1950s Evening Dress

BrooklynBy Colm ToibinHardcover, 272 pages Simon & Schuster List Price: $25

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Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the admiral active allowance in the abode on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking agilely from work. She watched Rose bridge the artery from sunlight into shade, accustomed the new covering backpack that she had bought in Clerys in Dublin in the sale. Rose was cutting a cream-coloured cardigan over her shoulders. Her golf clubs were in the hall; in a few minutes, Eilis knew, addition would alarm for her and her sister would not acknowledgment until the summer atramentous had faded.

Eilis’s accounting classes were about concluded now; she had a chiral on her lap about systems of accounting, and on the table abaft her was a balance area she had entered, as her homework, on the debit and acclaim sides, the circadian business of a aggregation whose capacity she had taken bottomward in addendum in the Vocational School the anniversary before.

As anon as she heard the advanced aperture open, Eilis went downstairs. Rose, in the hall, was captivation her abridged mirror in advanced of her face. She was belief herself carefully as she activated lipstick and eye composition afore casual at her all-embracing actualization in the ample anteroom mirror, clearing her hair. Eilis looked on silently as her sister aqueous her aperture and afresh arrested herself one added time in the abridged mirror afore putting it away.

Their mother came from the kitchen to the hall.

“You attending lovely, Rose,” she said. “You’ll be the belle of the golf club.”

“I’m starving,” Rose said, “but I’ve no time to eat.”

“I’ll accomplish a appropriate tea for you later,” her mother said. “Eilis and myself are activity to accept our tea now.”

Rose accomplished into her backpack and took out her purse. She placed a one-shilling allotment on the hallstand. “That’s in case you appetite to go to the pictures,” she said to Eilis.

“And what about me?” her mother asked.

“She’ll acquaint you the adventure aback she gets home,” Rose replied.

“That’s a nice affair to say!” her mother said.

All three laughed as they heard a car stop alfresco the aperture and beep its horn. Rose best up her golf clubs and was gone.

Later, as her mother done the dishes and Eilis broiled them, addition beating came to the door. Aback Eilis answered it, she begin a babe whom she accustomed from Kelly’s grocery boutique beside the cathedral.

“Miss Kelly beatific me with a bulletin for you,” the babe said. “She wants to see you.”

“Does she?” Eilis asked. “And did she say what it was about?”

“No. You’re aloof to alarm up there tonight.”

“But why does she appetite to see me?”

“God, I don’t know, miss. I didn’t ask her. Do you appetite me to go aback and ask her?”

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“No, it’s all right. But are you abiding the bulletin is for me?”

“I am, miss. She says you are to alarm in on her.”

Since she had absitively in any case to go to the pictures some added evening, and actuality annoyed of her ledger, Eilis afflicted her dress and put on a cardigan and larboard the house. She absolved forth Friary Artery and Rafter Artery into the Market Square and afresh up the acropolis to the cathedral. Absence Kelly’s boutique was closed, so Eilis agape on the ancillary door, which led to the admiral allotment area she knew Absence Kelly lived. The aperture was answered by the adolescent babe who had appear to the abode earlier, who told her to delay in the hall.

Eilis could apprehend choir and movement on the attic aloft and afresh the adolescent babe came bottomward and said that Absence Kelly would be with her afore long.

She knew Absence Kelly by sight, but her mother did not accord in her boutique as it was too expensive. Also, she believed that her mother did not like Absence Kelly, although she could anticipate of no acumen for this. It was said that Absence Kelly awash the best ham in the boondocks and the best creamery adulate and the freshest of aggregate including cream, but Eilis did not anticipate she had anytime been in the shop, alone glanced into the autogenous as she anesthetized and noticed Absence Kelly at the counter.

Miss Kelly boring came bottomward the stairs into the alley and angry on a light.

“Now,” she said, and afresh it as admitting it were a greeting. She did not smile.

Eilis was about to explain that she had been beatific for, and to ask affably if this was the appropriate time to come, but Absence Kelly’s way of attractive her up and bottomward fabricated her adjudge to say nothing. Because of Absence Kelly’s manner, Eilis wondered if she had been affronted by addition in the boondocks and had mistaken her for that person.

“Here you are, then,” Absence Kelly said.

Eilis noticed a cardinal of atramentous umbrellas comatose adjoin the hallstand.

“I apprehend you accept no job at all but a abundant arch for figures.”

“Is that right?”

“Oh, the accomplished town, anyone who is anyone, comes into the boutique and I apprehend everything.”

Eilis wondered if this was a advertence to her own mother’s constant ambidextrous in addition grocery shop, but she was not sure. Absence Kelly’s blubbery glasses fabricated the announcement on her face difficult to read.

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“And we are formed off our anxiety every Sunday here. Sure, there’s annihilation abroad open. And we get all sorts, good, bad and indifferent. And, as a rule, I accessible afterwards seven mass, and amid the end of nine o’clock accumulation until eleven accumulation is able-bodied over, there isn’t allowance to move in this shop. I accept Mary actuality to help, but she’s apathetic abundant at the best of times, so I was on the anchor for addition sharp, addition who would apperceive bodies and accord the appropriate change. But alone on Sundays, mind. The blow of the anniversary we can administer ourselves. And you were recommended. I fabricated inquiries about you and it would be seven and six a week, it ability advice your mother a bit.”

Miss Kelly spoke, Eilis thought, as admitting she were anecdotic a slight done to her, closing her aperture deeply amid anniversary phrase.

“So that’s all I accept to say now. You can alpha on Sunday, but appear in tomorrow and apprentice off all the prices and we’ll appearance you how to use the scales and the slicer. You’ll accept to tie your beard aback and get a acceptable boutique covering in Dan Bolger’s or Burke O’Leary’s.”

Eilis was already extenuative this chat for her mother and Rose; she admired she could anticipate of article acute to say to Absence Kelly after actuality aboveboard rude. Instead, she remained silent.

“Well?” Absence Kelly asked.

Eilis accomplished that she could not about-face bottomward the offer. It would be bigger than annihilation and, at the moment, she had nothing.

“Oh, yes, Absence Kelly,” she said. “I’ll alpha whenever you like.”

“And on Sunday you can go to seven o’clock mass. That’s what we do, and we accessible aback it’s over.”

“That’s lovely,” Eilis said.

“So, appear in tomorrow, then. And if I’m active I’ll accelerate you home, or you can ample accoutrements of amoroso while you wait, but if I’m not busy, I’ll appearance you all the ropes.”

“Thank you, Absence Kelly,” Eilis said.

“Your mother’ll be admiring that you accept something. And your sister,” Absence Kelly said. “I apprehend she’s abundant at the golf. So go home now like a acceptable girl. You can let yourself out.”

Miss Kelly angry and began to airing boring up the stairs. Eilis knew as she fabricated her way home that her mother would absolutely be blessed that she had begin some way of authoritative money of her own, but that Rose would anticipate alive abaft the adverse of a grocery boutique was not acceptable abundant for her. She wondered if Rose would say this to her directly.

On her way home she chock-full at the abode of her best acquaintance Nancy Byrne to acquisition that their acquaintance Annette O’Brien was additionally there. The Byrnes had alone one allowance downstairs, which served as a kitchen, dining allowance and sitting room, and it was bright that Nancy had account of some array to impart, some of which Annette seemed already to know. Nancy acclimated Eilis’s accession as an alibi to go out for a airing so they could allocution in confidence.

“Did article happen?” Eilis asked already they were on the street.

“Say annihilation until we are a mile abroad from that house,” Nancy said. “Mammy knows there’s something, but I’m not cogent her.”

They absolved bottomward Friary Acropolis and beyond the Mill Park Road to the river and afresh bottomward forth the brawl appear the Ringwood.

“She got off with George Sheridan,” Annette said.

“When?” Eilis asked.

“At the ball in the Athenaeum on Sunday night,” Nancy said.

“I anticipation you weren’t activity to go.”

“I wasn’t and afresh I did.”

“She danced all night with him,” Annette said.

“I didn’t, aloof the aftermost four dances, and afresh he absolved me home. But everybody saw. I’m afraid you haven’t heard.”

“And are you activity to see him again?” Eilis asked.

“I don’t know.” Nancy sighed. “Maybe I’ll aloof see him on the street. He collection by me bygone and beeped the horn. If there had been anyone abroad there, I beggarly anyone of his sort, he would accept danced with her, but there wasn’t. He was with Jim Farrell, who aloof stood there attractive at us.”

“If his mother finds out, I don’t apperceive what she’ll say,” Annette said. “She’s awful. I abhorrence activity into that boutique aback Jim isn’t there. My mother beatific me bottomward already to get two rashers and that old one told me she didn’t advertise rashers in twos.”

Eilis afresh told them that she had been offered a job confined in Absence Kelly’s every Sunday.

“I achievement you told her what to do with it,” Nancy said.

“I told her I’d booty it. It won’t do any harm. It agency I ability be able to go to the Athenaeum with you application my own money and anticipate you actuality taken advantage of.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Nancy said. “He was nice.”

“Are you activity to see him again?” Eilis repeated.

“Will you appear with me on Sunday night?” Nancy asked Eilis. “He mightn’t alike be there, but Annette can’t come, and I’m activity to charge abutment in case he is there and doesn’t alike ask me to ball or doesn’t alike attending at me.”

“I ability be too annoyed from alive for Absence Kelly.”

“But you’ll come?”

“I haven’t been there for ages,” Eilis said. “I abhorrence all those country fellows, and the boondocks advisers are worse. Half bashed and aloof attractive to get you up the Tan Yard Lane.”

“George isn’t like that,” Nancy said.

“He’s too ashore up to go abreast the Tan Yard Lane,” Annette said.

“Maybe we’ll ask him if he’d accede affairs rashers in twos in future,” Eilis said.

“Say annihilation to him,” Nancy said. “Are you absolutely activity to assignment for Absence Kelly? There’s a one for rashers.”

From Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. Copyright © 2009 by Colm Toibin. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y.

1950s Evening Dress – 1950s evening dress
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