The boy who gives me the second leaflet reminds me of Jack, how soft his hair is without the gel in it, and I want to touch it but don’t. All the way down O’Connell Street and across town I collect boy-impressions along with the paper, and when I go into HMV on Grafton Street a tall guy in a black t-shirt hands me one about today’s special deals, and that’s when I look at them and my legs go shaky.
It is early December, three weeks since the story broke about that poor woman in Galway. The pro-life vigil is on this evening. There’s a DVD box-set special offer on and also, protect the rights of the unborn would you. I stand in front of a wall of newly-released CDs and tear paper, dividing by two each time the way cells do. Someone in a grey hoodie nudges past me. I forgot there were other people here.
This is not the story I want to tell when there are Christmas lights twinkling their way around Dublin. When my legs start working again I go to Burger King, where I haven’t been in years during the daytime, and throw up in their toilets. Too late in the day for morning sickness – this is just ordinary, everyday shock. If anything is ordinary anymore.
Then it’s onto college for a two-hour seminar on the political thought of the nineteenth century, where my hand clutches the pen too tightly as I make copious notes.
Our lecturer runs over, and I’m supposed to meet her for an essay meeting after, but she looks blank when I remind her, then says, “Sarah, you’re right, sorry, it completely slipped my mind. I’ll email you later and we’ll arrange another time this week, okay?”
She’s maybe thirty, friendly, slightly scatty. I thought she might be a person I could tell. Instead I nod, smile, say it’s fine.
The city is dark now, but still bustling, and a man in one of those godforsaken tweed caps stops and asks if I know where to get the bus to Lucan. “I think it’s the 66 or the 67,” he says.
“Westmoreland Street, on the corner there.” I gesture and I want this to be the end of it.
He nods. Then says, “You can’t tell my daughter anything.”
This is not normal interaction. I tighten my grip on my handbag.
“She’s living in one part of the city,” he says, indicating to his left. “Her fella – he’s over here.” He shakes a finger. “She’s no sense.”
“He goes away for three months, comes back, goes away for four months, comes back.”
“That’s not on, is it?”
I shake my head.
“She’s forty-three, you know, that’s it, really, for a woman.”
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
“I don’t think –” I start.
“I mean if you want to have kids,” he says. “She does, now, my daughter, she does, and if you’re a decent fella and you don’t want them you say it to her, you don’t let her . . . but sure you can’t tell her. I can’t tell her.”
He keeps talking, and I put my hands in my coat pockets and wish I had a scarf. The fella’s been doing this for years now. And then he tells me his own wife is dead, twenty-one years this Christmas, and when he finally edges off to the side and I think we’re done he says, “Will you say a prayer for this girl?”
This girl of forty-three.
“Sarah’s her name.”
Something jolts through me then. It’s a common name. I know this. There were three of us in my year in primary school. But when he moves off to get his bus I stand there and wait until he’s reached the stop.
I could tell this story: three weeks before Christmas in 2012, I meet a man on the street, and we get to talking, and his daughter Sarah who wants a baby, well, I decide this one will be carried for her, saved for her like putting aside a bit of dinner for someone late home. I visit once a year. She is so grateful.
There is a package waiting for me at home, wrapped up like an early Christmas gift. “Amelia dropped it over,” my mother says. She’s clearing the table before dinner and I see the front cover of today’s newspaper, the reveal of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. She’s in hospital with morning sickness, not yet twelve weeks along. They didn’t want to tell people. The first twelve weeks, you don’t tell.
Amelia lives away from her parents, and is clued-in; she sends a text to remind me to take both the pills, another one later asking me how I’m doing.
I throw up my dinner, with the taps running, and wonder if the Duchess feels terribly royal right now. I think about the other Sarah out there.
I wait for the blood. I wait for it to be over. I wait for another story. One I will be able to tell.
Claire Hennessy is a writer, creative writing facilitator, and editor based in Dublin. She is the author of several novels for young adults and children, and is currently working on a collection of short fiction for adults, supported by an Arts Council bursary. She can be found online at www.clairehennessy.com or on twitter (@clairehennessy).