never have afforded it, or taken the time off from work. “May I?” she asked Mrs. Nolan.
“Go on, dear.”
Maura untied the fragile ribbon and leafed through the stack. She pulled out the photos first. Some she recognized from her grandmother’s slim photo album; others she had never seen.
The photos were neatly labeled on the back in her grandmother’s handwriting. Most were of her, and she watched herself progress from a chubby baby to a sulky teenager, ending with her high school picture. Interspersed were a few pictures of her father, and one of her father and mother together, apparently taken shortly after their wedding. Some Maura remembered, and she carried a few in her bag now, but others she had never seen. It was startling to see her mother, especially looking so young and happy. Her parentsmade a handsome couple. What would their marriage have been like if her father hadn’t died?
A clipping with her father’s brief obituary. Gran had never been much for picture taking, and after those early days they were few and far between. She looked up to see Mrs. Nolan watching her sympathetically.
“You have the look of her, you know.”
“Of Gran? I suppose,” Maura said. She’d never given it much thought. Gran had looked like a grandmother should look, kind of soft and warm, even though she had always seemed tired. Her hair had gone grey early. But Maura shared her bright blue eyes. “So tell me, what was it like here, when my grandmother was young?”
“Ah, we had little money, but we counted ourselves lucky…” And Bridget Nolan was off and running. The next time Maura checked her watch, over two hours had passed, and she could tell that Mrs. Nolan was running out of steam. Maura saw an opening in the flow of words and seized it. “Is Mick your only relative around here now?”
Mrs. Nolan settled back into her chair. “There’s his sister, Bridget, over at Clonakilty—Mick’s dad, my son, is gone, sad to say, and his mother lives with Bridget and her husband. But so many of the children in the country, they’re off to school, or the city, or even overseas. No one wants to stay here—they say it’s dull, and too quiet for them. And there’s no work for them anymore.” She paused for a moment, then looked at Maura with a birdlike tilt of her head. “Mick’s a good boy, stops in near every day, and sees to the place for me. His sister keeps saying, ‘Gran, why don’t you come in with us? We’d love to have you.’ But I like my own space, and I know where everything goes here.” Mrs. Nolan pulledherself up in her chair. “Well, my dear, it’s been a joy to talk with you, but I think it’s time for my nap now.”
Clearly she was being dismissed. Maura didn’t want to overstay her welcome, so she stood up. “Thank you so much for talking with me. I hope I haven’t worn you out.”
“Nonsense. Everyone’s in such a hurry now—no one seems to care about the past, the families. I’m so glad you came by today. Will you be stopping by again?” The small, wrinkled face peered up with eager hope.
“I’d like that very much. I’ll be around for a week, and I’d love to see you again, if it’s no trouble. It’s been a real pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Nolan.”
“Can you make your way out? Mick should be back shortly to collect you.”
“Of course. And thank you for the lovely tea.”
Maura carefully gathered up the teacups, put them on the tray, and carried the tray back to the main room. It seemed the least that she could do. She gave one last look at Mrs. Nolan, who was already nodding off in her chair—not for the first time, from the look of the chair, and the way the small body nestled into its curves—then went into the courtyard, closing the heavy door quietly behind her. No sign of Mick, but the air was pleasantly warm, at least in the sun. She wandered over to the lane that ran alongside the Nolan cottage and stood still, looking at the view, trying to imagine