Where We Belong

By: Fox Brison



“Mum. Dad,” I said softly, holding a wooden box in one hand and a white envelope in the other. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

My father spilt the red wine he was pouring and my mother stopped meting out the carrots. The sudden clang of the metal spoon hitting the ceramic serving dish proved a mourning bell which rent the shocked tableau.

“Bri, we… I can explain…” she stuttered, visibly shaken.

My Dad shot her a look and she quieted. “It’s not what you think,” he hurriedly assured me.

“So you haven’t been lying to me for the last thirty three years?” I demanded.

Their stunned silence and agitated fidgeting answered the question for me. An ensuing choking sensation of claustrophobia crushed every bone, every molecule, every atom in my body.

I need air.

Turning on my heel, I ignored the strangled cries trailing me down the hall and scrambled into the winter sunshine…

But please forgive me I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us rewind one hour to twelve fifteen pm on Sunday the thirteenth of January; you’ll understand why the date and time are indelibly seared onto my brain once I explain…

Chapter 1


Placing my hand on the door handle, I took a deep breath and stepped inside. Brown boxes dominated the spacious hall, and I stifled the sobs threatening to reduce me to snivelling wreck status.

What good would me falling apart do any of us?

“Hey, Mum, Dad, it’s me,” I called, forcing brightness into my voice.

“We’re in here, Bri.” I followed Bernadette McAteer’s distinctive Dublin accent to the kitchen – thirty four years in England hadn’t eradicated it completely, softened it maybe, but her linguistic ebullience remained a constant reminder of her heritage.

It would have been like any other Sunday (steam rose from various pots and pans on the hob and the roast beef rested on the side) if it weren’t for Mum carefully wrapping her beloved blue willow china in newspaper. Multi-tasking as usual. I shook my head because today keeping busy was probably closer to the mark. She was handling the move better than my Dad, that’s for sure. I heard the all too familiar harsh hiss of a beer can being opened.

Far better.

“How’s it going?” I asked, tracing a finger over the dainty Chinese figurine salt shaker before it too got swallowed up by the Daily Mail. We were fortunate my mother couldn’t get on with modern technology or we’d have gone broke buying packing paper for all her Delph. Another lump in the throat at the irony. Broke. Good one, Bri.

“Oh it could be worse, love,” she chirped. An eternal optimist, she owned the gift of looking on the bright side of any given situation, a knack I wished (and not for the first time in my life) I’d inherited. Sadly in this scenario I took after my father, and tended to borrow a Maersk cargo ship full of trouble when a rubber dinghy’s worth was warranted.

We were all struggling to process the carnage wrought by an unprecedented run of bad luck. It was like Mum had broken a hundred mirrors, Dad had killed a thousand black cats, and I’d walked under a million ladders. Okay the last one was probably true; being a project manager for my father’s construction firm, and thus having worked on building sites all over southern England for the last ten years, I had in fact walked under a fair few ladders in my time.

Mum placed the last of her precious china into a cardboard box before starting on the Waterford crystal glasses. Damn! It was so unfair!

The building game was a notorious house of cards. Small profit margins coupled with high loan repayments meant that when a developer McAteer Construction had just finished a housing estate for went into liquidation, the whole pyramid came crashing down.

And after barely surviving the 2008 crash, this was a bridge, or rather a bridging loan, too far.

The business my father, Noel McAteer, built up from humble beginnings when I was still a babe in arms (a small white van coupled with ads in free newspapers when we first arrived off the ferry from Dublin, to a large company tendering on council contracts) was going into receivership. It destroyed him. I watched him age decades in the eighteen months it took to hit rock bottom. He eventually filed for bankruptcy and the house was the first casualty.

“What can I do to help, Mum?” I asked resolutely. If a woman born and bred in Tallaght could manage an English stiff upper lip, then so could her daughter.

“There’s a rake of your things up in the attic and I’m not sure what you want doing with them.”

Ah yes, the detritus of a mis-spent youth. “I’ll go and take a look. Likely I’ll be getting rid of most of it, but I might find a rare Picasso in amongst my Spice Girls posters and our prayers will be answered.” We both smiled weakly.