Catherine 4

13 Apr


Catherine loved to spend time with her brothers at the Pier Head watching the massive Liners, brim full of people, glide away from the harbour, carrying thousands of hopefuls to their promised land.

‘One day I’ll do that.’

Billy would say, with such certainty that no-one ever doubted him. Like many a Liverpool boy he was fascinated by the mystery surrounding the ships and curious to know the places they had been. While Billy dreamed of boarding a ship and sailing away, Catherine longed to sweep the sky, like the seagulls. She envied the ease with which they would glide and dip to catch the fish churned up by the motion of the vessels as they navigated the River Mersey.

Lately the children had been spending more and more time at the Pier Head. At ten, Catherine was old enough to sense that all was not well at home. Billy and Alfie were content enough to be sent off with a penny each and big sister to look out for them, but Catherine was worried. The happy home life they once enjoyed was no more, and she wished she could tell Maud her fears, but they were too deep to find a voice.  As her auntie had predicted she and Maud became best friends and with only a year between them they enjoyed playing together, skipping up and down Great Newton Street as horse drawn carriages bumped along the cobbled road.

To look at, the girls were as different as you could imagine.  Maude had long dark curls, rosie cheeks and brown eyes, in contrast to her cousin’s grey-blue eyes and lank fair hair.  Catherine felt safe with her big cousin who was always full of ideas for games to play, and she had not wanted her worries to encroach upon the happy times they spent together.  One day she fell over in the street, cutting her knee.

‘Come on Cathy. Let’s get you home.’ Maude said oozing sympathy,

‘I’ll take myself .’  She had insisted, distraught.

‘I’ll come and tell your mam what happened.’

‘No, Maudie. I’ll go myself!’

She shrugged off her cousin’s helping hand and limped home alone.  Looking back at Maude as she reached the steps of her house, she felt guilty for treating her that way but couldn’t let her see what had become of her home, and mam wouldn’t have wanted her to bring anyone in.  She had lived like this for months now, hiding the secret, trying to be normal.

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