Home > Angels (Walsh Family #3)(3)

Angels (Walsh Family #3)(3)
Marian Keyes

I hadn’t eaten much all day. At lunch-time, instead of stopping work, I’d foraged in my desk drawer for a half-eaten Mars bar that I’d vaguely remembered abandoning some days earlier. To my delight, I found it. I dashed off the paper clips and the worst of the fluff and, I must say, it was delicious.

So as I drove home I was hungry, and I knew there would be shag-all in the house. Food was a big problem for Garv and me. We subsisted, like most people we knew, on microwaved stuff, takeaways and meals out. Now and again – at least, before things had gone weird on us – when we’d cleared our backlog of ordinary worries, we’d spend a bit of time worrying that we weren’t getting enough vitamins. So we’d vow to embrace a new, healthier way and buy a jar of multivitamins, which we’d take for a day or so, then forget about. Or else we’d go on a mad splurge in the supermarket, pulling our arms out of their scurvied sockets lugging home heads of broccoli, suspiciously orange carrots and enough apples to feed a family of eight for a week.

‘Our health is our wealth,’ we’d say, pleased as punch, because it seemed that buying raw foodstuffs was an effective thing to do in itself. It was only when it became clear that the food had to be eaten that the trouble would begin.

Immediately events would set about conspiring to thwart our cooking plans: we’d have to work late or go out for someone’s birthday. The ensuing week was usually spent in edgy awareness of all the fresh fruit and vegetables clamouring for our attention. We could hardly bear to go into the kitchen. Visions of cauliflowers and grapes constantly hovered on the corner of our consciousness, so that we were never truly at peace. Slowly, day by day, as the food went off, we’d furtively throw it out, never acknowledging to each other what we were doing. And only when the final kiwi fruit had been bounced off the inside of the bin did the black shadow lift and we could relax again.

Give me a frozen pizza any time, far less stressful.

Which is precisely what I bought for that evening’s meal. I mounted the pavement, ran into the Spar and flung a couple of pizzas and some breakfast cereals into a basket. And then Fate intervened.

I can go without chocolate for weeks at a time. OK, days. But once I have a bit I want more, and the fluff-covered, lunch-time Mars bar had roused the hungry beast. So when I saw the boxes of handmade truffles in a chilled compartment I decided in a mad splurge of go-on-you-divil justification to buy myself one.

Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t? Did something as benign as a box of chocolates alter the entire course of my life?

Garv was already home and we greeted each other a little warily. We hadn’t expected that this evening would be just the two of us; we’d been kind of depending on Liam and Elaine to dilute the funny atmosphere between us.

‘You just missed Donna,’ he said. ‘She’ll call you at work tomorrow.’

‘So what’s the latest?’ Donna had a messy, high-concept love life and, as one of her best friends, it was my duty to provide advice. But she often consulted Garv to get what she called ‘the male perspective’, and he’d been so helpful that she’d rechristened him Doctor Love.

‘Robbie wants her to stop shaving under her arms. Says he thinks it’s sexy, but she’s afraid she’ll look like a gorilla.’

‘So what did you advise?’

‘That there’s nothing wrong with women having hair –’

‘Right on, sister.’

‘– but that if she really doesn’t want it, she should say that she’ll stop shaving under her arms if he’ll start wearing girls’ knickers. Sauce for the goose and all that.’

‘You’re a genius, you really are.’

‘Thanks.’

Garv pulled off his tie, flung it over the back of a chair, then raked his fingers through his hair, shaking away the vestiges of his work persona. For the office his hair was Ivy League neat: shorn close at the neck and sleeked back off his face, but off-duty, it flopped down over his forehead.

There are some men who are so good-looking that meeting them is like being hit on the head with a mallet. Garv, however, isn’t one of them; he’s more the sort of man you could see day-in, day-out for twenty years, then just wake up one morning and think, ‘God, he’s nice, how come I never noticed him before now?’

His most obvious attraction was his height. But I was tall, too, so I’d never gone around saying, ‘Ooh, look at how he towers over me!’ All the same, I was able to wear heels with him, which I appreciated – my sister Claire had been married to a man who was the same height as her, so she’d had to wear flats in order that he wouldn’t feel inadequate. And she really loves shoes. But then he had an affair and left her, so everything works out for the best in the end, I suppose.

‘How was work?’ Garv asked.

‘Mostly awful. How was yours?’

‘Bad for most of the day. I had a nice ten minutes between four-fifteen and four-twenty-five when I stood on the fire escape and pretended I still smoked.’

Garv works as an actuary, which makes him a cheap target for accusations of being boring – and on first meeting him you might confuse his quietness with dullness. But in my opinion it’s a mistake to equate number-crunching with being boring; one of the most boring men I ever met was this gobshite novelist boyfriend of Donna’s called John – you couldn’t get more creative. We went out for dinner one night and he BORED us into the ground, loudly monologuing about other writers and what overpaid, meretricious bastards they were. Then he began questioning me about how I’d felt about something or other;

probing and delving with the intimacy of a gynaecologist. ‘How did you feel? Sad? Can you be more specific? Heartbroken? Now we’re getting someplace.’Then he hurried to the gents’ and I just knew that he was writing everything I’d said into a notebook, to use in his novel.

‘You’re not to be jealous about Liam’s flatscreen telly,’ I said to Garv, happy to pretend that his subdued mood was down to his mate having more consumer durables than him. ‘Didn’t it attack him? It might have to be put down.’

‘Ah,’ Garv shrugged the way he always does when he’s bothered, ‘I’m not bothered.’ (Though happy to discuss Donna’s problems with her, you’ll note his reluctance to talk about his own feelings, even when they’re only about a telly.) ‘But do you know how much it cost?’ he blurted.

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