Home > Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(7)

Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(7)
Marian Keyes

And not actually the great sacrifice that I’m making it sound. I knew that I’d never go short of a narcotic while Anna was around.

The only thing was, Anna wasn’t around. From Mum’s terse little sentences, I gathered that Anna was as good as living with her boyfriend, Shane. Now, there was a boy who knew how to enjoy himself! Shane, as they say, ‘lived life to the full’. To overflowing. To bursting point.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t cocaine I missed. It was Valium. Not that that was surprising, I was shaken by the recent and rapid changes my life had undergone and the tension between me and Mum wasn’t pleasant. I would have appreciated something to take the edge off it all. But I managed not to take any of my little magic white pills because I was really looking forward to going to the Cloisters. If I’d had more time (and any money) I would even have bought new clothes in honour of it.

Such willpower! And they were calling me a drug addict? I ask you.

I slept an awful lot in the two days. It was the best thing to do because I was jetlagged and disoriented and everyone hated me.

I tried to ring Luke a couple of times. I knew I shouldn’t. He was so angry with me the best thing to do was give him time to calm down, but I couldn’t help myself. As it happened, I just got his answering machine and I had enough of a grip of myself not to leave a message.

I would have tried ringing him a lot more. I had compulsions to do so for most of my waking hours. But Dad had recently got a very large phone bill (something to do with Helen) and had mounted a twenty-four-hour guard round the phone. So any time I dialled a number, Dad tensed no matter where he was, even if he was four miles away playing golf, and cocked his ear intently. If I dialled more than seven digits, I would barely be started on the eighth when he would come barrelling into the hall to shout ‘Get off the fecking phone!’ Which ruined my chances of talking to Luke but was worth its weight in gold in the nostalgia stakes. My teenage years came rushing back to me. All I needed was for him to say ‘Not a minute past eleven, Rachel. Now, I mean it this time. If you keep me waiting in that car like the last time you’re never going out again’ for me to be fourteen all over again. Although why would I want to be that? You try being fourteen and five foot seven, with size eight feet.

Relations were even more strained with my mother. My first day at home, as I undressed for a post-flight snooze, I caught her staring at me as if I’d just grown another head.

‘Lord preserve us.’ Her voice was shaking. ‘Where did you get all those terrible bruises?’

I looked down and thought I was seeing someone else’s body. My stomach and arms and ribs were a mess of dark purple blotches.

‘Oh,’ I said in a little voice. ‘I suppose that must have been from having my stomach pumped.’

‘God above.’ She tried to take me in her arms. ‘No one said… I just thought they… I didn’t realize it was so violent.’

I pushed her away. ‘Well, now you do.’

‘I feel sick,’ she said.

She wasn’t the only one.

When I got dressed or undressed after that I avoided looking in the mirror. Luckily it was February and it was freezing, so, even in bed, I could wear long-sleeved, high-necked things.

During those two days, I had one horrible dream after another.

I had my old favourite, the There’s-someone-scary-in-my-room-and-I-can’t-wake-up dream. Where I dreamt – surprise, surprise – that there was someone in my room, someone menacing, who meant to harm me. And when I tried to wake up to protect myself, I found I couldn’t. The force got closer and closer until they were leaning over me and, even though I felt panicky terror, I still couldn’t wake up. I was paralysed. I tried and tried to break through to the surface, but I suffocated under the blanket of sleep.

I also had the I’m-dying dream. That one was horrible because I could actually feel my life force spiral out of me, like a tornado in reverse, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I knew I’d be saved if I woke up, but I couldn’t.

I dreamt that I fell off cliffs, that I was in a car crash, that a tree fell on top of me. I felt the impact every single time and jerked awake sweating and shaking, never knowing where I was or whether it was day or night.

Helen left me alone until the second night I was back. I was in bed, afraid to get up, and she arrived into the room, eating a Cornetto. She had an air of loose-endness about her that spelt trouble.

‘Hello,’ she said.

‘I thought you were going for a drink with Margaret and Paul,’ I said warily.

‘I was. I’m not now.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because stingy bastard Paul says he’s not buying me any more drinks,’ she said viciously. ‘And where am I going to get money for drinks? I’m unemployed, you know.

‘That Paul wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss,’ she said, as she sat down on my bed.

‘But didn’t they take you last night and get you totally locked?’ I asked in surprise. ‘Margaret said you were drinking double Southern Comforts all night and you didn’t buy a single drink.’

‘I’m unemployed!’ she roared. ‘I’m poor! What do you expect me to do?’

‘OK, OK,’I said mildly. I wasn’t up to a row. Anyway, I agreed with her. Paul was as tight as a nun’s gee. Even Mum once said that Paul would eat his dinner in a drawer and peel an orange in his pocket. And that he wouldn’t piss on the road in case the little birds warmed their feet. Even though she was drunk when she said it – she’d had a quarter pint of Harp and lime – she meant it.

‘God, imagine!’ Helen smiled at me, as she settled herself on the bed and looked as if she’d be there for some time. ‘My own sister, a mentaller, in a loony bin.’

‘It’s not a loony bin,’ I protested weakly. ‘It’s a treatment centre.’

‘A treatment centre!’ She scoffed. ‘That’s nothing but a loony bin by another name. You’re fooling no one.’

‘You’ve got it all wrong,’ I tried.

‘People will cross the road when they see you coming,’ she said gleefully. ‘They’ll say “That’s the Walsh girl, the one that went mad and had to be locked up,” so they will.’

‘Shut up.’

‘And the people will be confused because of Anna and they’ll say “Which Walsh girl? I believe there’s a couple of them that are gone in the head and…”’

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