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Here are the first 14 pages of this novel for young adults
Why Did She Leave The House?
The story of Brigid’s quest begins as many long-ago stories begin … with a question: why did she leave? Why did she leave the house, her home?
The O’Grady home was a very comfortable one room thatched roof cottage with thick walls of peat cut from the bog a long ways away. The stone fireplace served the family well for preparing meals and for warmth. Surrounding the house were acres of farmland for growing potatoes and wheat and several modest wooden structures. The barn was just big enough for the cow and the plow horse and a winter’s supply of grain and straw. The chicken coop and pen for the laying hens was nearby as was a shed for keeping the tools and the rest of the harvest. Not too far from the cottage were a well that provided fresh water and a small vegetable garden which Brigid tended with great loving care.
Brigid Shawn O’Grady was the only child of a farmer and his wife in long ago County Clare in Ireland. Her parents loved her very much despite the fact that she was born with a deformity; a terribly misshaped foot.
From the day she was born, the people of the nearby village heard of the deformity and imagined her difference signified the most horrible of things. Even without seeing the child, many simply decided that she must be evil. Simply put, the poor child scared just about everyone one except her parents. They loved their daughter very much and did all they could to protect her. They kept her at home and never took her to town or to any public gathering.
As time passed, her misshapen foot did not improve. It caused her to walk with a pronounced limp and it required a special home-made leather boot. By the time she was ten, the special boot looked like a large brown hoof with random stitching crossing this way and that.
Despite this deformity, Brigid was very helpful to her mother and father. She swept the wooden floor of their cottage, drew water from the well behind the house, helped with the washing, the cooking and with tending their vegetable garden. She became quite skillful at keeping her father’s axe sharpened and even learned to split the much-needed firewood. The chopping and the digging in the garden helped Brigid to become unusually strong for a girl her age. Of course, not being able to leave their yard and kept confined to the cottage during most of the daylight hours, Brigid had no comparison to make with others her age.
Being restricted to such a small part of it, Brigid became more and more curious about the rest of the world outside her home. Not that much was visible to her. She watched out the little windows of her family’s cottage and wondered at the limited sights she could see from her vegetable garden in the side yard.
On many days, while inside doing morning chores, Brigid would see a little girl passing on the road, carrying a book or two. One day, as Brigid was sitting gazing out the window as she was folding clothes for her mother, she saw that little girl again.
“That little girl I saw passing our home, that little girl carrying those books, where is she going?” Brigid asked her Mother.
“School,” her mother told her.
At the time, “school” was a new word for her.
Day after day she would see the little girl, a girl not taller than herself and probably the same age she would guess.
“I want to go to school,” she insisted one day to her father.
“It is best you stay at home,” her Father told her.
Perhaps I didn’t ask him properly, Brigid thought, so several days later she asked, “Father, I would like to go to school. May I please?”
Her father took both of her little hands into his big rough hands, looked at her lovingly with his soft blue eyes and told her, “we keep you here at home for your own good.”
“You’re different, Brigid,” her mother added.
“I am?” she asked.
“It is best you stay inside our house,” her father gently instructed and let go of her hands.
“Here at home you are safe,” her mother assured her.
“There is no need for you to go to the village school. Our home - this is your school. You learn from your mother. She does a good job teaching you numbers and words, does she not?”
“Yes, father, she does.”
“You’re becoming quite smart, Brigid Shawn O’Grady. Tonight after supper, would you read to me another tale from your book?”
“That’s a good girl.” He gave her a quick hug, she kissed him on the cheek and then he was out the door, out to the fields to tend the crops.
Brigid loved learning and she loved her book. It was an old leather-bound collection of Irish folk tales that her grandfather had given her when she was born. Her mother taught her to read using that book of dreamy stories and far-away adventures. As Brigid learned her letters and then words, she would read the book of folk tales over and over until the pages were worn.
For the next couple years, Brigid was content to stay in the house, learning from her mother and father and occasionally working in her little vegetable garden next to their cottage. Of course, she was not allowed to stay outside for too long.
Day after day Brigid would see a little girl pass the O’Grady cottage on her way to what her father once called “the school in the village.”
I know what a “village is.” Brigid would think. But is it like the villages and towns in my book?
And years went by, Brigid grew up inside her world of four walls and a window, reading her one book of tales and legends. She found great comfort in the words of the stories such as, “... and all were happy. So the Sea Mither smiled, and disappeared again into the ocean waves.”
Brigid would read and dream.
However, as time passed, she grew restless, thinking always, What is a “school?” What is that village like? Is there a castle? Is there a blacksmith shop like in the story about the little boy and his magic steed?”
Then, all in one day, she saw several different people passing on the road that ran close to the front door of their cottage. There was a very tall bearded man leading his horse as it pulled a cart full of colorful cloth and silks heading to the village. Then there was a farmer and his wife walking from the village with a large basket full of breads and cabbages.
“I’ve never grown a cabbage that large,” Brigid thought.
A shepherd with a bundle of sheep’s wool tied to his horse was headed to the village followed closely by a young boy leading a horse that had obviously thrown a shoe. The boy stopped and spoke with Brigid’s mother who was tending the front walk.
“Good day to you, ma’am.”
“To you as well,” she answered.
“The man there, the shepherd, he tells me there’s a good smithy in the next village. Would he be tellin’ truth?”
“Aye. We’ve an excellent blacksmith, quite the expert with horses, he is.”
“Ah, that’s good news. Thank you,” he said with a smile and a doff of his hat. He then continued down the road towards the village.
Her mother turned and saw Brigid peering out the window and gave a wave.
Brigid waved back and then she retreated to her stool by the hearth and added wood to the small fire under the kettle. As she stirred the fire with the iron poker, she wondered out loud, “A school? A village? There are colorful silks in the village, and woolens and baked bread and school books and maybe more. What else is there? ‘Tis a place of mysteries and wonder! I must see for myself what the little girl sees every day.”
She had made up her mind.
The next morning, before the sun had risen, when everything was gray and oh-so-still, and her mother and father still asleep, she carefully opened the big front door, stepped out of the cottage and quietly closed the door behind her.
She looked up and then down the road. Not a soul was in sight.
For the first time in her walking talking life she left the house and yard that had confined her for a little more than twelve years.
She walked the dirt road she’d never been allowed and was soon on the street in the little village of Lisdoonvarna. There she saw the village green on which she’d never walked, and beyond it, between two very tall pine trees, the wooden schoolhouse of which she had only heard tell.
Suddenly a rooster crowed in the distance. Brigid startled. A shiver ran up her spine to her neck making the hair on the back of her neck bristle.
The sun will soon light the village, she thought. I should hurry.
She hurried across the green to the schoolhouse. There she peeked in through the schoolhouse windows and saw the rows of wooden chairs, desks with their ink wells, books and a world of maps upon the walls.
How, she wondered, could a place so wonderful harm me?
The aroma of fresh baking bread drew her toward the bake shop where she gazed through the window at soda bread and yesterday’s dainty cakes.
Onward Brigid went. At the tailor’s shop she was dazzled by the bright red dress and the feathered hats in the store window.
She was distracted by so many wonders that before she knew it, the sun was up and the day had begun. The street cleaner was inspecting his domain. The tailor and the baker were opening their shops. The teacher was opening the school.
Brigid was fascinated by everything she saw as the villagers began their new day. She just stood and stared. Soon there were dozens of people in the street and they crowded together discussing the presence of “that O’Grady child.”
The little girl Brigid had seen so often passing her cottage stepped from the crowd and approached Brigid.
“Hi. My name is Brianna. What’s your name?”
Brigid wanted to reply. She wanted to be friendly. But the nasty looks from all of the grownups made her want to flee.
“Excuse me, I need be going home,” Brigid managed to stutter
“Would you like to play with me?” Brianna asked her.
The little girl’s mother rushed over and planted herself between her daughter and Brigid. “Brianna, keep your distance, little one! Can’t you see ... IT?”
“What?” Brigid asked.
“That!” Brianna’s mother said with disdain as she pointed to Brigid’s strangely shaped boot that covered her missshaped foot.
“Ooh, ooh!” Brianna exclaimed and reached to touch Brigid’s foot while asking, “Does it hurt?”
“Enough!” Her mother exclaimed as she pulled her daughter away from Brigid.
“She’s that infant that’s grown up now. The one with that ugly foot!”
By this time, quite a few people had gathered near her, but they all turned their backs on Brigid. They refused to talk to her, but they certainly had plenty to say to each other about her.
“That affliction! Her frightening difference,” said one man to another.
“She’s got a hoof, like a sheep, one man told the woman who ran the clothing store.
‘Tis not my fault, ma’am,” Brigid tried to tell her, but the woman would not turn ‘round and face Brigid.
“Poor thing. She’s so twisted on the outside,” observed one woman.
“Perhaps the inside as well,” her companion replied.
‘Tis nothing I’ve done,” Brigid tried to explain to the people who had turned their backs on her.
“That foot! What a frightening mistake.”
“She’s impossible to clothe properly. With that foot, she’s not pretty at all.”
“A monster!” decried the street cleaner. He spit on the ground by Brigid’s feet causing her to step back. He quickly swept the ground where she once stood.
The villagers continued their comments revealing their fears and hatred for the child who was ”different.”
“She’s not normal.”
“She doesn’t belong!”
“What have I done?” Brigid begged.
They ignored her.
“Do you see her?” another asked.
“I choose not to.”
“Me as well.”
“Why won’t you look at me?” Brigid asked.
The people’s comments soon grew into taunts.
“Someone that ugly.”
“A child that strange.”
“She should go away!”
“Disappear like she’s never been here!”
“I wish I could,” replied Brigid, tears welling up in her eyes.
“I don’t see her.”
“I never saw her.”
“Stop ... stop ... stop!” Brigid pleaded, backing away from the mob. Her misshaped foot stepped on a stone, not a really big one, but big enough for her to lose her balance and fall into the dusty dirty street. “I’ve done nothing wrong!” she cried out.
The comments and taunts suddenly stopped. All fell silent as Brigid’s father pushed his way through the crowd and stood protectively above the defenseless child on the ground.
His stern look caused the villagers to move away whispering among themselves.
Briana’s mother spoke loudly and directly at Brigid's father. “Shame on you, Michael Sean O’Grady!”
“You were not to let her in the village!” declared the street sweeper.
Michael O’Grady did not respond. He stooped down, gently lifted his daughter from the dirty roadway and carried her away.
Brianna sadly asked her mother, “Where’s she going?”
“Who? That awful girl? Pretend she was never here,” her mother demanded.
With those hateful words stinging in their ears, Brigid’s father carried her all the way to the safe confines of their little cottage.
Home. The sights and smells and sounds: her book on the table, the crackling fire, the aroma of fresh made porridge mingling with the scent of the moist peat walls, the creak of the wooden floor boards – all were very comforting to Brigid as her father placed her down on the wooden chair beside the hearth.
Brigid’s mother was quickly upon her with hugs and kisses. Then she examined her daughter to make sure there were no physical injuries. “They’ve not hurt you, my joy, my blessing, mother’s angel, have they?”
Her father handed her mother a bucket of water and a cloth.
Gently washing the dirt from Brigid’s hands and face her mother assured her, “You’re home now, you’re safe.”
“They stared at me and they made fun of me.” Brigid explained. “That man said I have a hoof not a foot! A hoof like a sheep!” And she began to cry again.
“Brigid listen to me,” her father scolded. “Time and time again you were told not to leave this house. One time is one too many.
“It’s for your own good,” her mother gently added. “Don’t you see that now?”
“But they do not know me,” Brigid pleaded.
“They were frightened by your foot when you were a babe in my arms. For them nothing has changed,” her mother explained.
“Now you know the cruel truth of the world!” her father shouted.
This stunned Brigid. She’d never seen either parent raise their voice in such a manner.
Taking short breaths between sobs, she haltingly pleaded, “Father … I am … so … so sorry!
“‘Tis not with you I am upset,” he quickly responded. “My anger is with their ignorance. They don’t know what is real from what it is they only imagine.”
“That is why we protect you and keep you here,” her mother added.
“What is most real is that they could have hurt you. We cannot have it,” he told his daughter. “They are ignorant to believe you are bad, but we cannot change them. So now more than ever you must stay to home.”
Rinsing the cloth in the pail of water, her mother continued. “You have a life here, Brigid, a life inside these four walls and with your little garden. You’ll be sweeping the floor, doing your chores like any other day, and later we’ll read a tale from the book.”
“No!” her father exclaimed as he snatched up the book from the table. “Not ever again! It’s this book she’s learned to read that filled her mind with questions, caused false hopes and restlessness. These are tales told by liars and lunatics. There is no magic in this world, no fairy fishes and no horses flying over pretty rainbows!”
He threw the book to the floor.
“No-o-o-o!!” Brigid shouted as she retrieved the book and placed it on the little table.
“It’s for the best, child,” her father sternly explained. “You will not leave here again to be hurt again. Nor will you ever read another book of wild tales. I must go. I have work in the fields. Mind me now, Brigid. You will stay in this house!”
He left to return to his work, slamming the door behind him.
Brigid stared at the heavy oak door. The silence in the room was only cut by sounds of the fire in the hearth. Brigid could hardly breathe. She had never seen her father in such a state. He had never raised his voice like that.
She continued to stare at the door. He mother was saying something but she wasn’t listening. Brigid was only listening to the thoughts racing through her mind - thoughts of her father’s anger mingled with her memories of the villager’s taunts and insults. Brigid’s fear slowly changed to anger. It grew inside her until finally she looked away from the oak door and stood up.
“This is no longer home to me. ‘Tis a prison!“ Brigid called out after her father. “This foot is the cause of it all! If I was like everyone else, I’d be free to walk about and go to school and have friends!”
“Brigid, please. It’s not to be,” her mother gently informed her and handed Brigid a broom. “Chores, now.”
“This foot!” Brigid cried as she threw the broom to the ground. “This foot! This foot! I hate this foot!”
Her mother tried to calm her. “You’re our one child. For us every part of you is precious,” said she.
Brigid retrieved the book and sat with it held tight to herself.
Her mother shook her head and held out her hand for Brigid to give her the book, but the child refused. She held tightly to the book.
“You’ll not be taking my book from me! This is precious to me. It tells me there is hope and magic somewhere in the world. There is! There is!”
She opened the book and showed her Mother. “Here’s the gentle caring Sea Mither, who might appear to those who ask. The Sea Mither answers wishes. ‘Tis a true story surely!”
“No, darlin’, those creatures fly no further than the pages of that book, like dreams in the wake-up world.” Handing her the broom, she continued, “There’s the chores to do. The book cannot be here when your father returns. You will see to it.”
Her mother picked up the little bucket and left the cottage.
Alone now, Brigid ignored the broom. She opened the book and read out loud.
“The Sea Mither appears over the Cliffs of Moher, a barren place high above the ocean where but few dare travel.”
Brigid looked up from the book. “The Cliffs of Moher,” she told the empty room, “The Cliffs are not so far from here, only past Googyulla and Doolin. That is where I must go!”
As she stared at the glowing embers in the fireplace, Brigid could hear inside her head a Gaelic incantation that she had seen in the book. Ta’ draichot anseo. Ta’ aochas anseo.
“Magic is here. Hope is here,” Brigid recited out loud. “Ta’ draichot anseo. Ta’ aochas anseo. Magic is here. Hope is here. Magic is there! My only hope is there!”
She stood up and walked to the door. She touched her mother’s apron hanging there on a peg. “Fare thee well mother.” She touched her father’s old hat. “Goodbye for now father.”
Brigid opened the door then turned and looked around the room quickly.
“Farewell house o’ my birth and my childhood ‘til I return the way I ought to be.”