Home > My Life in Shambles(16)

My Life in Shambles(16)
Author: Karina Halle

“Pfft,” Sandra says. “I’d ditch you both for a hot piece of Irish ass any day.”

“She’s right, you know,” Angie says. “I saw her looking around last night for any excuse to not come home.”

“I can’t believe you,” I say again, my hands pressed into my temples. “You really wouldn’t have cared?”

“Valerie, look,” Angie says. “We’re just happy we got to see you on this trip at all. You weren’t even supposed to come. We’ve had fun, more fun than we’ve had together in a long time, and if you didn’t go to Shambles or whatever with this guy, we’d have even more fun. But the whole reason for this trip isn’t just for us to bond. It’s for you to bond with yourself. To figure out what you want from life.”

“To say yes when you’d normally say no,” Sandra adds. “It’s January first and you’ve already failed bigtime.”

I close my eyes and try to calm my galloping heart.

So I wouldn’t have been a horrible sister if I’d said yes.

So I could have followed my heart and gone off with him.

So I could have thrown all caution to the wind once again to see where I’d end up.

“I have to think,” I tell them, pacing around the couch. “This is a big deal.”

“It is,” Angie says. “But I mean, you could at least talk to him more about it. Find out for how long. If you want to stay longer than a few days, you need to know that.”

“I don’t know. My ticket was cheap, I won’t be able to change flights or get refunded.”

Sandra points a bottle of soda at me. “So if you stay longer, which I think you should because what the fuck is back in New York for you anyway, I would make him pay for your flight back. After all, you’re doing him a favor. What are you getting out of it?”

“Hot sex?” I offer.

“Don’t you think that might complicate things for you though?” Angie says carefully. I glance at her. She knows me. Once I sleep with a guy I tend to fall hard and fast, kind of like I’m doing now. Maybe the continuation of hot sex is a bad thing.

“Don’t turn her off the sex, okay?” Sandra says to Angie. She looks back at me with raised brows. “But I’m serious. What are you getting out of it?”

I should have a lot of answers for that. A chance to be with a hot rugby star. A chance to see the hidden side of Ireland. Maybe a chance I can write a travel article about it for freelance. But I shrug and the truth comes out. “I get to avoid life for a little while and pretend to be someone else, to live a life that’s not mine.”

“Kind of like being an actress,” Sandra muses. “For no pay,” she adds.

“I have enough money saved,” I tell them. “I’ll be fine for the time being.”

“Then I really think you should do it. Tell him yes,” Angie says. “If you trust him, if you like him that much, if you think you can handle it, tell him yes.”

Yes, yes, yes.

The words start to pulse within me, multiplying and growing until I know it’s the right thing to do. My whole body is fueled by it.

Tell him yes.

But I have to shake my head, my heart sinking. “I don’t even have his phone number. We didn’t exchange them.”

“Yellow pages?” Angie suggests. “Though I guess the average person doesn’t list themselves anymore, let alone a celebrity.”

“You know where he lives though,” Sandra says. “You just came from there and you have a good sense of direction.”

“Kind of,” I say. “I know the neighborhood is called Ranelagh and I’d know the street if I saw it. But, I mean, we might be driving around for hours looking for it.”

“Well, I don’t know about you both,” Sandra says, getting to her feet. “But I’m hung over as fuck and we’re too bombed to do anything remotely fun today. So I think being in a taxi for hours while we hunt down your sexy future fiancé isn’t such a bad idea. Oooh! Does Ireland have McDonalds? Oooh, let’s get McDonalds!”

“Mom would literally cringe if she heard you say that,” Angie tells her.

“Fuck Mom!” Sandra says, giving the middle finger to no one. “Yes to burgers! Yes to Val saying yes. Yes to everything! Let’s fucking go!”

9

Padraig

After I dropped Valerie off at her hotel, I made sure I spent enough time thoroughly berating myself for suggesting anything to her.

I don’t know what the bloody fuck I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. The truth was, I’d woken up at five a.m. and couldn’t sleep. She was snoring her head off in a deep sleep and I didn’t want to wake her so I went downstairs to the living room, made a pot of coffee, and let my thoughts run loose in erratic patterns. I never should have tried to make sense of any of it.

The waning alcohol in my system and lack of sleep, coupled with the hot sex with a beautiful stranger, plus the news from my neurologist and news about my father created a massive black whirlpool inside me that wanted to consume me whole. There were no right answers. There is no right future. There is just too much to fucking handle right now and for some bloody reason I thought that Valerie would be the solution to at least some of it.

I thought that if I brought her to Shambles, my father could see that I was going to be okay. But that’s just the surface reason, the shallow reason. I’m not worried about my father’s peace of mind in that respect because I don’t think he really cares much about what happens to me. I don’t think he actually spends his nights worrying about me and wishing that I’d end up in a kind and loving relationship, get married, be a good father, continue the family name and legacy. I don’t think that’s the case at all, no matter how many times he or my nan try to spin it that way or bring up my mother’s wishes.

The bigger reason, the pettier reason, for bringing Valerie to Shambles and putting on a charade of happiness, is that I don’t want him to think that I failed in life. He may not worry about me, but he does judge me. He thinks I should have done more with my life, even though I’ve done more than he ever has.

Now, with everything hanging in the balance, with my future so uncertain, it struck me as the only thing that made any sense. Bring her to Shambles. Pretend that I’ve been hiding our relationship from the public and family until I was certain. Tell him we’re engaged to be married but with no rush to plan the wedding. Let him see that I’m worth something to someone. And, if it does give him peace of mind after all, let him know that I’m going to be okay after he’s gone.

The idea was ridiculous and I knew it was a mistake the moment it came out of my mouth. I’ve had countless one-night stands and hook-ups and I wouldn’t have had that thought with any of them.

But the redhead is different. I know I don’t know her in the conventional way, but I know all the parts that count. I know that when she looks at me she doesn’t see some unstoppable rugby star. She sees something else, and even though I don’t know what that is, I know she likes it.

And I see a woman who has been ravaged and spit out by life. Dealing with a disability at such a young age couldn’t have been easy, and every perceived weakness she has, I just see someone who has had to turn inwards when life got too hard. I see someone who seems to be running to life for once, instead of away from it.

I’m not sure what that says about me. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two.

But you can’t, you eejit, I tell myself as I pull a bottle of beer from my fridge to help with the hangover. She’s gone. You scared her off. She couldn’t run out of this place fast enough.

It’s just as well. She’s just passing through. She’s got her own problems to deal with. Selfish and foolish of me to think I could rope her into mine.

The thoughts rattle around in my head as I take my first sip of beer and then I’m pondering if I can just keep drinking all day long so I don’t have to face anything, when there’s a knock at my door.

It’s not unusual to have neighbors drop by. I don’t really know any of them personally, but a lot of families ask for favors, like could I give some words of rugby encouragement to their son or would I say hello to someone’s die-hard Leinster fan grandpa. I put the beer away and sigh, gathering whatever strength I have to put on my game face that I wear to deal with the public, and open the door.

To my surprise it’s not a family but Valerie, with her sisters flanked on either side of her.

“Hi,” she says with her big blue eyes. I know only a few hours have passed since I last saw her, but to see her back when I thought I’d never see her again, to see her fresh-faced on my steps, with the white snow framing her crimson hair and her crimson hair framing her pale face, it’s like an angel has landed on my stoop by mistake.

“Hi.” I eye her sisters. They don’t seem like they’re here for sinister purposes, but you never know with girls. Though I was more or less an only child, our neighbors growing up had five girls and they made it their mission to torture me.

“Hi,” the actress one says, sticking out her hand. “We never officially met. My name is Sandra.”

“Hi Sandra,” I tell her, giving her hand a firm squeeze, impressed at the strength of her handshake. Very professional. “Nice to meet you. What can I, uh, do for you all?”

“Your accent is amazing,” Sandra says, gushing. “So maybe just keep talking.”

Valerie clears her throat and steps forward. “I didn’t have your phone number and I wanted to talk to you, so I had a taxi drive us around until I recognized your place.”

I raise my brows. That’s the last thing I thought she would have done.

“It didn’t take too long,” Sandra says. “The driver knew where you lived anyway.”

“Say what?” That’s concerning.

“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’m sure he’s cool. Can we come inside?”

   
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