Home > Sushi for Beginners(6)

Sushi for Beginners(6)
Marian Keyes

Leaning back on the two hind legs of his chair, he held his wounded finger out in front of him, staring at it. He couldn’t believe she’d bitten him. Again. She’d promised the last time… He pulled the twist of toilet paper tighter and bright red blood rushed through it.

‘Tell me your strengths and weaknesses,’ Calvin invited Ashling.

‘I’d have to be honest and say that my weakest area is editorial work. While I can produce tag-lines, headings and short pieces, I haven’t much experience of writing long articles.’

None, actually, if she was completely up-front.

‘My strengths are that I am meticulous, organized and hard-working. I’m a good second-in-command,’ Ashling said earnestly, quoting directly from Sally Healy. Then she stopped and said, ‘Excuse me, would you like a Band-Aid for your finger?’

Jack Devine looked up, startled. ‘Who, me?’

‘I don’t see anyone else bleeding all over the place.’ Ashling attempted a smile.

Jack Devine shook his head violently. ‘Nah, no… Thanks,’ he added, surlily.

‘Why not?’ Calvin Carter intervened.

‘I’m fine.’ Jack gestured with his good hand.

‘Take the Band-Aid,’ Calvin said. ‘Sounds like a good idea.’

Ashling lifted her bag on to her lap and, with the minimum of rummaging, produced a box of plasters. Lifting the lid, she flicked through them, lifted one out and handed it to Jack. ‘Try that for size.’

Jack looked at it as if he had no idea what to do. Calvin Carter was no help either.

Ashling swallowed a sigh, got up from her chair, took the plaster from Jack’s hand and ripped off the grease-proof paper. ‘Hold out your finger.’

‘Yes, Ma’am,’ he said sarcastically.

With speed and efficiency she wrapped it around the bleeding digit. To her surprise, on the pretext of making sure the plaster was secure, she gave his finger a little squeeze and felt shameful satisfaction at the wince that fluttered across his face.

‘What else have you got?’ Calvin Carter asked curiously. ‘Aspirins?’

She nodded cautiously. ‘Would you like one?’

‘No, thanks. A pen and notepad?’

She nodded again.

‘How about – and this is a long shot, I’ll admit – a portable sewing kit?’

Ashling paused sheepishly, then her entire demeanour lifted and lightened in a half-laugh of admission. ‘Actually, I do.’ Her smile was wide.

‘You’re very organized,’ Jack Devine interrupted. He made it sound like an insult.

‘Somebody needs to be.’ Calvin Carter had revised his earlier opinion of her. She was charming and even though she had lipstick on her teeth, at least she was wearing lipstick. ‘Thank you, Ashling, we’ll be in touch.’

Ashling shook hands with both men, once more taking the opportunity to give Jack Devine’s wound a good, hard squeeze.

‘Hey, I liked her,’ Calvin Carter laughed.

‘I didn’t,’ Jack Devine said, moodily.

‘I said I liked her,’ Calvin Carter repeated. He wasn’t used to being disagreed with. ‘She’s reliable and resourceful. Give her the job.’

4

Clodagh woke early. Nothing new there. Clodagh always woke early. That’s what having children did to you. If they weren’t roaring to be fed, they were squashing into the bed between you and your husband and if they weren’t doing that, they were in the kitchen at six-thirty on a Saturday morning, clattering saucepans ominously.

This morning they were on clattering-saucepans-ominously duty. She would subsequently discover that Craig, the five-year-old, was showing Molly, the two-and-a-half-year-old, how to make scrambled eggs. Out of flour, water, olive oil, ketchup, brown sauce, vinegar, cocoa, birthday candles and, of course, eggs. Nine of them, including shells. Clodagh knew from the quality of the racket that terrible things were taking place in the room below her, but she was too tired, or too something, to get up and intervene.

Eyes focused on nothing, she lay listening to chairs being scraped along the new limestone-tiled floor, month-old SieMatic cupboards being opened and slammed and Le Creuset pans being battered to within an inch of their lives.

Beside her, still deep in sleep, Dylan shifted, then threw his arm over her. She snuggled into him for a moment, looking for relief. Then froze in familiar reluctance and wearily moved away again as she felt his arousal unfurling and straightening against her stomach.

Not sex. She couldn’t bear it. She wanted affection, but whenever she moved her body against his, seeking out comfort, he got turned on. Especially in the morning. She felt guilty every time she turned away from him. But not guilty enough to oblige.

He stood a better chance in the evenings, especially when she’d had a few drinks. She never deprived him for longer than a month because she was too afraid of what it would mean. So when the deadline loomed, she always orchestrated some form of drunkenness and delivered the goods, her enthusiasm and inventiveness in direct proportion to how much gin she’d consumed.

Dylan reached for her again and she slithered across the sheets out of reach, with a nimbleness borne of many months of practice.

A particularly hysterical bout of clattering wafted up from the room below.

‘Little fuckers,’ Dylan mumbled, sleepily. ‘They’ll knock the house down on us.’

‘I’ll go and shout at them.’ It was safer to get up.

By the time Ashling arrived later that morning, the scrambled-egg débâcle was but a distant memory and had been superseded by the atrocities of the breakfast table.

When Clodagh went to answer the door, she was involved in some kind of complicated negotiations with the angelic-looking, flaxen-haired Molly, concerning the wearing of a cardigan. Molly was insisting on wearing her orange one.

‘Hi Ashling,’ Clodagh said absently, then thrust her face down to Molly’s and insisted in exasperation, ‘But you’re too big for it, Molly. You haven’t worn it since you were a baby. Why don’t you wear this lovely pink one?’

‘Nooooooo!’ Molly tried to wriggle away to freedom.

‘But you’ll be cold.’ Clodagh held tight on to Molly’s arm.

‘Nooooooo!’

‘Come into the kitchen, Ashling.’ Clodagh dragged Molly down the hall. ‘CRAIG! GET OFF THE CAROUSEL!’

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