From Ireland to Kings Cross, a legacy of loss and hope echoes across the generations …
Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves.
Rose Bay, 1984 Haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But Maggie has plans of her own, and Rosie can only pray the grief that plagues the Hart name won’t follow her.
Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie’s past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy. Is the Hart family’s legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?
Tinahely, Ireland, March 1955
‘I need to be at work early tomorrow, Mrs O’Brien is relying on me,’ Rosie Hart duly informed her friend Sinead, steadfast in her resolve not to be swayed. But Sinead Colleen Murphy had a way with swaying. Her ma had once commented that Sinead could sell ice to an Eskimo, and Rosie had not a doubt in the world she could.
‘But I’m relying on you, Rosaleen.’ Sinead pouted. ‘I may be meeting my future husband after all, and I promise, if it all goes to plan, you’re sure to be my head bridesmaid.’
Rosie sighed. She hadn’t been able to say no to Sinead since they were six years old when she had convinced Rosie that her mother wouldn’t mind if she chopped off her long blonde ringlets. Sinead was wrong; Aoife Hart had minded very much. Rosie had spent the better part of the next six months looking like a mop, until her hair was long enough for her mother to even it out.
‘Apparently, he’s quite a ladies’ man,’ Sinead continued, her voice full of awe, eyes full of stars. ‘A bad boy,’ she added wistfully.
‘Well, I want nothing to do with no Englishman, or any other man for that matter. As I said, I have a job to be at tomorrow.’ Rosie was aware how prim she sounded, but she meant every word. She’d not long started working with Mrs O’Brien as an apprentice dressmaker, and she was told she showed promise. Rosie had plans. One day she would design her own clothes and she’d have someone else make them, and she’d be damned if she would let some man ruin all that.
‘Aww, Rosaleen, just one drink. Come on, do it for me.’ Sinead was the only person in the world to call her by her full name.
‘One drink,’ Rosie said firmly, but knew already her threat was a lost cause.
‘Sure, just the one.’ Sinead sagely nodded her flame-coloured head, but it was the mischievous twinkle in her hazel eyes that revealed her true intentions.
Rosie sighed once more and Sinead cheered victoriously, looping her arm through Rosie’s and leading them into the frostbitten late-March afternoon. The day was waning, night slowly creeping in, and soon darkness would throw its thick velvet cloak over the streets of Tinahely and the faint glow of the streetlights would cast their amber shadows.
Rosie shivered against her thick coat and automatically Sinead pulled her closer, warming her. She may be annoying at times, but Sinead knew Rosie better than anyone. She was more than her best friend, she was the sister Rosie never had, and Rosie knew the feeling was mutual. Sinead was the youngest of seven and the only girl.
Rosie could hear O’Malley’s before they rounded the corner, and as the doors of the pub swung open, the acrid scent of tobacco assaulted her. Gasping for air, Rosie placed her hand on her chest and wheezed. Sinead grabbed her free hand and pulled her through the throng of those already drunk and those not far off, and forcefully squeezed them both between two burly men at the bar. The moment Sinead let go of her wrist, Rosie’s hands automatically landed on the bar countertop. The pungent smell of stale beer blended with nicotine filled the air, and Rosie screwed up her nose, having a hard time determining which offensive smell was worse.
‘We will never get any male attention with you pulling faces like so.’ Sinead scowled.
‘I don’t fancy the perfume of nicotine and whiskey.’
‘Come on, it’s not that bad. Half the time I know where to find my da by following the smell of his pipe and uisce beatha. I’m sure every house in all of Tinahely has the same sorta scent.’
Not every house, Rosie thought. And certainly not her house as it was just Rosie and her ma. Her da had left years before, when Rosie was a small child. She couldn’t remember exactly when. Aoife Hart had made a hard-and-fast rule when her husband had walked out on her—never would she utter his name again. To this day, Rosie was sure her mother had abided unwaveringly by the rule.
‘Tell ye what, you get another round while I head to the jacks,’ boomed the voice of a man to her right, presumably to his mate, before turning towards Rosie and near trampling her. Rosie yelped and the man let out an almighty holler. ‘Jaysis, you put the heart crossway in me. I didn’t see you there at all!’
‘She’s as thin as a stick, this one,’ Sinead quipped, her voice threaded with more than a modicum of envy.
‘Aye, that she is. Gabh mo leithscéal.’ His apology was heartfelt.
‘Come on,’ Sinead said as they braved the rambunctious crowd, drinks firmly in hand.
‘Where are we going?’ Rosie yelled over the cacophony that seemed to be getting louder and louder.
‘I spotted Michael in the corner. I’m sure the Englishman’s with him.’ Sinead threw a smile over her shoulder and Rosie shook her head.
One drink, she promised herself. One drink then I’m feigning a headache and going home. It wouldn’t be a stretch; she was sure she felt the niggling of one—
Her thoughts were interrupted by a scuffle erupting nearby, followed by a loud crash, and in the next instance Rosie found herself propelled backwards, drink and all. It was sudden, but she still had time enough to realise she was about to hit the ground as her feet quickly moved from underneath her and the liquid from her beer slapped against her face and blurred her vision. She held her breath, bracing for the fall. Except she didn’t. The next thing she knew there was a pair of hands grabbing her torso from behind. So shocked was Rosie that she hadn’t connected with O’Malley’s floor that it took her a good while to process it. Beer trickled down her cheek as her saviour righted her.
‘Are you alright, Miss?’ he asked, his accent sticking out like a sore thumb.
‘I …’ She turned to face him, then blinked, seemingly losing the power of speech. He was looking at her from lofty heights, piercing blue eyes marked with concern, or perhaps, it slowly dawned, as a bead of liquid pooled at her lips, that it was because she resembled a wet rat.
Self-consciously, she straightened her back, jutted her chin and ran a hand through her gat-soaked curls. ‘I’m fine,’ she managed, even though her voice said otherwise. Her saviour’s eyes sparked with entertainment and he gave her a doubtful nod but didn’t press the matter. Instead, he reached inside the pocket of his trousers and produced a handkerchief. When all Rosie did was stare at his outstretched hand, his lips formed an amused smile and one brow cocked. ‘It’s clean, if that’s what you’re thinking.’
English. You’re English. That’s what I’m thinking.
‘Thank you.’ She took the hanky from his proffered hand, the brief brush of fingertips setting her face aflame. Even with her
eyes cast down, Rosie could tell he was watching her with those blue eyes setting every nerve in her body alight and making her heart thump uncontrollably in her chest.
It’s the adrenaline, she told herself. It must be.
‘Rosaleen!’ Sinead crashed into her like a hurricane. ‘Are you alright? You had me worried there for a second.’
‘I think we managed to avoid disaster,’ the Englishman said smoothly.
‘You’re a right knight in shining armour,’ Sinead added. Something in her friend’s voice made Rosie flick her gaze towards her. Sinead’s face looked somewhere between annoyance and resentment and it sent a frizzle of alarm through her. Where was this coming from?
‘I’m Sinead, by the way, Michael’s sister.’ Sinead placed herself between Rosie and the Englishman, and not so subtly, her hand extended for him to take and kiss. Rosie watched as he gave a nod, ignoring the implied intention, and took Sinead’s hand in a brief, friendly shake.
‘Nice to meet you, Sinead. I’m Tom.’
No wonder Sinead had pushed in front of her. This was the man she had dragged Rosie for here tonight.
Tom’s gaze skimmed over Sinead’s head. ‘And who’s the damsel I rescued?’ There was no mistaking the change in tone— from polite to playful—and there was no doubt of the extremely annoyed look on Sinead’s face as she spun around to glare at Rosie.
‘That’s just Rosaleen,’ Sinead said dismissively, flipping her hair over her shoulder. ‘She’s only staying for one drink.’
Irritation bloomed. After begging Rosie to come with her, she now was eager for her to leave? Was it because Tom was paying her attention? Attention that Sinead was banking on coming her way?
‘One drink?’ Tom cocked a brow and smiled in a way that released a thousand butterflies in her stomach. ‘We’d better make it count.’ Tom stepped around Sinead and crooked his arm. Rosie paused, unsure of what she should do. On one hand, Sinead was her friend and Rosie was only here for her, but on the other, this man was quite fetching and seemed more interested in her than Sinead. It was, Rosie had to admit, flattering. And so, she threaded her arm through his, leaving Sinead astounded and fuming.
Her friend sat silently across the table. Part of Rosie was disappointed in herself, but Sinead never lacked male attention. In fact, as soon as they took their seats, scores of admirers began vying to get noticed and her sulkiness eased slightly.
Rosie did only stay for one drink. Tom insisted on walking her home, much to Sinead’s obvious chagrin. The conversation was easy and Rosie had to confess she was captivated. When they arrived at her doorstep, he kissed her with passion and abandon. The kiss blew Rosie away, leaving her lips tingling long after it was over, her body yearning for more. She lay awake for hours after, her fingers tracing the outline of her mouth.
The next morning, Mrs O’Brien chided her for being preoccupied. ‘Your head’s in the clouds, child.’
‘I’m sorry, Mrs O’Brien. I didn’t sleep well.’ It wasn’t a lie. Not entirely.
‘Just as long as some boy isn’t pulling your attention away from your dreams.’
‘No. Nothing like that, Mrs O’Brien.’ Rosie cast her eyes downwards, the shame of her untruth blooming.
‘You’ve got talent, Rosie Hart. Don’t let it go to waste.’
It would take Rosie some years before she would fully understand just how veracious Mrs O’Brien’s words were.
Sydney, March 2017
Landing gear hitting the tarmac jolted Brie out of sleep and a moment later the first officer’s voice came through the PA system.
‘Welcome to Sydney, where the time is eight twenty-five am.’
Brie stretched, feeling the aches, kinks and fatigue that go hand in hand with being forced to sleep while upright. Rubbing her lower back, she groaned, and the older woman next to her shot her a sympathetic smile.
‘Night flights are both a blessing and a curse,’ she said. Brie’s face must’ve been painted with confusion, so she elaborated, ‘You either sleep the whole distance or you don’t.’
Brie grimaced. ‘Then it was a curse for me.’
The woman chuckled wisely. ‘I’ve had many of those, but this time it was a blessing for me.’
Brie smiled politely. She wasn’t kidding. As soon as they took off, the woman had reclined (if you could call the meagre movement of the economy-class seat a recline) and within minutes had begun snoring like a tractor, only ceasing when the customer service manager announced their descent into Sydney.
Truthfully, Brie couldn’t blame the woman for her sleeplessness. Not entirely at least. It was a motley combination of anxiety, adrenaline and grief. In less than twenty-four hours, Brie had packed up her life in Narita, on the outskirts of Tokyo, and purchased a one-way ticket to Sydney. Her rented apartment, in typical Japanese style, situated on a narrow street lined with colourful shops and restaurants in the style of Japan’s Edo period and near Narita’s centuries-old Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, was the size of a shoebox, with all the furniture and appliances as part of the property agreement. It had been home for the past three years.
The physical act of packing had been relatively simple. What did it say about a person when all their worldly possessions could fit in one single suitcase? Did it mean their life was not focused on materialistic baubles? That they lived like a gypsy, ready to be whisked away by the next adventure life had waiting for them? Or did it mean that like a gypsy, their nomadic life meant no home, no roots, no knowing where they belonged?
‘For those visiting Sydney, we wish you a pleasant stay, for those returning, welcome home,’ the first officer’s voice sounded once again.
The four-letter word twisted like a barb in her chest. Brie was born and raised in Sydney, but it had ceased to be home long ago. Brianna Hart may have known where she came from, but she didn’t know where she belonged. And now, the only thing that linked her to Sydney, her grandmother, Rosie, was gone.
She was faced with the grim task of planning Rosie’s funeral. Brie wasn’t sure why the call informing her of her grandmother’s death had come with such shock. It was inevitable, after all. Rosie was eighty-one, no spring chicken, and yet, Brie was floored. Maybe it was because all her life, Rosie had seemed invincible. She had singlehandedly raised Brie and run a successful business,
a business that she only stepped away from a little over eighteen months ago. Invincible, it seemed, but not immortal.
Sydney’s trademark humidity hit Brie the second she stepped out of the airport terminal. Even though summer was officially over, the heat would hang around for some weeks, like an oppressive Third World dictator suppressing its citizens. Stripping off her heavy winter coat, she headed towards the taxi stand. It was just before ten in the morning. Brie had just enough time to head to her gran’s house, shower and change before she was due to meet with the funeral planner. In the back of the cab, she rubbed her gritty eyes. It would be so easy to nod off, but sleep would need to wait. It was only a short ride to Rose Bay.
As the taxi turned into her gran’s street, Brie felt her heart squeeze. She’d packed and left in such a hurry that the thought of returning to an empty house had slipped her mind. Was she ready for this? Even though she’d lived alone for the better part of a decade, she’d never been at Gran’s house alone.
The taxi pulled into the driveway, but Brie didn’t move. She was transfixed by the sight before her.
‘Miss?’ the driver prompted when she made no effort to get out. ‘This is the right address, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, it is.’ Brie made the mechanical movements of paying and retrieving her luggage, and as the taxi drove away, she stood rooted to the spot in disbelief. Finally, she pulled out her phone and called her grandmother’s solicitor. ‘Joe, it’s Brianna Hart.’
‘Brianna, I’m so sorry about your—’
‘I’m standing outside of the house, Joe.’
There was a pause as Joe Nichols, Rosie’s solicitor of forty years, slowly processed Brie’s words. ‘She didn’t tell you,’ he sighed heavily.
‘No, Joe, she didn’t.’ Brie closed her eyes and rubbed the heel of her hand into her forehead. Tears pricked the inside of her
eyelids. Anger and confusion battled for attention. ‘Why wouldn’t she tell me, Joe? Why wouldn’t she tell me she sold the house?’
‘I have no idea, Brianna. I simply assumed you knew … I thought you and Rosie were so close.’
‘Yeah, I thought so too.’ And here she was standing outside her childhood home that brandished a ‘For Sale’ sign with a fire-engine red ‘Sold’ sticker.
‘Perhaps you’d better come in and see me.’
‘I’m due at the funeral parlour soon.’
‘Can you come after that?’ There was an urgency in Joe’s voice that didn’t bode well.
‘What’s going on, Joe?’
Joe cleared his throat. ‘If Rosie didn’t tell you about selling the house, I’m guessing she didn’t inform you of the … other matters.’
‘Other matters? What other matters?’ she demanded.
‘Brianna, such things are better discussed in person.’
‘Joe, for crying out loud, just tell me. What else was Rosie hiding?’ But even as she asked the question, her mind was working overtime.
‘I think it’s best if I show you. I’ll text you an address. Will you be able to meet me after you’re done at the funeral parlour?’
‘Yeah, sure,’ she said, suddenly feeling like she was in the middle of The Bourne Identity or some godforsaken spy movie. She ended the call and less than a minute later, Joe’s text came through. Brie frowned. She knew the street, but had no idea what it would have to do with her grandmother.
What on earth was the connection between Rosie and Kings Cross?