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What She Wants

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As yet another noisy Cork and Kerry tour bus crunched gears over
the hump-backed bridge, belching out diesel fumes, Mary-Kate Donlan
closed the door of her chemist shop and locked it. If any Redlion
inhabitant wanted either lipstick or flu remedies in their lunch
break, they could go without. Ever since her assistant Otis had
been on holiday, all she'd managed for her lunch for the past few
weeks was a bit of a sandwich munched between customers and she was
fed up with it. Today she'd arranged to meet her niece, Delphine,
for a leisurely lunch and a chat.

Wrapping her coat around her, she hurried down the village to the
Widow Maguire's, a pretty stone pub with window boxes, traditional
music sessions twice a week and the best pub food for miles. She
ran across the main street, a slim middle-aged woman with plain
bobbed hair and not a speck of make-up on her shrewd, inquisitive
face. She hurried past "Lucille's: Fashions For All Occasions with
just a brief glance in the window. Lucille's fashions were always a
little on the eccentric side. This week, the window sported plenty
of knobbly knitwear in jewel colors, along with one magnificent
cruise wear rig out that would probably look fine in the South of
France but was a little skimpy for Kerry in October.

She slowed down when she spotted Emmet from the convenience shop
ahead of her. A crotchety old bandit with a fondness for porter,
Emmet would talk the hind legs off a donkey and made for a very
irritating luncheon companion on account of his tendency to wax
lyrical about the rare ould times as he sank his lunchtime two
pints. When Emmet had nipped into the pub, Mary-Kate speeded up
again. He'd have met some other poor soul by the time she got
there, so she was safe.

"Hello Lara," she greeted a tall red-haired woman in a stylish
trouser suit who was just climbing out of the sleek silver Mercedes
she'd parked outside the pub.

"Hi," said Lara warmly. "How's business?"

"Mad. The place is full of hypochondriacs. I should have bought
shares in a drug company.

They both laughed. "How are things going for you?" Mary-Kate

"Marvellous," Lara said. "Just sold the old O"Brien place."

"Shanrock Castle?" asked Mary-Kate, impressed. A crumbling castle
set in fifty acres of weed-infested parkland, only someone very
rich could have afforded to buy it because they'd need to spend two
fortunes renovating it. "Another rock star I suppose?" The
dis-trict surrounding Redlion boasted four rock stars, at least six
novelists and one eccentric classical composer. The rock stars all
lived sedate lives while the crazy parties took place at the
classical composer's home. Helicopters bearing Hollywood producers
were always landing on his helipad, trying to get him to write
music for their blockbusters.

"No, an actress this time. I can't name names but she's one of
those who keeps her Oscar in the toilet."

Mary-Kate grinned. "They all say that. I'm meeting Delphine for a
sandwich. Do you want to join us?"

Lara said yes just as a battered beetle pulled up and a voluptuous
red-head in a purple velvet coat emerged.

"Hi, girls," Delphine Ryan greeted her aunt, Mary-Kate, with a kiss
and hugged her old school friend. "I haven't set eyes on you for
ages, Lara. What's the gossip?"

In the Widows, they discussed everything from the price of property
to the appalling state of the roads.

"There's a pothole on the Blackglen road the size of a swimming
pool and I spend my life avoiding it," Lara complained. "If I
destroy a wheel on the Merc going into it, I'm going to sue the

"I love the Blackglen Road," sighed Delphine. "There's a beautiful
old period house out there that Eugene and I would have loved to
buy, but it was way beyond our price range. It was fabulous, lovely
old fireplaces and a big, sprawling garden with a bit of wood at
the back."

"You mean Kilnagoshell House, the old B & B," Lara said. "I
sold it six months ago. A woman from Dublin bought it, a widow
actually. Virginia Connell is her name and she's lovely. Lonely
too, I daresay. You should call out and see her, Mary-Kate." "If
she doesn't want to meet people, that's her business," Mary-Kate
said wisely. "It would be wrong to intrude. When she needs people,
we'll be here."

Lara finished her sandwich.

"Must fly, girls. I've got to value the sweetest little cottage on
the Killarney Road this afternoon."

"Not old Gearóid's place?" inquired Mary-Kate. "Are they
selling it or what?"

"Or what, I think," Lara said. "Apparently the house will belong to
Gearóid's nephew from Britain once they've got probate. God
love him," Lara added with a shudder.

"Gearóid left it in a terrible state. Then, I've got a viewing
at the Richardsons' farmhouse. It's a pity they're leaving the
village, they're nice people."

"I should go too," Delphine said, getting to her feet. "I've a
facial peel, two manicures and a bikini waxing this afternoon. Bye
Mary- Kate." She kissed her aunt goodbye fondly.

"I am going to finish my coffee in peace," Mary-Kate smiled up at
them, her grey eyes warm. "Age must have its compensations. Take
care, girls."

The two younger women walked outside.

"It's a lovely day, isn't it?" said Lara as they stood for a moment
enjoying the pale October sun. "When the sun shines, Redlion is
magical. I think the Richardsons are mad for leaving. I don't know
why anyone would ever want to sell up and leave."

"I know what you mean," Delphine said, gazing fondly up the winding
main street where pastel-coloured houses appeared to doze lazily in
the sunlight. "It's got a healing, comforting sense to it or does
that sound crazy?"

"Not at all," Lara said ruefully. "I was on ten cups of coffee, one
Prozac and at least half a bottle of wine a day when I lived in
Dublin. Since I came home, I've discovered the calm side of

"Lara Stanley calm!" teased Delphine. "That'll be the day."

Lara grinned. "Calmer, then," she said. "But it is down to this
place. It is special. You know, when I left my job in Dublin, all
my colleagues thought I was mad burying myself back in the country.
'Dullsville' they called it. And I told them there's nothing dull
about Redlion."

"We could do with a bit of dull," Delphine pointed out. "Too much
happens round here. There's going to be another one of those
political think tanks in the hotel next week and the place will be
swarming with media and politicians desperate to get their faces in
the paper. And Mrs Rock Star up the road was in having her nails
done yesterday and she told me they're having a huge party for the
album launch in November."

"All go as usual," Lara said. "So much for the quiet life in the
country. Still, I don't want to tell the people in the city what
it's really like here or else they'd all up sticks and move

Delphine laughed. "And we want to keep Redlion a secret, don't

Excerpted from WHAT SHE WANTS © Copyright 2003 by Cathy
Kelly. Reprinted with permission by Dutton, a member of Penguin
Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.


What She Wants
by by Cathy Kelly

  • Genres: Fiction
  • hardcover: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525947396
  • ISBN-13: 9780525947394