‘I’m telling you, Aidan, that’s your father’s forehead.’
Aidan looked at the picture he was holding—a print of the grainy image they’d seen on screen at Holly’s ultrasound—and tried to see what his mother could see. ‘Maybe.’
Colette had been back in Dublin for two days, and this was the fifth time she’d called to talk about the scan. ‘It is, I’m telling you,’ she said. ‘Oh, Aidan, she’s perfect.’
‘I don’t know why you’re so sure it’s a girl. The technician said it was too soon to tell.’
‘I can tell,’ Colette said. ‘So, how’s John?’
John was on the couch, reading and absentmindedly biting his fingernails, a habit that had started to turn Aidan’s stomach. Aidan had come through to the bedroom when his mother called, so he could talk about the baby without seeing John roll his eyes or sigh or tut. ‘He’s fine,’ he said. ‘He says hello.’
‘You know, gay marriage is legal here now, Aidan.’
‘I know, Mammy. I know.’
‘He had a goatee,’ Angel said.
‘He had a goatee?’
‘Yes,’ Angel said. ‘A goatee.’ She’d been on another date the night before, and was telling Victoria why it’d been a nonstarter. She put her hand to her chin. ‘You know, a goatee beard.’
‘I know,’ Victoria said. She knitted her brows and tilted her head. ‘What’s wrong with goatees?’
Victoria had been Angel’s flatmate for five days, and with each of those days, the possibility that they might become close friends had become more and more remote. Victoria did not get Angel’s jokes. She did not share her enthusiasm for drinking or smoking or listening to music or going out. She spent most of her time in her room with the door closed, talking on the phone in fast-paced, emotional Spanish. She emerged only to prepare plates of food to take back to her room.
‘I’ll let you get on with studying,’ Angel sighed. She closed Victoria’s door. She couldn’t helping thinking that Katie would understand why Angel had fled after that first drink, citing a fictitious early start. Katie knew what was wrong with goatees.
Erin was working from home. She hoped to finish early, so she could collect the twins from nursery and take them to the park. But the banging coming from James’s flat was making it difficult to concentrate. The ring of the doorbell was yet another unwelcome interruption.
She opened the door to the same handsome man who’d knocked before, this time holding a box of chocolates.
‘I wanted to apologise about the wine,’ he said. ‘I thought to myself, you’re an idiot, you know, maybe the woman’s religious, maybe…’
‘Not religious,’ Erin said. ‘An alcoholic.’
‘Maybe an alcoholic,’ the man finished. ‘I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed.’
‘Don’t be. I’m the alcoholic.’ Erin was still getting used to describing herself that way.
‘That’s nothing to be embarrassed about,’ the man said. He had a kind smile. ‘Did you… did you know my father?’
Erin didn’t understand him at first. ‘Oh,’ she gasped, when she realised, ‘you’re James’s son?’
‘Aye. You knew him?’
So this was the boy whose mother had left James before he was born. The boy who didn’t know his father.
‘A little,’ Erin said. ‘Not well. I’m so sorry…’
‘Thank you,’ the man interrupted. ‘I’m Alistair, by the way.’
‘Erin,’ she said. ‘And my husband is Andy.’
‘Erin and Andy,’ Alistair repeated. He handed her the chocolates. ‘Let me know if the noise gets too much.’
Mateo had seen Maeve’s face when Sergio stumbled into their last management meeting looking like he’d been up all night. So her phone call came as no surprise.
‘He needs help,’ she said.
‘The boy’s twenty-four years old,’ Mateo sighed. ‘He can sort himself out.’
‘I don’t think he can, that’s the problem. Aren’t you concerned, Mateo? He’s your son.’
‘He’s your son, too. And he’s staying in your flat. If you’re so concerned, why don’t you…’
‘I’m hardly ever at the flat, you know that,’ Maeve interrupted. ‘The show films in Glasgow, I’ve got my column…’
‘Alright, alright,’ Mateo said. He didn’t want to hear about how fabulous his ex-wife’s life was. ‘I’ll talk to him. I think you’re worrying about nothing, but I’ll talk to him.’
‘I think we need to do more than talk to him. I think we need to consider rehab.’
‘Rehab! Who’s going to pay for that?’
‘Mateo, this is serious.’
‘The boy doesn’t need rehab.’
‘I’ll talk to him,’ Mateo said, cutting her off. ‘I’ll talk to him.’
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