PAPERBACK BOOKS
AUTUMN MUSIC

Autumn Music is the story of Tess McClure, nee O’Reilly. Born into a traditional Australian/Irish Roman Catholic family, she grows up in a house divided. Her father, an atheist, commits suicide as a result of his experiences in World War I and the loss of his two sons in World War II. 

Despite confusion and doubts engendered by life with her father, when Tess marries she anticipates a large family,  comfortable domesticity and religious obedience. But, as a   result of marital stress, the loss of children and finally the birth of a child with Downs Syndrome, she is compelled to ask uncomfortable questions – and to grow through continuing  unforeseen challenges. 

In Store Price: $AU29.95 
Online Price:   $AU28.95

ISBN:   978-1-921406-21-8     
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 313
Genre: Fiction
 


Author: Dulcie M. Stone
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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About the Author

Dulcie May Stone, born Dulcie May White in Melbourne 1924, has won acclaim as an author, educator and campaigner for people with disabilities. She has been awarded an MBE for service to the handicapped (1981), was nominated International Woman of the Year in 1996/97, was included in the Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century Selection and, with her late husband, received an Apostolic Blessing in 1989. 

Dulcie has previously published the following works: 

Fiction

Tools of War. Zeus Publications. 2007.

Dark Oasis. Poseidon Books (an imprint of Zeus Publications). 2007.

Fay. The Australian Institute on Intellectual Disability, Canberra. 2006.

Chance’s Children. Spectrum Publications. 2003

Ask Me about Saturdays. SMARTBOARD Internet Publisher. 1997.

Ask Me about Saturdays. SpringDale Publications. 1993.

Hullo Fay. Self Published. 1991.

Jonny Love. Spectrum Publications. 1982.

I Laugh I Cry I Feel. Spectrum Publications. 1978.

Included in the International Year of the Disabled selection, Bologna Book Fair, 1981. 
 

Non-Fiction

Switching on the Light. Spectrum Publishing. 2002.

Becoming a Writer. Stone & Associates Publication. 1996.

Parent Power ’94. SpringDale Publications. 1994.

What’s Volunteering & What’s Not? SpringDale Publications. 1993.

Towards the New Dream. SpringDale Publications. 1993.

For Adults Only? Upper Yarra Community House. 1990.

Principles of Voluntarism. Community Service Victoria Publication. 1988.

Teaching with the Retarded. Spectrum Publications. 1979.

Parent Power. Mildura and District Educational Council Publication. 1971. 

An editorial committee member of ‘Interaction’, the Australian Institute on Intellectual Disability quarterly journal, Dulcie retired from teaching in 2006. She enjoys a busy family life with her four children, twelve grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Introduction

April 1980
Munich. Germany

M

y husband and I are in a very anxious queue waiting for train tickets at the Munich Railway Station. The reason for the anxiety is evident. Every newspaper headline carries the word ‘Teheran’.

Since early November last year, when fanatical followers of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the American Embassy and took a hundred staff and marines hostage, Iran’s capital has been the site of an ongoing international crisis.

The United Nations Commission, desperately trying to resolve the problem of fifty-three American diplomats still being held captive, has been unsuccessful. The Ayatollah refuses to co-operate.

Even though we can neither read nor speak German, today’s Munich newspaper headlines warn us there’s been a new development.

We’re living in a century of unprecedented universal violence. Born into the turmoil following the First World War, David and I have lived through the Great Depression, the ‘Peace in our time’ debacle following Hitler’s Munich meeting with English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the Second World War and the very real threat of Japanese invasion of our country. We’ve witnessed the unleashing of the atomic bomb, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War.

Now, travelling Eurorail we’re in Munich where the too-recent 1972 ‘Black September’ guerrilla assault on its Olympic Games Village is reminding us that no one is immune. Though the crisis in Iran has been escalating and many tourists have opted to rush home, we’re not sure. Optimists (or idiots?), we’re kind of hoping it will all go away.

A tall young man a few paces ahead of us in the Munich queue opens his newspaper. He reads the German news article. He screams, then races around the huge room like a gibbering madman.

Someone in the queue interprets. The hysterical young man, one of the original hostages, is an escapee from the Teheran Embassy. Today’s newspapers report a failed rescue attempt of the remaining fifty-three hostages. It’s a debacle. Eight hostages have died.

The article continues. Speaking to a shocked world, American President Jimmy Carter takes personal responsibility. The Ayatollah calls the fiasco an act of stupidity.

Here we go again?

We’re at a crossroad. We’re in the middle of Europe where the latest act of rampant terrorism seems to be quickly escalating into a personal hazard.

I’m here because I’m confronting a crossroad of a different kind. On long service leave from my job teaching people with intellectual disability, I’m asking myself – have I the strength to continue this work? Not because of the people with intellectual disability, but because of the roadblocks set in my path by people who say, “You’re wasting your life.” “You’re an idealist.” “They can never learn.”

We don’t go home.

May 1980
Lourdes. France

It’s beautiful. Green! Everything, save the heavy grey sky and the snow-topped mountains, is a luxurious Irish green. Expecting to find the tawdry tinsel flimsy of a tourist Mecca, the amazing rustic beauty and overwhelming tranquillity is a very welcome surprise.

Showered, rested, changed and ready to face the tawdry tourist trap we know has to be there, we head downhill to ‘the grotto’. They are here, as forewarned; the shops, the souvenirs and the tourists. But orderly, relaxed, unhurried. Peaceful. Another  surprise. So what – maybe it’s a trick of fortunate timing. Whatever the reason, we are happy to be here, to be part of it.

The shops end well before the entrance gate. We pass through. More green, acres of it and a hush almost as if we’re in a back-home library. A few groups amble around. A couple of heart-warming sights – handicapped people being escorted by young volunteers.

We quietly join the line slowly moving towards the grotto where Mary, the Mother of God, asked young Bernadette to wash her face at a fountain that wasn’t there. Until Bernadette, obeying the vision, dug the hole that was to become the healing fountain which has resulted in many proven miracles. Passing the statue, we quietly kiss her feet and quietly and unhurriedly leave. No big deal. No thrill. No sudden fervour of passionate belief.

So – what to do?

“Let’s walk around a bit,” David suggests.

We walk. Peaceful paths, friendly faces, lowering sky, distant mountains, a beautiful church. We’re about to leave when the faint sound of a distant choir attracts us. Following the sound, we enter a dark underground chamber; unlit and apparently of immense proportions. We have no idea where we are but follow, in the dark, the sound of the choir which crescendos inharmoniously at our approach. We are, we later discover, in the famous underground cathedral we’d never heard of and on our way to the tiny chapel at the far end of it.

Abruptly stepping from dark to light, we emerge into the chapel, candle-lit for Mass. A score of worshippers, a robed priest, the Mass almost ended. We kneel, entranced that finally here is an unexpected ‘happening’ for us to appreciate.

We don’t know the half of it!

We’ve stumbled on a Mass for people with intellectual disability – in English. The strangely discordant singing is now explained as, around us, the disabled people belt forth their off-key interpretation of ‘Hail Queen of Heaven.’

Mass ends. We stand.

The priest steps down from the altar and removes his robes. His congregation hug him, pump his hand, slap his back and behave in a refreshingly irreverent manner.

Finally one fellow holds the smiling priest close and says, “Thanks, John.”

And here am I, a teacher from the other side of the world, privileged to witness this magical moment. For me, my miracle. A miracle of timing, of place, of need, insight and reassurance which eventually supports me back to my rewarding job and through the awesome trials still to come.

 

Dulcie Stone

2007

 Read a sample:

Chapter One

April 1954 -
Blackwood, Great Dividing Range,
Australia

Who gives this woman to wed this man?”

“I do.” Genuflecting to the wooden figure above the altar, Uncle Leo left her side and retreated to his seat beside her mother.

Her eyes misted. Leo O’Reilly was an inadequate stand-in for her father. But then, even if he’d been alive, would her father have been here? In the church?

The ceremony continued until Father Doherty solemnly pronounced, “I declare you man and wife. Rory, you may kiss your bride.”

She turned to Rory.

He lifted the delicate veil.

She raised her face.

His lips, soft, brushed hers.

The witnesses, shuffling released feet, applauded. Praise be to God. The McClures and the O’Reillys were now and forever gloriously united in the persons of Rory and Tess.

Father Doherty completed the marriage rite, the organist pumped the organ and Geraldine, backed by the choir, sang the first note of the Ave Maria. The witnesses, even the children, fell immediately silent. The only sound was her sister’s sweet soprano singing Schubert’s honeyed prayer.

A moment to be revered. Father Doherty robed in white, the altar draped in lace and gleaming gold, candlelight flickering on the suffering figure nailed to the wooden cross. The side altars, one for the Risen Christ, one for His Blessed Mother; one red robed, the other blue. Their colours imitated in the red gowns of the cherubic altar boys and the blue uniforms of the choir. The pungent smell of incense almost, but not quite, overpowering the intermingling perfumes of frangipani and roses and aftershave and hot wax. And her husband at her side. Memories to be treasured.

“You’re shaking,” Rory whispered.

“It’s beautiful.”

He held her hand.

Father Doherty intoned the final blessing, “Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen.”

Immediately, the faithful organ soared into the rousing Wedding March. Bride and groom, followed by family and friends, paraded from the church into the evening light, into showers of confetti and carefully focused Box Brownies.

Scores of cameras clicked. Handsome Rory, fair, fine-boned, slim and clever, was the pride of the McClures. Rory McClure had a future. Tess was lucky. Though not the most beautiful girl in Blackwood, she was also undoubtedly clever. Canny Rory. He’d had the sense to choose her. Though Tess wasn’t ugly, not at all. Hers was the delicate prettiness that should age gracefully, as her mother’s had.

Today she was lovely. Her plump young body had been ruthlessly corseted into the beautiful white gown stitched by her sisters. Her full oval face, russet curls and huge dark eyes were framed by the handmade lace veil first worn by her great-grandmother. She was glowing. She looked as happy as she should be.

Catholic cheers resounded through the overhanging mountains. Rousing Catholic cheers from Blackwood’s oldest and finest, proud pioneers who’d stood together against flood and drought and fire and famine.

The sun dipped behind the mountains, the air chilled and Rory escorted his bride to the waiting car with his brother at the wheel. Two of her sisters, arranging gown and veil, helped her into the back seat. Her oldest sister and best friend, Monica, deceptively sombre in her black habit, stood apart.

“Bless you, Tess,” Monica mouthed, making a formal sign of the cross.

Beckoning her sister to the car, she whispered, “Would he have given me away, Monny? Would he have come to the church?”

The nun pressed a silver-wrapped package into her hand. “He loved you, Tess.”

But would he have entered the church, even for her wedding? “Pray for me,” she begged.

“Be happy, Tess.” Black veil and white embraced. “Go with God.”

Her sister stepped back and the car slowly moved through the church gates.

She waved goodbye through the back window. “I wish we could have talked longer.”

“Not to worry,” Rory reassured. “We’ll see them all at the reception.”

“Monica won’t be there.”

“Not even if Katherine orders her to?” Rory teased.

“Not even then. Poor Monny. She hates missing all the fun.”

“She doesn’t have to. She could have stayed,” he chuckled, “Jerry would’ve looked after her. He’s got a thing for nuns.”

His brother objected. “Shut up, Rory!”

“Keep your eyes on the road, son.”

“Monny wants to start back to the convent,” she explained. “It’s such a long drive.”

“Poor Monica.” Brushing the veil back from her face, he kissed her. “She’ll never have what we have, Tess.”

She blushed. “Jerry’s watching!”

“So what, Mrs McClure!” He kissed her again. “The world can watch.”

Nearing the photographer’s studio, he asked, “Are you going to open your present?”

She unwrapped the small package. Handed down through the generations, her father’s treasured silver crucifix lay on its cream velvet cushion in its tiny red velvet box. She’d seen it only once before. Monica had carried it at her father’s funeral. There was no message; it spoke its own. The family’s beloved baby, she’d been the best loved by their father. He’d have entrusted the precious crucifix to Sister Monica to deliver on her wedding day. Tess would have the son to inherit it. It spoke only of love, not faith. Connor O’Reilly had left his pregnant bride for the Great 1914-1918 War a staunch Catholic. He’d returned to his wife and first child, Geraldine, an atheist.

Though stories abounded, the single undeniable consequence of Connor O’Reilly’s war was evident in the home. The opposite of Rory’s home and the homes of their Catholic relatives, she’d been reared in a house totally stripped of outward signs of religiosity. The story was that he’d stormed into the house, thrown out the icons and the pictures, started drinking – and almost never stopped. Half true. He’d kept the silver crucifix and significant other family mementoes. He’d also been sober at work in the mills and, presumably, when he’d sired two more girls and two boys. Katherine O’Reilly would never allow a drunk into her bed. Nor would she surrender the thanksgiving prayer before meals and attendance at Sunday and Feast Day Masses.

The death of his two sons, Sean and Patrick, late in the Second World War had broken what was left of the man who’d returned from the First. Just after her sixteenth birthday he’d driven his timber lorry off the edge of the tortuous mountain road to his premature death. Drunk or sober, premeditated or accident, no one ever knew and few dared to contemplate. Pressured by family, the police had not delved and the church had not doubted.

Having been buried by the forgiving church he’d not believed in and having lost his sons, Connor O’Reilly had gifted the crucifix as a wedding present to his favourite daughter. The crucifix that spoke of love, but not faith. A precious relic, a troublesome heritage. Would he have walked down the aisle with her this afternoon? His absence left a hiatus that nothing filled. She missed him, as she missed her brothers. Sean, tall and handsome and charming, his mother’s son. And Patrick, contemplative, who had contemplated priesthood. Contemplation – the O’Reilly curse.

The wedding car pulled up in front of the large hall booked for the reception, in its back seat the newlyweds. McClure and O’Reilly united – a beautiful young couple, appropriately matched, eager to rear good Irish Catholic sons and daughters for the advancement of post‑war Australia. Keep the yellow hordes at bay. Fight for right. As Irish Catholic Australians always had and always would – even possibly in the very near future. If the Viet Minh drove the French from Vietnam, the dominoes of creeping communism could well see more Australian sons at war.

Repacking the cross, she squeezed it into her tiny reticule, handmade by her mother. God forbid that Rory should ever follow the path of the lost O’Reilly men; that she should ever know the hell her mother must have known – but never spoke of. Flamboyant and charming and beautiful, Katherine was a private woman. If she was in any way bitter, no one ever knew. Except God?

To the accompaniment of hearty applause, they entered the decorated hall, took their place at the bridal table, cut the three‑tiered cake, drank the bitter champagne, responded to the maudlin speeches and were captive audience to the risqué jokes. While men guffawed and women giggled, she silently thanked God that Father Doherty had left early, that her mother was remaining happily tolerant and that Monica hadn’t come at all.

At precisely nine p.m., the pianist took his place at the piano and Uncle Leo all the way from Brisbane sang a happily tipsy Danny Boy. Just as Schubert’s unconventional Ave Maria introduced the final phase of an O’Reilly wedding Mass, so did Danny Boy introduce the end of the official phase of an O’Reilly wedding breakfast – the bridal dance.

Rory, who’d dutifully practised for hours, was not a dancer and didn’t want to be. But his body was close to hers, his arms strong and the promise of the night to come in his eyes. His one dance safely executed, he returned to the haven of drinks with his brothers, his mates and his father. She danced with his brothers, the men of the choir, Uncle Leo and Geraldine’s seven-year-old son. Rory didn’t mind. He wasn’t jealous. From the safety of celebration with his non-dancing brothers and friends, his attention remained on her. He was happy for her. Everything was as it should be.

At precisely ten p.m. she changed into the new powder-blue frock and coat, matching cloche hat, gloves, handbag and high-heel shoes she and her mother had travelled to Melbourne to buy last summer. Then, after circling the ring of well-wishers, farewelling her sisters, Rory’s family and her tearful mother, they finally raced through yet another shower of confetti to the neat grey Holden waiting in the car park.

“He’s been drinking a bit, Tess.” Rory’s father anxiously followed. “Maybe you should be driving.”

“Get off my back, Dad.” Swaying on unsteady feet, Rory awkwardly helped his father and brothers strip the car of ribbons, lucky horseshoes, glittering hearts, paper flowers and rough slogans.

“I could drive.” Though she desperately didn’t want to tackle the winding road that had killed her father, she’d drive if Rory needed her to.

“Stop worrying, Tess.” He waved happily to the audience shivering in front of the hall. “I’m not drunk. It’s the night air. I’m right as rain.”

Uncertain, she tossed hat, gloves and handbag onto the back seat.

He climbed clumsily behind the steering wheel.

“Rory…you should let me drive.”

“I’m not drunk.” He was impatient. “Stop fussing. Get in!”

Friends and family were shivering, her mother hovering. But the dangerous road lay ahead. She balked. “Mum. Tell Rory I should drive.”

“Don’t be such a fool,” Katherine scoffed. “Get in. Rory’s okay. He’s good to drive.”

She obeyed her mother.

The cold engine roared into life, grated into first gear, eased onto the road and tooted ecstatic farewell. Katherine tottered into the road behind, waving, smiling and satisfied. Beside her, silhouetted against the dark mountain skyline, cheering and waving and freezing and ready to return to the as yet only half-empty flagons at the party, were Rory’s brothers, her sisters, the clans and their friends. She waved until they were out of sight. Nothing would ever be the same again. It was as it should be. Rory was at her side.

“I love you, Rory.”

“Me too, Tess.” Steering with one hand, he groped for her breast. “We’ll be there in a few hours.”

“Please don’t,” she begged. “Please…pay attention to the road.”

He knew her fear of the road. Headlights probing the thin drizzle, they skidded, swayed, slowed, picked up speed, swerved – and slowed again.

“Maybe we should turn back,” she ventured. “Mum wouldn’t mind. We could stay with her.”

“Don’t fuss, Tess,” he laughed. “We’re not having our honeymoon night in your mother’s house. I haven’t drunk all that much.”

“You shouldn’t have drunk at all.”

“It’s an act. I’m expected to be drunk.”

“It’s not just the night air, love. You really did drink a lot.”

“I’m not drunk, Tess.”

“I think we should stop.”

“For God’s sake, Tess! Shut up!”

She tried to concentrate on the faded white central line of the slick highway but saw only the wreck of her father’s truck. She closed her eyes. The wheels screeched around a bend. He had drunk too much.

“Please, Rory.” Not to anger him, she tried to feign composure. “Let me drive.”

“I told you.” His fists tightened on the steering wheel. “I’m not bloody drunk.”

A sudden break in the fog lit a grid of streetlights far below and the sheer drop at her side.

She screamed.

“Shit, Tess! Cut it out!”

The fog again thickened. The city lights disappeared and the sheer drop again became invisible. The speeding car, blindly following the white line, rushed on.

She whimpered. “Please slow down.”

“For God’s sake, Tess. Get off my back!”

“Please don’t yell at me.”

“Shut up, Tess! Bloody shut up!”

She knew his rare temper. They both knew. They’d talked about it. They’d talked about the pressures of months of preparation and the almost impossible imposition of sexual discipline. They’d foreseen the frustration of the impossibly long wedding day and ensuing reception, the danger of the hazardous trip down from the mountain and they’d agreed on the need to travel to the city for their honeymoon night. They’d talked when he was stone cold sober, when he was reasonable. They’d agreed she’d drive if he thought he was drunk. Because he so seldom lost control, they couldn’t have predicted that alcohol and excitement and probably tiredness would cause his temper to kick in.

She hunched away from him.

“Shit! Now you’re sulking.” Again controlling the steering wheel with one hand, he felt for her breasts.

She slapped his hand away. He pulled to the left, located a broad wayside parking area and stopped. The car’s headlights captured glistening wet moss and running rivulets and tall ferns and giant rocks.

“What are you doing?”

He switched off the motor and the headlights. “Come here.”

“Not now, Rory. Let me drive. I’ll find a place. We’ll stop…” She should give him time to sleep it off.

“Come here.” Unbuttoning his trousers, he moved across the seat, fumbling at her skirt. “Take it off.”

“No! Not yet!”

“Feel!” Grabbing her hand, he forced it against his groin. “Feel, Tess. Feel me.”

She struggled to wrench her hand away. “Not yet, Rory. Please…”

He was too strong. “Shit, Tess! We’re married.”

“Not here, Rory.” With her free hand, she fought him. “Please…please wait. I’ll drive. We’ll find a place…”

“I told you.” He pulled her hand into his opened trousers. He was big and hard.

She recoiled. “I can’t!”

He jammed her fingers against him. “What’s wrong, for God’s sake? It’s not as though you haven’t…” His mouth was on hers, bruising.

She tried to beat him off.

He held her, his hands powerful. Quickly, she jabbed her free hand into his diaphragm.

Winded, he momentarily loosened his hold.

She opened the car door.

“Bitch!” Grabbing her coat, he dragged her back.

She kicked backwards, felt the coat rip and fell onto the road.

Fumbling at his trousers, he climbed from the car. “What the hell do you think this is about?”

Off balance, she was on hands and knees in the mud.

“Blast it, Tess!” Rounding the car, he pulled her to her feet. “That fucking outfit cost a mint.”

Soft mountain rain and hot tears rolled down her cheeks. He wasn’t to blame. His mates had taken advantage. They knew he’d be vulnerable. Surrendering, she allowed him to drag her back to the car and settle into the passenger’s seat.

Not speaking, he circuited the car, resumed his place in the driver’s seat, switched on the headlights, engaged the gears, pulled out of the wayside stop and resumed the headlong descent down the mountain. He gave no inkling of his mood. She dared not talk. Any distraction could send them off the road. Teeth chattering, freezing in the wet clothes, she willed herself not to complain.

For over two hours they drove through sleeping rural townships until, distantly, the dark horizon was lit by the reflected glow of Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Accelerating, he sped into the increasingly densely populated areas, slowed to cruise into the deserted city centre, turned into the underground garage of a central city hotel and switched off the motor.

The garage smelled of petrol fumes and mould. Gagging, she slumped in the cramped seat. They should not have tried to come here tonight. They could have arranged to stay somewhere in the mountains, or in one of the foothill villages. They should have stayed in Blackwood. They should have known to stay in Blackwood.

“I’ll get the luggage.” Matter-of-factly, he started from the car.

She straightened the sodden skirt, found the ripped coat and tossed it beside the hat and gloves on the back seat. She’d never wear any of them again, no matter how expensive they’d been.

He summoned the watchful porter. “Tell him you had a fall.”

She’d say nothing. Even if he did notice in the dim light, her appearance wasn’t the stranger’s business.

“Bad night to be travelling, sir.” Settling the luggage on a trolley, the porter started for the elevator.

About to lock the car, Rory pointed to the back seat. “You’ve left your coat behind.”

“I don’t need it.”

“Of course you need it,” he blustered.

“Do you want the porter to see me carry it in?”

Not answering, he locked the car.

The porter led the way into the elevator, then through a maze of narrow passageways. He set the cases inside a small bedroom, pocketed his tip and left.

Rory closed the door, opened the narrow wardrobe door, pulled out the drawers of the dresser. The dresser mirror reflected her muddied powder-blue dress and mussed hair. Shocked, she turned away.

The room was cramped, the walls pale grey, the overhead light dull, the grey carpet thin and the floral curtains faded. The matching floral bedspread, turned down, exposed the bed prepared for the night. The distorted reflection of the cheap mirror haunted her.

She lifted her case onto the bed. “I’ll unpack.”

“I’ll do it.” Opening the case, Rory waved her away. “Go clean yourself up.”

“Rory…I’m so…”

“Not now, Tess. The bathroom’s down the passage.”

“I’ll need my nightwear.”

“These?” He located nightgown, dressing‑gown and slippers. “Don’t be long, Tess.”

At the open door, she paused. He was opening his own case, unpacking.

“Rory. I’m sorry.”

He was hanging clothes in the wardrobe. “Don’t be long, love.”

The communal bathroom was at the end of the hallway. Quickly stripping off the soiled clothing, she bathed and changed into the nightgown, dressing-gown and slippers.

He would be waiting. He’d had time to sober up. The cramped grey room would be transformed. They’d be together, as they used to be in the mountains, when summer’s full moons had watched, when she’d let him touch her body and she’d touched his. Wonderful nights. Painful nights. They were in love, made to be together, in every way. The fulfilment of sex was forbidden.

Sometimes, more often during the long preamble to the wedding ceremony, frustration had been almost unbearable. She’d promised the church and her mother she’d marry as a virgin. Though as a teenager Rory would surely have made the same promises, she doubted if he was also a virgin. Boys were different, Katherine had warned. Their needs were more urgent. Together, they’d been strong. They’d saved themselves for this night. By now, he’d be sober. They’d know the full magic. Tonight would be the beautiful night they’d promised each other it would be.

Wrapping the soiled clothing in her towel, she left the communal bathroom. The city hotel passageway was empty, the lamps in the wall brackets dim, her slippered feet on the thin stretch of carpet silent.

Her heart thumped. This walk was momentous. This act would be her very last before she and Rory were joined together in every way, for the rest of their lives. Reaching the unlocked bedroom door, she turned the knob.

The time had come. The church had blessed their union, the ceremonies were over, the formalities complete. They were man and wife. She opened the door.

“Tess!” He was leaning against raised pillows, the bedside lamp’s pale glow illuminating his handsome face, his intense blue eyes. “You look beautiful.”

“Mum made it for me.” She stroked the fragile pink lace of the nightgown.

“Come here.” He threw back the blankets. He was naked.

Blushing, she giggled.

He was confused. “What’s so funny?”

“It’s the first time…I’ve never seen...”

Quickly, he recovered. “Take the nightdress off, Tess.”

She hesitated. “I can’t…I…please...switch off the light.”

“I want to look at you.”

“It’s embarrassing. I feel…”

“For Christ’s sake!”

“Please, Rory. Switch it off.”

“I’ve waited a long time, Tess. I want to look at you.”

She reached for the bedside lamp. “It’s embarrassing…”

He sprang from the bed. “Don’t touch that!”

“Please Rory – give me time.” She folded defensive arms across her breasts.

“Take the bloody thing off!”

Ripped lace fell to the floor.

The light stayed on.

He gave her no time.

She screamed.

“Shut up, Tess! Shut up!”

She obeyed.

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