Hideaway - Nora Roberts
Daughters are the thing.
—J. M. BARRIE
A little child loves ever’body, friends,
and its nature is sweetness—until something happens.
Big Sur ◾ 2001
When Liam Sullivan died, at the age of ninety-two, in his sleep, in his own bed with his wife of sixty-five years beside him, the world mourned.
An icon had passed.
Born in a little cottage tucked in the green hills and fields near the village of Glendree in County Clare, he’d been the seventh and last child of Seamus and Ailish Sullivan. He’d known hunger in the lean times, had never forgotten the taste of his mother’s bread and butter pudding—or the whip-swat of her hand when he’d earned it.
He’d lost an uncle and his oldest brother in the first Great War, had grieved for a sister who’d died before her eighteenth birthday delivering her second child.
He’d known from an early age the backbreaking work of plowing a field behind a horse named Moon. He’d learned how to shear a sheep and slaughter a lamb, to milk a cow and build a rock wall.
And he remembered, the whole of his long life, the nights his family sat around the fire—the smell of peat smoke, the angel-clear voice of his mother raised in song, his father smiling at her as he played the fiddle.
And the dancing.
As a boy he’d sometimes earn a few pennies singing in the pub while the locals drank their pints and talked of farming and politics. His soaring tenor could bring a tear to the eye, and his agile body and fast, clever feet lift the spirit when he danced.
He dreamed of more than plowing the fields and milking the cow, much more than the pennies gathered at the little pub in Glendree.
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, he left home, a few precious punts in his pocket. He endured the Atlantic crossing with others looking for more in the cramped confines belowdecks. When the ship rolled and rocked in a storm, and the air stank of vomit and fear, he blessed his iron constitution.
Dutifully, he wrote letters to home he dreamed of posting at the end of the voyage and kept spirits up by entertaining his fellow passengers with song and dance.
He shared a flirtation and a few eager kisses with a flaxen-haired girl named Mary from Cork who traveled to Brooklyn and a position as a maid in some fine house.
With Mary he stood in the cool, fresh air—fresh at last—and saw the great lady with her torch held high. And thought his life had truly begun.
So much color and noise and movement, so many people squashed into one place. Not just an ocean away from the farm where he’d been born and reared, he thought. A world away.
And his world now.
He was bound to apprentice with his mother’s brother Michael Donahue as a butcher in the Meatpacking District. He was welcomed, embraced, given a bed in a room he shared with two of his cousins. While in only a matter of weeks he grew to hate the sounds, the smells of the work, he earned his keep.
Still, he dreamed of more.
He found the more the first time he turned over a bit of that hard-earned pay to sit in a movie theater with Mary of the flaxen hair. There he saw magic on the silver screen, worlds far beyond everything he knew, worlds holding everything a man could want.
There the sounds of bone saws, the thwack of cleavers didn’t exist. Even pretty Mary faded away as he felt himself pulled into the screen and the world it offered.
The beautiful women, the heroic men, the drama, the joy. When he surfaced, he saw all around him the enraptured faces of the audience, the tears, the laughter, the applause.
This, he thought, was food for a hungry belly, a blanket in the cold, a light for the damaged soul.
Less than a year after he saw New York from the deck of a ship, he left it to head west.
He worked his way across the country, amazed at its size, at its changing sights and seasons. He slept in fields, in barns, in the backs of bars where he traded his voice for a cot.
Once he spent the night in jail after a bit of a dustup in a place called Wichita.
He learned to ride the rails, and evade the police—and as he would say in countless interviews over the course of his career—had the adventure of a lifetime.
When, after nearly two years of travel, he saw the