Authors: Amy Mason
WINNER OF THE 2014
DUNDEE INTERNATIONAL BOOK PRIZE
The Dundee International Book Prize has been running for 14 years and provides a chance for debut authors to have their voices heard. The prize is Â£10,000 and a publishing deal with Cargo. It is supported by the University of Dundee, Dundee, One City, Many Discoveries Campaign and Apex Hotels. For more information about the prize please visit www.dundeebookprize.com.
The Other Ida
“A brilliant debut. Fresh, lyrical, fearless, and very funny.”
~Emma Jane Unsworth
“A brilliant first novel about the ultimate dysfunctional family. Truly original and exciting â a must-read.”
“A fine debut from an exciting new voice in fiction.”
The Other Ida
is a wild, exuberant ride through booze, Bournemouth, family, funerals, soul-searching and sisterhood. It's singular, inventive, warm and deeply affecting.”
“Ida will âalways do what needed to be done for fun and adventures and art.' Relish her story and Amy Mason's sensuous writing. Both have a dazzling spark and a delightful bite. I love this book. It is a winner.”
THE OTHER IDA
The Other Ida
First Published in 2014
Published by Cargo Publishing
Copyright Â© Amy Mason 2014
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form or binding other than that in which it is published.
The moral right of Amy Mason to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Printed and Bound by Bell & Bain in Scotland
Typeset by Cargo Publishing
Cover design by Kaajal Modi
Cover photography by Michael Gallacher
Also available as:
For my family and Stef
~ 1982 ~
Standing up to her knees in the sea, Ida spread her long arms wide against the freezing wind.
“The sky is bruised and low,” she shouted, over the shrieks of the gulls above.
It was still very early and the sky was marbled with colours she'd hate on her bedroom walls â princess pink, vein violet, fairy-wing grey â while the usually soupy sea sparkled with the greens and golds of a fish's tail. Far to her right, at Sandbanks, the silhouettes of houses had been transformed into dragon's teeth and treasure.
She sucked hard on her cigarette and turned towards the smudged black line of Bournemouth Pier. They could go there afterwards and muck about on the empty rides. It would be properly scary with no one about.
“The sky is bruised and low,” she said again. “The gulls swoop and squeal their secret songs, there is nobody else around.”
“It's ready, Ida â it's on,” came a small, strained voice from the beach.
The wind was blowing her hair across her face, but through it Ida could just make out the figure of her sister. Alice was holding the ancient square black Standard 8 high with both hands and visibly shivering in her nightie.
Ida squeezed her eyes shut, prayed quickly for inspiration, and dropped her damp cigarette butt into the sea.
“Here I am,” she roared. “This is my home now. I have given up my ugly shoes and my cardie â given up the trappings of modern life.”
She pulled at her hair.
“See the seaweed of my hair, my iridescent limbs flailing,” she said, flailing them.
She grabbed her new breasts.
“My breasts are jelly fishâ¦ my eyes are giant pearls.” She opened them wide. “I am the sea. My breath is the slow creep of the tide. I am at peace.”
Flinging her arms into the air, she fell back, the icy water a rock against her skull. But she had done it. She would always do what needed to be done for fun and adventures and art.
She stood up and waded towards the beach, her mother's blue kimono heavy against her skin.
Alice looked like she was going to cry and jiggled one arm around wildly. But she had filmed it. And that was all Ida cared about. She was sure she looked fantastic.
“There you go, nothing to it. Do what I did â remember the lines from the play but add in your own stuff too.”
Ida's hands were stiff with cold and she could hardly hold the old cine-camera, but her determination to make Alice do what she'd just done was so strong that she couldn't give up.
“Right in it, Ida? What about my grommets?”
“Fuck your grommets â think of Joan of Arc. And you don't have to put your head under. Or put your head under but put your fingers in your ears.”
Alice walked forwards slowly, tucking her hair behind her ears again and again. She was wearing one of Ida's nightdresses and it was far too big for her; against the enormous sky she looked like a toddler. She put one foot in and pulled it straight out.
“It's freezing! God.”
“Do it,” said Ida.
The filming plan had been fully formed when Ida had woken up that morning, as if it had been shoved right into her brain while she'd slept. She imagined Our Lady, or someone else magical, leaning over her bed in the night and whispering
make a film on the beach, Ida, it'll be fantastic
. And she'd done what they'd said, of course.
Alice had stayed quiet as she was lifted from her bed, crusty eyed and floppy with sleep, denied even her jacket and shoes. Then she'd followed on her battered pink Raleigh as they headed through the chine, while in front Ida peddled like crazy on her rusty red shopper, their mother's kimono brushing the spokes.
The pine trees smelled so strong in the damp, early morning that Ida could taste them. Beside her the stream whispered as she rode â
go girls, go go go!
â while in the distance gulls made inky shapes against the fading moon.
“Drown or burn?” Ida had asked as they rode up the hill, wobbling over branches and through patches of mud.
“Drown, I reckon,” said Alice, panting.
“Shag Peter Green or Daniel Sears?” Ida asked.
“Neither. You're nine. Kill Ma or Me?”
“Errr, Ma, I suppose.”
“Right answer,” said Ida as they got to the top. “Now take your hands off the bars. Don't be a wuss.”
As they'd gone over the brow of the hill they'd stopped peddling â their legs out, their hair glowing under the brightening sky, the icy wind against their skin making them hard and reckless and wonderful.Â Â
“This is how I want to go!” Ida had roared as they flew towards the beach. “Gliding down a hill then BAM, hit by a truck or something. Perfect.”
Alice stood at the water's edge with her arms out, her fingertips touching the horizon. Slowly, wincing, she started to walk in. “I'm in the sea,” she shouted back half-heartedly, close to tears.
“You're a poet aren't you, Alice? Be a bloody poet.” I am lying, Ida thought, she is a scientist, or something else boring.
“I am as cold as ice, as a dead person, a fish,” said Alice, drowned out almost entirely by the sound of the birds above. “The sea is salty and grey like my tears, the sand is yellowish like my skinâ¦ andâ¦ andâ¦” she started to sob.
Ida almost wanted to hug her. She left the camera by the bikes, waded into the sea and grabbed her sister's shoulders, staring into her eyes before pushing down, hard.
Alice's knees buckled and she slipped sideways into the water, her silent open mouth the last thing to disappear beneath the waves.
Ida knelt and held her sister there, pressing her hair and face as Alice began to struggle.
There was a sharp pain in Ida's palm and she pulled her hand away, amazed to see deep teeth marks filling quickly with blood as the small girl emerged, her hair covering her face, panting violently and clawing at the sea as though it was earth.
~ 1999 ~
Ida woke up with her leg over her boyfriend's naked thigh and instantly felt the bare mattress with her palm. Dry. She had recently developed the terrible habit of wetting herself when drunk. Still, there was a haze of what felt like embarrassment, and it was only when she lit a cigarette that she remembered what Terri had said on the phone the night before. Her mother had finally died.
She walked across to the sink to pee, pulling down her shorts and hopping up onto the kitchen unit, which creaked beneath the weight of her. Ida was used to the creaks and had tried to prepare herself for the day it would actually collapse. She mouthed the words to herself as she sat with her legs dangling.
“Mum's dead. Ma is dead. My mother, Bridie, is dead.”
The ceilings were low in Ida's new bedsit and she hunched her shoulders instinctively as she walked back over to Elliot, despite the three-inch gap between the plaster and her head. The floor slanted to the right making her feel even wobblier than the hangover would have done on its own. Although it was morning it was very dark â Ida's room had once been the roof space and the tiny window was almost entirely covered by the sign outside that read ârooms to let, DSS no problem'.
Ida sat on her bed. The room was pretty empty, she didn't have much stuff, but what she did have was brightly coloured â a rainbow of scarves hung from her wardrobe door, while the wardrobe itself remained empty apart from some tissues and books on the bottom slats. Her clothes were on the floor â floral Crimpolene dresses, stretched out t-shirts with holes in them and white stains under the armpits, hand-knitted jumpers that had belonged to old boyfriends, a couple of stringy, ill-fitting bras. At the end of the bed stood her huge red motorcycle boots.