She’s trouble. Moira of all people should know.
She finds her sitting on Baggot Street, pitifully slumped on the pavement outside the FAS building, her eyes unfocused, her mouth resembling that of the trout which Chris had peered at through a glass screen, pointed at triumphantly and eaten for dinner last night.
Chris would want her to mind her own business and not take any notice. “You’re too soft, that’s what’s wrong with you,” he had said, “You can’t rescue every stray in town.” As always Moira had paid the bill and she knew full well that Chris was just worried that she’d be feeding others, too, and then there’d be less for him. God forbid that she’d take him to Eddie Rocket’s next time instead of whatever trendy place had featured most recently in the Irish Times restaurant reviews.
“Looks like you’re taking a break from trying to snatch handbags from old ladies and punching them in the stomach when they won’t let go.”
“I’m sorry if I did that to you. I don’t remember you. I don’t remember – that.” Eyes like ocean green pools of water dragging her in deep. Water dripping from the young woman’s slender long nose as she lowers her head. “He’s bad you know, you really shouldn’t trust him.”
Moira shakes off a tingling sensation which sends chills down her spine. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, girl. You don’t make any sense, but you can’t stay out here in this rain. You’ll catch your death. Why don’t you come home with me and we’ll get a bit of life back into you, get you changed into dry clothes. I’ll light the fire and you can have a cup of tea. My place is just around the corner from here.”
Moira blinks at the vision, no, the illusion surely, of a skull replacing the young woman’s angelic features. Must be to do with her eyesight getting worse all the time, and the street lights just having come on to keep the darkness from lowering its blanket all the way down to the tarmaced surface. The delicate pale face with those deep wells for eyes comes back into focus. Arms reaching up gingerly to allow Moira to help her stand up.
“See, told you I live just around the corner,” Moira says. She is holding the young woman’s hand and senses that her companion is shivering and reluctant to walk up the dimly lit driveway to the grand Georgian building. “It’s a kip really. Would have been worth a couple of millions before the recession. Probably worth half that now or less. I only use the ground floor flat these days. Too much of a job to keep the whole building warm and my knees aren’t what they used to be. Them winding stairs are a challenge now.”
The sound of the rain splashing against the front window creates a stereo effect with that of the young woman having a shower in the adjacent bathroom. Moira throws another log onto the crackling fire, then wheezes as she lowers herself into the Victorian wicker armchair. A proper bath would have been better but it takes an hour or more from switching on the immersion to there being enough hot water to fill the bathtub. The electric shower would have to do the defrosting so. “Go on and defrost yourself in the shower,” Moira said to the girl, “I’ll find you some dry clothes in the meantime.”
So much comfort in having company even when they don’t talk much at all. The girl hasn’t said a word since she lifted her up off the pavement and walked home with her. The holding hands bit was really pleasant, too.
She never thought she’d outlive her husband, her secret lover Irma, and all her children bar one, her firstborn. Chris never visited her much until after Sean’s fatal motorbike accident near Enniskerry. Since then he’s been in touch every Monday arranging for her to take him out for dinner on Wednesdays. On Fridays he’d come round to her place and he’d stay for an hour. He’d always bring his laptop and the hour or so that he’d stay with her would be spent with him making use of her broadband connection. Ignoring her mostly.
Chris is on the dole, has been since he was made redundant 18 months ago. He lives in a real kip in Cabra and as much as it pains her to think that, she can’t even say that the sparkle has gone from his eyes. There never was such a thing as a sparkle in Chris’ eyes. Chris has his father’s eyes. They’re an indifferent dull grey. Sean on the other hand, like the other children, had vivid green eyes. Curiosity and love of adventure radiating from them.
“The colour suits you, even though you’re almost disappearing inside these pyjamas, love.” Moira chuckles at the sight of the young woman wearing her forest green nocturnal outfit. She waves her hand at the unoccupied twin of the wicker chair she is sitting in. “Come sit and make yourself comfortable close to the fire. Let’s put names to faces, why don’t we? I’m Moira. What’s your name?”
“I would have thought that you might have guessed by now, my dear. My name is Irma. Happy to report that you can still trust your instincts when picking up women off the street. Do you want me to dish the dirt on Chris who is just waiting for you to kick the bucket so he can move in here or sell and live a lotto winner’s life or would you rather that I give you a kiss?”
“The kiss of course, Irma.” Moira drifts into a dreamless sleep.
“Hello! Am I speaking to Chris Noolahan?”
“Yes, this is Chris here. It’s bloody 5 o’clock in the morning. Who is this?”
“Very sorry to have disturbed your sleep, Mr Noolahan. This is Doctor Hildic. I am very sorry that I have to contact you with bad news at this hour. Your mother did not regain consciousness and our efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.”
(C) Ash N. Finn, 2012
Thank you note to Maria Roman Delgado (@mrsjenius) for inclusion of the above story in the Short Story Digest, May 6th 2012.
A big thank you also to Honoré Dupuis (@Sisyphus47) for inclusion of “Trouble” in the 7th May edition of Of Glass & Paper.com.