Every day Alice made the dinner for Terry and their six kids. It was always the same thing, some variation on sausages, boiled potatoes, and baked beans.
Alice was sick of it and had been sick of it for quite a while. The hopelessness of it all; not any particular thing, just everything. She didn’t know what life she wanted; she didn’t blame Terry; she just didn’t want this life.
A letter fell through the front door when the kids were in school. It was neither a bill nor an advertisement for the life they couldn’t afford; this was an actual letter. A crisp grey envelope, addressed to her, from a solicitor’s office in Palmerstown. It stated that her share of the residue of her aunt’s will was £2,456.51 and asked whether she be so kind as to drop into their offices to sign for the cheque. That would be enough to start a new life, she thought. A boat ticket, a rented room, until she could find work. She didn’t know what kind of work she would like; she just knew that she was done with this kind of life, this kind of work.
She squeezed around the door of the living room where the children, ages nine to seventeen, were sprawled watching after-school TV.
“I’m leaving, I’m just not happy, goodbye,” she said.
They either ignored her or looked at her curiously.
“You’re blocking the TV Ma,” the fourteen-year-old whined. She backed out the door, picked up her suitcase and closed the front door behind her. She walked down the street to the bus stop and waited, turning coins - totalling fifty-six pence - in her fist. This was the money she would begrudgingly pay for the two buses to the solicitor’s office. The bus was late; then it was very late; then an impudent boy on a BMX bike pulled up before her with a screech.
“Hey missus, there’s no buses today, there’s a strike,” he said, unexpectedly helpful and polite.
Her only option now was to call a taxi. She had never been in a taxi in her life, would they even come into the estate? Plus, the only place she could call them from was her house, the taxi would pull up in front of the neighbours. She picked up her suitcase and walked home. She pushed the door of the living room open again, sprawling teenage limbs shifted to facilitate her squeezing inside.
“I’m back,” she said. Again, the children ignored her or looked at her curiously.
“Have none of yiz anything to say,” she said, tearing at her invisibility.
“Hey Ma,” the eleven-year-old said. “What’s for dinner?”
You little gut, she thought. She took a deep breath, to gird herself for the resumption of her life.
“Sausages, boiled potatoes and beans.”
© Ciaran Buckley