Bite-sized stories – park the kids in front of Paw Patrol, grab a cup of tea, a choccie biscuit and chill 🙂
Mrs Helena Brown was the sun around which the rest of the book club revolved. She always found this rather surprising as at home she often felt more like a piece of furniture than a person with her own needs and wants. The book club was the highlight of her week. It was she who decided what books would be read, she who issued the monthly newsletter and so naturally enough it was she who decided it was high time that they got their glad rags out. Dinner at a fancy hotel on a balmy summer evening.
She booked them all into the River Hotel for half past six on a Friday evening in June. Perfect, she thought. She hadn’t expected her husband to stick his oar in but then she should have known really; he could always be counted on to ruin her fun.
“That’s my mother’s anniversary, that Friday, how could you forget?” he grunted indignantly after hearing the news.
“Oh Frank really, your mother died twenty years ago how could I be expected to remember?”
“But we always have a mass said for her on the day.” he insisted.
“Well I’m not stopping you am I?” she replied, thinking that would be the end of the matter.
But no he started up again the next day.
“My mother always spoke highly of you Helena, she would be very disappointed with you not attending her mass.”
This blatant lie nearly stole Helena’s breath and for one long moment she contemplated belting her sour-faced husband. But physical violence had not yet entered their marriage and she wouldn’t be the one to start.
“You know very well Frank what your mother thought of me…and I might as well say it, what I thought of her. You best keep your mouth shut now or there’ll be no dinner come half five.”
This threat, only used on the most provoking of occasions, silenced Frank. But not for long. He wouldn’t let the matter rest. It got to the point where she couldn’t enter a room without his mentioning it. Slowly Helena could feel herself being worn down. That was Frank’s talent; a knack for making people do his bidding not out of charm or even fear but simply just to get him to shut up. Once again she found herself conceding to her husband. It was the story of their marriage.
Helena woke early that Friday morning. As she opened the cupboard to get dressed she noticed her new outfit hanging from the rail beside all her other drab everyday clothes. With a resolution she had never felt before she picked it up and quickly got dressed. Hands shaking with excitement she did her make-up, pausing only to route out that sparkly eyeshadow one of the twins had left behind on her last visit home. She hardly dared to glance at herself in the mirror. But a sneaky peek confirmed she was looking far removed from her usual self and it suited her.
Frank barely glanced up from his newspaper to remind her about the mass. It would start at six o’clock.
“Oh but I won’t be there Frank.”
That got his attention.
“What’s this now?”
“I’m going into town to do some shopping then I’m having lunch with Patty and getting my hair done. I’m afraid I won’t have time to pop into the Church as I’ll need to be at the hotel early to get everything sorted for the dinner so you’ll have to do without me. There’s a cottage pie in the freezer, you know where the microwave is.”
With that she swept out of the room, not daring to give him a chance to reply.
Frank sat stunned in his chair, the newspaper long forgotten. Helena had always been a flighty thing, his mother was right about that. Oh well he would go down to his local after mass and perhaps they might do him up a plate of chips. Mary always had a soft spot for him. With any luck Helena would see sense and everything would be back to normal by the morning. He went back to his paper.
But Frank’s world was about to change that day. For Helena had left the house with a suitcase full of clothes and a determination to never go back there again. The relief made her feel dizzy like the after-effects of a gin & tonic. She felt as if a weight had been lifted, similar to how she felt every spring when she dusted and swept the house from top to bottom. Maybe that’s what her life had needed all along, a little dust and a polish!
She planned to stay with her sister who had lost her own husband a few years back. They had always been great chums and she imagined cosy evenings in watching the soaps with a cup of tea.
That night Helena shone brighter than ever before. Her friends wanted to know her secret.
“Oh I just did a little spring-cleaning that’s all!”
The Rock-Star of Co. Kerry
The rain battered the windows of the school as students, teachers and parents alike struggled with umbrellas and car doors. Watching from the relative cosiness of the staff room Ms. Roisin O’Sullivan shivered then sighed heavily. The weather would really make this years Christmas party extra tedious. She longed to just go home, get into her fluffiest pyjamas and curl up with a good book. But her best friend (and fellow teacher) Carmel wouldn’t hear of it.
“Remember Adam is going to be there!”
Adam was the school’s newest teacher. He had taken on the challenge of sixth class and won. Not only did his students love him but even the crusty old principal, Mrs. O’Keffee, had been known to fall for his charms. Adam wasn’t really Roisin’s type (too much hair gel, not enough common sense) but he was good looking.
Carmel was already seriously considering buying Roisin a cat due to her disastrous love life which had seen 2016 go by without so much as a single date…or even a single flirtation (if you didn’t count Tommy from the Butchers and somehow they never seemed to count him). So there was no shirking the Christmas party and the possibility of an office romance. Carmel wouldn’t hear of it.
Despite Rosin’s best intentions to delay they arrived ten minutes early. City traffic was surprisingly light and their taxi driver knew all the best short-cuts. A quick peek in the door confirmed Roisin’s worst fears; it was indeed a typical staff party. Dull music, dull lighting and dull company. Not that she didn’t like her colleagues but a night spent with the formidable Mrs. O’Keffee and the ageing Mr. Walsh was not her idea of a good time.
A raucous laugh cut through the air reminding Roisin that Nessa McGrath had decided to put in an appearance. Usually she avoided staff nights out but she had seem determined to come this year. It soon became obvious why as Nessa practically fought one of the student teachers for the prize of sitting next to Adam. The student teacher hadn’t a hope really.
A band was playing in one corner of the room. Roisin could barely hear them over the fifty-something Christmas parties squeezed into Conference Room 2 of the Grove Hotel. The lead singer wasn’t bad looking though it didn’t help that he had dressed in a suit that was obviously two sizes too big. He caught Roisin’s eye and winked. She could feel the heat in her cheeks as she pretended not to notice. Yet there was something about him….
Carmel interrupted her chain of thought. She was waving her wineglass at Nessa.
“Look at her! She is practically feeding him that cake! I’m going to say something…”
Rosin begged her friend to stay quiet but she knew there was no point so she did what she did best…she fled!
The hotel bathroom was blessedly cool and she lingered there far longer than necessary, trying on the various soaps and hand lotions.
When she returned there was no sign of Nessa, Carmel or Adam. She decided a large vodka was called for. Just as she about to take a swig she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Ah things can’t be that bad can they?”
It was the singer. Not keen to encourage him she smiled politely and turned away.
“You don’t recognise me do you?” he asked. There was laughter in his voice.
“Should I?” she asked rather haughtily.
“How about I give you a clue….will that be the pork mince or the steak mince ma’am?”
She turned around…Tommy!
“I didn’t know you could sing!” she replied, rather foolishly considering she didn’t really know anything about him.
“Oh well I have decided to quit my job and become a rock star….no honestly my brother came down with the flu last night and I stupidly let these guys talk me into covering for him.” he gestured at his ill-fitting suit. “As you might have guessed I’m a little thinner than him!”
“I’d never have recognised you!” in his new role as lead singer she had to admit he looked completely different….and kind of interesting. Funny how she had barely noticed him before.
They spent the rest of the night chatting. It was only when the staff began pointedly sweeping the floor around them that she realised her party (and his band) were long gone. They both suddenly fell silent. Tommy was the first to speak.
“So what do you say we get out of here? I know a late night coffee bar.”
It was beginning to snow when they left and Tommy took Roisin’s hand. They passed a couple kissing – it was Carmel and Adam! Well, well, well….it seemed there would be an office romance after all!