This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.
Toni told me that she was going to Ireland to visit her auntie and her young cousins for the last ten days of the summer break from school. I presumed her mum was going too, but she was travelling alone. Flying to Dublin airport, where her aunt and uncle would collect her. “It’s not like mum, she always loves to go and see her younger sister. She said I should go though, as the kids won’t see me again until next year”.
The day after she left, I was sitting at home reading a school book. I had left the summer homework until the last minute as always, and when someone knocked on the door, I presumed it would either be the postman, or someone selling something. But it was a surprise to see Maria Malone standing there, smiling.
“Are you any good with a lawnmower? It’s electric, and my boy Liam usually does it. But he has started his apprenticeship now, and the grass is getting long where he doesn’t bother. I don’t want to keep nagging him, so I thought with Toni away you could walk round and help me out?” She carried on smiling as I agreed to come to her house in an hour’s time. When she left, I felt embarrassed that I had forgotten to be polite and ask her in.
Call me naive, but I honestly thought it was a good thing back then. To get in her mum’s good books, help out when I could, and secure my relationship with Toni.
Despite what she had said, the grass wasn’t that long. And the lawn wasn’t that big either, as a concrete patio took up more than half of the medium-sized scruffy garden. The mower was easy to use, and I didn’t have to clear up the cuttings, as it was a hover type that just chopped them up really small. Maria sat on a folding chair watching me, smoking constantly, and drinking what looked like a gin and tonic. When I had finished, she brought me out a can of coke. “It’s warm day, and you did well, young Danny. I’ll make you something to eat now”.
It was tempting to decline her offer of food, and make the excuse of my school work. But I was still wary of upsetting Maria, and in turn affecting Toni in some way.
For some reason, I was shocked to see her turn up in the garden with a delicious bacon and brie panini for me, perfectly cooked. Befitting her painfully thin appearance, she didn’t eat anything, settling on another G&T, accompanied by at least four more cigarettes. I realised I was being snobbish, expecting her to offer some thin tasteless ham, on the cheapest sliced bread. Maria had more class than I had given her credit for.
When I had finished eating, she sat back in her chair and launched into a speech that sounded well-rehearsed. To say it raised my eyebrows is an understatement.
“So, it’s like this. Me and you are going to go upstairs to my bedroom now. My man has been inside for seven years, and I am gagging for sex. I can’t trust anyone I know to provide that for me without my man finding out. So I have chosen you, because my Antonia thinks you’re the bees knees, and I don’t think you would ever tell anyone what happens here. At least if you know what’s good for you. Because after my man had got someone to deal with me, you would be next, so you would”.
The first thing I thought of was that I was now beginning to understand her accent a lot better than the first time I met her.
The second thing I thought of was that my experience with Uncle Brian would not exactly stand me in good stead with women.
The third thing I thought of was that I had little or no chance of satisfying her needs.
The fourth thing I thought of was that she was very skinny, and not remotely attractive.
I told her I had no experience, hoping that would suffice. After all, she knew I was the same age as her daughter, and unlikely to be worldly. Her response was to light another cigarette, and stare at me until I felt very uncomfortable. I sat like that until she had smoked her cigarette, and then she stood up and held out a bony hand.
“Come on now. It wasn’t a request”.