Constance Emmett was born in Brooklyn, New York, where her mother’s family landed after leaving Belfast, Northern Ireland. Constance grew up in the New York area and holds dual U.S. and Republic of Ireland citizenship. Her Irish family’s stories found a lifelong home in Constance, and formed her as a writer. She creates characters that find the resilience common to all survivors. While working as a biologist for more than twenty years, she wrote fiction in her spare time. Her debut novel, Heroine of Her Own Life, was published in 2019 by Next Chapter, and is available on Amazon.co.uk.
The audio version of Heroine of Her Own Life is recorded and in the queue at Next Chapter. The sequel (Everything Will Be All Right) to Heroine of Her Own Life will be submitted for publication in early spring, 2021. The next project, a novel set in Colonial and Revolutionary New York is currently in a first draft. A third project on the horizon centers around an early 19th c. house on Beacon Hill, Boston.
1941 Portstewart NI
After parting the gap in the barbed wire, Albert held it open for Robert, walked through after him and closed the gap again. Robert read the skull-and-cross-boned signs warning of mines. “I thought you said we were going to a pond. Are we really allowed to swim here?”
Pointing down to the bowl of surf trapped by a keyhole-shaped rock formation, Albert said, “It’s the sea, but it’s called Herring Pond by the locals, since it’s nearly closed off from the rest of the shore. See? It looks like a pond. The army and navy put barbed wire along the entire length of shoreline, but they turn a blind eye to us having a swim in here.”
Robert watched two men in rubber suits on the other side of the pond. “What are those fellas doing? Laying mines?”
“Of course not! I wouldn’t swim where there were mines—do I look like an eejit? Don’t answer. No, they’re practicing their diving. Herring Pond is a draw for divers since it’s deep and clear. You can see down to the bottom—see? Do you swim much?”
Robert leant forward and peered down. “When I had to—at school. We learnt strokes in a pool.”
“When the tides are right, it’s very safe here.”
Looking unsure, Robert asked, “And are they right now?”
“Oh, yes. I’m an excellent swimmer, so don’t worry.”
Robert looked away. It’s official then, is it? He’s excellent at everything. The bicycle ride here was filled with the wonders of Albert, according to Albert.
Pulling his polo shirt over his head, Albert said, “Come on, Robert, it will feel good after all that digging and dunging.” He took his trousers off and stood grinning in old red swimming trunks, faded in most places to a mottled dark pink. Grinning at Robert, he smoothed back his red-blond hair.
God he’s a long drink of water, but he’s muscled, I’ll say that for him. Must be all that excellent swimming, eh?
“Alright. I’ve to put my t-trunks on.”
“Rightee-o. Here I go!” Looking over the edge of the rocks that captured a bit of the Atlantic, Albert jumped.
Robert could see him swimming underwater to the middle, where he erupted straight up in the air, his torso and head dripping. “Whoo!”
The divers on the other side laughed and shouted, “Aye, cold enough to freeze thon bollocks off.”
Treading water and waving at him, Albert yelled, “Jump in, Robert!”
Before Robert pulled his trousers off, he looked around and finding no women or girls about, quickly pulled his kex off, too. One foot and leg went into the swim trunks smoothly, the other foot caught in the inner netting, but he managed to keep his balance while pulling the foot through and the trunks up.
The divers yelled, “Hey up! Hang on boy, your big dark lad is going to shrivel on ye!”
Tying the string of the trunks’ waistband tight around him, Robert muttered, “They’re killing themselves laughing, those t-two. What is it then, ‘Laurel and Hardy Go Diving’?”
Although Albert had jumped off the rocks without hesitation, the edge of the cliff gave Robert pause. He walked over to the ladder anchored in cement that led down into the water.
Shouting, “Only lassies use them stairs, and we know well you’re no lass!” the divers were red-faced and wheezing.
Albert swam over to the bottom of the ladder. “Jump when you get down farther. You can’t walk in, it’s too cold.”
Under Albert’s and the divers’ scrutiny, Robert froze. Without realizing it, he had covered his crotch with his hands.
“It will grow back, we swear!” The divers were sitting on a rock, laughing. The fat jokester slapped his ample thighs while his skinny friend doubled over with mirth.
Albert pulled himself up onto the underwater steps. He was close enough to speak in a lower voice. “Those two won’t quit till you’re in—come down halfway, then jump.” Having delivered his advice, he swam back to the middle of the pond.
Robert climbed onto the ladder and began his descent. Once his feet hit the surf, he stopped. Stuck halfway and facing the rocks, he clung to the ladder as waves of frigid seawater doused him from feet to backside.
In panic and agony, he let go of the ladder rails. Falling backwards, his back slapped hard on the water. Submerged, the icy realm and the sting of the flop made him feel as though his heart would stop. He opened his eyes and looked up to the clear blue sky. After a moment, Albert filled the view, diving to pull him up to the surface.
On the surface and spluttering, he finally was able to say, “Alright.”
“Can you tread water?”
Albert let go of him. As he’d been taught, Robert moved his arms and legs and to his surprise, he remained afloat.
From across the pond, “Here! That’ll sting later. Worse than a belly flop but easier on the lad.” More laughter.
Albert turned around and said, “Please Mister, would you give us a chance?” Something in Albert’s voice must have contained the perfect mix of authority and respect, because the jokester diver waved and yelled, “Aye, you’re alright.”
Turning back to Robert, Albert said, “We can go back up, if you like.”
“After all that? You must be joking me. Anyway, the water feels good now. I’ll stay a wee while. At least until those devils either drown or leave.”
Smiling, Albert said, “Good on ye. But keep moving or you’ll freeze.”