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Authors: Sheila O'Flanagan

From The Heart (8 page)

BOOK: From The Heart
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Would I betray him?
I hadn’t thought I’d betray Aidan. But what did he expect with his late nights and his other women? What did he think would happen? That I’d sit at home and forgive him every single time?
‘We got a message earlier,’ said Aidan. ‘From the twins. Wishing us a happy anniversary.’
I swirled the wine in my glass again. I could smell the black fruit and pepper aromas of the shiraz.
‘They’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives.’ I didn’t look up from the glass.
‘They wanted us to remember this trip,’ he said. ‘It was good of them.’
‘We should have told them to keep their money,’ I said.
He put his own glass back on the table.
‘This isn’t what you wanted, is it?’ He sounded sad.
‘It’s lovely,’ I said, ‘but no.’
‘It wasn’t what I wanted either.’
We never talked, Aidan and me. Not about ourselves. Not about what we wanted or what we felt. We talked about the children. We talked about his job. We talked about the house. But not about each other.
He was balding. I’d noticed it over the last few years but it was only now I realised how high his forehead had become. How it had actually merged into the crown of his head. And how grey his hair was. So was mine, of course, but I camouflaged it with a salon dye every five weeks.
He’d had three women. I’d only ever had him. Until Brett.
‘The grass is always greener,’ he said.
I looked up at him, startled.
‘You think that something will be better, more exciting, will give you what you’ve always looked for. But it doesn’t.’
‘No?’
‘We did good with the kids. Both of us.’
I nodded.
‘We didn’t do so well with each other.’
There was a lump in my throat.
‘I wasn’t always the best husband.’
I said nothing.
‘And maybe it’s not to my credit that I never left. Maybe it would have been a fairer thing to do.’
Still I said nothing.
‘I didn’t stay because of the kids, though. I stayed because of you.’
A bit late, I thought, to throw that one at me. I’d been devastated each time I’d found out about another woman.
‘I made excuses for myself,’ said Aidan. ‘I told myself that I’d been trapped into a marriage that I didn’t want. That I’d been too young. That life had played a dirty trick on me.’
‘I didn’t have that luxury.’ I regained my voice. ‘I was too busy to find someone to make excuses about.’
He nodded. ‘But no matter what,’ he said, ‘it was a good twenty-five years.’
‘You think so?’
He nodded again. ‘I loved you. I didn’t think I did at first. But later . . . I loved you.’
But sometimes it isn’t enough. I was going to say that to him but I didn’t, because if I said it about Aidan I should also say it about Brett.
‘Do what you have to do, in the end,’ he told me. ‘But enjoy this holiday now.’
‘How do you know I’m thinking of doing anything at all?’ I asked.
‘We’ve been married for twenty-five years,’ he said. ‘More than that, really, when you count the registry office. Of course I know things.’
I smiled faintly.
‘So consider this a little time out,’ he told me. ‘From whatever.’
‘You’re being very calm.’
‘I always am,’ he said. ‘Doesn’t mean I don’t feel things.’
‘What do you want from me?’ I asked.
‘I want you to pretend that we’ve only just met,’ he said. ‘That it’s the first time all over again.’
‘I can’t do that,’ I said.
‘I want you to make love to me in a boat.’
I looked at him in surprise.
‘There’s one tied up to the jetty.’
‘I know. But . . .’
‘Or in the hammock near the beach.’
‘Aidan . . .’
‘I want you to believe me when I tell you that there’s never been anyone else.’
‘Don’t lie to me,’ I said.
‘Never anyone else who mattered.’
He’d never talked to me like this before. Brett talked to me like this all the time.
‘Can we save it?’ he said.
‘I don’t know,’ I told him.
‘I want to try.’
I never thought I’d hear him say that. And I thought of my friend Madge whose first husband had broken her heart. She’d married the second one for his money. ‘Love is for fools,’ she’d said.
I know why love is for fools. Because it makes us do foolish things. And sometimes we don’t know what we really want.
‘The thing is,’ said Aidan, ‘we’re here on this island. We might as well enjoy it. Regardless of what happens when we get home.’
‘You think so?’
‘Why not?’ he said. ‘What’s the point in being miserable?’
I smiled a little.
‘So . . . we pretend?’
‘If that’s what it takes.’
‘OK,’ I said.
We should never have got married. And yet it hadn’t been the worst mistake of my life. Maybe I hadn’t actually made the worst mistake of my life yet. Maybe I’d never make it. I really didn’t know.
‘So – happy anniversary,’ he said, raising his glass again.
And I clinked my glass against his as I wished him a happy anniversary too. Even though I still didn’t know whether I’d try the greener grass or not.
PHONE A FRIEND
I had a headache. The sort that the advertisers describe as a tense, nervous headache, where you know that it’s the fact that your shoulders are knotted up which is making the pain start at the back of your neck before pounding at your temples. My shoulders had been knotted up for hours and my head was aching because it had been a terrible day, one where nothing I could do was right. First off, I was late for work: leaves on the line or some kind of pathetic railway excuse for the train not showing up. I clattered into the office knowing that it was going to be busy and then spilled the double-mocha coffee I’d grabbed on the way in all over the brochures I’d spent ages getting together the previous evening for a presentation my boss was giving in an hour’s time. So it was back to the printer and the photocopier and the binder – by eleven my head was already splitting.
Christine, my boss, was less than sympathetic and didn’t accept the leaves-on-the-line excuse for my lateness. She blamed it on what she called my erratic, juvenile lifestyle of late nights and too much drink. Sometimes she had a point when she ranted at me but not today. The night before hadn’t been a late night. It should’ve been because I was supposed to be going out with my boyfriend, Ian, but he’d phoned to say that he was busy and he couldn’t make it and he’d see me tonight instead – maybe. Ian’s phone call worried me. It was the third time he’d been too busy to meet me in the last month and I was getting the impression that he was cooling off on things. I didn’t really want him to cool off on me. Ian is strikingly attractive, well-fancied by every girl who sees him, and (the icing on the cake) he’s loaded. Not exactly personally loaded but his folks have a huge house on Sorrento Road with its own gym, swimming pool and, I kid you not, full-time housekeeper. Ian was a good catch and I didn’t intend to let him go without a fight. Besides, I was crazy about him and it wasn’t just because of his looks and his money. It was because we had good times together and our late nights were usually very late and very exciting. The trouble was that he also had a very exciting life when he wasn’t with me. He works in advertising and he’s forever going to media bashes at trendy places. Last night, besides being too busy to call me, he’d also been photographed at the opening of the latest hotspot nightclub with a gorgeous ginger-haired girlette hanging out of him. The picture had been in the
Independent
. When I asked about it he simply laughed and said that she was part of the package. I was afraid to ask what the rest of the package actually was.
Although I’d spoken to him already that morning, I’d tried ringing him again during the few moments of unfrenzied office activity later in the day, but I kept getting his voice-mail, and I didn’t want to leave a message. I didn’t wish to appear madly needy but I wanted him to know that where he was and what he was doing mattered to me. Because, as far as I was concerned, Ian Travers wasn’t going to join my list of the ones who got away. His name wasn’t going to appear after Les, John, David, Stephen, Alan, Michael, Stuart, Dermot, Declan . . . God, I thought miserably as I got onto the train to Sandycove, my track record was utterly abysmal.
I wondered why. It wasn’t as though I kept picking out the same type of loser in a different body in some kind of co-dependent want-to-get-hurt type of relationship. You know the type of thing the self-help books accuse you of. They were all very different kinds of blokes; some were fun-loving party-types; some were more intellectual; and some (God help me) were sporty. Going out with Stuart had meant spending Saturday afternoons on the touchline watching him get covered in mud at the local rugby ground and wondering exactly how dangerous a sport it was – it seemed to me that the major skill was not in scoring a try but in being able to walk intact off the pitch afterwards. I think it was my inability to find any positives in the sport whatsoever that finished me and Stuart off even though he was actually a kind and decent sort of bloke.
Anyway, I was determined that my relationship with Ian would be different. And mostly it was, especially since he wasn’t the sporty type either. But I didn’t make the mistakes I’d made with Alan and Michael either. I wasn’t too clingy or too possessive. I didn’t moan at him about going to launches instead of having romantic meals for two. I never freaked out when he told me that he was working with models/actressess/whatevers. I trusted him. And I wanted to be with him. I wanted him to be The One.
A girl sat in the seat opposite me. We were lucky to have seats at all, it was six o’clock and the train was crowded. But sometimes you get lucky. I was kind of hoping that finding the seat was an omen for what would happen in the future. (I like omens and signs. I wouldn’t say that I was superstitious exactly but if I see one magpie I look around frantically until I see another one. And I don’t walk under ladders – well, something could fall down on you, couldn’t it, so it’s actually a superstition that makes perfect sense.) Anyway, I thought that finding a seat was telling me that I would find my place with Ian too. I wondered if the girl who’d squeezed into that last available space had any karmic thoughts about it herself.
She was pretty in a way that I could never be. Her curly, fair hair tumbled from beneath a denim baseball cap. She wore a shocking-pink jacket over a plain white T-shirt and her long legs were encased in the tightest jeans imaginable. I had a horrible, fleeting thought that she’d be more suitable for Ian and his media life than me. You see I’m a bit overweight, with short dark hair, and short stubby legs . . . I’m making myself sound totally unattractive and I know I’m not but sometimes, despite my good features like huge blue eyes and a kind of button-nose which loads of men think is cute, sometimes I just feel ugly. And looking at the Barbie clone opposite me made me feel very ugly indeed.
She was listening to a personal stereo. I’ve got a bit lost on the whole personal music bit and so I’ve no idea whether people’s music is now on MP3 players or Walkmans or cassettes. But the funny thing about it is that no matter what system they’re using and no matter what kind of music they’re listening to, it all sounds exactly the same when you hear it echoing from their so-called personal headsets. A kind of thunka-thunka-thunka bass with a tinny treble overlaying it. I mean, it could be gangsta-rap or disco-diva stuff but the beat still sounds the same when you overhear it. I thought she was a bit disco-diva myself but that was just guessing. Regardless, the relentless tuneless sound was getting to me. I could feel my shoulders bunch up again and the headache take up another prominent spot at the back of my head.
I closed my eyes and tried to do some conscious breathing. My best friend Leanne and I had done a set of yoga classes earlier in the year and our instructor told us that whenever we were feeling stressed or tense we should try to breathe slowly and concentrate on the sound and the feel of our breathing as we allowed our bodies to relax. Great in theory, hopeless in practice, because I can’t concentrate on the sound of my breath – all that happens is that I either fall asleep (if I’m doing it in a quiet place) or my mind wanders (if I’m trying to be calm under pressure). So though I tried the deep breathing now I remained conscious of the hissing music from the girl opposite.
I opened my eyes again. I was tempted to rip the earpieces out of her ears and stomp on them. After all, I’d had a bad day, my boyfriend and I weren’t getting along as well as I wanted, I had a headache and her damn music wasn’t allowing me to find a moment of peace and serenity on the Dart.
Then her phone rang. I have to admit that I got a kick out of the fact that her ringtone was Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’.
She switched off her personal music system, took out her earpieces and answered the phone. Her face lit up.
‘Janine! How’s it going?’
It was obviously going quite well. The girl opposite nodded as she listened to what her friend was saying even though the caller couldn’t see her. (I suppose eventually we’ll all have phones that you can wear on your wrist or something so that the people you’re talking to can actually see you. Shouldn’t take long now, I expect.)
‘I can’t.’ The girl didn’t sound totally sincere when she said this. ‘I’d love to but I can’t. I’m meeting Tom.’ Her voice softened when she said Tom’s name. Pretty much the same way my voice softened when I talked about Ian. So I guessed that Tom was the current boyfriend. Despite the myth of sisterhood, very few girls give up a date with their bloke to meet their mates. I wonder why that is when most men I know will happily head off with their mates instead of their girlfriends.
BOOK: From The Heart
4.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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