Home > Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(8)

Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(8)
Marian Keyes

My eyes locked with his and I felt, in my guilty and fearful state, that I knew exactly what he was thinking. "It's all your fault. If only you had been as attractive as my Denise, your husband might have stayed with you and I would still be happily married. But no, you had to go and ruin everything, you fat ugly cow."

"Fine," I thought, "two can play at that game."

I stared back at him, returning his thought messages. "Well, if you hadn't married a husband-stealing, home-wrecking floozy none of us would be in this mess."

I was probably doing the poor man a terrible injustice. He didn't say anything to me. He just looked at me in a kind of sad and accusatory way.

24

I hugged Judy good-bye. We were both crying. For once my baby wasn't.

"Heathrow, Terminal One," I said tearfully to the taxi driver and we swept away from the curb, leaving Mr. Andrucetti staring bleakly after us.

As I struggled down the aisle on the Aer Lingus plane, I bumped against several irate passengers with my bag of baby supplies. When I finally loc- ated my seat a man got up to help me stow my bags. As I smiled my thanks at him, I automatically wondered if he thought I was pretty.

It was so awful. That was one of the things I'd really liked about being married. For a couple of years I'd been off that horrible merry-go-round of trying to meet the right man, finding out that he was already married, or living with another man, or pathologically stingy, or read Jeffrey Archer, or could only have an orgasm if he could call you "Mother," or any one of the thousands of character flaws that weren't immediately obvious the first time you shook his hand and smiled into his eyes and got a warm buzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach, and thought to yourself, "Hey, this could be the one."

Now I was back in the situation where every man is a potential boyfriend. I was back in a world where there are eight hundred exquisitely beautiful women to every one straight single man. And that is even before we start weeding out the truly hideous ones.

I looked at the helpful man carefully. He wasn't even that attractive. He was probably gay. Or, more likely, this being an Aer Lingus flight, he was probably a priest.

And as for me, a deserted wife with a two-day-old baby, the self-esteem of an amoeba (that much?), forty pounds overweight, incipient postpartum depression, and a vagina stretched out to ten times its normal size, I was hardly a prize catch myself.

The plane took off and the houses and buildings and streets of London circled away below me. I looked down as the roads got smaller and smaller. I was leaving behind six years of my life.

Is this how a refugee feels? I wondered.

My husband was down there somewhere. My apartment

25

was down there somewhere. My friends were down there somewhere. My life was down there somewhere.

I had been happy there.

And then the view was obscured by cloud.

I sat back in my seat, my baby on my lap. I suppose I must have looked just like a normal mother to all the other passengers. But--and the thought struck me quite forcibly--I wasn't. I was now a deserted wife. I was a statistic.

I had been lots of things in my life. I had been Claire the dutiful daughter. I had been Claire the scourge of a daughter. I had been Claire the student. I had been Claire the harlot (briefly--as I said, if we get the time, I'll fill you in). I had been Claire the administrator. I had been Claire the wife. And now here I was being Claire the deserted wife. And the idea did not sit comfortably with me at all, I can tell you.

I had always thought (in spite of my professed liberalism) that deserted wives were women whose husbands, pausing only to blacken their eyes, left with a bottle of vodka, the Christmas Club money and the children's allowance book, leaving them behind weeping with a huge mound of un- paid utilities bills, a spurious story about walking into a door and four dysfunctional children, all under the age of six.

It was a humbling and enlightening experience to find out how wrong I had been. I was a deserted wife. Me, middle-class Claire.

Well, it would have been a humbling and enlightening experience if I hadn't been feeling so bitter and angry and betrayed. What was I? Some kind of Tibetan monk?

But I did realize, in some funny way, through the self-pity and the self- righteousness, that someday, when all this was over, I might be a nicer person as a result of it, that I would be stronger and wiser and more com- passionate.

But maybe not just yet.

"Your father is a bastard," I whispered to my child.

The helpful gay priest jumped.

He must have heard me.

Within an hour we began the descent to Dublin Airport. We circled the green fields of north Dublin and, even though I knew that she couldn't really see anything yet, I held my baby up to the window to give her her first view of Ireland.

26

It looked so different from the view of London we had just left behind. As I looked at the blue of the Irish sea and the gray mist over the green fields, I had never felt worse. I felt like such a failure.

I had left Ireland six years before, full of excitement about the future. I was going to get a great job in London, meet a wonderful man and live happily ever after. And I had gotten a great job, I had met a wonderful man and I had lived happily ever after--well, at least for a while--but somehow it had all gone wrong and here I was back in Dublin with a humiliating sense of d�j� vu.

But one major thing had changed.

Now I had a child. A perfect, beautiful, wonderful child. I wouldn't have changed that for anything.

The helpful gay priest beside me looked very embarrassed as I cried helplessly. "Tough," I thought. "Be embarrassed. You're a man. You've probably made countless women cry like this too."

I'd had more rational days.

He made a fairly lively exit once we landed. In fact, he couldn't get off the plane fast enough. No offers to help me unstow my bags. I couldn't blame him.

27

three

And so to the baggage pickup area!

I always find it such an ordeal.

Do you know what I mean?

The anxiety starts the minute I get to the carousel, when I suddenly be- come convinced that all the nice, mild-mannered people I shared a plane journey with have turned into nasty luggage thieves. That every single one of them is watching the carousel with the express purpose of stealing my bags.

I stand there with narrowed eyes and a suspicious face. One eye on the hatch where the bags come out and the other eye darting from person to person, trying to convey to them that I'm wise to their intentions. That they've picked the wrong person to mess with.

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