Wednesday, April 4, 2012
'She's off again, and with the child'. Aggie tutted as she peered out the pane of square glass, letting the net curtain fall back into place.
'When will it end?' she sighed, wiping the crumbs on the table carefully into her palm and then flinging them carelessly in the direction of the fire.
'Are you listening to me, Pat? I'm asking you when will we have our daughter back?' She stands to face him, hands on hips.
'Ah for God's sake, why do I bother?' She gathers the cups and plates in a lazy pile and shuffles out to the kitchen.
Pat puts down his paper, sighs wearily and resumes his position before his wife re-enters.
'Pat, will you please listen to me?' Her voice is shrill now, shrill in the same way she laughs: high-pitched, all on the same note, punctuating the silence like gunshots. It hurts his ears.
He gets up, noisily crumples the paper under his arm, and walks out.
'Will you leave it alone, woman?' He says it under his breath, not wanting to hurt her further.
'What's that, Pat?' she calls after him, but he is out the door now, closing it gently behind him.
Half an hour later, he's sitting in Herlihy's contemplating the last of his pint.
'Same again?' the barman sweeps across from the other side, wiping down the counter in an effort to stay busy.
'Ah no, this'll do me now'.
He is alone in the bar, and not at home with drinking in the middle of the day. He's found himelf down here or else Brady's nearly everyday since Gracie's back in the house.His paper's in front of him, but his focus is elsewhere.
Two ladies enter the bar, sitting discreetly in the far corner. He recognises one of them as Cliodhna, Grace's school friend. Though sitting at a distance, he is sure they must see him too, and he can only imagine what they must be saying.
Without finishing his pint, he flips his cap on, and sends a general salute out with his left hand, to include whoever chooses to see it as he pushes open the door, relieved to be out in the open.
Back in the sitting room, he finds Aggie looking forlornly into the fire. If he had given it another half an hour, he thought, she'd be off doing something else.
'Fine and fresh out there', he says.
Nothing but the flames crackling.
'Cup of tea?'he says, leaning against the side of the door.
'Pat, will you please sit down?'
She continues to stare into the fire, her voice low and controlled.
'What is it, Ag?' He sits on the edge of the chair, leaning forward to her.
He sees the liver spots that have started on the side of her face, the faint wobble of skin on her jowel as she shakes her head, the tape that is holding her new glasses together. Seeing his wife like this unsettles him. A tear rolls down her nose, and she turns, quickly flicking it off.
'Come on, Ag. She just needs time. Things will work themselves out.' He wished he could believe the words he spoke so assuredly.
'It's been fourteen months now!' she turned accusingly.
'And five days', he thought, but didn't say it.
Instead, he touched her arm and said,
'These things take time.' He paused for a moment, squeezing her arm. 'Now, you could do with a cup of tea'
As he went into the kitchen, he spotted Billie's pink elephant on its side on the counter, and as he stood it up, it brushed against the boxes of pills. The valium, he could understand, to get through the funeral. But there must have been seven different boxes of tablets here. The elephant's smiling eyes suddenly caught him off-guard. He swallowed hard, and closed his eyes to let the moment pass.
Picking up the kettle, he resolved to sort this out. He could no longer turn a blind eye. Enough is enough.
'Aggie, the kettle's on. I'm going out. I've something to do'.