BOOKS IRELAND FLASH FICTION
Haunted, by Claire Hennessy
“Come back to mine,” he says in those last weeks before it all falls apart, his hand hovering at the hem of my skirt.
“Em . . .” I am trying to find a polite way of saying that his flat, shared with two other lads, is a kip. Three Irish lads with Irish mammies. Brian Cox could do a whole series about the wonders living in the vicinity of their kitchen sink. “How about my place?”
“Ah, I don’t know.” He shuffles a bit.
“I’ve made the bed.” With clean sheets and everything.
“Yeah, but—Maggie’ll be there.”
“Maggie’s grand. She likes you.”
He grunts. “Yeah, right.”
“She does! She was asking for you the other night. Said I could do a lot worse than you.”
I aim for my facial expression to fall somewhere between sexy and persuasive, but he’s not having it.
“That’s not actually a compliment.”
“From her it is, actually.” I mimic his accent on the final word. “You know what she’s been through.”
“Just because she’s had a bad experience with her fella—”
I suck in my breath so sharply it stings.
“Bad experience? Seriously? Are you fucking going to not-all-men this? Her husband”—here, I begin chopping out the words with my hands—“beat. Her. To death.”
I expect him to look ashamed, but instead he is defensive. Men. Honestly. “Well, that’s what she called it the last time I was over.”
I try to remember when that was. It’s taken him a while to get used to my ghost, though I think it was easier for him than me.
When I first moved in I thought I was going mad. My GP put me on one of those endless HSE waiting lists to see a psychiatrist and told me to go to A&E if my hallucination told me to hurt myself. Whereas when he met her (our third date, and television has trained me well; that’s when you either bring a guy home or put an end to it), he freaked out a bit and then had a drink. Maggie had advised on having something stronger than wine coolers to hand. She’s like that. It’s not entirely implausible she’d downplay the whole horrible-murder-by-one’s-spouse thing.
“Fine, okay.” I can skip lecturing him on acceptable ways of discussing domestic violence for now. “Look – let’s just go to mine. Please?”
I suspect it’s the next part, where I flick my tongue against his ear, that does the trick.
(And I am stupid not to see it then, what it means that they’ve been having conversations without me. Why avoiding her might be a better idea. How I will never be able to compete with the forever-beautiful, forever-unattainable Maggie. But of course we never do, as women, do we? Total eejits when it comes to love. She was too, in life.)
“Maggie?” I call out when we get there, my key in the lock. “We’re home.”
Claire Hennessy is a writer and creative writing facilitator from Dublin.