Note: The idea for this came from a tweet by Sonia Palermo (@Sonia_Polermo). She wondered why there wasn’t a story of strangers meeting and falling in love in New York and she suggested some angles. With her blessing, I wrote this variation on that theme. Sonia, who lives in Brighton, gave me some details about her town.
The story, though, is mine as are all the errors.
“You’re not from these parts, are you?” Seeing as the woman who said it had a Dublin accent that sounded like she just got off the boat, it was a little offensive. My dad did not think so. He laughed, “No, dear, we’re from England,” and my mom added, “from Brighton. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.”
“Of course I have.”
“And where are you from, love?”
“From northwest Dublin.” She lowered her voice. “Don’t let anyone know I’ve spoken to some English folk. The boys might not let me back,” and she burst into laughter, echoed by my parents. She asked what she could get us to drink.
We sat at a round table at a pseudo-Irish pub just off Avenue of the Americas—which I would later learn is a name no one but tourists give to Sixth Avenue—not far from Radio City in Manhattan. It was big and noisy with a long bar and dark wood wainscoting. Above that was a green, almost a dark green, wallpaper and various Irishy prints here and there. Our waitress wore, as did the others, black trousers and white shirts with long white aprons and comfortable black sneakers.
It was noisy, but the bustle was a comfort after our trip. We arrived a few hours earlier from Heathrow and our first order of business was seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. That done, we needed food and drink so we were at the pub where the Dubliner was taking our orders.
I was a little peeved at her attitude, an act to enhance her tips. When she got to me I said water was fine. As she started to leave, my dad called to her. “Dear, could I get a Guinness? I’ve never had one.” She nodded, smiled, and walked away writing it in her little pad.
Why was I sitting with my parents in a New York bar a few days before Christmas? Because my girlfriend of two-plus years had told me in October that she “found someone else.”\
Just like that.
“I’m sorry, honey, but there’s someone else who I prefer to be with.” That was that. Gone. My parents were going to New York for Christmas for their twenty-fifth anniversary and given that I had time off then and I had never been to the States, I, their only child, decided to join them. I was able to get a not-crazy-expensive seat and would stay in their room in Manhattan.
Which is why I was grazing the menu of the “pub” deciding what to have for lunch.
When the waitress returned with our drinks, she took our food orders. That’s when I noticed her. She was of average height with very dark hair that was parted in the middle and hung straight down except for the portion that was done in some type of knot behind her head. Her lips were a little small with a pleasing natural smirk and seemed to smile easily. Her nose was a little narrow. But it all paled in contrast with her eyes. Her eyebrows were long and framed round, almond eyes. An almond color that seemed to float around her pupils. I saw them for just a moment as she looked to take my dad’s order but the impression was immediate and irreversible.
When she turned to take my order—shepherd’s pie as I recall—I could not bear to look directly at those eyes, instead staring at my menu as I spoke. She was quickly away with the orders and menus.
I did not realize it at first, but my mum was staring at me.
“Jamie. Are you okay?”
This brought me out of whatever dream or fantasy was coursing through me. I told her I was fine. “Just a little jet-lagged is all.” And she let it go.
I, though, spent lunch watching her, trying to be discrete. She was going about her business, talking up the tourists and being relaxed with the regulars in suits from nearby office buildings. I’ve no idea how I ate my shepherd’s pie or what I said but everyone’s plates were clear when a busboy took them away and she appeared with dessert menus. I ordered coffee, as did my parents, and they shared an apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
I noticed the coffee cup shake slightly as she put it in front of me. She was steady as a rock with my parents’. I couldn’t tell, but I saw the hint of a smile when I looked up at her. Though that may actually have been my jet lag thinking.
Then we were out on the sidewalk. My parents were bubbling about how much they enjoyed lunch, oblivious to how how quiet I had been. We headed back to the hotel for a nap. It was about 1:45 when we went through the lobby. We left our bags there and now checked in. As we waited for the elevator, I told them I might have left something in the restaurant. I was not specific as I hurried through the lobby and out the door.
When I got to the pub, the lunch crowd had thinned. It was achingly bright outside with the sun shooting up Avenue of the Americas, and it took me a moment to get my vision adjusted when I was through the door. Before I started scanning, I heard, “Did you forget something?” in a most-pleasant voice. I had not thought what I would say. Just that I had to hurry back and would play it by ear when I got there.
Which did me zero good standing in front of the waitress just then. “Um.” Yeah, Will Shakespeare has nothing on me. Idiot.
“Do you want me to show you the town?”
It was brilliant. She was talking. She was asking me to go out with her. It was like I had an empty goal and Beckham lofted the perfect pass and all I had to do was tap—and I sent it over the crossbar into the stands when I answered: “No, I just thought I left my hat.”
“You mean the one in your pocket there?” She pointed. Smiled. I was able to say, “Sure I’d like you to show me around. If it’s not too much trouble. I’m sure my parents would appreciate it.” It came out as a flood and too late I realized I included “my parents.” Git.
She smiled again. “Don’t they have a guide book of their own?”
Yes. Goal is confirmed. Goal is confirmed. She was off for a couple of hours at two-thirty, she said, if I wanted to stick around. I had to let my folks know what I was up to, so I told her I would be back then.
When I returned, we sat at a small table by the bar. We each had a coffee, mine with a little milk and sugar. She asked why I came back.
“I really don’t know. It seemed like it was something I was supposed to do.”
I told her about being dumped, and it was easy to tell her. “It’s why my parents took me to New York. ‘Maybe a change of scenery would get him out of his funk. You know?”
“At least you didn’t find out two weeks before the wedding.”
“Who’d kid about something like that? It’s one reason I came to New York. He’d been screwing my best friend, my maid-of-honor she was, for about two months. She felt guilty about it, you know, but they agreed that once he and I were married they were over. Until I found her knickers under his bed.”
“Yeah. Ouch. They still were damp from her…you know. I had always wondered why his libido seemed to have nosedived, but that was evidently only with me. I have a cousin in the Bronx. It’s an Irish enclave. I called her—my cousin, the maid-of-honor already knew, I can tell you—I called my cousin to tell her the wedding was off. She asked why. I told her why. She told me I could hide out with her if I cut his balls off or if I just wanted to get away. Jerry was his name. Sonia was hers. The skank, not my cousin, who’s Deidre. Deidre got me this job about six months ago. It’s almost like home. Except I don’t worry about running into Jerry or the Skank.”
I was curious, though I should not have said anything.
“What happened with them?”
“Them? Oh. Nothing. Neither trusted the other. I mean, it kind of made sense. He’ll survive. Thing is if someone refers to the ‘Skank’ in the neighborhood, everyone knows it’s her. I almost feel sorry for her. The Skank.”
She became animated as she spoke and I was afraid she would mistake me for Jerry and put a bread knife in my eye. She was passing one between her hands as she spoke and when she finished, she dropped it, saying, “sorry, let’s walk.”
She grabbed a coat from the back, called out that she would be back at 4:30, and we headed over and then up to Central Park. She glided easily through the pedestrian traffic as I fought to keep up. The Park was an oasis of calm, and I relaxed as soon as we crossed in. She asked me about myself, and I gave her the rough version. Born and raised in Brighton, only child of the parents she met, summers working near the Pier. I was smart, but not smart enough for Oxbridge, so I attend university way up in Newcastle. Quite different but a good change. I study electrical engineering and would be in my final term when I went home. Planned on staying up north after I graduated.
More, though, she wanted to know about my ex-girlfriend. “I mean, two years?”
So I told her. We met at university. Both in our second year. She came from Manchester. We were in the same apartment block and eventually we spent most of our time, almost all of our time, together. She had her own room, so I spent many nights with her. Doing stuff. Over the summer and holidays, we talked nearly every day, and I took the train up to Manchester a couple of times during the summer. I would stay a few days at her parents’ house. We went out to dinner and slept together. Her parents were okay with that. They liked me.
A couple of months after we started our final fall term, the past October, she told me she got back together with someone from home. “Got back together?” I asked since we had been exclusive for almost two years. She said she had been off-and-on with him over the holidays. That they went to school together. That he was “my first one.” And, well, he visited and asked her that weekend to marry him. Someone asked my girlfriend to marry him while she was still my girlfriend. And she said yes.
That was my pitiful story. By the time I was finished telling it, we were on a bench overlooking a skating rink.
“Do you skate?” she asked me. I told her, of course I did not skate. I’m from Brighton for Christ sake. “It’s fun.” And she got me to agree to skate with her at the rink the next day during her break. We could rent skates.
She glanced at her watch and realised she needed to hurry back. I hurried with her. When we reached the pub’s door, she told me she had a great time. Her accent, so stark to me when I heard her do her bit about speaking to the English, was now soft and melodic. She ran a hand up and down my lower arm, hesitated, and went in. I returned to the hotel, not quite sure what had just happened.
We were still on London time and although my folks took naps, by nine we were knackered. I had run out and gotten some sandwiches from a deli and we ate in our room, which was nice enough. It had one large and one small bed. It was on the twenty-fourth floor. I enjoyed watching the taxis weaving on the street below, stopping and starting in time with the traffic signals. After watching some American comedy shows, we turned in at about nine-thirty.
And I thought of the Dubliner whose name I had not gotten. It did not matter. Thinking of her eyes was enough.
Thursday, December 22
Kaitlin Murphy—I made sure to get that first thing—was not, in fact, a very good skater. I was infinitely worse. We rented skates and spent the bulk of our time leaning against the sidewall, holding on to one another. I fell on my arse four or five times, which she found hilarious until she ended up on hers. Kind souls helped us up each time. We warmed while we “skated,” but chilled quickly when we stopped.
After retrieving our shoes, we bought two hot chocolates from a concession near the rink, and sat leaning against one another on a bench overlooking it, trying to keep warm. She said she had to be back at work in half-an-hour and suddenly her hand caressed my thigh. I think she surprised herself by what her hand did and she started to pull it away. I surprised myself by reaching and holding it there and more by turning to her and placing a light kiss on her chocolate-covered lips. It was just a moment but it took my breath away. Suddenly her free hand had lifted from my thigh and was pulling my head to hers and my mouth to hers. Hers was wet and open and chocolatey when it reached mine, and I opened my lips to receive her and I was lost on her tongue, struggling to maintain my breath.
And she had to be back at work in half-an-hour and, anyway, I had a hotel room that I shared with my parents. I peeked and saw her eyes were closed as we kissed. She released her hand and my head moved back.
She apologised. Transcendent moments and she apologised. I ran my free hand, the one not holding the no-longer-hot chocolate, across her cheek and now her eyes were open and if ever a man truly fell into a woman’s eyes it was me on that Thursday afternoon before Christmas on a bench overlooking a skating rink at the southern end of Central Park. She stood. I think she was as reluctant as I was to have to go.
We were quiet as we headed south and out of the Park, our cups discarded and our gloved hands holding one another’s. When we turned onto her pub’s sidestreet, neither of us had spoken. She stopped and pushed me to the side, getting out of the way of the people walking by.
“I’ve never done that before. Really. It kind of happened. I take full responsi—”
“What? Full responsibility for stealing my soul.”
She backed up slightly. “Slow down. It was just a kiss.” And my heart broke. With the slightest wave and a “must go” she turned to get to work and left me standing on Fifty-Fourth Street like an idiot, watching her disappear into the crowd.
I did not know how long I stood there. I had one girlfriend of nearly two years. Kaitlin’s rejection cut far deeper. That made no sense. Things were going too fast. I was leaving New York in six days’ time. And Christmas was in three. It was best, I thought, to get this little thing with Kaitlin done. It was nothing to begin with, and I had a busy itinerary with my parents. By the time I resumed walking and was in the hotel lobby I was grateful that Kaitlin understood what I missed about the futility of whatever “it” was, if anything.
When I got to our room, I knocked before using my card to get in. My parents were out. They left a note. They were off to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral a few blocks away and then would have dinner at the pub where we ate the day before. Kaitlin’s pub. They would be there at 6:30 and I was free to join them. But I could not. I would have warned them away had I the chance. I thought to track them down at St. Pat’s, but it was 5:30 and what would I say if I found them? “We can’t go there because I’m in love with the waitress?” When I thought this, I stopped. Where did that come from?
It made things worse, that thought of mine. Love at first sight was bollocks. But what a sight those almond eyes were. No. While I could not stop my parents, I could not join them. I hoped that she would not notice them. What were the odds that they would sit at her table again?
I went downstairs and to the deli across from the hotel. I bought one of its hot meals and a couple of cans of beer. Back in the room, I settled in for the night. Intrigued by American TV. Checking my Twitter feed and scrolling the news. Whatever I was doing just washed over me as I ate my meal and drank my cold beer.
At about half-past-seven, the room’s phone rang. The background was loud, but I made out my mum. She wanted to know where I was and why I was not with them. I said I was tired from going skating.
I asked how she was calling. “Oh, Kaitlin lent us her phone. She was not our waitress but when she saw us she swapped. We told her you might be coming, and she seemed disappointed when you didn’t.” After I assured her that I was fine, she rang off, leaving me to think of what she said about Kailin Murphy.
When they got back from dinner, my dad asked if I knew where Woodlawn was. I said I had no idea.
“Well, can you look it up?”
I found it’s at the northern edge of the Bronx.
My father said, “We’re invited to Christmas dinner there. Kaitlin, a sweet sweet girl, felt bad that we were alone so she invited us up. There’ll be some friends there. She said it’s in a restaurant and everyone chips in. The place is technically closed.”
Her offer was too much. We would just go somewhere nearby as we planned. There must be places that catered to tourists like us on Christmas Day. It was a kind offer, but we could not accept and I knew I had to tell her so, however disappointed it would make my folks.
“She said to make sure you know that she’s working her regular shift tomorrow, starting at eleven, if you want to say hello.”
Friday, December 23
The pub was open when I arrived a bit before eleven. My parents knew something was up so they volunteered to go to the top of the Empire State Building on their own. When the bartender at the pub asked if she could help me, I said I was looking for Kaitlin and then I saw her. She smiled and waved, and headed my way.
“Mmm. What a surprise.” She was not a good liar. “About how I walked away yesterday. Sorry. I was harsh. Let’s sit,” and we again sat at a small table near the bar. I told her that the Christmas invitation was too much.
“Did you see where it is?” I told her I had.
“It looks far, but you just hop on the subway. You only have to change twice. Even on Christmas. The subway’s a great way to experience New York.”
I told her it was still too much for her to do.
“I don’t have time to argue. I have to actually work in about five minutes or I’ll be fired like Cratchit.”
“He wasn’t fired.”
“Yeah, that was only because the ‘good Scrooge’ was his boss at the end. You haven’t met my boss.
“So let’s cut the crap. It was too fast and it was too soon, but I enjoyed our kiss and our walking and even our hilarious Torvill and Dean routine. You’re going home in a few days, and I do not want to wonder what it would have been like to spend a little more time with you.
“I know you can’t understand. I have lots of friends here. You and your parents will meet some on Christmas. But I don’t have the magic I hoped I would find in New York. And it’s not because it’s New York. It’s because I haven’t met my magician here. And you may be my magician. I want to find out. You’re probably not—I mean, what are the odds?—but for the first time since I got here I want to find out. Does that make any sense?”
I was shaken by this. She was a beautiful Irishwoman and she wanted to know if I was her “magician.” Yesterday, I was an overeager tosser and now she’s letting me audition for the post of her magician.
“It sort of does. I did not come last night. I knew my parents were coming, they left a note, and that you were working. So I didn’t come. After how we left it. I guess I was afraid or confused. And then my mum borrowed your phone and told me about the waitress-switch. But it could have been you being nice to a couple of Brits. Then they told me about your Christmas offer. It’s too much. Really. Too much.”
“Seriously, ‘tisn’t. It’s a bunch of comrades who work in restaurants, in the kitchen and in the front of house, taking the opportunity of a closed restaurant to have a community Christmas. Three more won’t make a difference. We’ll put you to work anyway.”
I could see her boss was getting impatient.
“Look. Just tell me you’ll come. Get that done. My first shift ends again at three. Come back. I promise I won’t take you skating again.”
She was quickly heading into the kitchen with a sorry-boss look, and I headed to the hotel. When my folks were back, I reported to them, confirming that we were going to Woodlawn. Kaitlin gave me directions and said to allow for about an hour but not to worry if we’re a little late. It’s pretty informal.
My parents and I then took the subway down to Ground Zero, a haunting scene, perhaps more than any I’ve ever seen. We headed over to nearby Trinity Church, a beautiful old church festooned with wreaths and bows and ribbons at the top of Wall Street. We each has pizza slices and then hopped the subway back up to our hotel.
I was back at Kaitlin’s pub at about 2:30. By now, my face was recognized as I sat at the bar and was told that Kait would be out shortly. And shortly she was. I stood as she approached and she kissed me on the lips and, throwing a scarf around her neck, she said, “Let’s go. We have an hour and a half.” In a loud voice she called to the back, “We all know Englishmen don’t take a lot of time to finish so I won’t be late.” And with a laugh we were on the street.
She and I braved the crowds around the Rockefeller Center Tree, which again took my breath away, as it had that day that seemed a lifetime but was only forty-eight hours ago. We crossed Fifth Avenue. It was chilly, but not cold, with a biting wind picking up at times in the gaps between buildings. The sidewalks were packed. Kait led me across to St. Patrick’s.
It is a very non-gothic cathedral inside. The walls a white that brightened everything.
“It was built for the new Irish who came during the famine. Or started coming then. We still are.” She spoke quietly, her voice echoing slightly among the pews. She led me behind the main altar, to a smaller, intimate one.
“Can I have a second?” I nodded. She genuflected, knelt, and crossed herself in front of the small altar, as I moved to the side. It took only a minute for her prayer, and she crossed herself and genuflected before leading me out a side door onto a chilly sidewalk.
“Sorry. I like to do that whenever I’m there.”
Her mood was light as we headed back west. She led us to a Starbucks and after we got our coffee, we found a pair of seats that looked out onto 54th Street.
She glanced at her watch. We had about an hour.
Before we got there, we chatted and held gloved hands and she told me about the places we passed and generally what New York has been like for her.
That was prelude.
“What do you think?”
I admitted that I did not know what to think. I said that I’m a pretty organized person, majoring in engineering. That I hoped to find a job around Newcastle. I became fond of the place. I had some interviews near my university and expected to be able to find something interesting and decently paid.
But what did I think? I told her that part of me wanted to simply stay in New York and walk the streets with her every day. The heat of August. The snow of January. Walk like we were in one of those romcoms and that we would have the happy ending that only occurs in movies and romance novels.
“And real life ends with someone getting run over by a train.”
I nodded. “And real life ends with someone getting run over by a train. But I’m here only for a week, so we can pretend.”
“To live happily ever after.”
For a moment, I thought we actually could. I did not mean to highlight how brief things would be. It dampered our talk, and when we were back on the street we reverted to innocuous talk until we reached her pub, where I told her I was looking forward to seeing her and her friends on Christmas, with my parents.
She again checked her watch.
“I need to go in. Thank you.”
“I don’t know. Just thank you.” My arms were around her waist and her wrists around my neck. I bent down and she kissed me, our tongues meeting. With a peck on my cheek, she said, “Till Christmas” and as she opened the door I pointed out that I had been “a very good boy this year.”
She stopped and smiled. “Just ‘very good’?” and with her lilting laugh she went in.
Saturday: Christmas Eve
Kait was off on Christmas Eve, the Saturday, but had things that needed doing with her cousin. It was just as well. My parents and I were exhausted from our running around. The Park was not far, and I walked with them and we wandered on the paths, including one that passed the Wollman Rink, until a bit of cold drizzle was upon us. We were happy to be back in the room in the early afternoon, although I sat in the lobby with a book for an hour or so, nursing a beer.
When I got back, my dad said I missed Kaitlin’s call. He had given her our name and room number the night before. She was confirming our trip tomorrow. He said she said if we get lost to borrow someone’s mobile and dial her number, which she gave him. While I was gone, my mum wandered off to Saks on, yes, Fifth Avenue across from St. Patrick’s. She showed me a Hermès scarf for Kait. “We can’t show up empty-handed. Men,” and she looked at my dad, “are so clueless about these things,” and she closed the box and wrapped the gift.
The drizzle was gone and the three of us had dinner on Broadway, a few blocks from the hotel, followed by a walk through Times Square, which was an enjoyable crossroads chiefly of tourists left in New York for Christmas.
Sunday: Christmas 2016
We went to a morning service near the hotel. It was an interesting group, made up largely of foreigners in town for the holidays, mostly Brits. Shortly after we got back, we packed and headed for the subway. After following Kaitlin’s directions, we were in the Bronx and five or six blocks later we entered the mid-sized restaurant, done up in an imagined Irish-style, and were immediately set upon by Kait, who introduced us to her cousin and bunches of her friends.
A fair number of Irish, but some from Poland and the Czech Republic and even a few from the Bronx. A hodgepodge of accents. Drinks were being drunk while the cooks cooked. We mingled, and my father’s bounding laugh echoed through the room, though I mostly stayed near Kait. I was afraid that I was monopolizing her and her time, but she did not seem to be bothered as she led me among her friends.
The dinner was turkey with, as the Americans say, all the fixings. Mashed potatoes. Stuffing. Vegs. A fair amount of wine. No crackers and no silly hats. My parents and I were volunteered for waiter duty and then helped with some of the pot washing. By the time Kait walked us back to the subway, it was dark. She kept me company behind my parents, and we shared a sweet kiss before separating.
As we rattled south, with others heading from their Christmas events, and my parents sitting quietly, tired and holding hands, I thought about Kait and how I enjoyed being with her. It was, again, a foolish thought. But it was the one I had.
December 26: Boxing Day
Kait and my parents walked with me on Boxing Day. She was not working until dinner so was our guide for the morning and early afternoon. I knew we were imposing, but she seemed to be enjoying it. We got in some proper sight-seeing and my parents, of course, fell in love with her. (For the record, they never did like my ex.) But it was more a chance for me to spend time with her, walking with my arm through hers as we followed my parents around midtown Manhattan.
They left us alone when we returned to her pub. It was like the end of a date, me nervously trying to figure out what to do, whether to kiss her, but she decided it for me. Her hands reached up to the back of my head and she pulled my lips to hers. We leaned against the wall of the pub as my hands went to her back to hold her for as long as I could.
When a workmate passed and said hello, the moment passed and she turned to follow him in. As I stood, though, she hurried back to me.
“Look. You can say ‘no.’ Okay? But…but if you were to ask me to go to bed with you during my break tomorrow, I wouldn’t say ‘no.’” She gave me a peck on the lips and ran into the pub.
I stood like an idiot, again, but only briefly this time. I ran into the pub and into her. She was just inside the door, turned towards it, and waiting for my imminent arrival. A whimsical smirk on those lips. I told her I would meet her tomorrow at her break and I would take her to “my place.”
December 27: Boxing Day plus one
“Do you think this was a mistake?”
“Not for a moment.”
We lay in bed, the big one in the hotel room. It was December 27, our last full day in New York. She had to work, and my sainted parents had made themselves scarce until six o’clock. “Till six, okay?”
My only regret was that we were under the covers, denying me the chance to look again at her superb body. Though I had committed every inch to my memory.
Now we were at “my place.” We hurried there from the pub when she finished with lunch and were nervous as we rose in the elevator. I had prepared the room as best I could. It was tidier than it had been all week. I turned down the large bed before I left. Rather presumptuous, yes, but there was no time to waste. After our coats were off, I leaned in to kiss her. Only lightly at first. Much as I lacked experience, having been with only one woman in my life, I knew to take it more slowly than my hormones ached to go.
I unbuttoned her white work-shirt and kissed my way down her chest. She had a simple lace bra, worn, I expect, for the occasion. When her blouse was off, she turned to me, mimicking what I did. Unbutton. Kiss. Repeat. When that was off, she reached behind her back, and undid her bra, taking it off one and then the other shoulder. She held it over her tits until revealing them dramatically with a “ta da.” They were a perfect size. I do not know what that means in terms of measurement, but it was the only way to describe them. They were hers. They were on her chest. They were perfect.
I caressed the side of her left one with my right hand and then bent down. Her nipples were already hard and just before I reached the left one her hand gently pulled my head to it. I gave it a light kiss and a twirl of my tongue and elicited her first moan. She removed her hand from the back of my head, but only to grab my left hand, directing it to her right boob, which I gently rubbed.
Both of us were too aware of the time to dawdle, much as we dreamed of it. I was roughly pushed away and her hands rushed to my belt and after I helped her undo it I unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and after bending to untie my shoes and remove my socks and shoes I pulled my pants off.
She was doing the same to her own black pants and black trainers and suddenly we were bare except for my briefs and her knickers. I stepped back to take her in and watched her hands go to her waistband and she pulled them down quickly, this time making no pretense of covering herself. Her bush was dark and full and as I stared—for that was what I was doing—I could make out her outer pussy folds.
I was so lost in her that I forgot myself. My excitement was evident and my dick jumped up when my briefs were off, a bit of precum at the tip.
“Someone’s happy to see me.” She smiled. I would later learn that I was her third lover, as I told her she was my second, but she was seamless in what she did and had me do. She patted the bed and then got in, pulling the cover aside. I lay beside her, looking at her.
“Are you sure?”
I took her hand and moved it to my erection. “I’m sure” as I bent in to kiss her. I moved so I was above her as I did, out tongues exploring, our moans echoing. I pushed her onto her back and suddenly she said, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” It hit me. I jumped up and dug into the drawer where I hid a box of condoms. (She later told me she had some in case I forgot.) Somehow my shaking hands were able to open the package and get it on.
As I turned, she told me she needed to get “wetter.” I took my cue and entered the bed from its foot. She spread her legs and I saw her folds, inner and outer, and I saw they glistened slightly. My ex enjoyed oral, and on that at least I had experience. I hoped to display it with Kait. I bent down, my mouth inches away. Her hands were lightly on her thighs. I used my right hand to spread her nether lips and moved to run my tongue up and down them, lightly crossing her clit.
Her hips began to slowly rock in rhythm with my licks and I felt her hands caress the back of my head as I continued. Her moans had begun as, I’m sure, had mine. She pushed my head down slightly so I could try to enter her. I turned my tongue into a tube and slowly inserted it, but not far. She abruptly pushed my head away.
“Get him in me.” It was nearly a shout. I scampered up, my legs between hers. On my arms looking down at her perfection, I felt her hand grab me to guide me into her. Our eyes were together, as I slowly crept inside. Then her eyes were closed, but I could see them flutter as her head began moving ever so slightly from side to side, her tongue sometimes running across her upper lip.
When I was completely inside her, my hips touching hers, I waited, desperately holding myself in as deeply as I could, savoring the sensation, one I never quite experienced in all the times I was inside my ex. Kait’s hands moved to grip my ass. Her head movements were larger now and then her hands loosened their hold, a sign to fuck her.
Slowly at first, I found my own rhythm of moving in and almost-out of her. But soon we were both flailing at one another. Her eyes opened as she moved her hands up my back to pull my upper body down to her, our lips smashing together. Our heads were now motionless except for our tongues but our torsos were pounding into each other as I felt my orgasm rising.
“I’m coming,” I warned her.
Again she grabbed my ass. “In me. Come in me.”
As I started, the first throes of her own orgasm were upon her. I was shot after a series of eruptions but continued my pounding until she told me to stop. I pulled out and turned to lay next to her. Her arms extended over her head as she struggled to regain her breath. Sweat was sliding down both of us.
“Yes. It was.”
She jumped up to go to the loo and I followed suit when she was done, cleaning myself off and flushing the condom. She was under the covers when I returned. I joined her. On my back with my left arm around her as her head was on my chest. Which is when she asked if it was “a mistake.”
I just had a memory I would cherish forever. It could never be a mistake.
We lay together much like that for about fifteen minutes. In silence. Too aware of the time, I pushed her onto her back. Now I was on my side, and my right fingers ran across her folds. She spread her legs to give me access. It was not fucking or making love. It was me lightly running my fingers to arouse her. She looked at me as I did it, her chest heaving slightly.
“In me. Now.” I had not intended it as foreplay. I just loved the feel of her graceful reaction to my touch. But now she was an animal. I jumped up to put another condom on. I was about to mount her when she said, “Oh no, cowboy. On your back.”
As soon as I was, she straddled me, facing me and lowering her pussy onto my dick. “This is what the Americans call ‘cowgirl style.’” Then she was pounding me. She was drenched and I was hard and she rode me. God did she ride me. She kept those almond eyes on me, her hands on either side of my chest. Mine gripped her waist. Had my eyes been closed I might have been able to hold out for longer. But the sight of her taking me as she was, her hair flailing around, sweat on her forehead and streaming between her tits. When she began shaking, she shouted, “Come for me Brit boy.” And I did as she rode me to her second orgasm of the afternoon.
Like that, it was over. We both quietly dressed after she toweled herself and walked back to the pub. I held her tightly before she went in. We had an early flight the next day. And we would not see each other again. Her last words to me were, “I won’t forget you.” And she turned to go in. But she held the door a moment before coming back to me. “And I love you.”
Then with a final kiss she was through the door and gone.
At times I thought I imagined it all. It was too perfect. Fairytale of New York. Which was just that. A few pleasant days with an attractive stranger. Two hours of great sex. A last kiss goodbye.
Roll the credits.
It was real, though. Each of those 120 minutes we lay naked. Each bead of sweat. Each passionate moan. All too real. But all two years in the past.
I graduated with honors and found a very good position at a newish firm in Newcastle. The pay was good, and the people were great. I would go home to Brighton every few months, taking the train through London. A year after graduation, I spent a week traveling around Ireland. I had never been. A few nights in Dublin and then Galway and Cork. Ferry to Liverpool and back home. The change was good.
I planned on returning to New York in the spring. In the back of my mind, of course, was Kaitlin Murphy. I Googled her once. Came up empty. I tried Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. It was just as well. I did not doubt that she moved on from her brief encounter with a British tourist in New York.
In 2018, Christmas was on Tuesday. On the Saturday before, I took the train to London and switched from Euston to Victoria for the train home. I got in late that night. My dad picked me up at the station, and I went straight to bed. We lived in a white, detached house on Montefiore Road, just down the street from Hove Green. It was under a mile to the station, but my dad knew I would be knackered so he picked me up.
On Sunday, I attended services with my parents. They said they had some presents-buying to do, and I walked home alone. It was a nice day for December and it was a nice walk. When I got inside, Kaitlin sat on the sitting room couch.
Quietly. The lilt unmistakably hers. I did not, could not, move for several seconds, and then stepped in.
“It was that awful Pogue’s song, ‘Fairytale of New York.’ It was on the radio a few weeks back.”
She never liked it, though she was always told she was supposed to. She knew some of the Irish who came to New York had it tough but that some non-Irish who came later had it far worse. When she heard it she wanted to put a bullet through her head. More, she was an Irishwoman in New York over Christmas and it had become one of her fondest memories. No. Her happiest memory. Not the nightmare of the song.
I stared at her in wonder. As she spoke, as she ripped into the damn song her life started to emerge. Kaitlin Murphy began to emerge.
She said she thought about me off-and-on since she walked into the pub. But she fucked up. Literally fucked up. It began about six months later. Then she was pregnant. I would have graduated and started my career in Newcastle by then she knew. And, well, what would I want with a single mom living at home in Ireland who had not been particular about the men she slept with?
That song. She heard it. Her fairytale in New York. She kept our name from when my father gave it to her. She went online and tracked them down. About a week before she “just showed up in my sitting room,” she called my mum. Who told her that I was single, working in Newcastle, and Not Seeing Anyone. My mum promised her that they at least would love to see her and she suspected that so would I. Even after she told them about Maeve. My mum left a key under the mat.
“So here I am.”
She slept around. While I had not, it was not because I did not want to. Of course I did. But she set the bar pretty high. I knew her for only a few days when we spent two hours making love. I was a fool, perhaps, for thinking that it could happen again with someone else. But I kept hoping. I would be on a third or fourth date with someone from work or a friend-of-a-friend and she was attractive to me and arousing to me and I knew she would go to bed with me. But I could not.
To Kait, I needed to say something that haunted me for two years. “You told me you loved me, and then you just closed the door behind you and were gone. How much clearer could you have been?”
“You were leaving. Can’t you see that? You had your life and I had mine, a waitress, and they were thousands of miles apart.”
“So you thought it was okay to sleep around? To get pregnant?”
“It was never okay. Don’t you get it? I don’t know why I did it. I was lonely. And it was just fucking. Five or six guys and I was careless and horny and a little drunk a few times and I got knocked up. Okay?”
That was like a slap.
Before I could ask, she said, “I kept the baby. A little girl. She and I live with my parents in Dublin. It’s where I’ve been living for the last year-and-a-half, since I knew I was pregnant.” She paused. “Her name is Maeve, after my mom.”
I had gotten up during this, but I sat beside her. If New York was too fast, this was infinitely faster.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
She asked what exactly she was supposed to tell me. How fucked up she had become? She said her life did not change much after I left. She had the same job and the same friends and the same apartment in Woodlawn. But it suddenly was too lonely there and on her days off she started hanging out with guys she probably should not be hanging out with. Mostly guys from Ireland who worked in the trades and sometimes they had days off during the week when she was “feeling sorry for myself.” And they were young and fun and full of life. She went home with some. A few she did not bother going home with, and it was one of those that got her in trouble.
When she started to show, the men treated her like the plague. She was not sure who the father was—there were two candidates—but they both high-tailed it back to Ireland when word got around about her. She was not sure where either of them was, and did not know what she would do if she ran across either of them on O’Connell Street. No, she was on her own.
Her parents took it better than she expected. So did her one sister and one brother, both of whom lived a fair ways outside of Dublin. Her sister, Carmen, was a nurse and her brother, Michael, a carpenter. They were both married with families of their own, but they gave her support from the moment she landed.
She worked as a waitress in Dublin City until the baby—Maeve—came, and she resumed work four months later, her mom being able to mind the girl while Kait worked her crazy hours. With a kid, of course, no man wanted to have anything to do with her. While the attitude towards unwed mothers was not what it had been not long before, it was not so grand either, and the women she knew looked down on her and feared she would be seducing their men.
So she was nearly as lonely in Dublin as she was in New York. All she had was Maeve and her family.
It was a few weeks before she traveled to Brighton when she heard the song.
I’m afraid I let myself slip. I complained of denying myself because of her while she was “getting knocked up by some guy standing in an alley.”
I continued, “I gave up so much for you, and you didn’t care. You could have found me if you cared. You didn’t bother.”
My turning hit her. “You didn’t care to look for me either.”
“Because you said you freaking loved me and then just walked through the door to take dinner orders. I hated that you left me like that. Like some god damn fairytale in New York without a happy ending. Getting run over by a train. You ruined me. Don’t you get it? Ruined me… Ruined me for any woman but you.”
She looked down before standing, and reaching for her coat, mumbled, “I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry that you wish we had never met. Thank your parents for me.”
Before I could respond she was out the door, rushing towards the station. I was frozen. I said things I felt in some ways but should not have mentioned. Again she gave me the chance to do what I needed to do and I said horrible things she would never forgive me for and I did not deserve to be forgiven.
I went to the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of beer and sat on the sofa still warm from her butt. I did not open the bottle. I just peeled away its label as the room began to spin. After a half-hour, I figured she was back on the train. That’s when my parents came in.
“You what?” I explained to my parents what happened with Kait, and this was how my mum reacted: “She came to see the person she loves two days before Christmas and you love her as any fool can see and you sent her away?”
I explained how she did horrible things since I saw her in New York. That she was not the same person. She had a daughter. And, anyway, I did not know who she was even when we met.
My mum said Kait told her everything. She looked over at my dad. “He’s an idiot. He’s your son. You talk to him.”
My dad is not the most communicative of people. A get-along/go-along sort. A bit like me. When he started to talk, my mum jumped right back in.
“I’m going to see if she’s still at the station. You can do whatever you bloody well want,” and before my dad or I could react we heard the door slam behind her. I caught her down the street. She stopped.
“If there was ever something you had to do, it’s run as fast as you can to the station and just pray that she’s still there each step of the way. Now go.”
And I went. As fast as I could. I knew she would not be there. The London train would have left twenty minutes before. She was gone and I was a fool for letting her.
Sweating and gasping for breath, I ran into the station’s main hall, the early winter light shining through its roof. To the information board. Yes, the London train she would have caught was gone. And I just stood there. Looking up. As if that could bring the woman I loved back to Brighton. Back to me. The clock ticked on and people rushed past as I looked up. But the train that left was not coming back. I thought of where I was exactly two years before, sitting two days before Christmas with that woman overlooking a skating rink and licking the chocolate from her lips as she pulled my head to her.
Now she had a baby girl. She would be a beautiful baby girl because Kait was her mother. As perfect as her mother, but smaller. And she would open up presents in two days and smile and laugh and all of her mother’s dreams would be in the baby Maeve. None of those dreams would be in me. My fairytale in New York now my nightmare in Brighton.
I do not know for how long I stood there. I noticed the next train to London was leaving in fifteen minutes and hoped for a moment that she missed the earlier one and would be boarding it. I took its track number, determined to be there when she walked along the platform. If she did. I turned to go to that track and I saw my love sitting. Staring at me as she had been staring at me for I did not know how long.
“Why are Englishmen so damn obstinate?” She said it loudly enough in her Dublin accent so as to get the attention of half the hall.
Shocked, I was somehow able to get out, “I was blind, but now I see.” My response generated some applause from the amused crowd. I ran to her, encircling her with my arms.
She whispered, “I knew you’d come,” as she started shaking for the tears. “I knew you’d come.”
“Can you forgive me?”
“For what? I was the one who did all those awful things.”
She pushed away. Brushing a strand of hair that had fallen loose, she said, “And now I have to go.” I looked at her blankly.
She told me she had to catch the next London train. Maeve was with Kait’s aunt and uncle in their flat in Kensington. She told me this quickly as she needed to get there and then in the morning continue on to her place in Dublin for Christmas. She took my phone and called her mobile so we would have each other’s numbers.
Here was the woman of my dreams who I had not seen in two years and she was rushing to catch the train to London leaving in 10 minutes. I grabbed her wrist and started pulling her with me. To a ticket booth. “One for London. Standard.” I paid with my card as she insisted that I can’t go. That I have things to do here. What about my parents?
I ignored her. Ticket in hand, the two of us raced across the station to the train. On board, we could not find two seats together, but we pleaded with someone to switch so we could sit side-by-side.
I felt like Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” I had no clothes and I had no plans but I was on a train with my Kait. We spoke when the train began to move. I suddenly remembered how I left things at home so I quietly called my mum and told her, briefly, that I was on the train with Kait heading to London and that we were trying to figure out what we would do when we got there but that we might but I did not know if we could be going on to Dublin to spend Christmas with her and her family and that she said they were welcome to come too but it was probably too late to get a ticket but we would talk more when we got to her aunt and uncle in London.
That, I think, was exactly what I said and how quickly I said it before ringing off.
I looked at her. “This Englishman’s for staying.”
“You’re such a fucking Tory.”
At this, of course, I took offense. But a kiss ended the debate.
The ride was uneventful. She sat by the window, gripping my hand and gazing out at the passing countryside. I relished each clack of the train’s wheels. I was going to Dublin with her. I could buy clothes and things and could go straight to Newcastle from there. Or I could bring her back to Brighton at New Year’s and we could go to Newcastle. Together.
It was all a muddle, but it all involved me and her. And Maeve. I knew I would love her immediately as I loved her mother immediately.
After about half an hour, we chatted about nothing. She told me more of what happened after I left. She avoided speaking of what she did with other men, and we never spoke of that period again.
I will not try to describe Maeve Elizabeth Murphy. I’ve not the skill. She cried and she pooped and she laughed and she was perfect. When we reached Kait’s aunt’s and uncle’s flat, Kait ran to her baby and held her tightly. It was the first time she was away from her for so long since she was born. I was introduced to her aunt. Her uncle was out.
I do not think I ever held a baby, so I was nervous when Kait handed her to me. She—this would be Maeve now—gurgled as she looked at me, an expression of puzzlement as to just what creature I was.
“Follow me.” Kait was not having me get any illusions. She marched into the spare bedroom on which a small table had been set up. I was to change my first nappy. I made a mess of it, not helped by Maeve’s refusal despite all my pleas to stop moving her legs. Kait kindly refrained from laughing aloud until she jumped in to show me the final steps. I proudly lifted the baby. Maeve seemed happy enough at the job I did. Kait not so much, but she wrapped her arms around me from behind and the side of her head was against my upper back.
We were a family. I date all that’s happened since to that moment.
It was late by the time we arrived. Kait’s aunt had dinner waiting. We ate after Maeve was changed. She slept in a bassinet next to Kait. After we ate, we agreed that Kait should sleep in the bedroom with Maeve and I slept on a sofa. It was not a great sleep, knowing how close Kait was but needs must.
I was up very early on Christmas Eve. Her uncle had found a t-shirt and pajama bottoms for me, although they were about a size too large. The flat was not big, and I tried to keep as quiet as I could as I puttered around the kitchen to get cereal and milk. As I sat at the small table there, I heard a door open. Kait and Maeve. Maeve looked rested. Kait did not. She silently entered the kitchen, handed Maeve to me, and pulled out the makings of coffee for us. Then, still without a word, she poured herself some cereal and put milk on it and brought her bowl to the table, reaching for me to return Maeve to her when she sat. With her left arm wrapped around her daughter and looking into her bowl and not at me, she took a spoonful of Special K.
“This is what I look like in the morning. This is what I am going to look like every morning for the foreseeable future.” She took another spoonful. “Except sometimes I will look worse. Far, far worse.” Spoonful. “Maeve wakes me up three or four times a night.” Spoonful. I was transfixed. “She will be living with me for the next seventeen-and-a-half years.” Spoonful. She continued to stare into her bowl. “Every. Single. Day.” Spoonful, the spoon now scraping the bottom of the bowl.
The water for the coffee was boiling. I started to get it.
“You need to know all of that before you ask me to move to Newcastle with you.”
She got up with her bowl, Maeve still in her left arm, and placed the bowl and spoon in the sink. She lifted the kettle and poured it into the French press for the coffee, putting the top on and turning to me.
In her pajamas, holding Maeve in her pajamas, her hair disheveled, she looked at me.
“You need to know all of that before you do something foolish.”
She walked to me and handed me Maeve. She turned and pressed down on the coffee and poured two cups. She put milk and a little sugar in one. The other remained black. She returned to the table and put the non-black one in front of me. It was how I took it at the pub.
She put the other cup down and reached for Maeve, who was quiet and, I thought, wide-eyed throughout.
“For the record, I love you and have since we met.” She took a sip of the coffee and looked at me. “For the record.”
I, too, had been silent throughout this. The woman I loved proposed to me in a strangely wonderful way. I knew the answer, but not how to say it.
“It’s a small flat.”
“We’ll just have to keep close to one another.”
“I work all the time.”
“I’ll just have to have dinner for you when you get home.”
“It is in England.”
“And I’m Irish and I can live there whatever happens with Brexit. I looked it up.”
“You looked it up?”
“I looked it up.” She turned, holding Maeve to the side, and put her head inches from me and gave me a peck on the lips. “There’s a separate treaty. So you can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“What about your job?”
“I’m assuming there are restaurants in Newcastle.”
She pulled back. “Jesus, Jamie, I assume there are babies in Newcastle. Stop stalling. Do you want me to move in with you or don’t you?”
Another kiss. “Of course I do.”
“You’re not just saying that because you’re horny?”
“Of course I’m horny but that’s not why I’m saying that.”
Her lips now spread and her tongue entered my mouth. I was harder than I had been since that afternoon with her. She was killing me.
She pulled away. “Good.” Then she headed back to their room, her coffee in one hand, her daughter in the other arm.
* * *
It was Christmas Eve. Kait had booked a ticket from London to Dublin for late morning. I had not. It was to be Maeve’s first Christmas with her grandparents, Kait’s parents, but I could not go. Her aunt and uncle offered to let the three of us spend Christmas with them instead. We could continue to Dublin on Boxing Day, when we could get tickets. Her parents and my parents were disappointed, of course, but since we were headed to Dublin as to mine it did not make sense to go to Brighton just for the day.
Once that was settled, Kait and I went for a walk with Maeve in a baby sling. I was pleased to wear it and she seemed pleased to be in it, her hands dancing with each other as she murmured. We walked along the High Street to Kensington Gardens. The day was mild, if overcast, and many other couples and families were strolling. To all the world, we—Kait, Maeve, and I—were just another happy family getting ready for Christmas. We found a bench to sit on near the Palace. We were talking about nothing. Probably Royal gossip given where we were. But Kait’s voice was magical to me as I hoped I became the magician she did not realise she found in New York.
Growing up, I was tepid about Christmas. We did not have a large family of relatives, so it was a sedate holiday, the highlight usually a walk on the Pier in the early afternoon. We were not a religious family, though we attended Christmas services. As the three of us walked back on the High Street to her aunt’s and uncle’s, we came upon an opening in the line of stores, a gateway to a church, and Kait asked if we could go in. We followed her. Our Lady of Victories is a narrow church and not very large, nothing like St. Patrick’s in New York, but just as welcoming. She asked as she had at St. Pat’s if I would give her a moment. She genuflected and knelt, as she had in New York, and crossed herself and said a prayer, and re-crossed herself and genuflected as Maeve continued her gurgling in the baby sling.
“Thanks.” She asked if I would go to Christmas Mass with her, assuming we could get in. I had never been to a Catholic Mass and, frankly, I would go wherever she went.
So it was that we sat there for the Mass at nine the next morning, following Kait’s cues on standing and sitting and kneeling, though she had to whisper that I could not get Holy Communion since, she said, “You are, you know, a heathen.” I was left with Maeve when Kait received the Host. Maeve. I feared what little hair she had would be gone from all of the rubbings she endured, especially as we left the church.
Now, a year later, Christmas was at our place. It’s bigger than the small flat where I was when Kait and Maeve moved in. We found a two-bedroom in Corbridge, west of Newcastle proper. I take the train in and back each day and Kait tends to Maeve. For the time, we can afford for her not to work and, as promised, she has my dinner ready when I get home.
With Christmas on the Wednesday, it was a little tight for our parents. They flew in on the twenty-third—Kait’s from Dublin and mine from Brighton—and stayed the weekend. Because of space limitations, the four of them stayed at a hotel in the city. This did not, I’m afraid, prevent them from spoiling their granddaughter mercilessly whenever they had the chance to.
Maeve is my daughter. I officially adopted her on December 4. It was four months after the wedding. The wedding itself was at St. Andrew’s Church, the Catholic Church we walk to each Sunday where Kait attends Mass while I mind Maeve in a local park. She’s been pushing me to enlist (or whatever they call it), but for now it’s just for Easter and Christmas.
* * *
If there is anything for a man more pleasant than being awakened by light kisses on his neck from his wife as her hand gently rubs his dick through his pajamas, I would like to know what it could be.
When she saw she awakened me, she whispered, “Happy Christmas old man.” I held her hand, pulling it closer. She added, “Can I open my present now?”
I was quickly hard. I turned so I faced her. I grabbed her head and threw my tongue to hers, morning breath be damned. Neither of us cared. Now I had a raging hard-on and had to pee. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, trying, as I brushed my teeth, to will it to soften enough so I could pee. When I finished and returned, I closed the door and removed my pajama bottoms, left only in a t-shirt.
Kait had moved the covers aside. She was on her back in her nightgown but pulled it up so I saw there were no knickers. We decided about a month earlier that we wanted a second child. I was ready. She spread her legs so I could eat her. It was the foreplay I think we both most relished. I loved tasting her and feeling her respond to my tongue. Smelling her. She did not disappoint. She was getting wet and her hips were moving as she held my head into her.
“Now. From behind.”
I backed off as she turned. She pulled the nightie up so her ass and pussy were exposed. There was enough sunlight to show how she opened her body to me.
I got between her legs. She reached between hers to guide me into her and when I was there, I felt the moment of pure bliss I always did, always had, when we made love. Soon I was moving in and out of her, my right hand reaching around to rub her clit. I could tell that she, too, was lost in what we were doing. Being inside her was the peak of my existence.
She reached to remove my hand and slowly lowered herself to the bed. I moved my legs outside of hers as I lowered on top of her, now lying on her. I reached my hand around to her clit, it locked between her pussy and the bed and my middle finger running up and down her lips.
My stomach was on her lower back as the more intimate pounding continued, at a leisurely pace. Our bodies moving in sync with one another as I washed myself inside her in a slow rhythm. Very slowly I upped the pace. I heard my wife’s grunts, unable to articulate her thoughts, perhaps thinking, as I did, that the universe was that tiny spot where I was inside her.
Her ass began to increase its thrusting up to me and I increased the pace too till it was manic. Pure, sensual mating. I could hear her gasps. “Ug. Ug. Ug.” In time with my pushes and in time with my own gasps. She began to shake insofar as she could with my weight atop her. “Oh God, Oh God.” That triggered me and again in sync I began to shoot into her, three or four strings.
I was done while she was in her final throes. I lay on her for only seconds as I knew the weight would soon be too much for her. With her on her stomach, I lay next to her on my back, catching my breath as I looked at the ceiling, the room having become lighter since we started. Her left hand reached blindly to my face, and her fingers ran down it.
“Do you know how you make me feel?”
I took her hand and ran her fingers across my lips.
“If it’s half as good as you make me feel, Mrs. Eustace, you are indeed a fortunate woman.”
She took her hand back and rolled over. She pulled my hand and rubbed it on her tummy.
“Do you think we made a Christmas Baby, Mr. Eustace?”
“That would be something, wouldn’t it, Mrs. Eustace?”
“That would be something.”
She rolled back onto her stomach. I gave her a quick kiss on the back and a light slap on her left ass-cheek as I got up to clean up. I opened the door and there was no sign of life from Maeve’s room. I wondered whether her mom and I just altered her universe by what we did. I cleaned up in the bathroom. Before I left, I looked in the mirror. Wondering whether my whole universe had just changed.
When I got back to the room, Kait sat on the side of the bed, waiting for me.
“You do know I love you, don’t you?”
I stood beside her, pulling her head to my side and kissing her hair.
“I’ll never understand why, but I do. And I love you.”
She jumped up, kissed my nose, and headed for the door.
“You had better, seeing as all the evil things I let you do to my body,” and with that, she headed to the bathroom.
When I was dressed, I went to the kitchen. Kait was in her nightgown and Maeve was sitting at the small table, a bowl of cereal in front of her. I watched as her mother pushed down the press for the coffee. Thankful that she was right when she did it that Christmas Eve morning in Kensington. When she told me she would always look like this in the morning. Her hair was haphazardly put into a ponytail and strands were spritzing about. I wondered if she was thinking, as I was, whether at that instant our child was being formed in her womb. Whether there was, in fact, a Christmas Baby.
We did not have time to ponder this. They were waiting for me so Maeve could open her presents, excepting those from her grandparents. Those gifts would have to wait for their arrival. They were coming a bit after eight, in about half-an-hour. When they did, bounds of excitement and the seven of us bundled up—it had turned cold overnight—and we walked into Corbridge with Maeve between her grandpa (Kait’s father) and granddad (my dad). It was our first Christmas in the town and it had a Dickensian and, yes, “good Scrooge” vibe.
We were early enough to sit together for the nine o’clock Mass, a first Catholic Mass for my parents. Maeve was exhausted when we got home. After coffee and snacks, our parents, who got along well notwithstanding the gibes unavoidable when an Irish couple sits with an English one, agreed to mind Maeve so my wife and I could have some rare quiet time.
She and I walked into town, amid the holiday spirit. We did what we usually did when we were alone. And clothed. I was never happier than when in her company. It was nothing and it was everything. As Dickens might say. And I knew, as I knew the sun comes up every morning and goes down every evening, that it would be like this in all our Christmases, in all our days to come.
But that’s part of one layer of our lives. The fundamental layer on which all else is built. That Christmas Day we needed to return to the flat. To see which of our parents was more successful in bribing our daughter to win her affections. When we got in, it appeared to have been a draw. Our mums were in the kitchen after getting the bird into the oven and chopping vegetables. Our dads were drinking beers in the sitting room talking football.
Kait and I sat on the floor with Maeve, playing with her new doll. (For the record, it was a gift from my mum. Just saying.) From where we sat, we could watch the family. We sat quietly, Maeve contentedly between my legs and Kait with her head resting against my shoulder, watching the family.