We sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor, slugging cheap red wine. Our combined CD collections lie in a heap between us.
“How’re you set for tomorrow’s classes?” Kate asks, ever smiling, ever upbeat.
I frown. “I think my lesson plans are okay, but I hope my supervisor doesn’t come ‘til next week.”
“Maybe that’s because you’re a bit of a perfectionist, Rachel?” she says, gently. “Me, I hope my notes are good enough. After that, Mr Davis will have to take me as he finds me.”
We have a tendency to talk shop. Thursday night, our housemates are out on the batter, but we need to be reasonably fresh for school.
“So, what are we going to play next?” I ask, stretching my legs to avoid the feeling of pins and needles.
“‘Here Comes the Sun.’” Kate puts the CD in, closes her eyes, throws back her head, and smiles.
The tune fills the room. I can see how it would be her favourite. I sip more wine and marvel at the simplicity of the lyrics.
The song ends and we allow a silence to settle.
“Your turn,” she says.
I hesitate. “It’s called ‘A Storm in My Heart.’” I flip through the CDs, find Dolores Keane, and kneel to pop the disc in the player. Music fills the room and I feel like an empty Coke can being tossed down the street in the wind.
The smile slips from Kate’s face. Song over, she is first to speak. “It’s a bit dark, isn’t it?”
“I suppose.” An image of Dan in his best suit comes to me unbidden. He wore it – navy with a delicate pinstripe – at my cousin’s wedding. Our last outing.
“Maybe we should finish up for the night,” she says, “in case of a supervision tomorrow?”
“You’re right.” I tidy the CDs into two neat piles.
We troop upstairs.
I toss and turn in my bed. Five years I’d gone out with Dan. It started with the Debs. I invited him. Always that insecurity that I was the one to ask him. Then, last summer when I got back from a holiday in Australia, he said he’d been seeing someone else.
They say grieving for a living person is worse than grieving for the dead. They also say we can create hell in our own heads. Is that what I’ve been doing?
Before drifting off to sleep, I imagine tree branches becoming still again, clouds parting, debris being swept away, and a ray of sneaky sunshine poking through.
Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. In a former life she was involved in tutoring, lecturing, translation and research. She has been writing short stories and flash fiction for nearly three years now. Her work has been published in The Fable Online, The Incubator Journal, Seven Deadly Sins: a YA Anthology (Gluttony, Wrath, Avarice), Scarlet Leaf Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction and Every Day Fiction. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/cruthaitheacht.