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
"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
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