Hope Gardener has always been a drifter. A career, responsibilities, being tied down - there is no way she's risking any of that. All she wants to do is to be free and have fun.
But when Hope plans a trip abroad in a last ditch attempt to take control of her life, tragedy strikes. Instead of the US, Hope finds herself back in Ireland, in the one place she has spent her life running away from. There, alongside her two friends, Hope has to confront the secrets of her childhood that she has been desperate to avoid. But maybe Hope isn't the only one keeping secrets...
“Adam?” I whisper.
“I got the sack.”
“Bloody hell, Hope. Not again.”
His voice rises and someone behind tells him to ‘sussh’.
I giggle and Adam grins before remembering what I’ve just said and mouths a ‘you got the sack?’
I nod and turn my attention back to the stage. I’ve been trying to break the news to him and Julie all evening, but Julie is now ensconced behind the stage and Adam and I are unfortunately ensconced in front of it. We’re surrounded by proud parents and school governors. I’ve taken advantage of the fact that the Wicked Witch of the West has once again forgotten her lines to break the news to Adam, my landlord and friend.
The Wicked Witch has by now started shuffling from foot to foot and twiddling her broom in embarrassment.
“I’ll kill you Dorothy,” Julie’s prompt comes loudly from somewhere backstage.
Dorothy, who has been glaring ferociously at the Wicked Witch of the West, takes umbrage. “Why kill me?” she says, marching towards the wings. “I ain’t the one that’s forget me lines!”
A titter ripples through the audience.
“Oh,” the Wicked Witch says delightedly, “that’s me line.” She assumes an aggressive pose. “Yeah, I’ll kill you Dorothy!”
And the play starts to move on again.
“I thought you liked that job,” Adam mutters a few minutes later as Dorothy breaks into an out of tune song, accompanied by a miserable looking scarecrow, who looks more in need of dancing lessons than a brain.
“I did like it. But that web client, Micheal Doyle, rejected my web text again.”
“Again? The tosser!” Adam is suitably aggrieved.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“You didn’t say that to him?”
I shrug. “Well, what I –“
Adam winces. “Sorry!” he nods an apology to the woman behind. Then he mouths at me, “Tell me later?”
“I’ll have forgotten what happened by the time this play is over.”
Adam snorts with laugher then tries to turn it into a cough.
I wink at him and look demurely innocent.
Later is ninety minutes later, after the wizard forgot all his lines and Julie had to shout them out while he opened and closed his mouth.
It was the funniest scene of the play.
Adam and I are standing about in the half empty school hall waiting on Julie to emerge. The only people left now are the organisers and assistants. Adam and I helped pick up all the litter and are now hanging about like two spares. Adam hasn’t asked me anymore about my job, or lack thereof, I know he’s waiting on Julie, so I can tell them both together. Julie works as a teacher in this school, it’s a tough job but she loves it. Doing the Wizard of Oz with the children had been her idea and she’d directed it too.
“Here she is,” Adam starts to clap as she comes towards us.
Julie beams at us. “Well?” she asks.
“Brilliant,” Adam pronounces. “Best Wizard I’ve ever seen.”
“Totally,” I nod in agreement.
“Would you have noticed that anyone forgot their lines?” Julie looks from me to Adam.
“Hope lost her job again,” Adam deftly changes the subject, saving us some lies that we’re bound to get caught out on.
“No!” Julie gawks at me. “Hope!”
“No hope is right,” I joke.
She smiles briefly, before saying, “But you liked that job!”
“The tosser rejected her web text again,” Adam says. “How many times did you do it for him, Hope?”
“Twenty five times in three weeks.”
“Tosser,” Julie agrees.
“So what happened?” Adam asks. He’s leading the way towards the car park. There’s still a queue of cars to get out. I don’t answer until the three of us are sitting in Adam’s monster car – a perk of his job as a regional manager for a load of building supply companies. Out of the three of us, Adam is the rich one; he owns the house Julie and I live in and also owns two more besides. He works all the time and takes life very seriously, which is why Julie and I like to make him laugh. Before we came along, I wouldn’t say Adam had much of a life. “So?” Adam turns to me as I climb into the back seat, “are you going to tell us what happened?”
“I know what happened,” Julie pronounces, “You sent the muppet a really crappy draft, didn’t you? Something along the lines of,” she thinks for a second, “At Doyle Computers, we specialise in screwing up your computer system. We give your system viruses, bugs and even better, we won’t be able to repair the damage.”
“Damn!” I grin, “That’s what I should have done!”
“So what did you do?”
“I e-mailed the tosser my first draft again.”
“You didn’t!” Julie laughs slightly. “And he noticed? Is that why you got fired?”
I shake my head and say casually, “Actually, he accepted it.”
“He accepted it? Your very first draft?”
“But that was good.”
“Well, it would have been if I hadn’t decided to take a taxi over to his office and ask him why he thought it was fun to waste my time.”
“Oh Hope, you didn’t!” Adam looks at me in amused exasperation.
Julie begins to giggle.
“And naturally he was furious with me, but I just hopped back into the taxi and when I reached work, the taxi driver says,” I put on a terrible cockney accent, “That’ll be one ‘undred pounds.”
“One hundred pounds,” Adam winces. “Did you go via Mars?”
“That’s what I asked and he got really stroppy and followed me upstairs into my office where my boss was waiting for me.”
Now they both start to laugh.
“And my boss is screaming at me that I’m fired and the taxi driver is looking for his hundred pounds, which I did not have so I turn to my boss and I ask him for my pay in advance.”
“Bloody hell, Hope!” Adam snorts.
“So then my boss starts yelling.”
“And what happened?” Julie giggles.
“I put up my hands, told the taxi driver that I would get the money out of the bank if he’d be good enough to trust me. And he says, how could he trust me when he’s just seen me be fired. So I told him to take it or leave it. So he followed me to the bank and when he got back to his car it was clamped.”
They’re laughing so hard now, I join in.
“Worst day of my life,” I pronounce.
“Aw, never mind,” Julie pats my arms, “you’ll get another job, you always do. Did you count to ten before you went over there?”
“I counted to fifty.”
“Anyway,” I continue, suddenly becoming serious, so they’ll know I’m serious, “I’ve enough money to cover the rent on my room for this month, Adam. And then, well,” I pause, before taking a deep breath and blurting out, “you can rent out my room to someone else.”
Adam gawks at me in disbelief, “Don’t be stupid. You’ll get another job.” He cracks a smile. “I’ve never known anyone to get as many jobs as you.”
“Ha. Ha.” I poke his arm. “No, I’m serious, Adam. I’m leaving.”
“Leaving?” the two say together.
“Well, just for a bit,” I clarify at their looks of dismay. “I’ve decided, after all the excitement, to take a break and go away for a while. On a holiday.”
“A holiday?” Adam looks aghast. “Hope, you’ve just lost your job!”
“Yeah and the shock of it makes me need a holiday far away.”
I’m gratified to see them smile.
“How long will you be gone?” Julie asks quietly, sounding slightly shocked.
I shrug. “I don’t know.”
“A month, two months, how long?” Her voice is a bit teary now.
“Ju, don’t.” I place my hand on her arm. “I’ll come back.” They’re looking at me as if I’m bonkers. I try to explain the reasoning behind my decision, though I’m not sure I fully understand myself. “Look,” I bite my lip, “it’s not normal to lose jobs all the time, is it?”
“You just haven’t found the right job,” Julie says. “That’s all.”
“Ju,” I say, “If I keep going, I’ll have tried out every job in Britain by next year.”
She doesn’t even smile.
“I just think that if I see a bit of the world, it might, you know settle me down and I might be happy in a job.” So far, in London, I’ve lost about sixteen jobs in eight years. I truly don’t know what’s wrong with me. Most jobs I get, I quite enjoy. Give me a computer screen and some text and I’m happy. But unfortunately, for some reason, I also manage to get myself fired with alarming regularity. I’ve thought about why this might be and my problem it seems is that I don’t like to be bossed around. I can be getting along great with everyone and then a boss will order me to do something and it’s like another person inside me takes over. I FLIP. And that is meant to be capitalised. I get on great with all my co-workers and they’re always sad to see me leave, but the bosses are another matter.
“I’ll pay your share of the rent,” Julie breaks into my thoughts. “You can pay me back when you get a job.”
“That’s not the issue, Ju.”
“Hope,” Adam says earnestly, “you know I’d let you stay for free.”
I swallow hard at his kindness. “I know,” I pause, touched. “But you have to pay a mortgage, Adam and I’m a liability.”
“Yeah,” I grin. “I’m a disaster. You know it, I know it. I just think if I can get away and maybe get some perspective on it, things might make sense.”
“So go to Ireland,” Adam says. “Go back to Dunport – you’re always saying how much you love it. That’s bound to be cheaper than going around the world. Bloody hell, Hope, just don’t blow all your cash on a holiday.”
The mention of Dunport from someone other than myself makes me flinch. I try out a smile. “Yeah. Good idea. I’ll check it out on the internet. Can I use your laptop when we get back?”
There is a silence. Neither of them know what to say.
I feel a little guilty because I don’t want to have spoiled Julie’s night. I search for something to get us back on track. “How many more nights is your show on for, Ju?”
And she’s off. Haltingly at first, because she’s shocked that I’m leaving, but it’s not long before she’s in full flow.
And as I listen to her, watching her face glow as she talks about her students, I realise, with a pang, that she has found what I so desperately crave.