Emerging Writer Member Profile
A Dublin transplant in Cork, Aileen writes fiction and non-fiction. She was Literature Editor at HeadStuff.org for a time, and has also written for The Bohemyth. Her work received an honourable mention in the Atlantis Short Story Contest 2018. She has an MA in Literature from the University of Sheffield and works for a publisher. She regularly attends workshop at various locations including the Irish Writers Centre, Big Smoke Writing Factory and Doolin Writers Weekend.
I knew when Dr O’Connell sent for me instead of Jim’s ma early that Sunday morning, that Jim had been in trouble. I stood outside the doctor’s redbrick house pushing my hands deep into the pockets of my coat and took a gulp of air before knocking on the door. My breath clouded out into the cold like the smoke from the chimneys. The dark still hung over the city like a curtain not yet ready to be raised.
“Don’t be too hard on him, Fiona”, the doctor said quietly as he led me down the hall. “It was a pair of Tans on his way back from the pub. You know he can’t resist riling them up.”
My heart sank. Not this again.
Jim was seated on Mrs O’Connell’s good settee, his left eye purple and swollen closed, dried blood on his shirt. When he looked up at me, he opened his mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out. He was missing at least two teeth.
“Ah, Jim”, I began.
“Don’t start, Fiona”, he said, with a look of warning. His light brown hair was matted with blood above his closed eye.
“The state of you”, I pleaded, knowing my voice was whining and hating myself for it.
“Mick Galligan brought him here”, the doctor cut in. “He should be back soon now - I told him to bring his father's automobile so Jim wouldn’t have to walk home.”
He turned to Jim. “You might be looking back to normal just in time for the wedding. I hope you’ll have the sense to forget about this, now.”
Jim said nothing. Jesus, the wedding, I thought.
“Sorry you were got out of bed, Doctor”, I said.
“It’s nothing, Fiona. Will make sure to look after him now?”
I heard the splutter of Mick’s engine coming to a stop outside, and a moment later his short, round frame appeared in the drawing room doorway, his cap pulled down over his big, ragged ears. He nodded at Jim.
Jim grunted, starting to stand up shakily, and the doctor rushed to his side.
“Take it handy”, he warned.
Jim sat in the front next to Mick, and I in the back. We turned onto the canal.
“Did you bring them hurls?” Jim asked Mick.
“I did, and a change of shirt and kaks for yourself as well.”
“Grand. I’ll get changed in Fiona’s.”
“You will not!” I spat. “I’m not getting involved in you going after someone with a hurl.”
Mick glanced back at me with a look of contempt. “It’s a pair of Tommy cunts, Fiona!” he shouted, a little too loud.
“Your ma’ll want to know where you were last night, Jim”, I reminded him.
“And I’ll see her later”, he mumbled.
“Will you not just come to Mass with me?” I asked him. “We can catch the seven o’clock.”
“I’ll go to Mass later”, Jim replied, looking distractedly out the window.
We were halfway along the South Circular Road at that stage, and Mick was slowing down as we neared my street. We came to a stop outside the house, the engine still running.
“Are you letting me in or not?” Jim asked, looking over his shoulder at me.
“Will you not go after anyone, please?” I begged. Jim’s pulpy face just stared at me. I sighed.
“Alright. Just be quiet. My ma’ll be down in the kitchen. You can get changed in the front room as long as she doesn’t hear you.”
I kept watch in the hall while he changed. Within two minutes he was out, fresh clothes under his wool coat, the bloody ones balled up under his arm. He leaned in to kiss me, the reek of stout coming off his breath. His lips were chapped and flaking.
“Jim”, I started, turning my face from him. “You won’t hurt anyone, will you?”
He threw his one good eye up to Heaven. “See you later.”
With that he was out the door and into the motorcar again, and Mick was pulling away. I stood with the door open for a few minutes, looking into the street at nothing. There was a faint light in the sky now, a brighter shade of grey coming up from behind the houses. A sense of dread that had been bubbling in my belly rose up and filled me. I could feel it from the top of my head down into my fingers and toes, creeping into every muscle. I knew agreeing with him would make for an easier life, but what if that left me without him forever?
“Is that you, Fiona?” my ma’s voice called.
“Coming”, I shouted back, closing the door quietly. This was our life.
Currently working on a novel.
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