Mary O'Hara was walking up her street, to the
house she lived in with her parents and her
brothers. The school bus had dropped her at the corner,
at the bottom of the hill. The street was long, straight, and
quite steep, and there were huge old chestnut trees
growing all along both sides. It was raining, but Mary
wasn't getting very wet, because the leaves and branches
were like a roof above her. Anyway, rain and getting wet
were things that worried adults, but not Mary - or anyone
else under the age of twenty-one. Mary was twelve. She'd
be twelve for another eight months. Then she'd be what
she already felt she was - a teenager.
She came home at the same time most days, and she usually came home with her best friend, Ava. But today was different, because Ava wasn't with Mary. Ava had moved to another part of Dublin the day before, with her family. Today, some of the neighbors looked out their windows and saw Mary, alone. They knew all about it, of course. These were people who looked out windows. They'd seen the removals lorry outside Ava's house. They'd seen Mary and Ava hug each other, and they'd seen Ava get into their car and follow the removals lorry.
As the car moved slowly up the street, they'd seen Mary wave, and run into her house. They might have heard the front door slam. They might have heard Mary's feet charging up the stairs, and the springs under Mary's mattress groan when she fell facedown on the bed. They probably didn't hear her crying, and they definitely didn't hear the softer sound of the bedsprings a little later when Mary realized that, although she was heartbroken, she was also starving. So she got up and went downstairs to the kitchen and ate until her face was stiff.
Today, Mary walked alone, up the hill. She was nearly home. There were just a few houses left before she got to hers. There was a gap between the trees for a while, so the raindrops fell on her. But she didn't notice them, or care.
Someone had once told her that people who'd had their leg cut off still felt the leg, even a long time after they'd lost it. They felt an itch and went to scratch, and remembered that there was no leg there. That was how Mary felt. She felt Ava walking beside her. She knew she wasn't, but she looked anyway - and that made it worse.
Mary knew: Ava was somewhere else in Dublin, only seven kilometers away. But if she'd been acting in a film or a play and she was told she had to cry, she'd have thought of Ava and crying would have been easy. Feeling angry and looking angry would have been easy too. Mary couldn't understand why people moved house. It was stupid. And she couldn't understand why parents - Ava's parents - said no when two friends - Mary and Ava - asked if it was okay if one of them - Ava - didn't move but, instead, lived with the other friend - Mary.
"You won't have to feed her if she lives with us," Mary had told Ava's mother the day before they'd moved. "It'll, like, save you a fortune."
"Especially with the recession and that."
"Why not?" Ava asked.
"Because you're our daughter and we love you."
"Then do the noble thing and let her stay," said Mary.
"If you, like, really, really love her. It's not funny."
"I know," said Ava's mother. "It's just so sweet."
Which was exactly the sort of stupid thing that adults said. They saw two best friends clinging to each other, wanting to die rather than be separated - and they said it was sweet.
"I suppose you think war and starvation are sweet too, like, do you?" said Mary.
"You're being a little bit rude, Mary," said Ava's mother. "Whatever," said Mary.
She stood at Ava's front door. Then she tried to slam it. But she couldn't. There was a thick rug in the hall, and it seemed to grab the bottom of the door. So she'd shouted it instead.
Excerpted from A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle. Copyright © 2012 by Roddy Doyle. Excerpted by permission of Harry N. Abrams Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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