To Preserve a Memory [CW series #17]

If there was a grave to visit, the grief about the loss of his mother might not be so very raw still. Junior was relieved that MJ had not mentioned anything about the moment of madness into which he had lapsed when she had last visited Dublin. At least things were going alright on that front and she might not influence the doc against his plan of moving back in with him long-term. He could convert one of the many sheds, the old cowshed perhaps and live there, could make himself useful as the resident IT guy. That was a great idea and he made a mental note to pitch it to him later. There was no sign of him still, and after what turned into a surprisingly pleasant conversation over a lot of cups of tea MJ had given up on the wait and decided to call a cab to take her home.

Junior had found a Whiskey bottle in the kitchen press stashed behind plastic bottles filled with bleach and other cleaning agents. Hm, dad had never had a need to hide his Whiskey from Ginnie who had been as partial to a little naggin’s worth of it now and then as he was. It had the look of not having been touched in years and was almost full. He might have forgotten it was there. Junior poured from it liberally into a tumbler and put the bottle back where he had discovered it.

He walked into the Blue Sky Room and stood looking at Ginnie’s picture, sipping from his glass every now and then. The painting was a landscape, a meadowy green plateau, off centre to the right was a small circle of standing stones, some of them toppled over, there was a sheer drop down to a raging sea below, crowns of white foam whirling about, and the sky above the scene took up about two thirds of the canvas and it was a perfect blue, nothing in it, no clouds, no birds, no planes. The painting was encased in a deep frame, and protected by glass. An unusual thing to do with oil on canvas and he had questioned that with her, so she had explained to him that she only did this so that she could place the chicken bone inside it where it would be kept safe and would not disappear.

Why did it need to be preserved he had wanted to know. It was to preserve a memory, but she wouldn’t explain any further.

And then she had gone and disappeared a month later, missing presumed dead. In the days, weeks and months following her disappearance there had been a lot of alleged sightings. The most credible of all was that reported by a group of German students. Three biology students on holidays in Ireland who had been out walking on the Cliffs of Moher, equipped with binoculars for bird watching, had raised an alarm when they thought a woman must have slipped and fallen off the edge some distance away from them. They hadn’t actually seen the fall, because one of them had spotted a guillemot which had distracted them all for a little while but when they looked back in the direction ahead of them where they had seen the woman walking she was gone. The description they had given of the woman fitted Ginnie down to the particular style of clothing she would have been wearing. How she had come to be there, if it had been her, had been a mystery then as it was now. The search which was called off when darkness set in and resumed at daylight the next morning yielded nothing. It had involved the coast guard and a large number of local volunteers and holiday makers continued searching for a week after the coast guard effort had been abandoned without a result. She had disappeared without so much as a trace.

That had happened a little over a year ago, in the summer, early August, about two months after Peter’s suicide. Presumed dead. Junior wanted to believe that she was still alive somewhere. The doc closed down whenever he broached the subject. “Well, she isn’t here now, is she,” he would say. “If she is alive somewhere then she is either being kept from us against her will and that’s unlikely. Who would want to do that to her, to us? Or she doesn’t want to be found, doesn’t want anything to do with us, and that’s just as unlikely. It’s unimaginable.”

“But don’t you want to know what happened? Why did she leave the cottage that day and why on foot. If it was her at the Cliffs of Moher that day, why didn’t she drive there?” There hadn’t been a day since his mother had gone missing when these questions didn’t swirl around in Junior’s mind, but the doc it seemed was blocking them out. Was he resigned to fate, had he given up hope, or was there something somewhere in the days or months leading up to Ginnie’s disappearance which he hadn’t revealed to Junior.

Junior scratched his head and ran his mind over what he knew about the circumstances of his mother’s disappearance again. There had been nothing unusual about Ginnie deciding to take some time out from North Leitrim and to enroll in a two week series of creative workshops in some small village in County Clare. He had spoken to her on the phone himself the day before she took off to join a group of like-minded people who would spend two weeks in a few rented holiday cottages practicing their art. She was excited about it, looking forward to the fresh inspiration she expected this would bring her. It was to be a mixed group she explained, the workshops on offer attracting painters, sculptors, poets and fiction writers alike. He was not to expect to hear from her during these two weeks, she intended to make this a perfect retreat to allow her creative energies to flow freely.

On day 4, at the break of dawn she had set out on a walk leaving her car parked outside the cottage which she had been sharing with 4 other participants in the workshops. When she hadn’t returned by lunch time, they had tried to contact her on her mobile only to find that she hadn’t taken it with her. It had been left in her bedroom on her bedside table. Her room had not looked as though she had intended to be out for long, she hadn’t even taken her oilskin with her. It had been a lovely mild morning when she had left the house. Some of the workshop participants had then decided to skip their afternoon workshops to instead go out and look for Ginnie, some on foot, others by car. They hadn’t found her and the workshop organizer had driven to the nearest police station to report her missing. She had called Henry first to let him know and apparently also in the hope that Ginnie might have been in touch with him and that he might know where she was.

Henry himself in turn had called the police and demanded to know what was being done to find his missing wife. He had been told that it was early days yet and there might be some perfectly innocent reason as to why she had not yet returned. Did she have any friends in the area whom she might have visited and decided to stay with them overnight and return to the holiday cottages the next day. They had recommended that Henry stay put in case she was going to call him which they had seemed to think was very likely and had asked to be informed once she had made contact with him. Junior had been unaware of all this until the next evening when his father had finally called him, distraught and furious at the lack of progress that had been made in County Clare to locate Ginnie.

“First one man in shock, now we have two men who need looking after,” she had looked back at him over her shoulder and winked at him. “I’m MJ. Don’t panic, I’m just a friend. Your father said you’d arrive in the morning and I don’t trust him to feed himself in the state he is in right now, never mind make sure you are getting fed. You look a lot like him, except the eyes. You have her sea blue eyes and you look like you haven’t slept much. I bet you haven’t had breakfast either. I’ll make us a big breakfast fry.”

Junior had walked straight into the kitchen out of habit, that’s what he had always done first whenever he came home on a visit. Walk into the kitchen and raid the fridge for something to gorge down. Russian eggs, sliced crumbed ham, a few slices of cheddar cheese. He had been taken aback by the sight of a woman who he had thought had an air about her as though she lived in the place. She had been placing the large frying pan onto the hub just as he walked through the door and was reaching for the bottle of olive oil on the shelf behind the cooker.

He had found the doc in his study talking on the phone. His voice was angry, growling, “How can you say it’s still early days? My wife has disappeared. She has been gone for one day and one night and no one knows where she is, no one has heard from her. This is not like her. No, we did not have an argument of any kind before she went away to Clare for the creative workshops. What are you insinuating? That I did something to make her want to run away? I can’t stay put here any longer knowing that you are doing nothing, nothing at all to help her, to help us. My son has just joined me from Dublin. We will drive there today, I want to speak to the people in the cottage she stayed in, want to see her room, talk to as many people in the area as possible to find out if anyone has seen her, has spoken to her when she went out walking yesterday. I’ll have a friend stay here in our house in case she does get in touch from wherever she might be. How can she just have vanished? Oh no, no, no, I will not calm down. I am worried about my wife. Who has gone missing! And from what you are telling me, I will bloody well have to do your job.”

Henry had smashed the receiver down onto the phone. He had smiled at Junior and stood up to greet him. Had given him a hug and his voice had softened, “Thanks for dropping everything in Dublin and making your way up here so quickly, son. I smell breakfast, have you met MJ? She’s a star, she’ll mind this place while we’re away looking for your mother. Let’s go join her and have breakfast, will we?”

 

© Ash N. Finn, 2016

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