Coming soon …
Molly and Diego have brought their lovely baby Bridie to Ireland in pursuit of their dreams; Molly will transform an ornamental building into a dream home, and Diego will transform his failed thesis into a best–selling novel.
It was all going so well …
Friday, 22 June 2007 – 23:45
Bamford Folly, Glencolmcille Ireland
Molly Bertolocci held her screaming baby as close as she could without deadening her ears and wished hard that the brat would just disappear.
“God dammit Bridie, that is enough! I should just send you back to the clinic for a refund!” She was too exhausted to regret the words. Bridie howled and screamed and wailed with as much terrified gusto as when she had begun six hours ago. An endless siren louder than a banshee.
Bridie clutched and grabbed at Molly in a fearful frenzy. The wind outside Bamford Folly howled in sympathy. Molly’s hand stung under its bandages as she struggled to soothe her writhing infant.
“Shh… shh… shh,” Molly tried to keep the hiss out of her voice. She couldn’t remember a single nursery rhyme to sing.
The floorboards of the new bedroom at the top of the tower were cool and smooth under her bare feet. Almost asleep, Molly sagged against the rough stone wall. The sting on her upper arm snapped her back into the moment. A montage of possible futures flashed across her mind’s eye.
Her slapping Bridie’s terrified face.
Her slamming Bridie onto the floor.
Her shaking Bridie until she finally shut up.
Molly slapped her own face. You can do this. You can do this. You can do this. Her desperate mantra triggered a silent echo. No I can’t. No I can’t. No I can’t.
Molly stopped her pacing in front of the huge arch-shaped stained-glass window installed by Pavel and Diego just a few short hours ago. What a beautiful moment that had been. The sun had shone through the coloured glass casting a likeness of its central image onto these very floorboards. Saint Bride, a beautiful young woman in a white dress with lovely red curly hair, just like baby Bridie. Saint Bride was depicted as fast asleep between two angels carrying her over the sea from Ireland to Scotland.
Bridie had sat on the floor and slapped at the saint’s face, awestruck by the shadow cast by her own hand. Diego looked down with pride at his beautiful daughter. Their builder Pavel looked as close to pleased as his gruff professionalism would allow, hefting his hammer from one hand to the other.
Molly stretched out her bandaged hand to touch the face of the saint. This stained-glass window was a rare highlight in this long-running renovation project that had eaten her life and all her money over the last three months. She could not remember ever doubting that she could convert a crumbling stone tower on the west coast of Ireland into a trophy home worthy of the cover of Dwell magazine and raise a baby at the same time.
But Bridie’s first night in her new bedroom was not going well. Bridie had been howling like a banshee for six hours now.
Molly trembled on the verge of tears. Just bring her down to your bed. Place her between you and Diego. Try again tomorrow.
She drew herself straight with a deep breath. Bridie slipped a little, strengthened her scream and grabbed Molly’s right nipple. Too stunned to shout, Molly slapped the hand away, marched to the cot and dropped the baby in as gently as her fury would allow. She turned on her bare heel and marched to the open trap door and down the spiral stairs into the main bedroom below. The trap door slammed shut above her with a boom that echoed down the tower. Even the heavy door could not baffle the noise of Bridie’s terror.
Molly’s imagination painted a plaintiff picture of Bridie’s terrified face behind the bars of the cot, arms reaching through like a princess locked away in a tower. Imprisoned by a witch. And that witch was Molly.
In the darkness below, Diego stirred. For a split-second Molly hated him. Hated him for not coming up to help her with the baby. Hated him for the failure of his once glittering academic career. Hated him for not standing up to her when she insisted that they buy this place. This Folly.
The sharp prick of hate punctured her fury and she melted onto the stone steps and wept.
The bed creaked as Diego slowly sat up. His cautious footsteps whispered along the floor and up the stone steps. Too exhausted to refuse his assistance, Molly let herself be lifted from the stairs and manoeuvred into bed. Her pounding head registered every wrinkle in the pillowcase. After a moment’s pause, probably weighing up whether to go up to their screaming child, Diego slipped back into bed beside her.
The wind smashed against the Folly and the ocean pounded the crumbling cliffside below. There was something strange about this Atlantic gale. A shouting symphony of reedy high crescendos and rattling bassoon-like rumbles. Loud though the elemental symphony was, the baby’s screams could not be drowned out.
Molly opened her eyes, rolled onto her side and looked across Diego to the clock. He was wide awake staring at the ceiling with his hands clasped on his chest.
It was 23:57…
Don’t cave. Don’t cave. Bridie will settle. Never give up. Never give in. If you let her into your bed you’re just making a rod for your own back.
Molly’s iron will had forged her career as one of Boston’s top architects. Sticking to her guns and forcing her way through roadblocks thrown up by the indecisive and myopic. Without her zeal and her iron will she wouldn’t be where she was today.
On the west coast of Ireland. In a crumbling ornamental tower, teetering on the edge of collapse. Literally and figuratively.
Stark reality seeped into her bones, projected by the cool masonry. Cool, even on Midsummer’s Eve. Molly shivered at the thought of spending a winter in this half-renovated ruin.
She had done this.
She had exposed her family to this danger.
She had decided to buy this crumbling old ruin, beguiled by her recent successes and high hopes.
She had pressured Diego into sinking their life savings into this Folly. And now, like half-read small print, Diego’s gentle prudent warnings floated back to her, one by one. The sobriety of it all sucked her flat to the mattress.
This was her fault. This was all her fault. And they were in big trouble.
Bridie’s siren dipped a decibel. Diego’s warm hand slipped into hers. His darkened profile flattened as he looked left at the clock, 23:58, and flattened again as he looked back at Molly. She squeezed his hand. Her other hand twitched under its bandages sending a stab of pain up her arm.
“Don’t worry Molly. Bridie will be okay. She will love it as much as you do. Eventually.”
Molly grimaced at the pain from her burned hand and scoffed at the kind platitude. Diego let go. You klutz, she scolded herself. Aching waves of weariness pulsed across her temples.
Silence above… Success!
As quickly as it had waned Bridie’s siren restarted with renewed urgency as though she was sending out a distress beacon with the last of her strength. Molly sat up and put her feet on the floor. Molly hated herself for doing so, but she had caved.
She would fetch Bridie from her cot. Lay the poor terrified infant in this bed between her parents and soothe her to sleep. They would try again tomorrow.
“I’m sorry.” She spoke to her own feet. Her words were baffled by a pickup in the gale outside. It had a lilting jig-like undercurrent. As though pan-pipes were playing nearby. She could hear Diego listening behind her.
“I’m so sorry.” Warm silence radiated from Diego. Her dearest friend, her partner-in-adventure, her husband.
“This mess. It’s all my fault. This Folly. This place.” The bed moved slightly as Diego shifted his weight and rolled toward her.
“You never wanted this. I pressganged you into it.” A silence of non-denial. His warm hand crept into hers again. Molly turned to face him. In the darkness, she could make out the shape of his head facing her.
The warm hand squeezed again. “We’ll be okay, Molly. Sure, these next few months are going to be tough. But if we stick together, we’ll be fine.”
Molly fell back onto the bed with a groan, reached her arms over her head and draped them over Diego’s torso. His coarse chest curls tickled her arms and his warm lips met the back of her hand.
Molly sat up and checked the clock. 23.59.
In preparation for the effort involved, Molly pictured herself going up the stairs. Up through the trap-door, rising like a guardian angel into Bridie’s bedroom above. The baby would stop crying, the tiny monster would be banished, and her own sweet Bridie would be there in its place. Bridie would hold up her little plump arms and Molly would pick her up and hold her tight. Everything would be okay.
A ripple rolled up the masonry. With a loud pop Bridie fell silent and a blast of wind hurtled down the stairs tossing books and clothes about like a pissed off poltergeist.
“Bridie!” Molly’s innards turned to water as she bolted up the curved stairs with Diego close behind her. The battering wind made her eyes stream. A heavy horrid shatter boomed through the masonry. A thunderous scuffle echoed up the tower, as though it was being climbed by a massive beast.
She shouldered open the heavy trap door, ran up into Bridie’s bedroom and faced an empty archway, like a shocked mouth in a face of stone. Molly clutched at the archway edge as she looked out and down. The sharp divots where the cold iron nails had been, plucked at the bandage on her hand.
Below in the standing stone circle, the light of the setting full moon touched the tip of the tallest headstone. A shining jewel in an enormous broken stone crown. The stone they had removed three weeks ago lay to one side. The mouth of the dolmen was open, spilling a dim red light through the dell. And writhing shadows retreated into it. Hurrying, scurrying, carrying. Impossible hominid shapes and forms.
The dolmen mouth cracked shut. And at the foot of the tower Bridie’s tiny body lay at the centre of the shattered stained-glass window.
“No!” Molly screamed leaning out.
Diego’s warm hands on her upper arms drew her back into the room. She fought against a swoon allowing Diego to place her into a collapsed crouch. His bare feet padded away across the floorboards to the cot.
“Bridie honey, daddy’s here. Don’t be scared.”
What? Molly looked up to see Diego nursing a tiny form. Red curls swayed over his shoulder.
Molly went back to the archway, leaning out as far as she dared. The wind slapped her red curls into her face stinging her eyes.
Far below, surrounded by shards of coloured glinting glass, was Saint Bride. Miraculously preserved by her angel guard who had sacrificed their forms in a final act of protection.
Relief washed through Molly sending a shudder through her limbs. She turned to embrace her husband and baby and give thanks for their deliverance.
But Bridie’s face was gone.
Under the red curls a mannequin’s head plasticised into Bridie’s features wearing an expression of cold scorn.
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