Thirty-one years ago, in the middle of a dark, stormy night, my father woke me up with the words, “It’s time.”
Well, he probably didn’t say, “It’s time”, who knows what he said? It was thirty-one years ago! June, 1981. We had really bad haircuts but proper music
Also, my mother has just confirmed that it wasn’t stormy, but it was ‘freezing cold’. She agrees that it was definitely dark.
Anyway. “It’s time,” my father said. (Possibly.) I got up and followed him blearily down the hallway. The lamps were on in my parents’ bedroom. My mother was up, and dressed in a pink quilted dressing gown. (“Mmm, not pink so much as a lovely, deep velvet red,” says Mum. ”I loved that dressing gown to bits. You can call it pink though, darling, if you like.”)
Mum was breathing strangely, as if she’d been running. Why is she doing that? I thought curiously. I’ve never been quick off the mark. (“I’ll never forget the expression on your face,” says Mum. “You looked at me as if I was quite mad.”)
“Sleep in our bed in case any of the children wake up,” said Dad. I was fast asleep by the time they closed the front door. It was so cold Dad had to scrape the ice off the windscreen before they left.
The next day Dad called to tell us that we had a new little sister. Her name was Nicola. Not Erin. Mum and Dad had been tossing up between Nicola and Erin, and for many years our next door neighbour sent us Christmas cards saying, “Dear Liane, Jaci, Kati, Fiona, Sean and Erin.”
Nicola was the cutest, most angelic baby ever born. She had a crazy tangle of blonde curls and a dimple. We seriously couldn’t believe how adorable she was, and I was thrilled whenever anybody mistook me for her mother. (I wouldn’t be quite so thrilled if that happened today.)
Oldest children are conservative and bossy. Youngest children are generous free spirits. You can see this in action when we go clothes shopping, and I stay in the change room pouting, while Nicola flies about bringing clothes for me. Once, the lady in the next change room tried to get in on the action and asked Nicola if she could bring her the black pants in a smaller size. “She doesn’t work here,” I said huffily. “She’s my sister.´ Then I overheard the manager offering Nicola a job.
She nearly took the job, because she’s proper Gen Y and has therefore had about 400 jobs. She’s been a swimming teacher and an actress. (Dad was SO happy to see that provocative photo of her back used on a billboard to advertise one of her plays!)
And now, Nicola has just released her first novel. It’s called FREE-FALLING and it’s a beguiling, tragic-romantic comedy of heartbreak and heroism, grief and ghostly dreams. I think her male characters are particularly wonderful and well-written. I expect this is because there was NO WAY IN THE WORLD she was attending the same Catholic girls school where Jaci, Kati and I attended. She wore a short skirt and went to the local co-ed school. That’s right. Nicola went to high school with BOYS. I can’t believe it either. (So did our sister Fiona. They got really cool at the other end of the family.)
Buy Free-Falling by Nicola Moriarty. You’ll love it.