She worked in the hotel, every breakfast I saw her as she walked with a slightly clumpy style (the shoes perhaps? Sensible chunky shoes with slight heels, not some high pointy toe crushing affairs). As she strode efficiently round the restaurant delivering teas and coffees I couldn’t help notice the slight jiggle her breast gave with every step. Of course once I noticed I couldn’t help but try and slyly watch her as she walked past.
“Tea or Coffee sir?” she was standing beside my table, the same table I had chosen every morning, by the window, in the corner. Light, and isolated. Easy to read my book for a leisurely hour before the day’s travail began. I was here for 12 weeks (I expected that to become 18, somebody’s first rule ‘it always takes longer’).
“Tea or Coffee sir?”. I made an effort not to look at her bust but to make eye contact and order decaff coffee. At work I’m a creature of habit: get up, make a cup of tea in the room, shower, tea now cool enough to drink, then get dressed, downstairs for bowl of fruit, one slice of toast (or occasional croissant to spoil myself) with two glasses of fruit juice and a decaff coffee. Then off to work.
By the second week Mairead (I had managed to read her name tag, she probably thought I WAS staring at her bust since all name tags are always pinned over the left or right breast it seems) knew me and would bring the coffee without asking. On the Wednesday she asked if I was enjoying the book.
“Hmmm, not sure I’m enjoying it. The Rights of Man by –”
“Tom Paine, yes”
“You’ve read it?”
“No, but I’ve heard of it. Is it for work?”
“Good God no! Breakfast is my time, 8am to 6pm I work for ‘the man’; breakfast is the time to work up to it in peace and quiet”
“I’ll leave you in peace then”
“I didn’t mean that. It’s nice to talk to someone not on the project”
She went off to serve another customer; but from then on each morning before it got busy she and I exchanged a few words. Sometimes about the book – she bought a copy I noticed so she could comment knowledgably. That’s all it would have been, she was attractive, slim, not big, blowsy and busty; more boyish in shape. Small bust, slim hips, but she walked with that eye grabbing jiggle and, well, I was attracted to her; but I’m no ladies man. I wasn’t even thinking of that. Hell I didn’t even watch porn in the hotel room. One failed marriage, and a job that kept me away from home and well engrossed much of the time. Just another human making a half-arsed job of his life.
Week three, Thursday. I always went out for a couple of drinks with the team on Thursday. We would review the week (so it was a business meeting, time was chargeable that way) and then all knock off early the next day. On my way back alone to my hotel (two others always made a night of it, and another two stayed in another hotel, we all chose our hotels for the loyalty points we got see?) from Weatherspoons (no fancy pubs in this town, at least they do good beer), there she and a friend were standing against a wall talking to two men. At least that’s what I thought at first, when I got closer I realised one of the men was leaning in that false nonchalant way drunk men have; one arm against the wall, blocking the way back to the street from the corner they were at. The other man was just to the right of the pair and every time they tried to slide sideways past him he would lurch a bit and block the exit. They were stuck with two drunken louts who probably fancied they were smooth Don Juans but were really Don Zeros.
What to do? 1: walk past as if I hadn’t noticed, 2: go in aggressively “are these men bothering you my dear?” 3: try and calmly defuse the situation and extract them (assuming they wanted extracting, it was always possible they didn’t; what am I a body language expert? “No”, my ex-wife would say, “you aren’t”).
“Hello” I said over the back of the guy facing Mairead
“Oh, hello. Nice to see you” That was a cry for help, even I could detect that, I was committed now
“Are you heading back to the hotel? I could walk with you if you like”
The guy turned and leered at me “Piss off, we’re talking to these ladies”
He over-pronounced ‘ladies’ in the way drunken people think they are being meaningful.
“I think they want to leave mate”
“I said fuck off!” He started to turn his body round and clench a fist. We all saw this and Mairead said “Doesn’t matter, we’ll come along later”
Doesn’t want to get a guest hurt; nice of her. But I can hardly look at her the next day if I walk away. That was choice no 1 out of the way. What to do? I smiled at the man and started to turn away; he resumed his position facing Mairead. Here we go! I’m not big, I’m not strong, I’m not a king fu master. Nothing. So another choice, tap him nicely on the shoulder, push him out of the way and yell “run!”, or go in guns blazing. Sort of Pearl Harbour approach. Knock ‘em dead before they can retaliate.
I opted for option 3 again. If I hadn’t had a couple of drinks I suspect rationality would have made me pick option 1 or 2. 2 would probably have resulted in me getting flattened, them legging it before the police arrived and me surviving. Option 3 stood a good chance of resolving itself like Pearl Harbour and me being conspicuously and comprehensively turned into a long term hospital and dentistry patient. Stepping sideways slightly so I had him lined up against the wall without Mairead in the way I gave him a dead leg from behind and as he crumpled a bit and then started to recover I shoved his head, hard, straight into the wall. I heard his nose crack and I saw the blood start down his face as he crumpled. Now at least, probably briefly, I only had his friend to face. It was now I realised his friend was a good 5 inches taller than me, as he straightened up from his pronounced lean. For a brief moment I thought : “This is it, I’m going to die”
“Relax my friend.” He said “we don’t want no trouble”
He was more frightened than I was! But since I was almost literally shitting myself I stood frozen to the spot. He took that as aggression, picked up his friend and they made off.
“That was very brave, thank you” said Mairead “can we go to the hotel? Just in case they come back, we will be safe then”
“Yes” was all I could manage.
The other girl explained that what had started as a vague, disinterested conversation in a bar had resolved to them following the two girls out and then to what I saw. The men had been trying to persuade them to ‘come back to their place for some weed’. They weren’t keen to take ‘no’ for an answer. Convinced, in their drink addled brain, that the girls were playing hard to get. Men often think that, something to do with believing they are perfect and therefore any girl would love to say yes and just pretends to say no. Men are, I have to admit myself in this too sometimes, shits.
At the hotel I bought a round of drinks. Both girls looked like they needed one, and I needed a double whisky to stop shaking. Mairead’s friend definitely noticed my hand shaking.
“You were very brave” she said “Bravery isn’t knowing you can achieve something; it is starting something when you have no idea if you will succeed. You are brave” she leant forward and kissed me on the cheek “my knight in shining armour”
Then they were gone. I ordered a taxi for them and paid the driver before he left (well, working in a hotel they wouldn’t be paid much), getting a receipt of course. My company can afford it. The drinks I paid for myself, my company doesn’t approve of drinking according to their expenses policy. But they do approve of selling to dictators, poisoning rivers, avoiding tax. But alcohol for employees? That’s unethical. Sorry, I digress.
After that Mairead had a smile and a chat every morning. Week 5 the Irish folk group “Eirean’s Child” were performing and she said she loved them. I got two tickets at inflated prices; still no secret agenda, I just liked her and talking to her. Working on projects in God-awful towns all week, with people who think conversation begins and ends with a discussion on the relative merits of Linux and Windows or Java 1.6 against Java 1.7 (or even why Assembler is set to make a comeback!) means that human interaction with a real flesh and blood person rather than a robot is welcome. Luckily when I mentioned a friend had been going to go to the concert with his wife but couldn’t, which was a lie of course, she jumped at the chance. She insisted on paying me the ticket price (about a quarter what I paid on the internet, but so what? I can afford it).
At the concert we talked more, she was from Donegal, Glenties. I mentioned I’d done a degree in Belfast. She told me she was on paid internships after doing a “Tourism and Hospitality” degree in Galway. After two years if they liked you, you went onto the management stream in the hotel chain. I said I’d always wanted to go to Donegal again and she said if she was there when I was to look her up and gave me her parent’s number. She was going over in three weeks. That night I started looking for holiday cottages in Donegal. I guess I wasn’t looking for just a friend anymore.
“Hello, is that Mrs Devlin?”
“Yes it is, who is this please?”
“My name is Michael Diver, I’m a friend of Mairead’s”
“Oh, yes, Micheal O’Dwyer, weren’t you at school wit’ her? She’s home at the moment”
“No, Michael Diver. I was hoping to speak to her”
In the background I heard a voice asking who was on the fecking phone
“It’s a friend of Mairead’s, Micheal O’Dwyer, you remember him!”
“Hello? Hello? No. Michael Diver! Is Mairead in?”
“Oh, have you changed your name? How’s yur mammy? I heard she got ill”
This wasn’t going well “Is Mairead in by any chance?”
“No, she’s out. Shall I tell her you called? She’ll be back around 6. Say hello to your mammy for me”
Well. I wondered if Mairead would work that out. I rang at 6:30 and she had realised it couldn’t be Micheal O’Dwyer since firstly he always called himself Mickie, secondly he’d emigrated, and thirdly he wouldn’t dare ever come back to Glenties after he got Deidre pregnant (and her dad big in the armed republican movement, if you get my drift). So when I rang she was unsure who had called but was hopefully ¬pleasantly surprised to find it was me. Her mum is a little hard of hearing and had just gone off on the wrong thread. Her Dad hated the telephone and had only used it three times in his life. He was convinced people could hear you even when it wasn’t being used, and would whisper when he was near it!
Confusion sorted out, we arranged to meet for a drink. The bars in Glenties are fantastic! People turn up and start playing instruments or singing. I listened entranced and held a none-too-quiet conversation as the noise levels grew. Every now and then the ‘didley-dum, dee diddlye dee’ Irish music would stop and one or other of us would finish a conversation shouting in a suddenly much quieter room. Others did the same: “ ... THEN SHE SAID NOT ON MY BED YOU DON’T”; “ ... SO THE CHICKENS ARE ALL FUCKED SO THEY ARE”; “ ... BUGGER ME IF I KNOW THE WIFE’S MIDDLE NAME”. Nobody seemed to mind, or be interested. I often wondered about the rest of a conversation when you hear snippets like this. I walked her home and she invited me in for coffee! “Result!” I thought. Never count chickens when they are eggs.
Her mum and dad were in the lounge watching ‘I’m an ice-skating C-list celebrity get me out of a crate of spiders’ or something like it. I hate these stupid shows. When she said “do you want to come in for coffee” she meant “do you want to come in for coffee”; bugger!
“This is Michael. Michael, Mum and Dad”
“Hello, I’m so sorry, I got you totally confused!”
“No problem, nice to meet you” I turned to her Dad
“Gia Guich” he said. This was the Gaeltacht and he wasn’t going to let some English Loyalist Imperialist forget it!
“Gia s’Maire Guich” I replied, how had I remembered that? I could see he was impressed. I explained that the only other sentence I knew was more appropriate to Mrs Devlin “Ta tu go harlainn. Is that right?” Mrs Devlin smiled and went red.
“Close. How come you speak any Gaelic?”
I’d started to learn as an extra module at the university; but my facility with languages is even less than my facility with girls. I gave it up quite quickly. Some phrases stuck.
We went into the kitchen and Mairead made coffees for us all, took theirs in with some biscuits and came back to announce I’d made fans of both her parents. Even though I was English AND not a Catholic, I was welcome. When I left soon after I was on cloud 9 and drove home carefully, well over the limit.
We met again for coffee. I took Mairead and her mother shopping to Ardara. Over coffee they discussed getting the bus to Donegal town the next day. It would mean an early start. Something in the body language and slight lowering of voices made me not ask why they were going, but I simply said as it happened I was planning a trip to Donegal tomorrow, would they like a lift? Apparently Mr Devlin needed the car for work. Later when we were in a quieter bar (until the musicians arrived) Mairead explained that her mother had an appointment at the hospital; I did wonder why her father cared so little but later I began to realise he avoided much of modern life by simply looking the other way.
I dropped them at the hospital, and they were to ring me when they wanted to meet up again. At 2pm I got a call and followed the detailed directions to a little café I would never have found. The wheaten bread with the soup was great, the meat and potato pie was lovely and the carrot cake they insisted I try was definitely the best I’d ever had. Everybody was happy.
When Mrs Devlin went to the Ladies, Mairead explained she’d had a lump on her breast, but a biopsy had confirmed it was non-malignant. Mr. Devlin didn’t get involved in “women’s problems”. Ah yes, I was in Ireland and back in time a couple of decades.
In gratitude Mrs Devlin asked me to dinner the following evening.
“I’d love to, but can I bring dessert?”
“Do you cook?”
“I do, and I love making cakes”
She turned to Mairead “this one’s a keeper girl! I bet he does the washing up as well, sure”
Mairead coloured up so much even her earlobes were red. I pretended I hadn’t heard.
That evening, in a different bar outside the town she broached the subject “Sorry about mum, she’d marry me to anyone, she doesn’t really believe in girls having careers”
“Thanks for that vote of confidence” I smiled “I’m not really looking for anyone” I explained my past for the first time, my failed marriage, my job was my new marriage.
“Same here, I want to make a success of this. I want to get experience and then perhaps run a hotel somewhere in the West here, I’m sure the potential is huge”
“I’m sure you’re right, but isn’t there the danger of tourism spoiling the special character of the place?”
“Perhaps, but it will happen with or without my help. I’d like to come back to work here and tourism is about all we have”
“Seaweed, you have lots of seaweed”
“Ah, yes, we could corner the market. Become the seaweed barons of the world, holding everyone to ransom as we ratchet up the price!”
“Maybe stick to tourism, power would obviously go to your head” This was good, we were laughing together, endorphins are released and – I told my logical brain to have a couple more drinks and shut up!
I spent the next day buying ingredients and cooking three cakes. I wanted to be sure one of them worked well enough to take. Actually they all looked good (although I say so myself), I opted to take the coffee and walnut cake.
“Mrs Devlin, dinner was lovely, thank you so much”
“Michael, if I could make cakes that well I wouldn’t waste my talent”
“Mum! Michael is good at what he does for a living too, I’m sure”
I wasn’t so sure. Anybody can be a consultant, it’s 90% bullshit, 5% appearance and 5% useful work. When I offered to help wash up, her Dad gave a hurrumph. I think cooking a cake had lowered me in his estimation (though he had three slices!), washing up made me even less of a man. But I could tell it was her mother I needed on my side, her father would go along with anything.
I drove back to my isolated cottage; somehow I knew I had to move things on but I hadn’t even tried to kiss Mairead goodnight! I was such a wuss. In the cottage, not overlooked by anybody I stripped off to take a shower, remembered I’d left my book (something light for the holidays – The Long War, brilliant) downstairs and went down. Looking out of the back the moon was shining on the sea in a silver line to the shore and I went out to the back lawn for a last look before bed. When I came back in a woman was standing in the lounge.
“Arrgghh!” I screamed like a girl
“Arrghh!” a girl screamed back as an echo. She’d knocked but I’d been outside and hadn’t heard, trying the handle she found it unlocked (of course, who locks their doors in rural Donegal?) and had walked in calling softly. Suddenly a naked man confronted her and screamed.
At the same time we both realised I was stark naked. I grabbed a cushion to cover myself.
“What are you doing here?” I was about to ask if I’d forgotten something when she replied
“Why do you think I’m here” and walked up to me and kissed me direct on the lips. The long, hard, tongue-wrestling kiss had the obvious effect on my naked lower body and I tried to re-adjust the cushion. She pulled it away and took me in her hand.
“I’ve been a good girl so long. I’ve only slept with one boy, when I was 15. I even confessed it the following Sunday and couldn’t tell my Mum why I had such a big penance. She guessed I’m sure”
“Not since you were 15?”
“So be gentle with me.” Pause. “I sound like a Mills and Boon character”
I had her blouse undone by now. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass.
I tried to slow down, so savour each moment of unwrapping this lovely treat. I couldn’t help thinking of her like an exotic cake, carefully wrapped and boxed for protection. Her bra was as functional and unerotic as it could be. As she said, at home she was a good Irish girl and breasts were for hiding, not displaying or advertising. As far as her mother was concerned she’d never owned a balconette or a padded bra, nor a lacey one. Anyway, she just stopped wearing them at home, to keep Mommy happy with the laundry, she wore the structured all-encompassing, all–hiding, passion protectors. It came undone just as easily though. Her nipples were erect and hard, I had to lick them, suck them, nibble them, stroke them.