Her ivory fingers took hold of the glossy wine bag that sat on her lap. It was too late to say anything; the taxi driver had very clear intentions to take on the first speed bump into Sandymount. Both her and her partner were jolted forward upon impact. The handbag that sat on her side took to the air and smacked against the back of the passenger seat.
“Idiot!” she barked. She shoved their housewarming gift into Mervin’s lap before scrambling to the floor to find her beloved Dior. The driver eyeballed her from the safety of his rearview mirror. Her husband squirmed.
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s been a long day. Don’t mind her.” The taxi driver nodded and pursed his lips into a weary smile. She retrieved her bag and glided her fingers along the cubic zirconium-studded trimming to make sure everything was in check. She surveyed the driver. There was no ring on his finger. She turned to hiss at Mervin.
“‘Don’t mind her’? What is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with you? It was a speed bump.”
“Yes, it was a speed bump, Mervin. Good observation! Because thanks to this tosser, I’m guessing it’s a pile of rubble now.”
Mervin looked out of his window. The serenity of the suburbs reassured him. His heart sank at the sight of a woman with a pram. Fortunately, his wife was busy degrading the taxi driver.
“And you, sir. I’m aware people of your status don’t get come to Sandymount very often so I can understand your excitement. But you know that stunt you pulled back there? That was not acceptable behavior. You are in Dublin 4. This isn’t Crumlin.”
Mervin was trying to restrain his laughter. He knew his girlfriend to be an elitist, but the truth was he shared many of the same values – she was simply more adept at expressing them. He enjoyed appearing to most people in their circle as the mellow yang to her volatile yin, and for Mervin, it was the perfect relationship.
The driver took the last turn into Gilford Park. Eleanor and Ben’s house was a semi-detached Edwardian gem. She watched the fire in Mervin’s eyes ignite as the taxi pulled up outside their dramatically sculpted gate. The lovingly paved driveway made the pair thankful that they had worn the finest footwear at their disposal. He wore leather Armani lace-ups; she wore strappy Dolce & Gabbana sandals with a dark iguana print. They treaded the grey brick with haste to meet Eleanor at the door. She was shamelessly eager to show off her new home. She took them to the kitchen where Ben greeted them with a one-armed hug. He was shaking a cocktail mixer. He quickly dispensed four mojitos. Eleanor may have been bland as hell but no one could say she didn’t find her calling as an interior designer. Her kitchen was painstakingly coordinated. A warm creamy colour dominated the room, complimented by sky-blue furnishings. Mervin wandered around with an open mouth, ignoring his drink. His wife took a sip. Ben caught her grimace.
“Uh oh. I know that face.”
“Oh Ben, I’m sorry. Mixing just isn’t your forte.”
“I know. I just thought I’d give it a try. Call it part of my mid-life crisis.”
“Would you like some wine instead?” Eleanor chimed in. “We received a wonderful Shiraz from a very happy client of mine.”
“Oh no, don’t trouble yourselves. I’ll make a new batch!”
Eleanor and Ben didn’t need much convincing. Their guest was renowned for her cocktails, and mojitos were her specialty. They all happily took to the verandah while she diced the limes, crushed the ice and ground the medication.
She had insisted on not staying any longer than necessary. And so by seven-thirty the couple found themselves alone on Strand Road. Mervin was pleasantly surprised by her invitation to take a stroll along The Strand. He hoped it was a sign of forgiveness. She hadn’t been really herself ever since the tests came back.
Truth be told, he had his suspicions. Years of unprotected sex had yielded nothing but a vexing bout of gonorrhea. He didn’t think it would be such a priority for her. He never thought of her as maternal creature, although he kept this thought to himself.
Darkness would make this is all so much easier, she thought to herself. She could see him too clearly now. It was late spring, and the sun was becoming stubborn, debating its bedtime like the child they would never have. They would never adopt. Neither of them would allow it. They both came from prestigious Irish bloodlines that could never be corrupted by an outsider. She wished she could think otherwise. If only she could open her mind, surely the rest would follow? Children, hugs, kisses. First words. First steps. All First World problems would dissolve in their molten love.
This was Mervin’s dream neighbourhood. You would have to be doing a lot of things right in life to be living here. The sea sat on their left, while across the street was a row of beautiful detached houses that Mervin surveyed with hungry eyes. The lawns stretched so far they were exhausting to look at. It made her feel sick. Eleanor and Ben were mannequins in the shop window at which he worshipped. They led such a hollow existence. It was one she was confined to the moment she uttered ‘I do’ in front of everyone she loved. That was fifteen months ago. Now it was one she knew she could escape.
Mervin adored his wife’s mojitos. He insisted on having just the one, but one is all it takes. The taste of several ground tablets was offset by a generous extra dose of rum. Ahead of them was a clumpy gathering of palm trees. The steps were adjacent. They would soon be hidden. Mervin was beginning to buckle.
“Do you feel okay?” He broke the silence. Of course she felt okay. He coughed, lightly. But it became heavier. They kept on walking.
“I feel a bit woozy.” Woozy. What a banal expression for a man of his age to use! And to think, these could be his dying words…
“I think it might have been the fish. I’ve got this strange taste in my mouth.”
“I adored the fish.” She began to slow down a bit now. They were almost at the steps. She took him by the hand.
“Mervin. Do you love me?”
“What? Yes. Why…? He was panting. “Why… now?” He was weak. Her eyes were large and alert. She took a long, hard glance around to make sure the promenade was empty. She pulled him along. Behind him was a concrete platform from which the steps protruded. They were girded by a railing that even that stubborn sun couldn’t make shine.
“If you love me as much as you say you do, as much as you said you would on our special day—” For a second she looked like she would retreat. She scrunched up her face. Her eyes were wet. He looked on, confused and bleary-eyed. He raised his hands. It was all he could do. “Then you’ll forgive me.”
She screamed and kicked him. He slipped three steps down but regained his balance. He held on to the railing. He stuttered and blathered and presumably begged for mercy, but she wouldn’t hear it. She couldn’t hear it. She looked at Mervin, at the man who denied her a child. She kicked him again. His mind was somewhere else. His body was promised to the sea. She chased him down to the final step, to seal the deal.
The sun had given up. Darkness had won. It was time to go home. This was the exciting part, she thought. Where to call home…