Home > Angels (Walsh Family #3)(9)

Angels (Walsh Family #3)(9)
Marian Keyes

‘It’s actually nine years I’ve been married,’ I quietly told Dad’s newspaper. He meant well.

‘This has come as an awful shock to me,’ Mum reiterated.

‘I thought you’d be glad, seeing as you all hate Garv.’

‘I know, but–’ Abruptly Mum collected herself. ‘Stop that nonsense, we don’t all hate him.’

But they did – all apart from Claire, who’d got to know him when she had a teenage fling with his big brother (also confusingly known as Garv). She’d always thought my Garv was sweet, especially since he’d fixed her tapedeck for her. (You wouldn’t want to get her on the subject of the elder Garv, mind.) But despite Claire’s stamp of approval, my Garv had somehow – through no fault of his own – acquired a reputation for tight-fistedness and old-before-his-time fustiness with the rest of the family.

The stinginess allegation had raised its ugly head the first night I’d ever officially brought him out with my family. He’d been knocking around on the fringes for a good while before that, but I’d realized I was serious about him and that it was time he met my family properly. With a sense of occasion we repaired to Phelan’s, the local pub, and the salient fact is that Garv didn’t stand his round.

Not Standing Your Round is a mortal sin in my family, and there’s always great competition to out-give and out-convivialize all the others. Hand-to-hand combat almost breaks out as people try to be the first to get to the bar.

On the night in question, Garv was more than willing to buy drinks for my family, but he was nervous and way too mild-mannered to stand up to them. As soon as anyone’s drink had passed the halfway mark, he’d leap to his feet, fumbling for his money, asking, ‘Same again?’ But each time he did so the table erupted like a dealing-room floor, with everyone yelling at him to sit down and put his money away, that he was insulting us. Even I joined in, getting carried away in the heat of the moment. Beaten back by a hail of words, Garv reluctantly lowered himself back on to his bar stool.

The net result of the evening was that Dad bought a round, Rachel bought a round, I bought a round, Anna bought a round, then Dad bought another round. And Garv gained a reputation as a tight-arse.

Hot on the heels of that miscarriage of justice came the polo-shirt incident. A story that begins happily and ends tragically. One Saturday afternoon, Garv and I were traipsing around town, half-heartedly going in and out of clothes shops. Because Garv was still only a trainee and he’d just bought a car, money was tight, so we were on the lookout for bargains. Free things, preferably. When by pure chance we found a polo shirt in the bottom of a clearance bin. To our great surprise, it had none of the characteristics you normally associate with things found in clearance bins, like three sleeves, no neck-hole or indelible, bile-coloured stains. In fact, it was perfect – the right size, the right price and a pale, icy colour that made his eyes look blue when normally they look grey.

It was only when we got it home that we realized there was a small logo above the breast pocket. A tiny outline of a man swinging a golfclub which, somehow in the euphoria of discovering the garment only had two sleeves, we’d missed. Naturally enough, we were both dismayed, but concluded that it was so small it was barely visible. Besides, we were too skint for him not to wear it. So he wore it. And the next thing I hear is that Garv wears the same kind of jumpers as Dad. Then a rumour started up that he played golf, which was not only untrue but very, very unfair.

Garv is no fool and he was aware of my family’s antipathy. Well, it was hard to be unaware, when every time he appeared at the house, Helen would bellow, ‘For God’s sake, don’t let him in!’

While he never responded to their discourtesy with rudeness of his own, nor did he launch a charm offensive to try and win them over either. And he could have – he had a nice, easy manner most of the time. Instead, he became very protective of me around them, which they interpreted variously as stand-offishness or downright hostility. And responded with stand-offishness or downright hostility. All in all, it hasn’t been that easy, especially at Christmas times…

‘You’re just going through a bad patch,’ Mum tried valiantly.

Wretchedly, I shook my head. Did she think I hadn’t thought of that? Did she think that I hadn’t clung on to that, hoping with gritted teeth that that was all that was wrong?

‘Was he, ah…?’ My father was clearly trying to frame a delicate question. ‘Was he dipping his wick where he shouldn’t have been?’

‘No.’ Perhaps he had been, but that wasn’t the cause. It was a symptom of what was wrong.

‘Things haven’t been easy for you, for either of you.’ Mum was off again. ‘You’ve had a couple of–’

‘– setbacks,’ I said quickly, before she used another word.

‘Setbacks. Would you not have a holiday?’

‘We’ve had a holiday, remember? It was a disaster, it did more harm than good.’

‘What about going for counselling?’

‘Counselling? Garv?’ If I’d been capable of laughter, this would have been a good opportunity. ‘If he won’t talk to me, he’s hardly likely to talk to a total stranger.’

‘But you love each other,’ she said, with desperation.

‘But we’re making each other miserable.’

‘Love conquers all,’ Mum coaxed, like I was five.

‘No. It. Doesn’t,’ I spelt out, an edge of hysteria to my voice. ‘Do you think I’d do something as awful as leave him if it was that easy?’

That plunged her into sulky, that’s-no-way-to-talk-to-your-mother silence.

‘So you’re not going to tell us what’s going on?’ Helen concluded.

‘But you know everything that’s happened.’ OK, not quite everything, but Truffle Woman was not the cause, she was simply the final nail.

Scornfully, Helen flicked her eyes upwards. ‘This is like your driving test all over again.’

I might have known someone would bring that up. The bitterness still ran deep.

When I was twenty-one, I did a course of driving lessons, then sat my test and passed it. Only then did I tell any of my family, but instead of being delighted for me, they were hurt and confused. They felt left out, short-changed, deprived of a drama, and they couldn’t understand why I hadn’t involved them.

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