Authors: Patricia Scanlan
To my dear and precious Dad, who has been so strong for us and minded us all so well and kept us going this past eighteen months.
You’re the best father in the world and we love you so much.
The great question . . . which I have not been able to answer . . . is, ‘What does a woman want?’
It was hard to believe the honeymoon was over, Debbie Kinsella thought ruefully as she surveyed the shambles that was their bedroom. Bryan had half a dozen art-gallery catalogues strewn over the floor on his side of the bed. Three cool T-shirts she’d bought in Gap for her half-sister, Melissa, lay on top of the chest of drawers. Who would have ever thought she would end up buying a present for the teenager she’d despised for so long, she mused, putting the T-shirts on hangers so they wouldn’t crease. Debbie felt an unwelcome pang of conscience, remembering how unfriendly and unkind she’d been to Melissa over the years. She’d been so angry and bitter at her father for leaving that she hadn’t been able to bear to see him happy with his new family. When Melissa was born, Debbie had finally given up on the wistful notion that Barry and Connie would reunite. Melissa had been a focus for her anger for a long time. It had been undeserved, and Debbie was ashamed of herself and anxious to make amends. Hopefully, her half-sister would like the T-shirts she’d chosen for her, thought Debbie as she placed the hangers on the wardrobe door-knob.
The linen basket was overflowing, and their cases were still unpacked, full of clothes that needed to be washed. At this rate, she’d be washing for a week. Once, she would have gathered everything up and brought a bag full of clothes to the launderette and had them washed and ironed. It would have cost her. Ironing was expensive, but she wouldn’t have cared; it was money well spent, in her eyes.
Now that they were saddled with a mortgage, loan repayments from the credit union for their wedding and honeymoon expenses, and a massive Visa bill, cashflow was a big issue, and the little luxuries that she and Bryan had taken so much for granted were going to have to fall by the wayside. Debbie had suggested going back to work on a Friday, as it was payday, and it would help them adjust to ‘normal life’ after all the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon. They’d only be in work one day, they’d have the weekend to recover, and they’d have money in their wallets. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now, studying the disarray surrounding her, she wasn’t so sure.
She let her wet towel fall to the floor and began to dress. At least she didn’t have to worry about what to wear, which was just as well, as she would have had to delve deep in their crammed, bulging wardrobe for something clean, and that, right at this moment, was not for the faint-hearted. Her uniform suit, neatly pressed, hung on the back of the door, and she gave herself a mental pat on the back for at least being that little bit organized. She brushed her shoulder-length copper hair, twirled it around and fastened it with a comb, loose tendrils escaping, framing her heart-shaped face. Her blue eyes, flecked with hazel, needed nothing more than a touch of grey, smudged eyeliner, which she applied with practised ease.
It was weird getting dressed to go back to work. This day last week, she and Bryan had been strolling arm in arm through the Met in New York, admiring the work of the American photographer Walker Evans, part of the museum’s massive photography collection.
That had been a particularly nice day, reflected Debbie as she dusted shimmer powder over her cheeks, wishing she could disguise the smattering of freckles on her nose and cheekbones. They had breakfasted in a little deli on East 52nd and then ambled the few blocks up Fifth Avenue, to Tiffany’s, where they’d bought each other a Heart Tag keyring as a memento of their honeymoon. They had carried on to the Met, where they spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning browsing the collections. Hunger had eventually forced them to drag themselves away that afternoon, and they had headed for Central Park and the Boathouse Restaurant on the lake. Sitting on the sun-drenched deck waiting for their prawns and salads to arrive, they watched the rowboats drifting by, the ducks and swans looking for titbits, as the sun glistened on the lake and the Manhattan skyscrapers soared above the trees on the opposite shore.
Debbie had remembered the scene in
Sex and the City
when Big and Carrie fell into the lake, and almost had to pinch herself to make her realize that she was honeymooning in New York and she was now Mrs Bryan Kinsella. Oh yes, it had been a glorious and happy day, she smiled, fingering the gleaming gold wedding band that encircled the fourth finger of her left hand.
She might have come down to earth with a bang, but at least she and Bryan had overcome their rocky times, and she couldn’t be happier. And bad enough as it was going back to work, at least she wouldn’t have to deal with her bullying boss, Judith Baxter, who was in hospital following a car accident. Word was she wouldn’t be in the office for a while, which was a huge relief to most of the staff and to Debbie in particular. Judith was a tyrant and had given Debbie a rough ride in the run-up to her wedding. She’d been down on her like a ton of bricks for any mistake. Even Debbie being a few minutes late had incurred Judith’s wrath, and she had stopped her pay increment for six months. Debbie had been shocked. That was uncalled for. She had been counting on her rise to help pay off her loans.
She didn’t wish her boss ill, but there was no love lost between them and she’d be the first to admit that if she never saw the woman again she wouldn’t give a toss. Hard enough as it was returning to work, it would have been a thousand times harder if Judith had been waiting, hawk-like, to see that she was on time.
She had to be thankful for small mercies, Debbie supposed as she raced downstairs, anxious not to be late on her first day back, Judith or no Judith. The post had come and, as she picked up what were mostly bills, her heart sank as she saw their Visa bill. She and Bryan were well maxed out on their credit card, and they really were going to have to tighten their belts big time in an effort to pay off their spiralling debts. Bryan would hate it, he was moaning about it already, but it was something they had to address before things got seriously out of hand.
Debbie pulled the door behind her and hurried along the path. It was going to be a scorcher – how nice it would have been to take her lounger out on to their deck and flick through magazines and drink coffee. Would she ever be able to give up work? Or even work part time, job sharing, like some of the married women in her office did? Not unless she won the Lotto, she thought glumly. It was eight million this week – she must remember to buy a few Quick Picks. She’d do it at lunchtime. She tried to cheer herself up: she had as much chance of winning as anyone else had.
She crossed the street, weaving in and out of traffic. Real life was back with a vengeance. At least she didn’t have the usual knot of tension in the pit of her stomach from worrying about Judith Baxter, she comforted herself as the noisy stop-start of car engines and squealing brakes and children crying in buggies as their mothers rushed to crèches grated on her ears. Although Sandymount wasn’t far from the city, driving in the rush hour was chaotic, and she and Bryan far preferred to take the train. But, sometimes, Bryan needed the car to travel to clients. At least she could walk to her office from the Dart and it kept her fit.
Debbie quickened her pace and joined the morning commute.
‘Come on, come on, come on!’ Bryan Kinsella sat behind the steering wheel of his Audi soft-top as the traffic inched along the Strand Road. He should have taken his chances and gone through the village and turned right for the East Link. He could see across to the Sean Moore road in the distance, and the traffic snaked along, bumper to bumper, hardly moving. Some mornings, if he went to work very early, he could get to the IFSC in less than ten minutes. It was easily going to take the guts of an hour today.
Was this what his life was going to be like, apart from his few precious weeks’ holidays? He groaned as the lights went red again. It was incredible to think that the wedding was over. The reception, which he’d looked forward to more than the ceremony, was a blur, and the honeymoon, which had been the trip of a lifetime, when he’d got to see as many of the cultural sights and scenes of New York as he possibly could, was now just a lovely dream. How he’d enjoyed strolling through myriad art galleries and studios, sipping lattes on sidewalk cafés, taking in shows, browsing in Borders and buying treasured books with not a care in the world.
Now he was back to real life, with all its worries and pressures. He couldn’t even think about the amount of debt they were in after the honeymoon. Both their credit cards were up to their limits, as was the one he had himself on the sly, which Debbie knew nothing about. He had a credit union loan that she knew nothing about either, he thought guiltily, and he was barely managing to pay the interest on
. It looked as though their hefty mortgage was going to increase by another half a per cent, and he hadn’t paid the last telephone bill, even though he’d told Debbie he had.
This was what being married did to a fella, he thought gloomily as he stared unseeingly out the car window. Why were women so anxious to get married? He didn’t understand it at all. He’d have been quite happy to mosey along in a smart, rented apartment in a good area, with no mortgage, for another few years, but Debbie had insisted they buy a house, saying that rent was money down the drain. He shouldn’t have bloody well listened to her. They’d bought their townhouse in Sandymount at the height of the property boom, when prices had rocketed, and paid mad money for it. Sandymount was an undeniably chic address, and he liked living there. He liked the village ambience, the upmarket delis, bistros and restaurants, the quirky shops. It was enjoyable to stroll along the seafront on Sunday, buy the papers and have lattes and eggs Florentine in Itsa4 for brunch. Or to go to Brownes on a Saturday night and indulge in their famous fresh salmon rillettes wrapped in smoked salmon or their to-die-for flaked crab. His mouth watered as he thought of his favourite dishes. He hadn’t eaten breakfast, and he was hungry.
Now, a slump had hit, and there was no way they’d ever get the price they bought their house for if they went to sell it, so they were in negative equity on that front. If Debbie hadn’t been so impatient, they could have bided their time, rented and bought when prices dropped and it was a buyers’ market. He’d make sure to say that to Debbie’s mother, Connie, he thought grimly. She’d been pushing for them to get a house. She should have minded her own bloody business. He scowled, looking for someone to blame for his woes and thinking that Connie, his pushy mother-in-law, would fit the bill perfectly.
Connie wasn’t his favourite person in the world. He always felt that she was judging him and finding him lacking – just because he didn’t spend every precious weekend stripping wallpaper or doing DIY. She’d obviously hoped for better for her only daughter.
hadn’t been able to keep a husband, so she needn’t bother looking down her nose at him, he decided, conveniently forgetting the very generous cheque she’d given to himself and Debbie, money she had worked hard to earn.