It was the first day of the year, it was very cold and there was this strange knock on the door.
“Hello, can I come in? I had to come here.”
“Hello! Haven't you got a home to go to?”
She was shy, a thirteen-year-old, her clothing thin and grey. She held a small suitcase.
“No! I had to leave the home?”
“Er, leave home? Leave the home?”
“I don't know what to do.”
Time for an executive decision, though I felt like a paedophile.
“Come in, please!”
I took her directly to the kitchen.
“Oh, it's nice and warm in here.”
“Oh, yes, very cosy and better still, here is a mug of cocoa to warm you up from the inside.”
“Oh, I've never had this before, it's very nice.”
I looked at her, I talked to her. Her name was Deirdre.
She was shy. She looked like a thirteen-year-old girl. Her clothing was very simple and ugly grey in colour. She had a small cardboard suitcase.
She said that she didn't know where to go and what do. She said that she had to leave the home because today was her eighteenth birthday.
She also stank of disinfectant.
I finished my cocoa. “Would you like another mug of cocoa?” A bit more time to think.
Think about what? She stank. She was cold. Her clothes were awful. She stank.
“I know. What about a shower, a nice warm shower, and some other clothes?”
I took her to the bathroom and without thinking much removed her clothes, pushed her under the shower and washed her. I dried her with a big towel, put her in a white bath robe and brushed out her tangled hair.
What about those clothes I had promised her, I didn't have any women's clothing, but I found some stuff, some clean stuff. A white shirt, a pair of knickers, two thick woolly socks, a cardigan and a bright red bath towel which I pinned around her waist as a skirt.
Did she look funny, but better than before and the stench of disinfectant was gone. I measured her. We spent the rest of the day ordering clothes for her on the internet. “Your birthday presents, hopefully they will be delivered tomorrow.”
We slept in one bed. No, not what you think, but I had only one bed. She wore one of my thick winter shirts which went down below her knees.
“Wonderful, wonderful!” She tried on all the clothes. “Oh yes, I do like this – so pretty – lovely colours.” She was happy, that made me happy. “Put the coat on, we're going shopping.”
We bought food and a handbag and stuff and went to a furniture store – a bed, a wardrobe, sheets and stuff.
I painted one of the rooms that had once been bedrooms in the Copper House Hotel, found a carpet and screwed the bed and the wardrobe together. I glued an extra plywood board in the bottom of the wardrobe to strengthen it, something told me to do that. I found a table and a chair and a pile of books and magazines. And of course I hung a mirror on the wall.
“Oh yes, I do like this – so pretty – lovely colours.” But she couldn't read. What to do?
I took her to the local college of further education and asked for help. “Oh yes, we'll put her on our Catch-up Course. One or two years and she can try for the School Leaving Certificate.” It was for illiterates, dumbbells and immigrants, but everyone deserves a second chance.
It was good having some company at home, it was like having a daughter, time went by, but there was more life in Copper House.