Seeing your friends. It’s like life is on hold. There’s no such thing as a pause button. Not when it comes to being alive. However much you might want there to be.’ For a moment I thought of the times when I wished I could press pause, when life seemed to move too fast for me. ‘What about seeing if Alice or Meg would like to go to the cinema with you,’ I persisted. ‘I’ll drop you. And collect. I’ll give you money for sweets.’

She rolled her eyes, defiance and anger had returned. ‘Mum, I’m doing my Leaving Cert. And you want me to go and eat sweets. Or press pause. Or be a squirrel…’ She was looking at me as though I was mad.

‘Forget the squirrel bit…’

‘Have you any idea how stupid you sound?’

‘No… I mean I just think you deserve a bit of a break. You don’t leave your bedroom. Surely, you know it all by now.’

‘You see! That’s typical of all of you. None of you get it. I can’t just take time off.’ She began to cry. ‘How else am I going to get to Trinity? To do Law.’ She spat it out. Up until this moment, I had thought she wanted it just as much as Michael. But maybe it was just pre-exams nerves, the fear of this huge culmination of 14 years of full-time education… the feeling of being out of control. Inevitably she was going to doubt herself and her choices.

‘You don’t have to,’ I said. ‘If you’ve changed your mind about Trinity or Law or anything, it’s not too late.’

‘Oh yes it is!’ she said. ‘But there’s nothing I can do.’

 

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