It began with Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, growing up, inseparable, in the village of Knockglen. Benny—the only child, yearning to break free from her adoring parents...Eve—the orphaned offspring of a convent handyman and a rebellious blueblood, abandoned by her mother's wealthy family to be raised by nuns. Eve and Benny—they knew the sins and secrets behind every villager's lace curtains...except their own. It widened at Dublin, at the university where Benny and Eve met beautiful Nan Mahlon and Jack Foley, a doctor's handsome son. But heartbreak and betrayal would bring the worlds of Knockglen and Dublin into explosive collision. Long-hidden lies would emerge to test the meaning of love and the strength of ties held within the fragile gold bands of a...Circle Of Friends.
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May 27, 2007
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Excerpt from Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
The kitchen was full of the smells of baking. Benny put down her school bag and went on a tour of inspection.
"The cake hasn't been iced yet," Patsy explained. "The mistress will do that herself."
"What are you going to put on it?" Benny was eager.
"I suppose Happy Birthday Benny." Patsy was surprised.
"Maybe she'll put Benny Hogan, Ten."
"I never saw that on a cake."
"I think it is, when it's a big birthday like being ten."
"Maybe." Patsy was doubtful.
"And are the jellies made?"
"They're in the pantry. Don't go in poking at them, you'll leave the mark of your finger and we'll all be killed."
"I can't believe I'm going to be ten," Benny said, delighted with herself.
"Ah, it's a big day all right." Patsy spoke absently as she greased the trays for the queen cakes with a scrap of butter paper.
"What did you do when you were ten?"
"Don't you know with me every day was the same," Patsy said cheerfully. "There was no day different in the orphanage until I came out of it and came here."
Benny loved to hear stories of the orphanage. She thought it was better than anything they read in books. There was the room with the twelve iron beds in it, the nice girls, the terrible girls, the time they all got nits in their hair and had their heads shaved.
"They must have had birthdays," Benny insisted.
"I don't remember them." Patsy sighed. "There was a nice nun who said to me that I was Wednesday's child, full of woe."
"That wasn't nice."
"Well, at least she knew I was born on a Wednesday . . . Here's your mother, now let me get on with the work."
Annabel Hogan came in carrying three big bags. She was surprised to see her daughter sitting swinging her legs in the kitchen.
"Aren't you home nice and early? Let me put these things upstairs."
Benny ran over to Patsy when her mother's heavy tread was heard on the stairs.
"Do you think she got it?"
"Don't ask me Benny, I know nothing."
"You're saying that because you do know."
"I don't. Really."
"Was she in Dublin? Did she go up on the bus?"
"No, not at all."
"But she must have." Benny seemed very disappointed.
"No, she's not long gone at all. . . . She was only up the town."
Benny licked the spoon thoughtfully. "It's nicer raw," she said.
"You always thought that." Patsy looked at her fondly.
"When I'm eighteen and can do what I like, I'll eat all my cakes uncooked," Benny pronounced.
"No you won't, when you're eighteen you'll be so busy getting thin you won't eat cakes at all."
"I'll always want cakes."
"You say that now. Wait till you want some fellow to fancy you."
"Do you want a fellow to fancy you?"
"Of course I do, what else is there?"
"What fellow? I don't want you to go anyway."
"I won't get a fellow, I'm from nowhere, a decent fellow wouldn't be able to talk about me and where I came from. I have no background, no life before, you see."
"But you had a great life," Benny cried. "You'd make them all interested in you."
There was no time to discuss it further. Benny's mother was back in the kitchen, her coat off and down to business with the icing sugar.
"Were you in Dublin at all today, Mother?"
"No child, I had enough to do getting things ready for the party."
"It's just I was wondering . . ."
"Parties don't run themselves you know." The words sounded sharp but the tone was kindly. Benny knew her mother was looking forward to it all too.
"And will Father be home for the cake bit?"
"Yes, he will. We've asked the people for half-past three, they'll all be here by four, so we needn't sit down to the tea until half-past five, and we wouldn't have got to the cake until your father has the business closed, and is back here."
Benny's father ran Hogan's Outfitters, the big menswear shop in the middle of Knockglen. The shop was often at its busiest on a Saturday, when the farmers came in, or the men who had a half day themselves were marched in by wives to have themselves fitted out by Mr. Hogan, or Mike the old assistant, the tailor who had been there since time immemorial. Since the days when young Mr. Hogan had bought the business.
Benny was glad that her father would be there for the cake, because that was when she might be given her present. Father had said it was going to be a wonderful surprise. Benny knew that they must have got her the velvet dress with the lacy collar and the pumps to go with it. She had wanted it since last Christmas when they went to the pantomime in Dublin and she had seen the girls on the stage dancing in pink velvet dresses like this.
They had heard that they sold them in Clerys, and that was only a few minutes from where the bus stopped when it went to Dublin.
Benny was large and square, but she wouldn't look like that in the pink velvet dress. She would be just like the fairy dancers they had seen on the stage, and her feet wouldn't look big and flat in those shoes because they had lovely pointy toes, and little pom-poms on them.