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Authors: Marita Conlon-McKenna

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BOOK: Three Women
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‘Why don’t we just head for your place or my place instead?’ she suggested.

‘I’ve had a hectic week, Erin – I just feel like blowing off a bit of steam. Besides, I want to show off my sexy girlfriend in her pretty dress on the dance floor.’

Erin laughed. He was such a bloody charmer …

The night club was packed and they had to push through the crowds. Erin would have been happy to stay at a romantic table at the rear of the club near the door, but Luke took her hand and guided her towards the area where his friends Ronan and Conall and Ritchie were sitting with their girlfriends. Michelle, Ronan’s girlfriend, was nice and immediately said hello to Erin, but Conall was going out with an absolute wagon who was some kind of celebrity model who was on the new Dunne’s Stores ad and thought she was Kate Moss!

They ordered some more wine and chatted for a while, then they danced, though there was barely room to stand and the floor was so sticky Erin’s shoes felt glued to it.

‘Let’s get out of here!’ Luke said eventually, so they hopped in a taxi to Grand Canal Square, where he shared an
apartment
with Dan, a guy he’d gone to college with. Tonight they had the place to themselves, and Erin was glad that they could finally be together without lots of people around. She loved his apartment, which was really streamlined and kind of masculine, with expensive designer couches and leather chairs and a massive glass dining table. Luke had the bigger bedroom and, as they stood looking out at the iconic Daniel Libeskind-designed theatre building with its giant red rods lighting up the night sky, Erin relaxed into his arms, feeling the broad width of his palm running down her back.

The next morning they had toasted bagels, fruit juice and coffee in bed as they read the Sunday papers.

‘My folks have asked me to Sunday lunch later. Do you want to come?’

Erin had met the Gallaghers twice. His parents were hard going, but she supposed she had better make some effort to get to know them better.

‘Sure – that will be nice. But I have to go home and change before we go there.’

Chapter Five

ERIN WAS SO
engrossed in the re-design of the front page of a brochure for a new hotel that was due to open in three weeks’ time that she hadn’t realized it was almost seven o’clock until she noticed Declan packing up his Apple Mac and grabbing his jacket to head home.

Work was scarce at the moment and she really appreciated Monika and Declan keeping her on and giving her projects like this to work on. The marketing budget for the Mount Clement’s launch was cut to the bone, but that didn’t mean the client didn’t deserve their best effort. They were doing decent-quality printing and Erin wanted a glossy brochure that would reflect the high-spec build. There were also menus, guest advice leaflets, maps, wedding package sets to be done. She had spent two days down around the hotel with her camera and had got some great ideas in terms of the important design elements which she would use to create an instantly recognizable logo for the Mount Clement, the gorgeous old summer house in Kerry which was now about to become a five-star destination. She and Luke had stayed there and both really enjoyed it, Luke
disappearing
off to play a bit of golf while she worked and had discussions with David Mountjoy, the owner, about the exact image he hoped to create. It was a magical place, and David and his wife Heather deserved to see their hotel do well.

She checked her phone. There was a message from her flatmate Nikki: ‘
See you two Musketeers at home soon
.’

Erin had been thinking about heading to Dundrum to do a bit of late-night shopping, but she’d give that a miss and head home to the apartment instead. Girlie nights with her two flatmates on a Wednesday, with pizza or pasta and a bottle of wine, were far more important. The rest of the week the three of them always seemed to be rushing around and often didn’t get to talk to each other for days on end. Her friends were important and she knew that, no matter how busy she was in work, she had to make time for them.

Funny – Nikki had been acting strangely for the past few weeks and both Erin and Claire were worried about her. She was barely eating and had got even thinner than usual. Claire said she could hear Nikki throwing up sometimes. Maybe she had anorexia? Whatever it was, it was definitely getting worse. Eating disorders were a nightmare to deal with, but if Nikki needed help, they would both do everything they could for her.

On her way home Erin grabbed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a big bag of tortilla chips and three fudge brownies for dessert. Nikki normally loved them – if she didn’t take the brownies, then there was definitely something seriously wrong with her.

Claire was in the kitchen already cooking when she got in.

‘Smells good,’ she said, grabbing a few slices of ham.

‘Hey – that’s for with our meal! I’m doing risotto with prosciutto and asparagus tips,’ Claire explained, moving the
chopping
board out of the way of temptation. As she dumped the wine in the fridge to chill, Erin thought just how lucky she was, sharing with someone who was almost a professional chef.

‘Where’s Nikki?’

‘She’s in the shower.’

‘Do you think we should say something to her tonight?’

‘Erin, it’s the perfect chance. We have to try to find out what the hell is going on with her.’

Erin sighed. She hated confrontation. She and Nikki and Claire had been friends for years, since they were all kids. She’d hung out with Claire since they were five years old. They’d started school together and grown up together and shared so many things. Nikki had become the third Musketeer when they had gone to St Louise’s Secondary School and ended up sitting in the row of desks beside each other at the back of the class. The lunatic Irish teacher would give them constant detentions and bad marks for always talking and messing.

‘You three!’ she would say angrily. ‘How can you still be talking?’

‘Cos we’re best friends,’ they’d retort.

Best friends always talked and messed and hung out together. They were now in their mid-twenties and still hung out together and shared the second-floor apartment on Sandymount Road. Best friends helped each other out and stood by each other and supported each other. Claire was right – they had to get this sorted.

Erin pulled on leggings and a grey knitted sweater and went into the living room. Nikki came in a few minutes later, her hair still damp.

‘I got us two DVDs on my way home.’ Erin glanced at Nikki, seeing just how washed-out and exhausted she looked as she
curled
up with a few cushions on the couch. Maybe Claire was right, there really was something up with her.

‘Food’s ready!’

Claire had excelled herself with the creamy risotto. ‘I’m entering you into Master Chef Ireland next year,’ said Erin, as she sprinkled some more parmesan on to her plate. ‘You are such a brilliant cook.’

‘Erin, it’s just a hobby,’ Claire smiled, ‘and that’s the way it is staying. I think it relaxes me after a hard day doing massages and exercises on my patients.’

Nikki was quiet and they were only halfway through the meal when she got up from the table and ran to the bathroom.

‘I told you,’ whispered Claire, concerned.

Nikki returned and sat down, but said nothing, pushing the remnants of her meal away. Erin cleared the plates and made coffee, bringing in the fudge brownies for them all. Nikki left hers untouched on her plate.

Erin couldn’t hide her worry. What the hell was going on with her? They had to say something.

‘Are you okay, Nikki?’

‘What do you mean?’ she asked defensively.

‘You’re not eating your brownie.’

‘It’s only a brownie. Anyway, I’m full.’

‘Is that really true?’ asked Claire. ‘I heard you this morning and last night.’

‘Are you spying on me, is that it?’ Nikki shouted angrily.

‘No, we’re not,’ replied Erin. ‘We’re both just worried about you.’

‘Nikki, what’s going on?’ demanded Claire.

They were waiting for a tirade of anger and abuse, but
instead
were greeted with utter abject misery as Nikki began to cry.

‘I’m pregnant …’

‘What?’

‘I’m fecking pregnant! I’m twelve weeks gone.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Of course I’m bloody sure! I did the stupid test thing three times to check. It’s positive!’

Erin didn’t know what to say.

‘You’re going to have a baby, Nikki! That’s great news,’ Claire said, trying to sound positive about it.

‘When is the baby due?’ Erin asked, attempting to hide her own shock.

‘September. I still can’t believe it! It’s so fecking unfair,’ gulped Nikki, her breath coming in shuddery, shaky gasps. ‘I think it’s going to be around mid-September.’

‘Haven’t you booked in with a doctor or hospital yet?’

‘No,’ she said firmly.

‘How does Conor feel about being a dad?’ probed Claire.

‘I haven’t told him yet,’ she said, burying her head in her hands. ‘To be honest, I don’t know how he’ll take it.’

Conor Lynch and Nikki had only been going out for about six months. They got on well together and Conor was a fun type of guy, loving nothing better than a few pints at the weekend before hitting a night club. However, Erin couldn’t imagine him being a dad. Well, not for a few years yet! He was repeating exams and always seemed skint, paying back some loan or other.

‘We’re so pleased for you, Nikki, honest we are,’ said Erin softly, giving her a big hug. ‘I can just imagine you with the most gorgeous little baby.’

‘I wonder will it be a boy or a girl?’ laughed Claire.

‘You’ll be a wonderful mum, wait till you see,’ Erin assured her, worried by Nikki’s expression.

‘I’m not ready to be a mum,’ she wailed hysterically. ‘Not yet.’

‘But you love babies and they love you,’ said Claire consolingly. ‘You’re great with kids.’

‘They are other people’s kids,’ Nikki protested. ‘It doesn’t mean I want one of my own, not right now.’

‘What do you mean, Nikki?’ Erin was confused. What was Nikki trying to tell them?

‘I mean that I might not have this baby,’ she said, tears welling in her eyes. ‘I really don’t know if I want to do this. Having a baby changes everything!’

‘Not have it?’ Erin couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

‘I need to think about it. Talk to Conor.’

‘What about your mum and dad?’

‘What about them? This is my decision, not theirs,’ she said angrily.

Erin was fond of Ruth and Malachy Byrne, Nikki’s parents, and suspected they would be wonderful grandparents.

‘Nikki, everyone cares about you. We’ll all help out, honest we will.’

‘You won’t be on your own,’ Claire added.

‘We’ll help you, Nikki,’ they promised together. ‘We’re your friends.’

‘I know,’ said Nikki. ‘I know that I have the best friends in the world. But I just don’t know what to do. I’m only hanging on to my job by a thread and if Fergus O’Neill hears I’m pregnant he’ll go mad.’

‘Your boss can’t fire you because you’re pregnant,’ Claire reminded her. ‘That’s discrimination.’

‘He could make things very awkward for me.’

Claire went and opened another bottle of wine. She stopped pouring when she came to Nikki’s glass.

‘Maybe you shouldn’t be drinking?’ She hesitated. Nikki had already downed about half of the first bottle.

‘Of all nights, I need a drink tonight, Claire. Don’t be such a goody-two-shoes,’ Nikki protested angrily. Claire refilled her glass.

‘How are you feeling?’ asked Erin.

‘Crap. Tired, exhausted. I can’t sleep. I can’t think properly, and to top it all I keep puking. Not just in the morning but all through the day and night. It’s a fecking nightmare.’

Erin reached automatically for her friend.

‘Why did this have to happen?’ bawled Nikki. ‘Why am I the one to get pregnant? It must have been when I got that food poisoning a few weeks back from that chicken sweet and sour we got from the takeaway.’

Erin remembered both Claire and Nikki had been violently sick for twenty-four hours afterwards. Thank heaven she’d ordered a prawn stir-fry.

‘It’s not fair,’ Nikki said.

‘I know,’ soothed Erin.

‘When my period was late I kept hoping that it was nothing – stress, anxiety, dates mixed up … But then I did a pregnancy test. I nearly died! I kept thinking that it must be some kind of mistake, or that I had done something stupid with the test. But the results were all the same – positive. I’m pregnant whether I like it or not.’

They sat up curled up on the couch and squashy armchair for hours, talking and going over Nikki’s various options. Claire
was
playing devil’s advocate as Nikki went from wanting to have the baby to wanting to not have it. Have the baby! Don’t have the baby!

‘You have a boyfriend. A good job. You’re healthy. You want to have kids.’

‘You have an on–off relationship that might not last.’

‘You are a workaholic and having a kid will make a massive dent in your career ambitions.’

‘You are always stressed and tired.’

‘You are definitely not ready to have kids yet.’

‘Nobody knows about this baby except for the two of you,’ Nikki said drunkenly, ‘so nobody will know if I go and have a termination. I’ll just say I’m going to London for the weekend and then – Abracadabra! Like magic, the baby is gone.
Phewt
– disappeared.’

Erin didn’t know what to say. Claire, half asleep, was actually agreeing to go to London if Nikki really wanted someone with her to go to a clinic.

They went through three bottles of wine, a half bottle of vodka and some duty-free peach schnapps that was in the back of their drinks cabinet before eventually collapsing into their beds.

Erin could hardly sleep a wink. She kept thinking about Nikki and the baby – if there ever was even going to be a baby. The way Nikki was talking, there was a good chance that she was heading to London in a few weeks’ time for a quick and easy termination, her problem solved. Who could blame her? But Erin felt especially uneasy about it. She was adopted, and being adopted changed everything …

BOOK: Three Women
8.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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