LAST (Wednesday) was International Woman’s Day.
And, among the many events taking place across the province this week in honour of the important day, is an item particularly significant to an Omagh family.
This being that a story will be read in memory of Sylvia Fleming in Waterstones Bookstore, Coleraine.
On such a day when we celebrate positive and empowering changes for women in society, the dangers women still face in the home, behind closed doors, must remain to the fore of our minds.
In 1998, Sylvia Fleming was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. She was only 17-years-old.
Sylvia became the victim of one of the North’s most shocking murders in modern times. She was killed, dismembered, and buried beneath the foundations of a housing development in Omagh.
Initially, she was presumed missing, but her sisters’ worst fears came true.
Her murder shook the town; and the reverberations of the violence committed on that night can never truly be laid to rest.
The dedicated story, ‘I Am Here’, will be read by Geraldine Fleming, who will be accompanied by her husband Malachy (Sylvia’s uncle).
Along with Malachy, she has lived on the North Coast for over 35 years.
The dedicated story is included in her recently published collection of short stories called ‘Curiosity’.
Like many people during lockdown, Geraldine concentrated on her creative writing.
“Sometimes, when you are writing poetry or prose, it is not obvious what you are really getting at, or where the material is coming from,” Geraldine told the UlsterHerald.
“My husband, Malachy, is always my first reader.
“I can usually predict how good a story is by his reaction.”
“However,” said Geraldine, “As I watched him cast his eye over ‘I Am Here’, I could see that there was something different going on.”
“I couldn’t read the expression on his face. He just said, ‘This is about my niece, Sylvia’.
“Until that moment, it had not occurred to me. Of course, I understood then it was linked to Sylvia,” reflected Geraldine.
“I immediately said I would just keep it between us.
“But, after some thought, Malachy told me that he actually felt comforted by the story.
“And once the decision was taken to include, ‘I Am Here’ in the collection, Malachy discussed the book with Sylvia’s sister, Kathleen.”
‘I Am Here’ is written from the perspective of a murder victim who observes the aftermath of her own death from the other side of the veil.
Sitting just under 120 pages, ‘Curiosity’ rests in the hand of the reader without a hint of the intimidation so often implied by bigger books.
Each of the 13 stories lives within the walls of its own world, and, though succinct by demand of the medium to which it conforms, ‘Curiosity’ never feels restricted or bare.
Other narratives within the book span everything from the workings of an Irish wake house, to the peculiar happenings of an otherworldly sci-fi reality.
A woman knocks upon the wrong door and is forced to face the consequences; a man believes he can manipulate other people, bending them to his will, not realising he is only fooling himself; and a modern day ghost story leaves the reader wondering if mystery lies in the mind, or in the world…
“I’m proud of the book, and I’m proud to read ‘I Am Here’ in memory of Sylvia,” concluded Geraldine. “I hope that Sylvia’s family finds some of the comfort Malachy finds in the story.”
‘Curiosity’ by Geraldine Fleming is available on Amazon.