Mary Scanlon scrubbed the soft dry earth off the last of the potatoes, only satisfied when they looked like clean little sun freckled faces, then she dropped them with a satisfying plop into the large pot gently simmering on the stove top.
They would take at least an hour without having a fierce boil, then she would drain them and leave them to steam in their heat, so their new skin cracked open to reveal the snowy soft potato inside. With a good quarter pound of fresh butter to soak into them and the left-over ham, it would be a simple supper and all the more satisfying for it.
Her father was not due home until six at the earliest. He had a meeting with Local Education Board in Ennis. He was determined they should allow his small village school to expand so the local families would not have to send their older children all the way into Ennis for their senior school education. The local farming families backed his plans, and more importantly, so did Father Flynn. So Sean Scanlon was half way there with his campaign. It wasn’t just his ambition to be the Head Master of a bigger school, or the standing that would bring him in the village; his campaign was also a welcome distraction from his loneliness as a widower of twelve years.
Mary didn’t remember her mother; she was so young when she died. And she did love her father, after all there was only the two of them, but she was sick of the hearing the debate about schooling that she herself had finished with, and she was bored at the thought of the long summer holidays lying ahead of her with little to interest her in the sleepy village. It was the only reason why she had agreed to help out Bridget O’Hanlon who was ‘struggling’ and sure the babies would be fun to play with for a while.
At least she would get paid and could act the lady in Ennis on a Saturday with all the scarves and make up she could buy from Skillen’s. Bridget was an odd one, so quiet and remote; she hardly spoke. It was Bridget’s husband Stephen who did all the talking. He seemed to sense her nervousness. He was so friendly and welcoming.
For the first time she felt as if she was being talked to like she was a grown up and not a school girl. He had even smiled and shaken her hand when they first met; his grip was warm, dry and soft. Not the hand of a farmer at all.
Mary went to her room and flopped heavily onto her bed, pulling out the dog-eared copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier from under her pillow. She longed for the life of beautiful clothes, jewels, glamorous parties and afternoon tea trays creaking under the weight of fairy cakes and chocolate éclairs. But most of all she longed for the older, richer more knowing Maxim de Winter. The village boys with their gawky smiles and uncouth ways were but children in her eyes compared to handsome, worldly Maxim.
She let the book drop to her chest and stared out the window, sighing wistfully.