Home > Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(3)

Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(3)
Marian Keyes

‘Margaret,’ I said briskly, ‘there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m sorry you’ve had a wasted journey, but please go away and take your husband with you. This is all a big, huge, terrible mistake.’

‘I don’t think it is,’ she said. ‘Brigit says…’

‘Never mind what Brigit says,’ I interrupted. ‘I’m actually worried about Brigit because she’s gone so weird. She used to be fun once.’

Margaret looked doubtful, then she said, ‘But you do seem to take an awful lot of drugs.’

‘It might seem an awful lot to you,’ I explained gently. ‘But you’re a lickarse, so any amount would seem like lots.’

It was true that Margaret was a lickarse. I had four sisters, two older and two younger and Margaret was the only well-behaved one of the lot. My mother used to run her eye along us all and sadly say, ‘Well, one out of five ain’t bad.’

‘I’m not a lickarse,’ she complained. ‘I’m just ordinary.’

‘Yes, Rachel.’ Paul had stepped forward to defend Margaret. ‘She’s not a lickarse. Just because she’s not a, a… junkie who can’t get a job and whose husband leaves her… Unlike some,’ he finished darkly.

I spotted the flaw in his argument.

‘My husband hasn’t left me,’ I protested in my defence.

‘That’s because you haven’t got one,’ said Paul.

Paul was obviously referring to my eldest sister, Claire, who managed to get ditched by her husband on the same day that she gave birth to their first child.

‘And I have a job,’ I reminded him.

‘Not any more, you don’t.’ He smirked.

I hated him.

And he hated me. I didn’t take it personally. He hated my entire family. He had a hard job deciding which one of Margaret’s sisters he hated the most. And well he might, there was stiff competition among us for the position of black sheep. There was Claire, thirty-one, the deserted wife. Me, twenty-seven, allegedly a junkie. Anna, twenty-four, who’d never had a proper job, and who sometimes sold hash to make ends meet. And there was Helen, twenty, and frankly, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

We all hated Paul as much as he hated us.

Even Mum, although she wouldn’t admit to it. She liked to pretend that she liked everyone, in the hope that it might help her jump the queue into Heaven.

Paul was such a pompous know-all. He wore the same kind of jumpers as Dad did and bought his first house when he was thirteen or some such ridiculous age by saving up his First Communion money.

‘You’d better get back on the phone to Dad,’ I told Margaret. ‘Because I’m going nowhere.’

‘How right you are,’ agreed Paul nastily.

2

The air hostess tried to squeeze past Paul and me. ‘Can you sit down, please ? You’re blocking the aisle.’

Still Paul and I lingered awkwardly. Margaret, good girl that she was, had already taken her allocated seat by the window.

‘What’s the problem?’ The air hostess looked at our boarding cards, then she looked at the seat numbers.

‘But these are the right seats,’ she said.

That was the problem. The boarding-card numbers had me sitting beside Paul and the thought of being next to him for the entire flight to Dublin revolted me. I wouldn’t be able to let my right thigh relax for a whole seven hours.

‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘But I’m not sitting beside him.’

I indicated Paul.

‘And I’m not sitting beside her,’ he said.

‘Well, how about you?’ the air hostess asked Margaret. ‘Have you any objections to who you sit beside?’

‘No.’

‘Fine,’ she said patiently. ‘Why don’t you go on the inside.’

She said this to Paul.

‘Come out, you,’ she said to Margaret. ‘Then you go in the middle.’

‘And then you,’ she said to me.

‘OK,’ we all said meekly.

A man in the seat in front of us twisted his neck for a good look at the three of us.

He stared at us for a while with a puzzled look on his face. Then he spoke.

‘Do you mind me asking,’ he said. ‘But what age are you?’

Yes, I had agreed to go home to Ireland.

Even though I had had absolutely no intention of doing so, a couple of things changed my mind. First, tall, dark and sexy Luke arrived at the apartment. I was delighted to see him.

‘Shouldn’t you be at work?’ I asked, then proudly introduced him to Margaret and Paul.

Luke shook hands politely, but his expression was tight and tense. To put the smile back on his face, I launched into the story of my escapade in Mount Solomon. But he didn’t seem to find it funny. Instead he gripped my arm hard and muttered, ‘I’d like a word with you in private.’

Puzzled, I left Margaret and Paul sitting in the front room and took Luke into my bedroom. From his grim air I didn’t think he was going to clamber all over me and say ‘Quickly, let’s get you out of these wet clothes,’ and expertly remove my garments, like he usually did.

Nevertheless I still wasn’t prepared for what did happen. He indicated that he wasn’t at all amused by my hospital visit. In fact, he sounded disgusted.

‘When did you lose your sense of humour?’ I asked bewildered. ‘You’re as bad as Brigit.’

‘I’m not even going to answer that,’ he hissed.

Then, to my utter horror, he proceeded to tell me our relationship was over. I went cold with shock. He’d ended it with me?

‘But why?’ I asked, as every cell in my body screamed ‘NO!’ ‘Have you met someone else?’

‘Don’t be so stupid,’ he spat.

‘Why then?’ I asked.

‘Because you’re not the person I thought you were,’ he said.

Well, that told me precisely nothing.

He went on to viciously insult me, trying to make out it was my fault. That he had no choice but to end it with me.

‘Oh no.’ I wasn’t going to be manipulated. ‘Break it off with me if you’re determined to, but don’t try and blame me.’

‘God,’ he said angrily, ‘there’s just no getting through to you.’

He stood up and moved towards the door.

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