Thursday, February 3, 2011

PS, I Love You [Part 10 & 11]

PS, I Love You

Part 10

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HOLLY! OR SHOULD I say happy belated birthday?” Richard
laughed nervously. Holly's mouth dropped open in shock at the sight of her older brother
standing on her doorstep. This was a rare occurrence; in fact, it may have been a first. She
opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish, completely unsure of what to say. “I brought you a
potted mini Phalaenopsis orchid,” he said, handing her a potted plant. “They have been shipped
fresh, budding, and are ready to bloom.” He sounded like an advertisement. Holly was even
more stunned as she fingered the tiny pink buds. “Gosh, Richard, orchids are my favorite!”
“Well, you have a nice big garden here anyway, nice and”–he cleared his throat–“green. Bit
overgrown, though . . .” He trailed off and began that annoying rocking thing he did with his

“Would you like to come in or are you just passing through?” Please say no, please say no.
Despite the thoughtful gift, Holly was in no mood for Richard's company.
“Well yes, I'll come in for a little while so.” He wiped his feet for a good two minutes at the
door before stepping into the house. He reminded Holly of her old math teacher at school,
dressed in a brown knitted cardigan with brown trousers that stopped just at the top of his neat
little brown loafers. He hadn't a hair on his head out of place and his fingernails were clean and
perfectly manicured. Holly could imagine him measuring them with a little ruler every night to
see that they didn't outgrow the required European standard length for fingernails, if such a
thing existed.

Richard never seemed comfortable in his own skin. He looked like he was being choked to
death by his tightly knotted (brown) tie, and he always walked as if he had a barge pole shoved
up his backside. On the rare occasions that he smiled, the smile never managed to reach his eyes. He was the drill sergeant of his own body, screaming at and punishing himself every time he lapsed into human mode. But he did it to himself, and the sad thing was that he thought he was better off than everyone else for it. Holly led him into the living room and placed the ceramic
pot on top of the TV for the time being.

“No, no, Holly,” he said, wagging a finger at her as though she were a naughty child. “You
shouldn't put it there, it needs to be in a cool, draft-free location away from harsh sunlight and
heat vents.”

“Oh, of course.” Holly picked the pot back up and searched around the room in panic for a
suitable place. What had he said? A draft-free, warm location? How did he always manage to
make her feel like an incompetent little girl?
“How about that little table in the center, it should be safe there.”
Holly did as she was told and placed the pot on the table, half expecting him to say “good girl.”
Thankfully he didn't. Richard took his favorite position at the fireplace and surveyed the room. 

“Your house is very clean,” he commented.
“Thank you, I just, eh . . . cleaned it.” He nodded as if he already knew.
“Can I get you a tea or coffee?” she asked, expecting him to say no.
“Yes, great,” he said, clapping his hands together, “tea would be splendid. Just milk, no sugar.”
Holly returned from the kitchen with two mugs of tea and placed them down on the coffee
table. She hoped the steam rising from the mugs wouldn't murder the poor plant.
“You just need to water it regularly and feed it during the months of spring.” He was still
talking about the plant. Holly nodded, knowing full well she would not do either of those

“I didn't know you had green fingers, Richard,” she said, trying to lighten the atmosphere.
“Only when I'm painting with the children. At least that's what Meredith says,” he laughed,
cracking a rare joke. 
“Do you do much work in your garden?” Holly was anxious to keep the conversation flowing; as the house was so quiet, every silence was amplified.
“Oh yes, I love to work in the garden.” His eyes lit up. “Saturdays are my garden days,” he said,
smiling into his mug of tea. Holly felt as though a complete stranger were sitting beside her. She realized she knew very little about Richard and he equally knew very little about her. 

But that was the way Richard had always liked to keep things, he had always distanced himself from the family even when they were younger. He never shared exciting news with them or even told them how his day went. He was just full of facts, facts and more facts. The first time the family had even heard of Meredith was the day they both came over for dinner to announce their engagement. Unfortunately at that stage it was too late to convince him not to marry the flame-haired green-eyed dragon. Not that he would have listened anyway.

“So,” she announced, far too loudly for the echoing room, “anything strange or startling?” Like
why are you here?

“No, no, nothing strange, everything is ticking over as normal.” He took a sip of tea then a
while later added, “Nothing startling either, for that matter. I just thought I would pop in and
say hello while I was in the area.”

“Ah, right. It's unusual for you to be over this side of the city.” Holly laughed. “What brings you
to the dark and dangerous world of the north side?”
“Oh, you know, just a little business,” he mumbled to himself. “But my car's parked on the other
side of the River Liffey of course!”
Holly forced a smile.

“Just joking of course,” he added. “It's just outside the house . . . it will be safe, won't it?” he
asked seriously.

“I think it should be OK,” Holly said sarcastically. “There doesn't seem to be anyone suspicious
hanging around the cul-de-sac in broad daylight today.” Her humor was lost on him. “How's
Emily and Timmy, sorry, I mean Timothy?” That was an honest mistake for once.
Richard's eyes lit up. “Oh, they're good, Holly, very good. Worrying, though.” He looked away
and surveyed her living room.

“What do you mean?” Holly asked, thinking that perhaps Richard might open up to her.
“Oh, there isn't one thing in particular, Holly. Children are a worry in general.” He pushed the
rim of his glasses up his nose and looked her in the eye. “But I suppose you're glad you will
never have to worry about all this children nonsense,” he said, laughing.

There was a silence. Holly felt like she had been kicked in the stomach.
“So have you found a job yet?” he continued on.
Holly sat frozen on her chair in shock; she couldn't believe he had the audacity to say that to her.
She was insulted and hurt and she wanted him out of her house. She really wasn't in the mood
to be polite to him anymore and she certainly couldn't be bothered explaining to his narrow little
mind that she hadn't even begun looking for a job yet as she was still grieving the death of her
husband. “Nonsense” that he wouldn't have to experience for another fifty years.

“No,” she spat out.
“So what are you doing for money? Have you signed on the dole?”
“No, Richard,” she said, trying not to lose her temper, “I haven't signed on the dole, I get
widow's allowance.”
“Ah, that's a great, handy thing, isn't it?”
“Handy is not quite the word I would use, devastatingly depressing is more like it.”
The atmosphere was tense. Suddenly he slapped his leg with his hand, signaling the end of the
conversation. “I better motor on so and get back to work,” he announced, standing up and
exaggerating a stretch as though he had been sitting down for hours.
“OK then.” Holly was relieved. “You better leave while your car is still there.” Once again her
humor was lost on him; he was peering out the window to check.
“You're right; it's still there, thank God. Anyway, nice to see you and thank you for the tea,” he
said to a spot on the wall above her head.
“You're welcome and thank you for the orchid,” Holly said through gritted teeth. He marched
down the garden path and stopped midway to look at the garden. He nodded his head
disapprovingly and shouted to her, “You really must get someone to sort this mess out,” and
drove off in his brown family car. Holly fumed as she watched him drive off and banged the door shut. That man made her blood boil so much she felt like knocking him out. He just hadn't a clue . . . about anything.

PS, I Love You

Part 11

“OH SHARON, I JUST HATE him,” Holly moaned to her friend on the phone later that night.
“Just ignore him, Holly, he can't help himself, he's an idiot,” she replied angrily.
“But that's what annoys me even more. Everyone says he can't help himself or it's not his fault.
He's a grown man, Sharon. He's thirty-six years old. He should bloody well know when to keep
his mouth shut. He says those things deliberately,” she fumed.

“I really don't think he does it deliberately, Holly,” she said soothingly. “I genuinely think he
called around to wish you a happy birthday . . .”

“Yeah! And what's that about?” Holly ranted. “Since when has he ever called around to my
house to give me a birthday present? Never! That's when!”

“Well, thirty is more of a big deal than any other . . .”

“Not in his eyes it's not! He even said so at dinner a few weeks ago. If I recall, his exact words
were,” she mimicked his voice, “I don't agree with silly celebrations blah-blah-blah, I'm a sap
blah-blah-blah. He really is a Dick.”

Sharon laughed at her friend sounding like a ten-year-old. “OK, so he's an evil monster of a
being who deserves to burn in hell!”

Holly paused. “Well, I wouldn't go that far, Sharon . . .”

Sharon laughed. “Oh, I just can't please you at all, can I?”

Holly smiled weakly. Gerry would know exactly how she was feeling, he would know exactly
what to say and he would know exactly what to do. He would give her one of his famous hugs
and all her problems would melt away. She grabbed a pillow from her bed and hugged it tight.
She couldn't remember the last time she hugged someone, really hugged someone. And the
depressing thing was that she couldn't imagine ever embracing anyone the same way again.

“Helloooo? Earth to Holly? You still there or am I talking to myself again?”

“Oh sorry, Sharon, what did you say?”

“I said, have you given any more thought to this karaoke business?”

“Sharon!” Holly yelped. “No more thought is required on that subject!”

“OK, calm down, woman! I was just thinking that we could hire out a karaoke machine and we
could set it up in your living room. That way, you'll be doing what he wants minus the
embarrassment! What do you think?”

“No, Sharon, it's a great idea but it won't work; he wants me to do it in Club Diva, wherever
that is.”

“Ah! So sweet! Because you're his Disco Diva?”
“I think that was the general idea,” Holly said miserably.
“Ah! That's a lovely idea, although Club Diva? Never heard of it.”

“Well, that's that settled then, if no one knows where it is, then I just can't do it, can I?” Holly
said, satisfied she had found a way out.
They both said their good-byes and as soon as Holly had hung up, the phone rang again.

“Hi, sweetheart.”
“Mum!” Holly said accusingly.
“Oh God, what have I done now?”
“I received a little visit from your evil son today and I'm not very happy.”
“Oh, I'm sorry, dear, I tried to call you earlier to tell you he was on his way over but I kept
getting that bloody answering machine, do you ever turn your phone on?”
“That is not the point, Mum.”
“I know, I'm sorry. Why, what did he do?”
“He opened his mouth. There lies the problem in itself.”
“Oh no, and he was so excited about giving you that present.”
“Well, I'm not denying that the present was very nice and thoughtful and all of those wonderful
things, but he said some of the most insulting things without batting an eyelid!”
“Do you want me to talk to him for you?”
“No, it's OK; we're big boys and girls now. But thanks anyway. So what are you up to?” Holly
was anxious to change the subject.
“Ciara and I are watching a Denzel Washington film. Ciara thinks she's going to marry him
someday,” Elizabeth laughed.
“I am, too!” Ciara shouted in the background.
“Well, sorry to burst her little bubble, but he's already married.”
“He's married, honey.” Elizabeth passed on the message.
“Hollywood marriages. . . ,” Ciara mumbled in the background.
“Are the two of you on your own?” Holly asked.
“Frank is down the pub and Declan is in college.”

“College? But it's ten o'clock at night!” Holly laughed. Declan was probably out somewhere
doing something illegal and using college as an excuse. She didn't think her mum would be so
gullible to believe that, especially after having four other children.
“Oh, he's a very hard worker when he puts his mind to it, Holly, he's working on some project. I
don't know what it is; I don't listen half the time.”
“Mmm,” Holly replied, not believing a word of it.
“Anyway, my future son-in-law is back on television so I must be off,” Elizabeth laughed.
“Would you like to come around and join us?”
“Thanks but no, I'm OK here.”
“All right, love, but if you change your mind you know where we are. Bye, dear.”
Back to her empty, silent house.
Holly woke up the next morning still fully dressed and lying on her bed. She could feel herself
slipping into her old habits again. All her positive thoughts of the past few weeks were melting
away bit by bit every day. It was so bloody tiring trying to be happy all the time and she just
didn't have the energy anymore. Who cared if the house was a mess? Nobody but her was going to see it, and she certainly didn't care one way or the other. Who cared if she didn't wear
makeup or wash for a week? She certainly had no intention of impressing anyone. The only guy
she was seeing regularly was the pizza delivery boy, and she had to tip him to make him smile.
Who bloody cared? Her phone vibrated beside her, signaling a message. It was from Sharon.

CLUB DIVA NO 36700700

Gerry's bloody dead, she felt like texting back. But ever since she had begun opening the
envelopes he didn't feel dead to her. It was as though he were just away on holiday and writing
her letters, so he wasn't really gone. Well, the very least she could do was ring the club and suss
out the situation. That didn't mean she had to go through with it.
She dialed the number and a man answered. She couldn't think of anything to say so she quickly
hung up again. Oh, come on, Holly, she told herself, it's really not that difficult, just say a friend
is interested in singing.

Holly braced herself and pressed REDIAL.
The same voice answered, “Club Diva.”
“Hi, I was wondering if you do karaoke nights there?”
“Yes we do, they are on a. . . ,” she heard him leafing through some pages, “yeah sorry, they're
on a Thursday.”
“No sorry, sorry, hold on . . .” He leafed through some pages again. “No, they're on a Tuesday
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, they are definitely on a Tuesday.”
“OK, em, well, I was wondering if, em . . .” Holly took a deep breath and began the sentence
again. “My friend might be interested in singing and she was wondering what she would have to
There was a long pause on the other end.
“Hello?” Was this person stupid?
“Yeah sorry, I don't actually organize the karaoke nights, so . . .”
“OK.” Holly was losing her temper. It had taken a lot to summon up the courage to actually
make the call and some underqualified unhelpful little twit wasn't going to ruin it for her. “Well,
is there anyone there who might have a clue?”
“Eh, no, there isn't, the club isn't actually open yet, it's very early in the morning still,” came the
sarcastic response.
“Well, thank you very much, you've been a terrific help,” she said, matching his sarcasm.
“Excuse me, if you can just bear with me for a moment, I'll try and find out for you.” Holly was
put on hold and was forced to listen to “Greensleeves” for the next five minutes.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
“Barely,” she said angrily.
“OK, I'm very sorry about the delay but I just made a phone call there. What's your friend's
Holly froze, she hadn't planned on this. Well, maybe she could just give her name and then get
“her friend” to call back and cancel if she changed her mind.
“Em, her name is Holly Kennedy.”
“OK, well, it's actually a karaoke competition on Tuesday nights. It goes on for a month and
every week two people out of ten are chosen till the last week of the month, where the six
people sing again in the final.”
Holly gulped. She didn't want to do this.
“But unfortunately,” he continued, “the names have all been entered a few months in advance,
so you can tell your friend Holly that maybe she could try again at Christmas. That's when the
next competition is on.”
“Oh, OK.”
“By the way, the name Holly Kennedy rings a bell. Would that be Declan Kennedy's sister?”
“Eh, yeah, why, do you know her?” said a shocked Holly.
“I wouldn't say I know her, I just met her briefly here the other night with her brother.”
Was Declan going around and introducing girls as his sister? The sick and twisted little . . . No,
that couldn't be right, what on earth?
“Declan played a gig in Club Diva?”
“No no,” he laughed, “he played with his band downstairs in the basement.”
Holly quickly tried to digest the information until finally it clicked.
“Is Club Diva in Hogan's?”
He laughed again, “Yeah, it's on the top floor. Maybe I should advertise a bit more!”
“Is that Daniel?” Holly blurted out and then kicked herself for being so stupid.
“Eh, yeah, do I know you?”
“Em, no! No you don't! Holly just mentioned you in conversation, that's all.” Then she realized
how that sounded. “Very briefly in conversation,” she added. “She said you gave her a stool.”
Holly began hitting her head softly on the wall.
Daniel laughed again. “Oh, OK, well, tell her if she wants to sing in the karaoke at Christmas I
can put her name down now for her. You wouldn't believe the amount of people that want to
sign up.”
“Really,” Holly said weakly. She felt like a fool.
“Oh, by the way, who am I speaking to?”
Holly paced her bedroom floor. “Em, Sharon, you're speaking to Sharon.”
“OK, Sharon, well, I have your number on caller ID so I'll call you if anyone backs out.”
“OK, thanks a lot.”

And he hung up. And Holly leapt into bed, throwing the duvet over her head as she felt her face going purple with embarrassment. She hid under the covers, cursing herself for being such a bimbo. Ignoring the phone ringing, she tried to convince herself she hadn't been a complete idiot. Eventually, after she had persuaded herself she could show her face in public again (it took a long time), she crawled out of bed and hit the button on her answering machine.
“Hi Sharon, I must have just missed you. It's Daniel here from Club Diva.” He paused and then,
laughing, added, “In Hogan's. Em, I was just looking through the list of names in the book and
it seems somebody already entered Holly's name a few months back, in fact it's one of the first
entries. Unless it's another Holly Kennedy . . .” He trailed off. “Anyway, call me back when you
get a chance so we can sort it out. Thanks.”
Holly sat shocked on the edge of her bed, unable to move for the next few hours.

to be cont'd

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