Home > Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(6)

Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(6)
Marian Keyes

I nearly said ‘thanks’ but remembered in time. The usual scenario was that I would say ‘Really? Have I?’ And she’d say ‘No! Nah haaah! You fall for it every time, don’t you? You big thick.’

‘Where’s Pollyanna?’ asked Helen.

‘Out at the gate, talking to Mrs Hennessy,’ I said.

Margaret was the only one of us who spoke to our neighbours, happy to discuss hip replacements, grand children’s First Communions, the unusually wet weather and the availability of Tayto in Chicago.

Then Paul pushed into the hall, loaded down with bags.

‘Oh Christ, no,’ said Helen, still at the top of the stairs. ‘No one said you were coming. How long are you staying for?’

‘Not long.’

‘Better not be. Or else I’ll have to go out and get a job.’

Despite sleeping with all her professors (or so she said), Helen had failed her first-year exams in university. She’d repeated the year but, when she failed the exams again, she gave the whole thing up as a bad job.

That had been the previous summer, and she hadn’t managed to get a job in the meantime. Instead she spent the time hanging round the house, annoying Mum, badgering her to play cards.

‘Helen! Leave your brother-in-law alone,’ came my mother’s voice. And then she appeared at the top of the stairs beside Helen.

I’d been dreading meeting my mother. I had the sensation that there was a lift in my chest that had plummeted out of control to the pit of my stomach.

Faintly I could hear Helen complaining ‘But I hate him. And you’re always telling me that honesty is the best policy…’

Mum hadn’t come to the airport with Dad. It was the first time since I had left home that she hadn’t come to the airport to meet me. So I figured she was dangerously cross.

‘Hi, Mum,’ I managed. I couldn’t quite look at her directly.

She gave me a sad, little, martyrish smile and I felt a violent pang of guilt that nearly sent me groping for my Valium bottle there and then.

‘How was your journey?’ she asked.

I couldn’t bear the pretend politeness, the skirting round the really big issue.

‘Mum,’ I blurted, ‘I’m sorry you got a fright, but there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t have a problem with drugs and I didn’t try to kill myself.’

‘Rachel, WILL YOU STOP LYING!’

The lift inside me was going haywire by then. I was getting the plummeting sensation so often that I felt sick. Guilt and shame mingled with anger and resentment.

‘I’m not lying,’ I protested.

‘Rachel,’ she said with an edge of hysteria to her voice, ‘you were rushed to hospital in an ambulance and had your stomach pumped.’

‘But there was no need for it,’ I explained. ‘It was a mistake.’

‘It was not!’ she exclaimed. ‘They checked your vital signs in the hospital, it needed to be done.’

Really, I thought in surprise. Was that true? Before I could ask she was off again.

‘And you have a drug problem,’ she said. ‘Brigit said you take loads and so did Margaret and Paul.’

‘Yes, but…’ I tried to explain. While simultaneously feeling a burst of explosive rage at Brigit, which I had to file away for a later date. I couldn’t bear it when my mother was upset with me. I was used to my father shouting at me and it didn’t affect me in the slightest. Except maybe to make me laugh. But Mum giving me all this ‘I’m disappointed in you’ stuff was very unpleasant.

‘OK, I take drugs now and then,’ I admitted.

‘What kind?’ she asked.

‘Oh, you know,’ I said.

‘I don’t’

‘Er, well, maybe a line or two of cocaine…’

‘Cocaine!’ she gasped. She looked stricken and I felt like slapping her. She didn’t understand. She was from a generation that went into spasms of horror at the mere mention of the word ‘drugs’.

‘Is it nice?’ asked Helen, but I ignored her.

‘It’s not as bad as it sounds,’ I pleaded.

‘It doesn’t sound bad at all.’ I wished Helen would go away.

‘It’s harmless and non-addictive and everyone takes it,’ I beseeched Mum.

‘I don’t,’ complained Helen. ‘Chance would be a fine thing.’

‘I don’t know anyone who does,’ said Mum. ‘Not one of my friends’ daughters has done anything like this.’

I fought back the rage that filled me. From the way she was going on, you’d swear that I was the only person in the whole world, ever, who had been out of line or made a mistake.

Well, you’re my mother, I thought belligerently. You made me the way I am.

But mercifully – Jeremy must have been having a rest – I somehow managed not to say it.

I stayed at home for two days before I went to the Cloisters.

It was not pleasant.

I was not popular.

Except for Margaret, who hadn’t got past the qualifying rounds, the position of Least Favourite Daughter passed from one of us to the next on a rotating basis, like the presidency of the EU. My brush with death ensured that I had toppled Claire from her position and I now wore the crown.

Almost the moment I was off the plane Dad told me that they’d do a blood test at the Cloisters before I was admitted. ‘So,’ he said nervously, ‘now, I’m not saying you will, mind, but if you were thinking of taking anything, and I’m sure you’re not, it’ll show up in the test and you won’t be allowed in.’

‘Dad,’ I said, ‘I keep telling you, I’m not a drug addict and there’s nothing to worry about.’

I nearly added that I was still waiting for the condom full of cocaine to clear my digestive tract but, as he wasn’t showing much of a sense of humour, I thought better of it.

Dad’s fears were unfounded because I had no intention of taking any drugs.

That’s because I didn’t have any to take. Well, no illegal ones anyway. I had my economy-size, family-pack of Valium but that didn’t count because I got it on prescription (even if I had to buy the prescriptions from a dodgy doctor in the East Village who had an expensive ex-wife and an even more expensive smack habit). I certainly hadn’t been fool enough to risk smuggling cocaine and its illicit ilk into the country. Which was very adult and sensible of me.

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