WHEN SHE GETS OFF THE 16 BUS, there’s not much time before her flight’s due. Which is kind of good — no chance to fuss or get nervous. She has to keep moving: do security, a quick stop at the screens for her gate number, then race down the walkway to boarding because it’s one of those cheap flights and the gates close fifteen minutes after they open. Passing a news screen at a cafe-bar, she sees that a ferry’s been cancelled. Here at the airport all is on schedule, storm or no storm, and before long the plane lurches into a windy sky. Out the window she can see Howth Head, Lambeth Island and Ireland’s Eye, the sea crinkle cut chunky between them. Shadows between the whitecaps show the waves are higher than usual – the kind that slam into boats and set them rocking, and sure enough the cancelled ferry is holed up at the North Wall. She breathes a sigh of relief she’s not stuck waiting herself. She prefers the ferry but the plane was cheaper, this time. The whole trip was put together very last minute, she phoned Sorcha Tuesday and today is Thursday. The last thing on her mind when booking was the weather. It’s not a holiday, after all.
—Sorcha, how’re you doing?
—Evie, great to hear from you. How’s Dublin treating you?
—Fantastic. And yourself?
—Mad busy at work.
—Still in the women’s London Irish?
—Yep. Won every match this year so far.
—That’s amazing. In with a good chance so.
—Touch wood. But Coach is gone into overdrive… Banned cake and all sorts. Mental. Never been so hungry in my life.
—Um. So, I…
—Look, Sorch, if it’s a bad time just say, but I was ringing to ask you a favour.
—I’m in London soon. Any chance I can come stay?
—I’d love to see you. But this month is tough, we’ve a few big matches coming up. How soon’re you talking?
—Can you push it back a month?
—Sorry, I can’t, it’s… a job interview.
—Evie, you’re thinking of moving over? That’s fantastic.
—Well, if I get the job.
—When is it? Your interview.
—Friday. Fly over Thursday, back to Dublin Saturday morning.
—I’ve training Thursdays, but I can let you in, and you know your way around. Stay the weekend, why don’t you? Text me your flights when you know.
—Thanks, Sorcha, you’re a star.
Eve @2016evie: Expect I’ll get a lot of hate for this, but it’s a thing I have to do
—Hey, good to see you Evie.
—Hope you weren’t waiting long?
—Just got here.
—There’s a nice cafe just over the road, you could have gone there if you were stuck.
—Is there? That must be new.
—New-ish. The Bean. Does a lovely flat white, and the pastries! I was scoffing one every day for breakfast until Coach caught me. Now I’ve to hide in back to avoid her.
—Will we go for breakfast on the weekend?
—You’re on. So listen, I’ve to dash but if you want a cuppa, here’s the teas. Still have the Barry’s, and a bunch of funny teas too. Beer in the fridge. And pizza. Help yourself. Coach would love for you to polish it off, she’s on at me to give up.
—The beer or the pizza?
—What about a cuppa?
—Can’t. I’ll be late for training.
—What time are you back and I’ll fix dinner?
—Can’t, we’ve a team supper tonight after. We’ll catch up tomorrow. Oh. Here’s a key.
Eve @2016evie: So ppl are asking what is this thing I have to do?
Eve @2016evie: This may help – I’ve had to leave @ireland to do it. Like it’s some shameful secret. Like I’m the only one
Eve @2016evie: Well I’m not
—Uhhh, is it morning already?
—Seven fifteen. You said you’re always out the door by half past, so… I made coffee if you’d like some?
—Here you go. How was training?
—Fine. Too long in the pub after, but. One of the girls got engaged so we’d a bit of a thing.
—Eat in tonight, so?
—Well I better go.
—You’re right. Leave in good time. What company is it with, anyway?
—Oh. They’re pretty small. You wouldn’t know them.
—I might, but tell me later. Oh, and Evie?
—Thanks, I’ll need it.
Eve @2016evie: So have you guessed yet why I’m away?
Declan @dclnmc78: @2016evie Because you’re a hoor, is why
Eve @2016evie: To do a thing women the world over have the right to do. But not in @ireland
Eve @2016evie: @dclnmc79 And nothing you can say will stop me
—Evie? Here, let me. Sorry, that lock’s a bit sticky.
—Thanks. Listen Sorch, I’m shattered. Mind if I lie down awhile?
—No problem. Could use a nap myself. Tell me about it over dinner.
—How the job interview went.
Eve @2016evie: This just me saying I did this
Eve @2016evie: If you want a blow by blow with photos, look elsewhere
Declan @dclnmc79: @2016evie = Slag
Eve @2016evie: @ those people calling me slag, hoor and so on. Mind your own lives, OK?
—Peeped in earlier, you were out for the count. You feeling any better now?
—Yeah thanks. Sorry I’m so out of it…
—I must be coming down with something.
—You’re certainly looking pale and interesting.
—Don’t feel it. Just wasted.
—Look, I’m popping out to M&S. Will I get you something? Chicken and rice soup?
—I feel bad, I said I’d cook.
—Another time. Coach’d go mad if she knew I’d let a virussy guest in my flat, much less let her cook dinner.
Declan @dclnmc79: @2016evie Hope you feel guilty. You should. You’ll have the rest of your life to regret it.
Eve @2016evie: I’ve no reason to be ashamed. Nor do all the other women who have done this. Will do this
Eve @2016evie: The hate spammers should know, you’ve not beaten me. Also, I’m blocking you
—Sorch, is that you?
—Yes. I’ve been back awhile. Feeling any better?
—Good. Then sit up, here’s your soup.
—All right, is it?
—There was me thinking I’d never eat again.
—May not have superfood status yet but it’s official, chicken soup has healing powers. Didn’t you know?
—I take your word.
—So listen Evie, I haven’t a clue what this is about but I’m guessing there’s more to it than just a job interview. No pressure, like, but would it help to talk?
—It’s a long story… It can wait.
—You know what, I’m not going anywhere. We’ve all the time in the world.
AT HEATHROW THERE’S A SPECIAL QUEUE for passengers to Ireland. Evie doesn’t like having her pupils photographed any more than she liked being thumb-printed going into the States — guilty until proven innocent. There’s a longish wait for the gate to be called, and when she gets to it, again there’s a queue for photographs.
‘There must be a mistake,’ she tells the man on the camera, ‘I had my photo done already.’
‘I know. It’s to check you haven’t changed in between.’
How would I change in twenty minutes, she thinks. People change so slowly, the way cities change. You’d have to time-lapse a street for years to notice a difference. Even if they compared me with how I was on the way over, there’d be nothing to see. I haven’t changed because of this. It’s stuff outside of me that needs to change: the fact I’d to sneak away to do it, like an errant subject banished from some long-ago feudal land.
‘Can you keep it really still for me? That’s good.’ He saves the picture, then waves her on. ‘It’s to check no one swapped ID with you,’ he explains softly as she picks up her bag, and she knows he’s not meant to tell her this. A chink in the rules.
On the boarding stairs the wind swipes a man’s hat. Don’t chase after it, an attendant cautions, and they all watch as the hat sails on to the runway. Sideways rain stings their faces and they hurry inside and take their seats. The wind buffets the plane as it waits for a runway slot. Evie is suddenly conscious how much lighter the aircraft must be than it appears, for it to rattle around like this. It looks solid, but really it’s just a big round bus with wings. At last the engine roars into action. The grey mess of the airport shrinks beneath them and for a time they’re beyond reach. Ungovernable.
Lane Ashfeldt’s short stories have appeared in The Guardian, Punk Fiction and Southword, among other places. She is the author of SaltWater, a book of short fictions linked by the theme of the sea, published by Liberties Press.
Liberties Press to www.libertiespress.com/shop/saltwater