(Full synopsis follows.)
Anna's past involved sex on first dates, one night stands, and the distant but memorable threesome. Her ambition is to change her relationship with men so that she find a suitable husband. She has the romantic dream of believing in destiny and the signs it brings, but there is also the burgeoning desire to be in the driving seat so that she can also be the author of her own destiny.
Her friend Assumpta, who played an active role in her sordid past, thinks that Anna has entirely lost the plot. Assumpta herself prefers the disposable aspects of married men, and feels liberated in the understanding that they are but a temporary fixture in her life to be discarded once they make the decision to leave their wives.
Anna’s odyssey takes her to Dublin where she manages to secure a position as an insurance salesperson. She lives in a house with Assumpta, three men (Elliot, Harry and Cecil), and a dog called Homer. Elliot loves Anna, but she is in love with the fruits of destiny and insists on following a labyrinth of signs which she hopes will lead her to finding true love. In order to make her wishes come true, she has decided to become a born-again virgin and forgo temporarily the pleasures of the flesh. She discovers more about her sexuality and sensitivity during this time than she has ever done: it's not just about quick release clitoral stimulation, it’s a journey into feeling like a woman should.
But Anna gets lonely and realises that, without sex, relationships with men disintegrate. Her former plan to hook herself a suitable rich guy for marriage isn’t so easy after all because her romantic soul drives her towards true love. Sex with a hitch hiker she picks up was supposed to be a break from her rigid stance of celibacy, but immediately it comes back to haunt her. Anna is in mortal danger of having her entire sexuality exposed before not just her mother but the entire nation.
Conor, manager of her office branch likes what he sees in Anna. He has no idea of the conflicts that lurk beneath the surface and sees her as an upright and moral girl, the type of girl he would marry. They date for a few months and Conor asks Anna to marry him. Saying yes moves her so far up in the family pecking order that she is almost revered by her mother who adores Conor completely. He has his own house in Dublin, an MG sports car and a black BMW. Anna becomes rather swamped by wedding plans, primarily orchestrated by her mother and sister Nuala.
Anna’s dreams haunt her. Sex with Conor is technically perfect but she is left feeling emotionally bereft. She feels a domestic cosiness with Conor, but there are no great heights of unbridled passion. She discusses her dilemma with her mother who informs her that marriage is not about passion, it’s about security and having a nice home to rear children in. She persuades Anna to go ahead with the marriage, but the night before something happens to make Anna believe that destiny is miraculously intervening in her life…
This is the story of Anna’s sexual odyssey, her journey into herself, and her path towards finding true love. Her past has brought her nothing but a series of dead-end relationships, and a job that slowly kills her spirit. Her ambition for the millennium is to change her relationship with men, with the aim to finding her true love who she hopes will be a suitable husband for her future offspring. This involves a rather extreme makeover in her sexual predilections: gone will be the sex on the first date, the one-night stands, and that distant but memorable threesome. Anna has the romantic dream of believing in destiny and the signs that it brings, but there is also the burgeoning desire to be in the driving seat so that she can be the author of her own destiny.
The odyssey is funny, sometimes sad. The mystery that permeates throughout is whether choice or destiny determines the outcome of our lives. Anna’s odyssey shows what happens when she tries to weave her own tale by overstepping the boundaries of destiny with her well intentioned plans and altruistic ideals. For there are times when we unwittingly invite hubris upon ourselves.
Our ambivalent attitude to sex in modern times is also uncovered and we witness women’s attempts to use the power of their sexuality as a means of orchestrating and safeguarding their future. The basic rules don’t change, only the packaging does and the threads of both religion and tradition manage to permeate through, preventing true release and total sexual freedom. Anna Moran attempts to break though the shackles of the times to eventually find that only by being true to one’s heart can she ever be truly free.
Anna’s odyssey takes her to Dublin where she hopes to reinvent herself but somehow the past is lurking there, trailing menacingly behind her. Miraculously considering her unsuitable degree she manages to secure a position as an insurance salesperson in a reputable company. Her unorthodox methods of selling work but Anna seems to an uncanny knack of getting sucked into people’s dramas without being fully cognisant of the impact she has on their lives.
Anna finds herself sharing a house with her friend Assumpta, Elliot the musician, Cecil the nerdish accountant and Harry the impotent bouncer. Assumpta, a self confessed Lolita who plays dice with men’s hearts and souls had in the past exerted a phenomenal influence on Anna’s life. Now Anna has chosen to steer a different course and Assumpta is understandably horrified. Anna’s decision to become a born again virgin is based on the assumption that although men like sluts they never marry them. With her biological clock ticking away relentlessly Anna needs a husband and so concocts a respectable celibate façade to lure the male predators. She feels instinctively driven by her need to follow a labyrinth of signs that she hopes will point her in the right direction to her destiny.
Although she finds that she discovers more about her sensitivity and sexuality in this celibate interlude she also realises that she is being taken down the cul-de-sac of illusion. For Anna gets lonely and discovers that after a while without sex as the binding factor her relationships with men feel empty and disintegrate. Her former plan to hook herself a suitable rich guy isn’t as easy as it seems as her romantic and wild spirit drive her towards finding true and passionate love. Although she is forever on the lookout for the signs that destiny throws her way she eventually becomes blinded to the truth.
A night in Wicklow, allegedly on business provides her with the tempting opportunity to take a break from her rigid stance of celibacy. Alas sex in a lift with the delectable Nero immediately comes back to haunt her and Anna is in mortal danger of having her sexuality exposed to not only her mother but also to the entire nation. Elliot, like the proverbial knight in shinning armour comes to her rescue ensuring that Anna’s sexual exploits remain secret.
Connor, the good-looking office branch manager likes what he sees in Anna. However he is unaware of the conflicts lurking beneath the surface and sees her as an upright moral person, the type of girl he would want to marry, the type of girl his parents would approve of. For Connor love is a decision based on certain criteria being fulfilled, but Anna is unaware of this. They begin to date and Anna is invited to meet his family in Dundalk. His father is a protestant vicar and his mother a district nurse. Both approve of Anna as a suitable wife for their only son as they only see the sweet respectable Anna. When Connor asks Anna to marry him she’s happy, but not as ecstatic as she had envisaged. Saying yes to Connor catapults Anna so far up in the family pecking order that she is almost revered by her mother who incidentally adores Connor as does Nuala. After all in their eyes he has his own house in Dublin, a great job, a Lexus and a black BMW. What more could Anna possibly want?
Plans for the wedding seem to take precedence over feelings and any misgivings Anna might be having about her relationship with Connor. But at night her dreams haunt her and she wakes up feeling chilled to the core and sick at heart. When she does have sex after she’s engaged to Connor its technically perfect but rather mechanical and it leaves her feeling emotionally bereft. She feels remote from him and strangely untouched. Although she feels a domestic cosiness with Connor there are no great heights of unbridled passion. When she discusses her reservations with her mother she tells her that marriage isn’t based on passion, its about security, similar goals a nice home for your babies. With Una’s ability to sugar coat marriage Anna finds herself being persuaded to go along with the wedding. And ao Anna discards the warning bells and submerges herself in wedding plans primarily orchestrated by her mother Una and her sister Nuala.
But Anna finds herself unable to commit herself to Connor. It’s not that there is anyone else involved but when she recalls how Nero made her feel she realises that she cannot settle for any less. Although she managed to find a husband Anna knows that it was a decision on her part and it lacks the magic and romance that her spirit needs.
Anna’s decision to follow her heart sends her back to life on her own but she doesn’t regret her decision to end her relationship with Connor. Her uncle Jimmy’s death changes the course of her life overnight as he leaves her the fish shop in Dingle, along with a considerable sum of money. Anna is distraught not with the demise of Uncle Jimmy but with the fact that she has no choice but return to Dingle if she is to take up her inheritance. She feels as if destiny is taking her retrograde and rages against the unfairness of life.
In time she sees that destiny’s twists and turns were altogether necessary on her quest for true love and how sometimes when we least expect it we discover that somehow that path was always underfoot. Company meetings almost weaken her resolve…the theories are presented in such a way that she almost begins to believe that there is a conspiracy out to test her. ‘’Forward thrust," "Pregnant pause,’’ "Leave them dangle." The only true way to test her feelings is to start dating again. Absolutely nothing but kissing and holding hands. Reaction to her reluctance to go any further is nothing short of amazing. She becomes a magnet for the thirty-somethings who are looking at last to replace Mom. Pretty soon Anna is being hunted big time. She dates a few of them and assiduously checks any signs that destiny may show her.
There is Nigel the accountant who turns out to have a Virgin Mary fixation and sees her as a saint. He turns out to be a born again Christian with fundamentalist views guaranteed—sex is for procreation not pleasure. Lasts two weeks. Next she encounters Clifford the ambitious stockbroker who falls madly in love with her after one date. He sees sex as a complication he can do without as he climbs the corporate ladder. After the sixth date they are still at the holding hands level while Anna is tutored on the intricacies of the stock market. There is nothing like stocks and figures to dilute passion. There is nul chemistry so Anna ends this some what luke warm liason. At Assumpta’s Christmas party she is introduced to a posse of medical men: gynecologists and pathologists who view celibacy as a disease at its pathological state...at least they have no hang-ups. They want sex first and holding hands later if at all. She is introduced to James, a wealthy computer wizard and he sets out to woe her. Flowers presents, a weekend away in Paris. He shows her all his property in Dublin. He is an ideal catch and thinks she is being wonderfully moral and enlightened. He is a nice enough guy but there is no physical attraction in the least…he looks like a toad and that is on a good day. Her ovaries most definitely do not want his sperm. Another one bites the dust.
Anna’s reaction to the celibate life is one of enhanced productivity. She gets promoted and becomes noticeable within the company itself. She is constantly on guard to decipher the signs from the Gods...prolonged eye contact...tingling feelings...reduction in appetite. None so far. It has now been six months without sex. She is almost thinking of putting herself forward for canonisation. She has sublimated her sexual needs and has used the energy for work. She is very successful and Connor has been watching her every move. Not only does he admire the fact that she is good at her work but he has heard rumours that she is a very very very respectable girl. Connor at thirty five is looking for a suitable wife someone who would uphold the family values that he has been so familiar with all his life, dad being a Presbyterian vicar. They start to date and the fact that she will not sleep with him fuels his determination to have her as a wife. After four months he asks her to marry him. There are no fireworks or Halleluya chorus only a feeling of contentment and domestic compatibility.
Anna brings him to meet her family and her Mother positively adores him. The warning bells are well and truly clanging but Anna deliberately chooses to ignore them. She is basking in her new role of the accepted daughter. Connor also likes her mother and Nuala. The Gods are showing very ominous signs. Anna wants to feel approved of and loved. This is the ultimate trade off.
Anna goes to meet Connor’s parents and who should be there but Damien.He is engaged to Connor’s sister Maura. They had met in a kibbutz in Israel. Anna wants to die there and then. It seems that Damian has not changed and the Fitzsimon family do not approve of him in the least. Anna cannot bear to look at him as they make polite talk at dinner. Afterwards, Damien tells Anna that he had made a video of their menage a trois.
He relishes the power he has over Anna and threatens to spill the beans unless she gives him money. If she doesn’t comply her chances of marriage are reduced to zero. Anna speaks to Assumpta for the first time about what happened that night and together they manage to exorcise the past. Now the evidence must be destroyed.
Distraught, Anna enlists the help of Elliot, one of the lads who lives with her and Assumpta Together they break into Damien’s flat only to discover there is no such video there. Elliot is the sort of guy she can talk to without a façade. Anna decides to call his bluff and leave it to fate. Fate fucks up big time. Connor is shown a preview of the show and calls her every name he can summon: "slut," "whore," "slag." Anna realises that Connor never really loved her. He was in love with an image of her and not her. Her reputation is now shattered. She pours out her heart to Elliot who understands. He helps her to make sense of what has happened.
Assumpta is delighted as she couldn’t stand Connor. This is no consolation to Anna who now has to confront her mother and tell her the wedding is not going to happen. It has now been a year of no sex and no fun all work and no play. Just as she decides to cast aside her monk’s habit she gets a phone call—Uncle Jimmy is dead. He had been dating a 29-year old nurse and his delicate heart gave up Elliot offers to drive her to Dingle for the funeral and the reading of the will. Anna is his sole beneficiary on the condition that she keep the shop in the family and that she runs it. The Gods have intervened once more.
Anna tries to make a life for herself in the narrow confines of Dingle. She decides to take a more mature and sedate approach to life—she gives up on men. She wants a life of no stress and no worries about anyone’s happiness but her own. It takes her all of her time to renovate the flat over the shop. She misses Assumpta but they keep in touch. Assumpta and Elliot come down for a week in June. They go for drives to Slea head and Waterville and have a wonder care free time—the best Anna can remember. When they both return to Dublin Anna realizes she is lonely and misses not only Assumpta but Elliot. She dismisses the thought as wishful thinking and tries to come to terms with life on her own.
What was it she had said all those moons ago about wanting to be in the driving seat? What is she to do? There is nobody in Dingle worth looking at. Edwina tries to cheer her up and they go to the festival in Tralee. They go to a fortune teller who for 20 pounds explores her future in the crystal ball. Madam Grey turns out to be surprisingly accurate about her past—her failed love life, running into property and her current unhappiness. She tells her that the hardest path to find is underfoot and that she already has met her true love—someone who will reappear when we least expect them She said that she saw lots of sand—to look out for the sand. Anna feels more depressed than ever—if indeed she has met her true love then how did she fail to read the signs.
The following week who should walk into the fish shop but Elliot. He is taking the month off to do some sculpting and is staying in a cottage in BallyFerriter. They agree to meet up for a drink that night. Anna feels butterflies in her tummy before she goes out but dismisses them. She also takes a phenomenal amount of time in getting ready. They meet in O’Shea’s pub opposite the harbour. Elliot is his usual scruffy self –faded denims, scruffy trainers, baggy jumpers. Anna starts to notice his smell—his maleness and raw energy. He is the type her mother and Nuala would hate! She realises that Elliot is the only guy who knows her past and who accepts her as she is. They agree to meet up again soon for old times sake.
Anna goes back to her flat and finishes a children’s story she was working on about fairies.. Her creativity seems to have been enhanced and for the first time in a long time she feels happy and relaxed. Sex is no longer an issue. Abstinence has taught her a very important lesson—unless it is an expression of Love, she really does not want it.
Elliot comes by the next day and asks her to lunch. Her mother who is in the shop at the time does not look happy when Anna says that she will meet him at one thirty. She gives Anna a lecture on gold diggers now that they know that she is a prosperous business lady Anna does not bother to argue with her—what’s the point.When they meet for lunch Anna finds that she has suddenly lost her appetite…she just picks at lunch...she notices that she is really looking at Elliot...his eyes…his hair...his teeth. She cannot stop looking in his eyes...why had she never noticed how blue and intense they were. She suddenly feels tired and blames it all on P.M.T. Elliot seems to be doing most of the talking and she just listens. He tells her he needs her to go to Fionn Tra...that there is something he wants to show her there. Anna says she will but she rings Andrew to tell him she will be late back to work. On the way to the beach Anna sleeps to the gentle sound of hhhhhh. When they arrive Elliot asks her to close her eyes while he leads her to the beach. She opens her eyes and looks to the sand—there she sees the message written in stone...I LOVE ANNA…………………………
Elliot turns to look at her: "Didn’t you know that I fell in love with you the first time we met?"
"Why wait till now to tell me? You never asked me out while I was in Dublin," I said.
"You were experiencing life with a variety of men. You were learning—I could see that. I was willing to wait but then you met Connor. You thought he was the one so I thought I didn’t stand a chance.’"
"But what about my past and all the things I have done?"
"It is irrelevant to how I feel about you. Connor was a fool to let you go. He was too blinded by moral codes and conventions. He never really knew who you were. You were never true friends to begin with. Friends first, then lovers."
"But you’ve never as much as kissed me," I say.
Elliot tilts my face towards his. I close my eyes while he gently kisses my lips. I find myself responding with a passion that takes me by surprise I am floating higher and higher..Electricity courses through my veins. My heart beats wildly in my chest. This feels so right! With Elliot?
I draw away and ask him to take me back to work. My emotions by now are all over the place. I can’t seem to take all this in. Elliot seems somewhat subdued. We drive in silence until I ask him to stop. "I need to talk about this," I whisper.
"There is no need for a post mortem."
I caress his face outlining his sculpted features. I want to be sure so I kiss him again. Same reaction. Is this real? Elliot, Elliot, Elliot? I want to stay like this forever. I am inundated by waves of passion opening me up to a pitch that I had only ever dreamed of. It has been so long. In fact I have never felt this way before. Never. I feel so connected on all levels with dear sweet Elliot.
"I have never ever loved anyone the way I love you Anna. I love everything about you. I couldn’t tell you as I was afraid of loosing you. I wanted you to see that we were so right for each other. You didn’t read the signs so I thought you didn’t care. All your talk about destiny? Remember: "The hardest path to find is underfoot." We were given so many opportunities to be together but neither of us took the risk. To really love someone you have to be willing to take that chance. Otherwise you will never know."
All of my life I feel I have been waiting for this person. It scares me too ‘cos this time my heart is involved. Before it was the thrill of the chase,the adrenaline rush of the hunt based upon instant gratification and lust. I never had to risk getting hurt because I was in the driving seat, pulling the punches Nobody ever touched my heart and looked into my soul like the way Elliot was doing right now.
To hell with work, with duty and routine. For the first time in my life I am going to follow my heart and see where it all lead. We drove to Elliot’s cottage in a companionable silence. The daylight was slowly fading reducing the landscape to a sepia hue. While the rest of the world faded away our presence became more focused and real. My senses of smell and sound were becoming more heightened. The smell of the leather interior of the car, the salty taste on my skin and a sound that can only ever be found in Kerry. The soothing sound of deep silence—a distilled silence that whispers it’s songs of yester year—a melancolic tune that scrapes across the soul, touching the very part of you that believes in other worlds, distant chimes. The collision of past, present, and future converges on the now.
I can still see the cottage in my mind's eye. And in my thoughts and in my dreams I can remember the promises we made, the path we imagined to be so real and tangible, it was already lived. Promises engraved in my hearts and psyche that I shall never be able to shake off.
The cottage was to become for us a world within worlds, where nothing could impinge on the journey we were about to take. I still recall the smell, the dank odour of disuse and decay. But for some strange reason there was something other wordly about the place, uncivilised , unkempt. The owner obviously hadn’t wasted money on any form of heating other than a coal stove and an open fire. Fortunately Elliot had prepared the fire so he only had to set fire to a firelighter to give us heat , to give us light. Elliot made some coffee while I lay on the threadbare sofa looking at the flickering flames and part of me wondered what I was doing here. Elliot was my friend , my dear friend and was it loneliness that made me expect more. Elliot, with his infectious laugh and inane sense of humour wanted me? And did I really want him? I watched him as he sauntered into the room and the way he put the cup of coffee on the table while he continued to look at me. Was this where the hunted and the hunter combine? Up until now I had danced warily around destiny’s pole. I had allowed myself to be caught up in a tornedo of determination that had somehow masked and deluded me vision. But in my blindness I had cremated my own future. Until now.
Elliot put the mug of piping hot coffee into my hand. I don’t particularly like coffee but I needed it for warmth, comfort, reassurance, something to do while he watched me. It wasn’t too late to turn back. We could stop right here and say it was all a mistake and that we would always be friends forever and we would go back to the way things were and I could visit him in Dublin and he could come down to Dingle and...
The steady glow of the fire with the heat of the coffee helped to stop this nervous chatter. For once I didn’t wish I was camouflaged with alcohol. Elliot leaned over and kissed me at the nape of my neck. Oh my God was this where the hunter and the hunted combine? I didn’t move. I didn’t say a word. Elliot pulled me up so that I was standing beside him. He began to slowly take off my clothes while he continued to look at me, almost taunting me to dare stop him. And even if I wanted to I couldn’t. My thoughts , my protestations just seemed to free fall from my brain as I surrendered myself to the world of feeling.
It seemed an age as I stood there naked with Elliot watching me , barely touching me. He told me that I was beautiful and perfect, that I shouldn’t hide behind baggy sweaters and prissy suits.
For once in my life I didn’t protest. Not at all. Nobody had ever said that to me before. Not without first shagging me senseless. Was this what it felt like to be worshipped and loved? Elliot took off his jumper revealing a muscled upper torso. Nothing of course that I hadn’t seen before as he pranced around Assumpta’s house. But this time it was different. This time I was looking at him through new eyes and I liked what I saw. My heart began to pound spreading molecules of longing through my blood. When our lips met we entered a forever and ever moment that sealed our relationship for good. He kissed my lips. He kissed my face, drawing me towards him like a magnet. Already drunk with desire I released the belt of his levis easing him out of his jeans. I kissed his eyes, his lips, his hairy chest. Elliot levered me over on to my back and began exploratory kisses of my entire series of errogenous zones. There was no need of words as our bodies communicated all we ever needed to know. There were no words our bodies communing all that we needed to know. He entered me slowly and carefully while continuing to look me in the eyes. I could feel his passion as he thrust again and again and again. Flesh against flesh, souls fused and entwined so that I could not feel where he began and I ended. Higher and higher we went until we both defied gravity and exploded simultaneously. My heart centre expanded to envelop dear sweet Elliot, my friend, my lover. My man.
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