Now that I have written three chapters of my novel for critique by my mentor, I have put Nuala on a backburner until I have some more time. I need to do more research but it will be at least January 2019 before I can get back to Nuala.
Two pairs of Blue Eyes… the commencement of my historical novel! Something I have been meaning to do for years.
This is Nuala, the heroine, isn’t she just gorgeous!
On 10th June 2018, I went to a class with the acclaimed Jan Carson as part of the Belfast Book Festival. She taught us how to develop characters and dialogue. It was fascinating and helped me develop dialogue between Nuala and her family, and the rest of the cast.
On 28th July I went to another of Jan’s excellent courses in the John Hewitt Society festival. Jan is an inspiration to us all. She inspired me to write my first story based on my budding novel to give a flavour of what is to come.
Born in the 16th Century, Nuala and Mary were sisters but couldn’t have been more different. Nuala was slight with glorious long red hair and blue eyes. Mary was dark with long dark brown tresses and brown eyes. She was a pretty girl, but rather larger than her younger sister. Nuala was just 14 and was already being eyed by the local boys. Mary was 16 and welcomed them with open arms, even though she didn’t get as much attention as Nuala. Nuala ws shy and indifferent to their advances. Mary, though pursued them shamelessly – in particular one boy, Padraig, but he was not interested.
The girls went dancing most Saturdays in the village hall. Nuala played the harp, was a good dancer, and had a beautiful melodious voice. She was very popular and was often asked to sing. She knew all the words to the ballads and lullabies even at her tender age. One such evening Mary met up with a boy who was not from their village, Ballygally, but from Cairncastle 4 miles away. He was tall and dark with amazing blue eyes. For Mary it was love at first sight. They danced the night away in each others arms – Mary was also a good dancer. Both girls had been taught by their mother Eilish. Mary and Antonio agreed to meet the next day, much to Nuala’s chagrin. They didn’t know the boy or his family or anything at all about him. They had both heard of Spanish galleons floundering off the coast of the village, but had never met any of the survivors. He was very foreign looking with dark swarthy skin and a strange accent. His English was good, though, and in any case Mary and the tall dark stranger didn’t talk much. They danced.
Nuala was in a bind. Should she tell their father, Seamus? A few days later Mary was still seeing the dark stranger. His name was Antonio – he was definitely Spanish then. He apparently came from a very wealthy family in La Coruna, like many sailors did in those days. The Spanish Armada was led by a rich nobleman, the 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia. Antonio was his nephew. Of course, neither girl knew anything about the ships or the history. Mary only knew that she was in love. Antonio seemed just as smitten. She didn’t know anything about him, except he was Spanish and lived in Cairncastle. The love affair went on for two weeks before they finally succumbed to their passion. They were walking in the woods near Ballygally when suddenly Antonio stopped and took her in his arms. Mary swooned. He was so tall and strong. His lips found hers and made her go weak at the knees. He told her she was beautiful and that he loved her. His large hands caressed her back and wandered down to her bottom. She didn’t pull away. In fact she moulded herself to his body and felt the muscles in his back rippling. It was bliss. They stood like that for a what seemed like hours but was in fact only a few minutes. His blue eyes bore into her brown ones and into her very soul. She wanted him. They sank to the ground and made love. She had of course done it before but never with such abandon. He was gentle and kind and took her slowly despite the rising passion. It was all over in minutes and they lay side by side in the dry autumn leaves. Mary dreamed of what was to come. A house of her own, marriage, a family. Everything she had always wanted – even at the tender age of 16.
They walked back to the village hand in hand oblivious of her father watching them emerge from the wood. He didn’t approach them. They kissed openly and Antonio walked back to his village. Mary never saw him again. Seamus was furious and told Eilish, her mother. She said to leave things be and it would all blow over. It was not to be. When Antonio hadn’t appeared after a week, Mary went looking for him in the village where he said he was staying. He wasn’t there and no one had heard of him. A Spaniard would stand out like a sore thumb amongst the Irish who were generally shorter. Mary was distraught and took refuge in her room, severely depressed.
Seamus and Nuala discussed the state of mind of the elder daughter. Nuala was the only other member of the family who had seen Antonio close up. Eilish was sympathetic and tried to draw Mary out. She failed miserably. Mary wouldn’t eat and slept constantly. Instead of being her usual bubbly self, she was withdrawn and uncommunicative. Padraig came round to cheer her up.
The weeks went by and Mary began to thicken around the waist. The inevitable had happened… she was pregnant. One day Nuala was working up at Glenarm castle where she cleaned sometimes. Her favourite horse was Duke, an enormous chestnut stallion. Ruari, the stable boy and Duke’s handler, and Nuala were the best of friends. Ruari was 21. They discussed Mary’s predicament and the strange situation with Antonio. The look on Ruari’s face was one of a startled animal when the name came up. He asked Nuala to describe him which she did. His face went puce and he became very agitated. He asked Nuala if she knew his surname. She didn’t. They parted company and that afternoon Ruari went to Cairncastle to visit Antonio in the church graveyard. Ruari was also Spanish but had changed his name. Antonio had died the year before when they both became separated from the ship and had to swim ashore. Antonio was a ghost… and Mary’s pregnancy was a phantom pregnancy.